Lionsgate’s ‘Antebellum’ Bowing on PVOD Sept. 18

On the same day that it reported a healthy 20% spike in quarterly home entertainment revenue, Lionsgate on Aug. 6 announced that the time-shifting horror drama Antebellum will debut in homes on premium VOD at $20 on Sept. 18, rather than in theaters. Starring Janelle Monáe, who plays a successful modern-day writer trapped during America’s slavery era, Antebellum will have a same-day theatrical release internationally.

“While the theatrical experience will always be the heart of our business, we are thrilled that we are able to seize the opportunity to match [directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz’s] urgent and immediate film with a release strategy befitting this moment of extraordinary change,” Joe Drake, chairman of the Lionsgate motion picture group, said in a statement.

Previous Lionsgate PVOD releases include The Secret: Dare to Dream on July 31 and I Still Believe on March 27.

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Drake said Lionsgate still values the traditional theatrical window, but with ongoing challenges toward fully re-opening theaters, the company has to seek alternative distribution channels.

“I would love to see every one of our movies released theatrically,” Drake said, adding that Antebellum “speaks strongly to our times,” which he said factored in the decision to forgo theatrical distribution for PVOD.

He said the “extrodinary demand for content and short supply,” makes the economics of PVOD look “really strong.” Drake said the channel allows Lionsgate to “speak to the consumer directly.” At the same time, he said the company would aggressively exploit theatrical distribution when that channel re-opens.

“[PVOD] is a really good [business] model for us,” he said. “But so is theatrical.”

‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ VOD Release Moving Up to Aug. 28

Bill & Ted Face the Music will come out on VOD and in select theaters Aug. 28, moving up from the Sept. 1 date announced during Comic-Con@Home.

Bill & Ted star Alex Winter revealed the news on Twitter.

In the Orion Pictures film, the stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling William  “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore  “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves). To fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.

 

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Bob Chapek Uses Home Entertainment Resumé to Push Disney Across PVOD Line in the Sand

NEWS ANALYSIS — With its live-action feature film Mulan delayed three times at the box office due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and theaters not slated to re-open (maybe) until later this month, Disney had to act.

CEO Bob Chapek reached back to his home entertainment roots and went where former CEO Bob Iger never ventured: premium VOD. Chapek, former president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, announced Aug. 4 that Disney+ subscribers would be afforded exclusive in-home access to Mulan on Sept. 4 for $29.99. The movie will be released simultaneously in theaters in regions internationally that do not have access to Disney+.

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In crossing the PVOD line in the sand with theaters, Chapek dealt a major short-term blow to exhibitors that have come to count on Disney movies to drive attendance and concession sales. It was just over a year ago that Disney’s market share of the domestic movie theaters reached 35% ($1.88 billion) — surpassing the next two studios combined.

With Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Toy Story 4, The Lion King and Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man: Far From Home (produced by Disney’s Marvel Studios), Disney reigned supreme at the box office. Previous attempts at jumpstarting PVOD had largely failed because Disney refused to join. The studio ended 2019 with seven movies each generating more than $1 billion at the global box office — a fiscal tally replicated in 2018.

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“We have a studio that is doing extremely well and a [90-day release window] formula that is serving us really well in terms of its bottom line,” Iger said last November.

How times have changed. And for Chapek, upending traditional distribution business models is part of his legacy. As home video boss, Chapek championed the shrewd “Disney Vault” release strategy for its legacy animation titles. The studio would take specific DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies out of retail circulation and put them into the “vault” for months, thereby allowing the studio to re-sell the movies to starved hardcore fans, families and general consumers.

For Mulan, which reportedly has upwards of $300 million in production and marketing costs, going straight to home entertainment allows Chapek to test the PVOD waters while leaving the door open to theatrical.

“In order to meet the needs of consumers during this unpredictable period, we thought it was important to find alternative ways to bring this exceptional family-friendly film to them in a timely manner,” Chapek said. “We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters, while also further enhancing the value and attractiveness of a Disney+ subscription.”

Chapek said the Mulan PVOD release would be (for now) a one-off experiment, and Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter believes him.

“It really is that they can’t afford to do nothing and wait for theaters to re-open,” Pachter said. “It will be more problematic for Marvel stuff down the road.”

Disney+ Tops 60 Million Subs Through Aug. 3; Bowing ‘Mulan’ Via PVOD on Streaming Platform Sept. 4

Facing a stagnant theatrical market due to the coronavirus pandemic, Disney is going all-in to accelerate content distribution to consumers in the home.

