‘News of the World’ Tops Vudu, FandangoNow Charts

The Tom Hanks starrer News of the World topped the FandangoNow and Vudu charts for the week ended Jan. 17.

Both are transactional VOD services owned by Fandango.

The Western set in the 1870s stars Hanks as an ex-captain from the Civil War who is paid to transport a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Native Americans back home to her family. The title is available as a premium VOD rental, as are all the top three titles on both charts.

Universal’s animated Croods sequel, which became available for premium rental at the services Dec. 17, fell to No. 2 on both charts after a weeks’ long stint at No. 1. In the film, in search of a new home, the Croods encounter the more sophisticated Betterman family. A new threat forces the two families to set aside their differences to avoid extinction.

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Coming in at No. 3 on the Vudu chart was Greenland, available for premium rental starting Dec. 18. The action thriller follows a family who fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin) and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.

Taking the bronze on the FandangoNow chart was Promising Young Women, just made available for premium VOD rental. The film follows Cassie (Carry Mulligan), a young woman living a secret double life by night. An unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right wrongs from the past.

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Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Jan. 17, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. News of the World
  2. The Croods: A New Age
  3. Greenland
  4. Fatale
  5. Promising Young Woman
  6. Tenet
  7. Shadow in the Cloud
  8. Songbird
  9. The War With Grandpa
  10. Batman: Soul of the Dragon

 

FandangoNow’s top 10 titles for the week ended Jan. 17, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. News of the World
  2. The Croods: A New Age
  3. Promising Young Woman 
  4. Fatale
  5. Greenland
  6. Tenet
  7. American Skin
  8. Synchronic
  9. The War With Grandpa
  10. Shadow in the Cloud

Nielsen to Begin Tracking PVOD Movies

In a sign of the pandemic times, Nielsen announced it would begin tracking theatrical movies released separately or concurrent with box office distribution.

After Universal Pictures reported generating $100 million streaming animated sequel Trolls World Tour on PVOD instead of theaters early in the pandemic, the evolution of theatrical distribution has changed significantly. Nielsen contends the entire media food chain, from studios to talent, have a need to analyze the volume and reach of their audiences by detailed household and person’s characteristics, such as age and gender, ethnicity or even territory.

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Nielsen’s TVOD measurement service will help clients uncover how many people are streaming this type of valuable content in relation to other content options. Additionally, it will deliver detailed demographic and behavioral information beyond what the standard box office metrics, transactional rental or purchase information often provides, allowing for crucial audience-driven decisions in regard to licensing and promotion.

The pandemic has driven a rise in streaming consumption. In fact, streaming now accounts for nearly a quarter (23%) of total usage among OTT video capable homes, up from 21% just a year prior, and a much broader swath of consumers have enabled streaming capabilities, presenting a new opportunity to deliver this form of entertainment directly.

“As this unprecedented pandemic continues to influence consumer behavior, perhaps even through a prolonged state of recovery waves, being able to measure and help clients appropriately monetize new revenue streams has never been more crucial,” Scott Brown, GM  of audience measurement for Nielsen, said in a statement.

Brown said Nielsen would monitor audience behavior following any virus recovery; how the adopted stay-at-home orders might influence habits when consumers have the ability to go back to theaters.

“[Nielsen will track] how content creators will leverage data to make the best decisions regarding distribution platforms in the future,” Brown said.

Kristen Wiig Comedy ‘Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ Traveling to PVOD Feb. 12 From Lionsgate

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, from co-stars and co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids), will debut on PVOD Feb. 12 from Lionsgate.

The comedy follows lifelong friends Barb and Star, who embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time ever. The trip includes romance, friendship and a villain’s evil plot.

The film also stars Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Fortune Feimster, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rose Abdoo, Vanessa Bayer, Phyllis Smith and Kwame Patterson.

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Pachter: PVOD Not a Threat to Theatrical

A common theme throughout the pandemic has been Hollywood’s quest to supplant theatrical releases to wary moviegoers with direct-to-consumer home entertainment options such as premium VOD and digital retail.

