AMC Networks Shudder Horror Streaming Service Tops 1 Million Subscribers

Shudder, AMC Networks’ subscription streaming video service for horror, thriller and supernatural content, has topped 1 million subscribers since launching in North America in 2016. Together with Acorn TV, which surpassed 1 million subs last September, Sundance Now and Urban Movie Channel (UMC), AMC Networks’ SVOD services are expected to reach between 3.5 million to 4 million subscribers by the end of the year.

Shudder saw a surge in usage and new memberships last September  with the debut of original series “Creepshow” and continued throughout 2020 with its second original series, “Cursed Films,” featuring original films such as The Room, Z, The Beach House and Host, among others.

“Our focus on quality programming, innovative content and finding the best up-and-coming creators has enabled ‘Shudder’ to break out in the crowded world of subscription services,” Miguel Penella, president of AMC Networks SVOD, said in a statement.

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According to Rotten Tomatoes, three of the top four horror films released in 2020 are Shudder films, including the No. 1 movie of the year, the Zoom-based quarantine horror film Host, which was written and shot in just 12 weeks during quarantine.

“Creepshow” broke all of the streamer’s viewership records when it debuted in 2019, and finished as the top-reviewed new horror series across all networks and streamers that year. The series is currently in production on season 2. Meanwhile, Shudder’s hosted movie show, “The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs,” continues to be a social media phenomenon, with new episodes typically trending No. 1 on Twitter on the night they debut, according to Shudder.

In August, the platform debuted in Australia and New Zealand, further expanding its international reach that includes the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K. and Ireland. In the U.S., Shudder has recently launched on Roku Channels, Charter/Spectrum, Dish and Sling TV. Shudder is also available through its own apps on Web, mobile, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Xbox, as well as through Apple TV Channels in the U.S. and Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Canada and U.K.

‘The Pale Door’ Opening on Disc Oct. 6

The horror-Western The Pale Door will come out Oct. 6 on Blu-ray and DVD from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films and Shudder, AMC’s online service for horror, thriller and supernatural tales.

Directed by Aaron B. Koontz (Scare Package) who also co-wrote the script with Cameron Burns (Camera Obscura) and Keith Lansdale (“Creepshow”), The Pale Door stars Devin Druid (“13 Reasons Why”), Zachary Knighton (“Happy Endings”), Noah Segan (Knives Out), Stan Shaw (The Monster Squad), Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills), Bill Sage (We Are What We Are), Melora Walters (“PEN15”, Magnolia) and Natasha Bassett (Hail, Caesar!).

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In The Pale Door, the Dalton gang find shelter in a seemingly uninhabited ghost town after a train robbery goes south. Seeking help for their wounded leader, they are surprised to stumble upon a welcoming brothel in the town’s square. But the beautiful women who greet them are actually a coven of witches with very sinister plans for the unsuspecting outlaws — and the battle between good and evil is just beginning.

AMC Networks Eyes Growth in ‘Targeted’ SVOD Services

AMC Networks’ majority acquisition of RLJ Entertainment continues to pay dividends as the media company expands its subscription streaming video-on-demand profile in an over-the-top ecosystem.

While the media company didn’t disclose new subscriber data, CEO Josh Sapan said SVOD  and ad-supported VOD distribution continued to drive AMC’s second-quarter (ended June 30) “International and Other” business objectives.

“We have made particular progress during this COVID-19 period with strong growth across our targeted SVOD services — Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC — as consumers increasingly subscribe to both our targeted offerings in addition to general entertainment SVOD services,” Sapan said in a statement.

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During the quarter, AMC launched new SVOD bundles AMC+ and WE tv+. The company acquired exclusive streaming rights to “Mad Men.” The company furthered its AVOD strategy with launches on ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV and Dish Networks’ Sling Free services.

Second-quarter revenue primarily reflected an increase at AMC Networks SVOD business, more than offset by a decrease at Levity Entertainment and, to a lesser extent, a decrease at the company’s international programming networks.

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Citing ongoing fiscal impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, AMC reported a $112 million operating loss at the “International and Other” segment. The increased loss was primarily related to $130 million in impairment charges due to the pandemic. Segment revenue for the quarter decreased 10.3% to $161 million.

Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante Says Making Political Horror Mash-Up ‘La Llorona’ Was ‘Stategic’

Hailed by Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) as one of 20 directors who will shape the cinema to come, Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante continues his stellar career trajectory with La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), the third installment of a trilogy that kicked off with his 2015 Berlinale Silver Bear winner, Ixcanul (Volcano).

Winner of Best Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival sidebar, Venice Days, La Llorona turns on the household of a retired general accused of spearheading the genocide of Mayan peasants decades ago, a clear reference to a similar case in Guatemala. As his wife, daughter and granddaughter take refuge with him, the house is besieged by protesters and his spooked domestic staff flees, with the exception of his devoted housekeeper. The arrival of a mysterious indigenous woman, who has answered the call for hired help, further spikes the atmosphere of dread.

La Llorona is Bustamante’s first foray into the horror genre. “Our decision to explore this genre was not so much artistic, as strategic,” said Bustamante who notes that Guatemalans are still in denial of the massacre of Mayan peasants during the government’s counterinsurgency operations in the early 1980s.