Following a letdown in third-quarter (ended June 27) new subscription video-on-demand subscribers, Disney CEO Bob Chapek Aug. 4 was quick to announce that branded SVOD service Disney+ topped 60 million paid subscribers through Aug. 3 since its launch on Nov. 12, 2019. The platform ended the fiscal third quarter (ended June 27) with 57.5 million subs.

Disney+ has added almost 6 million subs since May 4 when Disney chairman Bob Iger announced the platform had attracted 54.5 million paid subs. That compares with nearly 11 million net new subs for rival Netflix during a similar three-month period.

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In another blow to besieged movie theater operators, Chapek said the studio is rejiggering distribution of original content, including sending erstwhile theatrical releases to consumer homes on premium video-on-demand via Disney+.

Disney, which has dominated the global box office in recent years, had until now avoided PVOD, repeatedly pledging solidarity with theatrical distribution. That mindset has apparently changed with Chapek, former head of the studio’s home entertainment business.

On the heels of early digital releases of Frozen II, Pixar Animation’s Onward, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Broadway adaptation Hamilton to Disney+, Chapek said the continued shutdown of movie production and theaters, coupled with favorable consumer response to PVOD and transactional VOD, has altered the company’s distribution strategies.

As a result, Disney+ subscribers in U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and select countries in Western Europe will have premium VOD access to live-action feature Mulan beginning Sept. 4, priced at $29.99 in the United States.

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The movie will be simultaneously distributed theatrically in certain markets where there are no announced plans for Disney+ and cinemas are open to consumers.

“We see this as an opportunity to bring this incredible film to a broad audience currently unable to go to movie theaters,” he said. The former home video executive said the revised distribution strategy “further enhances a Disney+ subscription.”

“Given the rapid changes in consumer behavior, we believe it is more important than ever that we continue to grow our direct relationship with our customers,” Chapek said.

Disney, in a competitive challenge to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, plans to launch an international direct-to-consumer general entertainment offering through its Indian Star brand in 2021. Chapek said the platform would be “rooted” in content Disney owns, including ABC Studios, Fox Television, FX, Freeform, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight.

“In many markets the offering will be fully integrated with our established Disney+ platform from both a marketing and technology perspective,” Chapek said. “It will be distributed under the Star brand,” which Disney acquired through its $71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox Corp. in 2018.

“We see tremendous opportunity to the direct-to-consumer space,” Chapek said. “In light of the success we’ve achieved thus far with our global DTC business … we intend to take full advantage of that opportunity.”

Disney+ is set to continue global rollout in Scandinavia, Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal in September, and Latin America in November. The company is also rolling out a hybrid Disney+Hotstar branded streaming service in Indonesia Sept.5.

“By yearend, Disney+ will be available in nine of the top 10 economies in the world,” Chapek said. The CEO said the success of Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu and Hulu with Live TV (combined 100 million subs) underscores the company’s focus on direct-to-consumer distribution.

“This is a reaffirmation of our [DTC] strategy … and to be more aggressive in our growth,” Chapek said.

NBCUniversal CEO: PVOD Addresses ‘Very Large’ Non-Theatrical Audience

Universal Pictures’ landmark distribution agreement with the nation’s largest exhibitor AMC Theatres, enabling it to sell and rent digital access to new-release movies in the home entertainment market just 17 days after their box office, debut taps into a largely unserved consumer, according to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell.

Speaking July 30 on the Comcast fiscal call, Shell thanked AMC CEO Adam Aron for “his vision” in working together — rather than against — Universal to create new business model and revenue opportunities for both companies.

“We’ve always believed PVOD can be a complement rather than a replacement for a robust theatrical release,” Shell said, adding that the studio has always believed there’s a growing segment of the population that does not go to the movie theater.

“Over the last couple of years, it’s become more increasingly difficult to generate the same returns over the first couple of windows,” he said. “We believe the new model in the U.S. will restore some of those economics, probably not make more movies, but keep production levels the same as in the past.”

Shell said the advantage to the shortened 17-day box office is that PVOD and transactional VOD marketing can be done in the same window.

“It allows us to tap into that incremental [transactional VOD] revenue stream, share it with AMC and other exhibitors, and at the same time preserve that theatrical window that is so critical to the film business,” he said.

AMC, Universal Strike Landmark PVOD Distribution Deal

Universal Film Entertainment Group and AMC Theatres July 28 announced a landmark distribution deal for the studio’s new release movies, which includes provisions for early debuts into the home on premium VOD.