PVOD got an early boost last spring when Universal Pictures reported it generated $100 million releasing Trolls World Tour direct to consumers in the early days of the pandemic. The move was eyed as catalyst to jumpstarting PVOD — a distribution channel previously considered dead. Since then Warner Bros. Pictures and Disney have released high-profile movies Scoob! and Mulan on PVOD — the latter initially only to Disney+ subscribers — with little mention of revenue generated.

“The silver lining to 2020 from a theatrical perspective is that studios have had the opportunity to test the feared PVOD window, with the results not as compelling for the studios as many had expected, and not as damaging to the exhibitors as feared,” Pachter wrote in a Jan. 11 note.

Indeed, Disney made Mulan available to consumers shortly after then Disney+ exclusive, followed by release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Scoob! bowed on disc on July 21, 2020 — two months after its May 15 PVOD release.

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“Studios have opted to postpone major releases into 2021 and later, indicating that studios by and large prefer a theatrical release over PVOD, but will wait for a more normal environment,” Pachter wrote. “With that said, expect more films to shift to streaming as subscription services seek more content after heightened consumption coupled with several months of halted productions.”

While PVOD revenue remains largely a guarded secret by studios, the so-called “dynamic windows” ironed out between Universal Pictures, AMC Theatres and Cinemark, affording exhibitors a cut in digital revenue appears a better business model for all parties during the pandemic.

Under the deal movies with opening weekends over $50 million remain in theaters for 31 days (five weekends) and smaller films stay in theaters at least 17 days (three weekends), with a simultaneous theatrical/PVOD window for the remainder of the window (with downstream windows unaffected).

“We see the Cinemark-Universal model of to be the model on which most negotiations will be based in the coming months,” Pachter wrote. “We think this is the best solution for exhibitors, assuming the PVOD release is constructed as a revenue share between studios and exhibitors.”

 

Survey: More Than Two-Thirds of Americans Would Prefer to Watch First-Run Movies at Home After Pandemic

A December survey of American consumers found 67% would prefer to watch recently released movies at home after the pandemic instead of going to the movie theater.

Meanwhile, 12% said they would prefer to watch recently released movies in the theater, according to the Savanta survey of 500 Americans.

Half (50%) said they are likely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform, but about one-third (32%) said they are not likely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform (17% said they are neither likely nor unlikely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform).

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The survey found respondents are willing to pay on average of $14 to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform — with 46% willing to pay less than $10, 30% willing to pay $10 to $19, 15% willing to pay $20 to $30, and 8% willing to pay more than $31.

Half said they weren’t sure when they would return to a movie theater. Meanwhile, 17% think they would go to a movie theater in the next six months, 13% think they would go to a movie theater within the next month, 11% think they would go to a movie theater within the next two-three months, and 8% think they would go to a movie theater within the next four to five months.

Savanta is a New York-based research and advisory firm.

Top 10 of 2020: The Biggest Home Entertainment News Stories

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, the big Hollywood movie studios made unprecedented changes in their film-release strategies in 2020, rushing top-tier titles into the home and boosting new and existing streaming services.

It truly was a year like no other.

Here are the top 10 home entertainment news stories of 2020 as chosen by the Media Play News editorial staff.

1. Blockbusters Enter the Stream: With movies theaters shuttered during the pandemic, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. took the unprecedented move to send top tier theatrical releases to their sister streaming services.

First, Walt Disney Studios offered the live-action blockbuster Mulan exclusively to Disney+ subscribers over the Labor Day weekend as a $29.99 add-on to unlock access to the movie months before its regular availability — marking Disney’s first-ever Premier Access (PVOD) release and a sea change in studio window strategy. The studio defended the decision — which was followed by sending Pixar Animation’s Soul to the Disney+ streaming service, this time at no additional cost, on Christmas — as a reality of the times. “We thought it was a really nice gesture to our subscribers during the holiday period to provide [Soul] as part of the service,” said Disney CEO Bob Chapek. “I think what we’ve learned with Mulan is that there’s going to be a role for [PVOD] strategically with our portfolio of offerings.”