“A study revealed that Guatemalans consumed mostly horror and superhero movies, so we saw the genre as a way to bring the realities of our dark past to them,” he said. Bustamante drew on such references as Dracula, and the psychological suspense of Robert Eggers’ The Witch as well as Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. “I wanted the mythical figure of La Llorona to be elegant, like Dracula,” he said.

He reimagined the Latin American fable of a grieving mother seeking revenge for the death of her children to symbolize the victims of the genocide.

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“My three films represent what Guatemalans consider the three biggest insults,” said Bustamante who sees Ixcanul, which centers on a Mayan teen trying to own her sexuality and her pregnancy, embody the biggest insult you can hurl at a Guatemalan: “Indio!” Calling a Guatemalan “Indio,” despite the country’s overwhelming indigenous population, is considered a massive insult. “It just shows how we discriminate against ourselves, how low our self-esteem is,” he mused.

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His second film, Temblores (Tremors) epitomizes the slur ‘Hueco,’ which is a local derogatory term for gay. Temblores delves into the homophobia prevalent in conservative Guatemalan society as a well-to-do family seeks conversion therapy for its gay patriarch.

La Llorona embodies the third insult, “Communist,” which is a carryover of the 1950s sentiment against communism, which later devolved into accusing those advocating for human rights and for reducing Guatemala’s vast wealth gap as communists, said Bustamante.

All three films touch on social inequality, racism and the lack of opportunity in Guatemala.

La Llorona stars María Mercedes Coroy, Margarita Kénefic, Sabrina de la Hoz and Julio Díaz.

The film will be available Aug. 6 on Shudder in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Shudder’s ‘Belzebuth’ to Come Out on Disc, Digital and VOD July 7 From RLJE

RLJE Films, a business unit of AMC Networks, has picked up select rights to Belzebuth from Shudder, AMC Networks’ streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural.

The title will be released on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray on July 7.

Belzebuth is Emilio Portes’ (Pastorela) fourth feature film and first horror film, from a script co-written by Portes and Luis Carlos Fuentes (“Kipatla”). The horror/thriller stars Joaquín Cosio (“Narcos: Mexico,” The Lone Ranger), Tobin Bell (Saw franchise), and Tate Ellington (Sinister 2). The film premiered at the 50th Sitges Film Festival and received Best Picture at 2019 Santiago Horror Film Festival and Best Special Effects at 2019 Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre. 

In Belzebuth, Special Agent Emanuel Ritter leads a police investigation into a series of shocking deaths. But after a priest from the Vatican finds a link between the murders and an ancient demon, a descent into horror ensues.

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Creepshow: Season 1

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

RLJ/Shudder;
Horror;
$34.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Tobin Bell, Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, Cailey Fleming, Jeffrey Combs, DJ Qualls, Bruce Davison, David Arquette, Dana Gould, Tricia Helfer, Scott Mescudi.

This original series of the Shudder streaming service continues the tradition of anthology horror established in the 1982 movie Creepshow directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King, as well as the 1987 sequel written by Romero.

The new series, executive produced by Greg Nicotero of “The Walking Dead,” offers two short stories per hourlong episode, with six episodes in the first season. The series expands on the visual style of the films, which were heavily influenced by horror comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. Episodes frequently use comic book-style artwork for story introductions and scene transitions, as well as a vibrant color palette for the title designs and linking materials.

The shorts are a mixture of adaptations of existing stories and original material. They range from the downright disgusting to the generally creepy, typically offering a helpful metaphor to a real-life problem. For example, the first story in the first episode, “Grey Matter,” presents an allegory for the dangerous effects of alcoholism on friends and family, in transforming a drunk father into a monster who eats local pets and absorbs anyone he comes into contact with, causing him to duplicate and spread his numbers to the rest of society.

The back half of the episode is the charming “The House of the Head,” about a little girl (Cailey Fleming of “The Walking Dead”) whose dollhouse seems to be haunted by a strange miniature rotting head that causes the figures of the family to move while she isn’t looking (shades of the Weeping Angels from “Doctor Who”) leading to her discovering them in new poses of varying degrees of terror as she tries to figure out what is happening to them.

Those looking for a more comedic mix in their horror should like “The Finger,” which stars DJ Qualls as a loner who stumbles upon a weird demon-like creature that ends up doing his bidding in ridding the world of the people who plague his life.

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The Blu-ray is absolutely loaded with bonus materials, including several episode commentaries, featurettes for each episode and myriad behind-the-scenes galleries. There’s also a special featurette about the Easter Eggs in the episodes that reference the movies — and as a fun touch it’s set up like an unlabled old-school DVD Easter Egg you actually have to search for in the menus. It’s a nice touch that lends to the throwback nature of the series.

AMC Networks Expects 4 Million SVOD Subs by Year-End

AMC Networks May 5 said it expects to generate 3.5 million to 4 million combined paid subscribers for its four SVOD services — Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and UMC (Urban Movie Channel) — by the end of the year, two years ahead of the company’s original target.