The deal allows Universal, which has aggressively launched movies into retail channels via PVOD during the coronavirus pandemic — creating an acrimonious rift with the nation’s largest exhibitor, AMC, and others — to distribute titles on PVOD three weekends (as little as 17 days) after their initial bow in AMC Theatres. The agreement, which also includes new titles from Focus Features, will afford early consumer access via AMC Theatres On Demand. In the coming weeks, the two companies will begin discussions surrounding international distribution agreements in the countries in Europe and the Middle East served by AMC.

The typical theatrical window has been up to three months. AMC will split the $20 PVOD fee with Universal in return for the abridged window. The agreement does not include the typical retail window when titles are rented and sold from $3 to $6 through myriad digital channels such as Redbox, iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and Movies Anywhere.

Universal’s traditional windows for electronic sellthrough and video on demand (VOD) remain unchanged. The companies said they reached this agreement based on their “shared commitment” to a mutually beneficial long-term partnership that is focused on serving consumers worldwide, while preserving and enhancing the theatrical experience.

As a result, the deal means when the next “Fast & Furious” installment, F9, hits theaters April 2, 2021, Universal could give consumers the choice to either see it in the cineplex or wait a few weeks to buy or rent it.

“The theatrical experience continues to be the cornerstone of our business,” Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, said in a statement. “The partnership we’ve forged with AMC is driven by our collective desire to ensure a thriving future for the film distribution ecosystem and to meet consumer demand with flexibility and optionality.”

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Peter Levinsohn, Vice Chairman and Chief Distribution Officer of UFEG, who led negotiations on behalf of the studio, said the studio’s commitment to innovation in how it delivers content to audiences is what artists, partners and shareholders expect of Hollywood.

“We are excited about the opportunity this new structure presents to grow our business,” Levinsohn said. “We are grateful to AMC for their partnership and the leadership they have shown in working with us to reach this historic deal.”

AMC CEO Adam Aron, who said the chain “enthusiastically embraces this new industry model,” said the deal puts a premium on the long-term health of the exhibition industry.

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“We would note that just as restaurants have thrived even though every home has a kitchen, AMC is highly confident that moviegoers will come to our theatres in huge numbers in a post-pandemic world,” Aron said. “As people enjoy getting out of their homes, we believe the mystical escape and magical communal experience offered at our theatres will always be a compelling draw, including as it does our big screens, big sound and big seats not to mention the alluring aroma of our perfectly prepared popcorn.”

AMC is planning to reopen about 600 U.S. theaters in August.

‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Getting Simultaneous VOD and Theatrical Release Sept. 1

Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third installment in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, is heading to VOD Sept. 1 on the same day it hits theaters (that are open).

In the Orion Pictures film, the stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves). To fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music is directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), from a screenplay by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureBill & Ted’s Bogus Journey).

The news came as Orion released the official poster and trailer during the online Comic-Con@Home.

Best-Selling Book Inspires Hope-Filled ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’

The power of positive thinking fueled Rhonda Byrne’s best-selling book and documentary The Secret, released in 2006.

More than a decade later, her philosophy of hope continues to inspire in the romantic drama The Secret: Dare to Dream.

Lionsgate will release the film on premium VOD July 31 as a 48-hour rental at $19.99. Before the PVOD shift due to the pandemic, sister company Roadside Attractions had planned an initial theatrical release April 17 on 1,000-plus screens.

The Secret: Dare to Dream stars Katie Holmes (All We Had, Logan Lucky, The Gift) and Josh Lu-cas (Sweet Home Alabama, What They Had, “Yellowstone”) with Jerry O’Connell (“Billions,” Stand by Me) and Celia Weston (Knight and Day, The Intern). It is directed by Andy Tennant (Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama).

“The idea behind making a Hollywood movie of The Secret was to reach a much greater audience around the world, so that many more people will realize the power they have to create the life they want, from this very moment,” says Byrne.

The story centers on Miranda (Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (O’Connell). A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything. Woven throughout the story are a series of seeming coincidences. The characters — primarily through the pessimistic Miranda and the relentlessly optimistic Bray — contemplate the nature of chance.

“What are the odds?” notes Miranda’s son about their meeting with Bray.

“My whole life is like that gut feeling that something bad is going to happen — and then it does,” Miranda says at one point.

Meanwhile, Bray sees good portent in events.

