‘Tax Collector’ Tops FandangoNow and Vudu Charts

The Tax Collector, starring Bobby Soto and Shia LaBeouf, was the top movie for a second consecutive week on both the FandangoNow and Vudu charts.

Both are transactional video-on-demand services owned by Fandango.

The Tax Collector, released by RLJ Entertainment through digital retailers Aug. 7, stars LaBeouf and Soto as “tax collectors” working for a Los Angeles crime lord who find their safety threatened by a rival of their boss.

The title is available at both digital retailers as a $6.99 rental and $14.99 purchase.

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FandangoNow’s top 10 titles for the week ended Aug. 16, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. The Tax Collector
  2. The Silencing
  3. The Secret: Dare to Dream
  4. The King of Staten Island
  5. Trolls World Tour
  6. Deep Blue Sea 3
  7. The Secret Garden
  8. Scoob!
  9. You Should Have Left
  10. The Invisible Man (2020)

Vudu’s top 10 titles for the week ended Aug. 16, in terms of revenue, were:

  1. The Tax Collector
  2. The King of Staten Island
  3. Trolls World Tour
  4. The Silencing
  5. The Secret: Dare to Dream
  6. Deep Blue Sea 3
  7. Homefront
  8. You Should Have Left
  9. The Secret Garden
  10. Four Brothers

James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

Season One of ‘Creepshow’ Coming to Digital and Disc From RLJE

RLJE Films has picked up select rights to season one of “Creepshow” from parent AMC Networks’ Shudder streaming service and will release it June 2 digitally, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

The six-episode season of the horror-comedy from showrunner Greg Nicotero (“The Walking Dead”) stars Tobin Bell (Saw franchise), Adrienne Barbeau (Escape From New York), Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”), Cailey Fleming (“The Walking Dead”), Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator), Scott ‘Kid Cudi’ Mescudi (Bill & Ted Face the Music), DJ Qualls (“The Man in the High Castle”), Bruce Davison (X-Men), David Arquette (Scream franchise), Dana Gould (“Stan Against Evil”) and Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”).

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The new anthology series is based on George A. Romero’s 1982 horror comedy film. A comic book comes to life in a series of 12 vignettes over six episodes, exploring terrors from murder to the supernatural and unexplainable, including haunted dollhouses, werewolves, murderous goblins, villainous trick-or-treaters, the dead and medical marvels.

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The six episodes were directed by Greg Nicotero (“The Walking Dead”), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead), John Harrison (Book of Blood), Rob Schrab (“Community”), David Bruckner (The Ritual) and Roxanne Benjamin (Body at Brighton Rock).

Bonus materials include more than three hours of interviews, featurettes and behind-the-scenes footage, audio commentary tracks with the cast and crew for each of the episodes, and a 24-page comic art booklet.

Update (5/12/20): The original street date of May 19 was changed to June 2 by RLJ.

RLJ, Xenon and Aflik Join Allied Vaughn MOD Service

RLJ Entertainment, Xenon Pictures and Aflik Films have joined the Allied Vaughn manufacture-on-demand service.

Coming April 23 on Blu-ray from RLJ Entertainment and Acorn TV are three series sets of “The Heart Guy,” about gifted but arrogant heart surgeon Hugh Knight (Rodger Corser) who leads a charmed life in Sydney and believes his talent lets him live outside the rules. When an incident involving drugs and alcohol brings his world crashing down, he’s placed on probation and banned from performing surgery. He retreats to his rarely visited hometown of Whyhope in rural Australia to work as general practitioner.