AMC acquired home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment in 2018 for $65 million largely for British-centric programming service Acorn TV and UMC. Notably, Acorn TV launched in the United Kingdom in Q1 — nine years after bowing in the United States as an alternative to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

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Separately, AMC, whose signature original programming includes “The Walking Dead,” “Killing Eve,” and “Breaking Bad” spin-off “Better Call Saul,” inked a distribution deal with ViacomCBS ad-supported streaming VOD platform Pluto TV.

“We continue to make significant progress on our digital initiatives … is enabling us to navigate this challenging time and will continue to serve us well when this [coronavirus] environment stabilizes,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Indeed, as it is worldwide, the impact of COVID-19 and measures to prevent its spread significantly affected AMC Networks’ ad revenue and pay-TV business in the quarter and going forward.

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Revenue in the quarter dropped 6.4% to $735 million, while operating profit plummeted nearly 30% to $173 million compared to the previous-year period. Beginning in mid-March, the company experienced adverse advertising sales impacts and suspended content production, which has led to delays in the creation and availability of some of its television programming.

Operationally, nearly all AMC Networks employees are working remotely, and the company has restricted business travel. AMC expects current second quarter revenue to fall 30%.

“In what has been a unique operating environment, [we] continue to generate significant levels of free cash flow and remain well capitalized with a strong balance sheet and strong liquidity,” Sapan said.

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.

AMC Networks Says SVOD Services Top 2 Million Subs

When AMC Networks acquired a majority stake in RLJ Entertainment for $60 million, it did so primarily for the home entertainment distributor’s two SVOD services — Acorn TV and Urban Movie Channel (UMC) — and control of Agatha Christie Limited intellectual property.

Smart move.

AMC Feb. 26 reported that its combined SVOD portfolio, which also includes Sundance Now and horror-based Shudder, topped two million subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019.

“We are seeing momentum for our targeted SVOD services … as we continue to invest in strong, desirable content and valuable IP, diversify through new areas of content monetization and maximize the long-term value of our core networks and brands,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

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What is AMC is also seeing are increased losses as it ups spending on SVOD.

Revenue for the “international and other” segment, which includes SVOD, increased 6.5% to $201 million, while the operating loss increased $69 million to $118 million from an operating loss of $49 million in the previous-year period.

AMC said adjusted operating income increased 75.1% to $15 million, all compared to the prior year period.

The operating loss and adjusted operating income reflected the increase in revenue as well as an increase in operating expenses. The increase in operating loss also reflected $107 million in impairment and related charges at AMC Networks International partially offset by a reduction in restructuring and other related charges.

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For the full fiscal year, “international and other” revenue increased 22.7% to $734 million, operating loss increased 82.2% to a loss of $170 million, and adjusted operating income increased $31 million to $50 million, all compared to the prior year period.

Meanwhile, Agatha Christie Limited reported adjusted operating income of $2 million. For the full year, the unit recorded adjusted operating income of $6 million.

 

Shudder Renews ‘Creepshow’

Shudder — AMC Networks’ SVOD service for horror, thriller and supernatural content — has renewed its horror anthology series “Creepshow” for a second season.

Executive produced by showrunner Greg Nicotero (​“The Walking Dead”), “Creepshow” is based on the iconic 1982 movie written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero and is Shudder’s first hour-long scripted series. More than 50% of Shudder members watched at least one episode of the series, and the show has also helped drive record growth, according to the streaming service.

“‘Creepshow’ has met every expectation we had for Shudder’s first original scripted series and then some, with record numbers across the board,” Shudder GM Craig Engler said in a statement. “Greg Nicotero and his team delivered an amazing show that’s unlike anything else on TV and we’re thrilled and delighted to bring it back for another season.”

“For me, ‘Creepshow’ has been a true labor of love,” Nicotero said in a statement. “To be able to pay tribute to George A. Romero’s visionary project and have the show so embraced by fans everywhere is humbling to this horror kid from Pittsburgh. I couldn’t be more pleased and look forward to continuing the series with more ghoulish delight.”

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“Working with Greg Nicotero and Shudder on ‘Creepshow’ has been a dream come true,” Stan Spry, executive producer for the series and CEO of the Cartel, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to carry on the ‘Creepshow’ legacy with season two.”

The season one finale airs Oct. 31, both on demand and on the Shudder TV live-stream at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Season one of ‘Creepshow’ stars David Arquette (“​Scream” franchise), Adrienne Barbeau (​The Fog), Tobin Bell (​Saw), Big Boi (​“​Scream: The TV Series”), Jeffrey Combs (​“​Star Trek,” Re-Animator), Kid Cudi (​Drunk Parents), Bruce Davison (​X-Men), Giancarlo Esposito (“Better Call Saul”), Dana Gould (​“​Stan Against Evil”), Tricia Helfer (“​Battlestar Galactica”) and DJ Qualls (“Supernatural”), and features adaptations of stories by Stephen King, Joe Hill, Joe R. Lansdale, Josh Malerman and others.

Nicotero’s Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning make-up Effects studio KNB EFX Group will again serve as creature creators.

Plans for the Shudder service start at $4.75 per month.