After debuting such top-tier titles as Roald Dahl’s The Witches on its new streaming service HBO Max, WarnerMedia in December shocked the industry by announcing that the streaming service would offer subscribers free access to all Warner Bros. theatrical releases through 2021 concurrently with their box office debut.  The new strategy rankled exhibitors and creators, while offering moviegoers an alternative to the cineplex during the pandemic. The studio bowed Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max and in theaters Christmas day. Notably, WW84 posted the largest opening weekend domestic box office during the pandemic with $16.7 million — driven in part by 10,000 watch parties, or small groups renting out theaters for private screenings.

2. HBO Max Debuts: WarnerMedia in May launched its much-anticipated HBO Max subscription streaming service at $14.99 per month — the most-expensive SVOD platform on the market — with several glaring problems. The platform, which promised an ad-supported edition in 2021, bowed without consumer access via the Roku or Amazon Fire TV platforms (reportedly representing 70% of Internet access), which contributed to stalling the Max sub growth out of the gate. The fact that existing services HBO Go and HBO Now were also still available didn’t help matters, confusing consumers about what they were actually getting with an HBO Max subscription. (Both were mercifully laid to rest two months after HBO Max’s launch.) WarnerMedia eventually inked distribution deals with Roku and Amazon, helping it generate 38.6 million combined HBO/HBO Max subscribers through Sept. 30.

3. Peacock Launches: NBCUniversal April 15 launched its own streaming video platform, Peacock, the media giant’s first over-the-top video platform and an SVOD service with an ad-supported option. The company initially made the premium service available at no cost to Comcast’s X1 and Flex (Internet-only) customers before rolling it out nationally in July. It quickly generated 20 million subscribers. To boost the offering, NBCUniversal wrestled away exclusive streaming rights to the popular comedy series “The Office” from Netflix. The series, to begin streaming in a tiered plan on Peacock Jan. 1, 2021, had been a longtime draw for Netflix.

4. TVOD Has Its Moment: After it and other studios rushed titles to early digital release during the pandemic, Universal Pictures made the bold move to drop Trolls World Tour from its theatrical slate to distribute the animated sequel directly to consumers in April via premium VOD. The strategy generated $100 million in revenue in 28 days and helped revive the PVOD business model — and the transactional VOD business at large — as other studios soon joined suit by rushing titles to PVOD. Soon, titles that might have topped the box office were heading up the charts of such transactional services as Redbox On Demand, FandangoNow and Vudu.  The latter two TVOD services in April became sister services when NBCUniversal’s Fandango acquired the 10-year-old Vudu from Walmart.

“All the press is about SVOD and AVOD services, ad-supported or subscription, but transactional sort of quietly had a moment in 2020,” said Fandango VP of home entertainment Cameron Douglas during a November panel.

5. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em … : In a peace offering to theater chains, Universal Pictures inked pacts with AMC Theatres and Cinemark affording the studio early PVOD access for select theatrical releases in exchange for splitting the home entertainment revenue with exhibitors. Universal and subsidiary Focus Features picked up the right to offer consumers PVOD access to movies with less than $50 million in domestic opening weekend ticket sales. Under the pact, movies with a higher box office could be released on PVOD 31 days after their theatrical bow. As a result, Universal maintained a steady year-end theatrical slate, spearheaded by The Croods: A New Age, Freaky and News of the World, among other titles.

6. Hail to New Chiefs: In February, former Disney home entertainment head Bob Chapek was named CEO of The Walt Disney Co., with previous boss Bob Iger assuming executive chairman duties. Chapek, who most recently headed Disney’s Parks & Recreation unit, said he was well-suited directing Disney’s renewed focus on direct-to-consumer business.

In another big studio shift, ex-Hulu boss Jason Kilar became CEO of WarnerMedia in the spring and proceeded to announce layoffs — among them longtime executive Ron Sanders — and other shifts to refocus the studio on streaming.

Meanwhile, Netflix in July announced that 20-year veteran and chief creative officer Ted Sarandos would share co-CEO duties with co-founder/co-CEO Reed Hastings. The move appeared to signal a reduction in executive duties and possible retirement for Hastings, who quickly downplayed the shared corporate duties as a strategic maneuver. “Let me be really clear: I’m in for a [another] decade,” Hastings said.