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Due April 9 on MOD from Xenon, recognized in the home entertainment marketplace for creating labels focused on the African-American audience, are eight titles. The comedy How U Like Me Now (1992) stars Darnell Williams, Salli Richardson, Daniel Gardner, Raymond Whitefield and Debra Crable in a story that follows a group of young African Americans as they struggle for both financial and sexual fulfillment in early 1990s Chicago. A Day in Black and White (2001) stars Harold Perrineau and Anthony Desando in a comedy about two close friends, one black and one white, who get into a heated discussion on race relations, kicking off a series of interconnected stories that explore the racial terrain of New York City. Identity Crisis (1989) stars Mario Van Peebles, Melvin Van Peebles, Rick Aviles, Shelley Burch and Richard Fancy. In the comedy, a world-Famous French fashion designer Yves Malmaison and rapper Chilly D are both attacked by the same gang of dope smugglers, leaving one in a coma and the other not so lucky. When Chilly D wakes up from his coma several days later, he discovers that his body is also possessed by the soul of Malmaison, unaware that it has been placed there by a strange old homeless woman who witnessed the murder. Because both souls occupy the same body, Chilly D can change from tough black rapper to gay white fashion designer, or back again, anytime he is struck. Kitchen Privileges (2000) is a horror film starring Peter Sarsgaard about a housebound rape victim further terrified by news of a serial killer who preys on young women. Still, she thinks nothing of renting a room to a cook named Tom, who often drags heavy garbage bags into the house and locks the kitchen door while he prepares exotic meat dishes. The Luau (2002) is a comedy, starring Brian Hooks, Maia Campbell, Troy Winbush and Faizon Love, about a man who throws a luau to earn money for rent and pay off a gambling debt. Malibooty (2002) is a party comedy starring Brian Hooks, Stickey Fingaz, Kym Whitley, Traci Bingham, E-40 and Kent Masters-King. The Outback (2009) stars Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Jesse Johnson, Ben Kermode, Natalie Walker and Christian Clark in the story of a group of friends who encounter horror in the Australian desert. Finally, Q: The Movie (1999) stars Brian Hooks, Kelita Smith and Darryl Brunson in a comedy about a man who throws a wild barbeque while his parents are gone.

Aflik, known for Nollywood movies and African-inspired content, is offering four MOD titles: three romances, Beauty of the Mind, Marriage or Prison and The Good Wife, and one drama, Marriage Rules.

RLJ Entertainment Posts Q2 Loss, Reports Continued Growth in Digital

RLJ Entertainment reported a net loss of $2 million in the second quarter of 2018, compared to a loss of $0.9 million in the previous-year period.

The loss was a result of higher investment in content and marketing expenses, as well as $1 million of transaction costs incurred to respond to AMC Networks’ merger proposal offset by the improvement in gross profit generated by the digital channels segment, according to the company.

AMC Networks announced it would buy a majority interest in RLJE Aug. 1.

RLJE’s revenue increased 14% to $21.5 million in the second quarter over the previous-year period, primarily driven by a $3 million increase in digital channels segment revenues.

Digital channels, which includes over-the-top services Acorn TV (British TV) and The Urban Movie Channel, grew paying subscribers 49.1% from the second quarter of 2017 to more than 820,000. Digital channels segment revenues increased 46% to $9.4 million from $6.4 million in second quarter of 2017.

Gross profit increased 15.3% to $11.2 million and gross margin increased approximately 60 basis points to 52.3% in the second quarter of 2018 from the previous-year period. Continued growth in the digital channels segment, which represents a larger portion of total revenues, drove the improvements in gross profit and gross margin, according to the company. Adjusted EBITDA increased to $4.5 million from $3.9 million in the second quarter of 2017 primarily due to the growth of higher-margin digital channels segment revenues.

Equity earnings from Agatha Christie Limited increased 48.2% year-over-year to $1.3 million driven by the segment’s film and publishing business segments. RLJE owns 64% of Agatha Christie Limited.

“The OTT landscape continues to represent a tremendous growth future as viewership increases and new platforms emerge,” said Robert L. Johnson, chairman of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement. “With our differentiated targeted brands, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, that fulfill consumers’ demands and preferences, we continue to expand our position, delivering a strong value proposition to subscribers.”

“Subscriber growth was strong in second quarter 2018, gaining momentum as our increased investments in unique and original content, broader distribution across multiple recognized platforms and heightened consumer awareness continue to pay off,” said Miguel Penella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement. “Digital channel subscribers grew past the 820,000 mark, our wholesale business remains a strong, increasingly profitable contributor, and Agatha Christie Limited’s performance yields both highly demanded content and strong dividends in our IP segment.”

“RLJ Entertainment’s revenue gains and profitability expansion continued in the quarter as we execute consistently on increasing our strategic investments in growth and controlling costs carefully,” said Mark Nunis, principal financial and accounting officer of RLJ Entertainment, in a statement.

RLJE’s Johnson Tells Entertainment Industry to Embrace Technology and Consumer Choice

Fresh off the news of AMC Networks buying a majority interest in his company RLJ Entertainment, BET founder Bob Johnson exhorted the audience at an Aug. 2 OTT conference to embrace change.

“You can’t stop progress, and you can’t stop the freedom of individual choice,” he said at the OTT & Video Distribution Summit in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Entertainment companies must anticipate the future and learn their core business, which is producing and delivering good content.