“I’m open to the possibility that whatever happens — even the bad stuff  — can lead to positive things,” he tells Miranda’s family.

“Miranda, played by Katie Holmes in our film, has been facing significant challenges brought about by very difficult circumstances,” says producer Robert Katz (Crash). “Although she worked very hard at her job, managing her limited fi nances, raising her children as a single mom and navigating a relationship, Miranda expected and believed that these circumstances would not change. They would not get better. Her life was hard and she was doing her best to face them every day. She was in survival mode — something many of us are familiar with, especially these days. When an unexpected visitor enters her life, Miranda slowly begins to believe that she has the power to change her thoughts, and with them, her expectations and her life.”

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Shot through the feel-good film is the inspirational message in Byrne’s The Secret.

“The movie demonstrates how easy it is to change our life through changing our thinking,” Byrne says. “We can have life circumstances coming down hard on us, as is demonstrated in the movie, and yet by simply thinking more positively and being grateful we can change every aspect of our life.”

Byrne discovered the idea for The Secret in 2004, after a string of personal obstacles and the death of her father. Her daughter gave her a copy of Wallace D. Wattles’ self-help book The Science of Getting Rich, and she used what she learned to write and produce The Secret. A documentary was released in March 2006 with the book debuting in November 2006, published by Simon & Schuster. In each, Byrne interviews business leaders and entrepreneurs who reveal real-life stories of how they have changed their lives in profound ways. The documentary and book focus on the power of positive thinking and the “Law of Attraction,” which says that people can manifest their thoughts into reality — that “thoughts become things.”

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The Secret book has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on The New York Times best-seller list for 190 weeks — and it con-tinues to attract fans. More than 7 million copies of the book have been shipped in the United States since 2006.

The film’s marketing campaign leverages the publishing phenomenon. A movie tie-in edition of the book released earlier this year features the film’s key art on a belly band. Simon & Schuster has already posted a trailer for the movie, with a book shot, on the Amazon detail page of The Secret.

Meanwhile, the documentary film The Secret has been a success on disc as well.

In extending the brand of the book and documentary, Byrne says her ultimate aim is that The Secret: Dare to Dream will be another vehicle to spread her message.

“I truly hope that people will realize from this movie that they are not at the mercy of life’s circumstances, but that they have an untapped power to change every aspect of their life — health, money, relationships, happiness, success — into what they want,” Byrne says.

Katz adds that he wants viewers to take away the film’s message “that things can change for the better and belief that the power (and tools) to make the most meaningful changes in our lives and the lives of others lies within us all.”

Lionsgate to Bow ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream’ on PVOD July 31

The Secret: Dare to Dream, based on the 2006 best-selling book The Secret, will be released on premium VOD July 31 by Lionsgate.

The film, originally slated for an April 17 theatrical release, will be available to rent at $19.99 for 48 hours.

Starring Katie Holmes, Josh Lucas, Jerry O’Connell and Celia Weston and directed by Andy Tennant, The Secret: Dare to Dream follows Miranda (Holmes), a young widow trying to make ends meet while raising her three children and dating her boyfriend (O’Connell). A devastating storm brings an enormous challenge and a mysterious man, Bray (Lucas), into Miranda’s life. Bray reignites the family’s spirit but, unbeknownst to Miranda, also holds an important secret — one that will change everything.

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The 2006 book by Rhonda Byrne, a global phenomenon that empowered millions to lead happier and more fulfilled lives, has sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 50 languages and appeared on The New York Times bestseller list for 190 weeks.

‘Trolls World Tour’ and ‘The Outpost’ Lead FandangoNow Chart

Trolls World Tour topped FandangoNow’s streaming chart, with The Outpost at No. 2, for the week ended July 12.

FandangoNow is ticketing service Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

Available to digitally rent or buy, the Universal animated musical Trolls World Tour, featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake, premiered as a premium VOD rental in early April.

Rod Lurie’s action thriller The Outpost, also available to digitally rent or buy, stars Scott Eastwood and Orlando Bloom.

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Coming in at No. 3 was Universal’s The King of Staten Island, loosely based on the life of star Pete Davidson, available on PVOD at $19.99.

The service’s top 10 titles for the week ended July 12, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. Trolls World Tour
  2. The Outpost
  3. The King of Staten Island
  4. Force of Nature
  5. You Should Have Left
  6. Irresistible
  7. Scoob!
  8. The Invisible Man
  9. Bad Boys for Life
  10. The High Note