7. Movie Theaters Face Existential Crisis: Movie theaters worldwide shuttered in mid-March due to the expanding coronavirus pandemic. The situation caused havoc for exhibitors, with the world’s largest, AMC Theatres, struggling to remain solvent and later opening some theaters with limited seating and strict safety protocols. Indeed, No. 2 exhibitor Regal Cinemas threw in the towel in the fall, remaining closed indefinitely. Meanwhile, studios shifted blockbuster movies online, a further blow to the exhibition business.

8. AVOD Marches on: Ad-supported VOD upped its growth trajectory with Pluto TV (owned by Viacom) and Tubi (acquired in March by Fox Corp.) expanding distribution worldwide — the latter with first-run Fox Entertainment programming such as “The Masked Singer,” among other programs. Redbox increased its digital presence, launching an ad-supported VOD platform called Redbox Free On Demand.

9. Catalog in the Spotlight: Catalog titles topped the charts on disc and digital as the new-release pipeline slowed due to the coronavirus. Studios polished catalog titles for 4K Ultra HD release, such as Paramount’s Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, Sony’s six-film “Resident Evil” collection, and Warner’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. With the pandemic raging, resonating and topical titles such as Sony’s Groundhog Day and Warner’s Contagion caught on with consumers. “It’s uncanny how it kind of mimics what’s going on in the real world today,” Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Games, said of Contagion.

10. Streaming Short Timer: It wasn’t all good news for digital delivery. Quibi, the $1.7 billion mobile device-centric, short form-content video streaming service, announced just six months after starting operations that it was shuttering. Launched by DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman, in the end Quibi reportedly had fewer than 1 million subscribers willing to pay $4.99 monthly for ad-supported content no longer than 10 minutes.

‘Croods’ Sequel Again Tops FandangoNow, Vudu Charts

Universal’s The Croods: A New Age topped the FandangoNow and Vudu charts for a second consecutive week.

Both are transactional VOD services owned by Fandango.

Taking the top spot again for the week ended Dec. 27, the animated sequel became available for premium rental at the services Dec. 17. In the film, in search of a new home, the Croods encounter the more sophisticated Betterman family. A new threat forces the two families to set aside their differences to avoid extinction. The sequel features the returning voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman, with new cast members Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran.

Coming in at No. 2 on both charts was Greenland, available for premium rental Dec. 18. The action thriller follows a family who fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son, Nathan, make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary.

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Tenet, available for early digital purchase Dec. 15, took the No. 3 spot on both the Vudu chart and the FandangoNow charts. The latest mind-bending adventure from director Christopher Nolan stars John David Washington as a secret agent, known as “the Protagonist,” who manipulates the flow of time to stop a third World War. The film’s ensemble cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh.

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Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Dec. 27, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. The Croods: A New Age
  2. Greenland
  3. Tenet
  4. The War With Grandpa
  5. Elf
  6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  7. A Christmas Story
  8. Love and Monsters
  9. The Polar Express
  10. The New Mutants

 

FandangoNow’s top 10 titles for the week ended Dec. 27, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. The Croods: A New Age
  2. Greenland
  3. Tenet
  4. The War With Grandpa
  5. Honest Thief
  6. Let Him Go
  7. Half Brothers
  8. All My Life
  9. Elf
  10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Parks: 25% of Broadband Homes Prefer Streaming to Theatrical New-Release Movies

With Hollywood studios increasingly opting to release new movies directly to consumers instead of the theater, new data from Parks Associates finds 25% of U.S. broadband households now prefer an over-the-top video subscription service to watch new movies, while 24% still prefer movie theaters to experience first-run movie titles.

The findings come as Parks hosts an online panel, “Future of Video,” discussing the value of content and technology innovations such as premium, transactional, and subscription-based VOD platforms delivering new-release movies directly to consumers rather than in the 90-day theatrical window.

Universal Pictures earlier this year, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, moved animated sequel Trolls World Tour from its theatrical slate to PVOD. The decision saw the movie generate $100 million in PVOD revenue, jumpstarting Hollywood’s renaissance with premium priced movies streaming into consumer homes.