“If you don’t produce compelling content — make consumers want to vote with their dollars — you’re going to lose out,” he said, adding “the consumer is the programmer.”

It’s about knowing what business you are in.

“Had the railroad guys been smart, they’d have been in the passenger business and started the airlines,” he said.

OTT channels such as RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel and Acorn TV are capitalizing on consumer targeting.

UMC offers “compelling content for an audience who had never had that opportunity.” It is not beholden to advertisers or cable programmers that might object to certain content.

“The gatekeepers have been torn down,” he said.

Acorn TV is for people “who love and just adore” British content. Owning 65% of the Agatha Christie library gives the channel a leg up in that market.

The future of the cable industry is threatened unless it adapts.

“Cable always from the beginning was a retransmission device of other people’s content,” Johnson said, adding “as long as cable can provide internet service it’s got a role to play.”

But he said the future of content distribution is a la carte, not bundles that include channels consumers don’t want to pay for.

“The industry in my opinion has to find a new model and that model is a la carte,” he said.

Combined Subscribers for RLJ’s Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel Surpass 800,000

RLJ Entertainment announced that combined subscribers to its two proprietary subscription streaming channels, Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel, have surpassed 800,000.

That is an increase of more than 100,000 subscribers from December 31, 2017, and more than 45% total growth from a year ago, according to RLJ.

“RLJ Entertainment’s subscriber momentum remains robust as we intensify our investments in compelling original and exclusive content, broaden our distribution on both domestic and international platforms, and enhance our marketing to drive awareness,” said RLJ CEO Miguel Penella in a statement. “Viewership across the OTT landscape is growing rapidly as consumers demand more from their entertainment options, offering increased opportunity for Acorn TV and UMC to thrive. Our unrelenting focus on building must-have digital channel destinations, and continued strong subscriber responses to these efforts, coupled with our expanded distribution footprint, puts us firmly on track to achieve our target of 1 million subscribers by early 2019.”

Acorn TV is a subscription streaming service offering British and international television, and Urban Movie Channel is a subscription streaming service for African American and urban audiences.

RLJ’s Urban Movie Channel Gets Android App

Urban Movie Channel, RLJ Entertainment’s subscription video on demand service created for African American and urban audiences in North America, is now available via an Android app.

Consumers can download it a no cost in the Google Play store at http://bit.ly/2BRPu9b. The channel offers a seven-day free trial and is $6.99 a month or $59.99 a year thereafter. The new app allows subscribers to set their personal content preferences and features UMC All Access, a passport to view behind the scenes interviews, events and other exclusive entertainment content.

“We are very excited to announce UMC’s availability for download on Android devices,” said Traci Otey Blunt, President of UMC in a statement. “As part of our growth strategy, it is important that we reach our audience where they are, and our new Android app will allow us to bring our customers a greater user experience. We will now be able connect with more of the African American and urban audiences who want to access the compelling content we provide for their specific viewing interests.”

In 2017, UMC premiered several new original series including lifestyle and travel series “World Wide Nate: African Adventures,” hosted by travel vlogger Nathan Fluellen; soap opera dramedy “The Rich and the Ruthless,” from Emmy nominated actress Victoria Rowell; and variety clip series “Lawd Have Mercy,” hosted by Flex Alexander and Buddy Lewis. Other notable premieres in 2017 include workplace comedy series “Hard Medicine”; romantic comedy “No Regrets,” starring Brian White and Monica Calhoun; several titles from acclaimed director Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing entity, including election night drama Big Words and critically acclaimed BP oil spill documentary Vanishing Pearls; and season one of WE tv’s “Braxton Family Values.”

“It’s exciting to partner with a forward-thinking brand like UMC to bring its mobile application experience vision to life,” said Alan S. Knitowski, the company’s CEO and co-founder Phunware Inc., which developed the app. “As the entertainment landscape continues to fragment and move away from traditional content delivery models, it’s critical to meet viewers where they are — which is increasingly on mobile. We’re proud to support UMC on this journey and look forward to our continued partnership.”

Created by Robert L. Johnson, chairman of RLJ Entertainment and founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), Urban Movie Channel is the first subscription streaming service created for African American and urban audiences in North America that features quality urban content and showcases feature films, documentaries, original series, stand-up comedy, and other exclusive content, according to RLJ. The channel is available on iOS, Apple TV, Amazon Channels, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.