“COVID-19 has upended the traditional content-windowing process, and consumer research shows this paradigm shift is impacting consumer attitudes,” research director Steve Nason said in a statement.

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Nason said streaming access in the home scores higher than movie theaters when consumers report their preferences for first-run movies. The analyst contends the shift might be temporary as nearly 30% of survey respondents had no preference for how to watch a new movie.

“[This] gives theaters a glimmer of hope they can eventually gain back some audience for first-run titles,” he said.

NBCUniversal Boss Defends Expedited Movie Access in the Home

Long before Warner Bros. decided to release its entire 2021 theatrical movie slate (beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day) into the home and cineplex simultaneously, Universal Pictures made waves generating more than $100 million in premium VOD revenue early in the pandemic releasing animated sequel Trolls World Tour into homes instead of on the big screen.

The studio then slashed the 90-day theatrical window down to 17 days. Instead of affording exhibitors three months of exclusivity, Universal offered to revenue-share PVOD sales with accommodating movie chains such as AMC Theatres and Cinemark.

What is clear about the film business is that while the rest of the entertainment business evolved in a rapid way across the world, the film business stayed stuck in the mud on the traditional theatrical windowing basis, says Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, parent of Universal Studios.

Speaking Dec. 8 on the virtual the virtual UBS Global Investor confab, Shell said the traditional release window ignored a market segment of consumers who love movies, but who either don’t go to the theater as often or prefer to watch new releases in their home.

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“Somebody gets excited about a movie that weekend, can’t get a babysitter, and decides they’ll see it in a couple months or next year on HBO,” Shell said. “We, as a movie company, did not serve those customers. And that is not the right way to maximize what is the Rolls Royce content of the entertainment business. We’re leaving a lot money on the table [ignoring $19.99 PVOD].”

Shell said Universal Pictures remains a staunch advocate of the moviegoing experience, including driving to the cineplex and watching content on a big screen with enhanced sound the way filmmakers intended viewers to consume the content.

“I think when the pandemic ends, it’s going to be a bit like the roaring ’20s, when you’re not going to want to be at home anymore,” Shell said. “The idea of sitting at home in your apartment on a Friday night watching Netflix is going to be less appealing.”

But he said the studio is also cognizant to the reality about changing consumer habits watching movies, including on portable devices. Shell reiterated that to Universal, the transactional business model of movies remains of primary importance.

Shell admitted he has been outspoken advocating for the collapse of the theatrical window, arguing it brings enhanced value to the overall business, including theaters.

“There are a lot of people who want to watch a movie in a non-premium way, which is in the home” he said. “I think theatrical will continue to thrive and as more windows collapse … more money is going to made by everybody involved in the movie business. And it’s better for consumers.”

Universal Inks Theatrical/PVOD Deal With Canada’s Cineplex Cinemas

Following landmark shortened theatrical window/PVOD distribution deals with AMC Theatres and Cinemark, Universal Pictures has ironed out a similar agreement with Canada’s largest exhibitor: Cineplex Cinemas.

Under the deal, Universal and subsidiary Focus Features have the right to offer consumers PVOD access to new release movies with less than $50 million in domestic opening weekend ticket sales after their box office debut. Movies with a higher box office can be released on PVOD 31 days after their theatrical bow. The studio and Cineplex will split PVOD revenue.

“The pandemic has given the industry and movie-lovers around the globe a new appreciation for the magic of the big screen experience,” Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob said in a statement. “We are pleased to work alongside like-minded partners such as Universal, a studio that respects the theatrical window and is committed to the sustainable long-term health of the theatrical ecosystem.”

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Unlike other studios, Universal has a strong slate of titles through the end of the year, including The Croods: A New Age on Nov. 25; Half Brothers and All My Life on Dec. 4; and News of the World and Promising Young Woman on Dec. 25.

“With audience fragmentation accelerating due to the rise in digital, streaming and cord-cutting, as well as the unprecedented issues our industry is facing right now, our relationship with exhibition had to evolve and adapt to the changing distribution landscape,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. “Giving consumers the flexibility to view content on their terms is more important than ever to help expand moviegoing, and Ellis and our partners at Cineplex allow us to increase these opportunities for our Canadian audience.”