Shudder’s ‘The Cleansing Hour’ Due on DVD and Digital Jan. 19

RLJE Films, a business unit of AMC Networks, has picked up select rights to the movie The Cleansing Hour from Shudder, AMC Networks’ streaming service for horror content. It will be released Jan. 19, 2021, on DVD, VOD and for digital sellthrough.

The film stars Ryan Guzman, Kyle Gallner and Alix Angelis in the story of a popular webcast that streams live exorcisms watched by millions across the globe. In reality, the exorcisms are just elaborately staged hoaxes performed by paid actors. But the podcasters’ fortunes take a turn when one of the actors becomes possessed by an actual demon and takes the crew hostage. In front of a rapidly growing audience, the demon subjects the crew to a series of violent challenges, threatening to expose the dark secrets they’ve been hiding from each other unless they come clean and reveal they’re impostors before the show is over.

DVD extras include a commentary with director Damien LeVeck, the featurette “On the Set of The Cleansing Hour,” and The Cleansing Hour short film.

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Horror Title ‘The Beach House’ Bows on VOD, Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 15

The horror film The Beach House will come out on VOD, digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 15 from AMC’s RLJE Films and Shudder.

The directorial feature debut of Jeffrey A. Brown, who also wrote the screenplay, the film stars Liana Liberato (“Light as a Feather”), Noah Le Gros (A Score to Settle), Maryann Nagel and Jake Weber (Dawn of the Dead, “13 Reasons Why”).

In the film, hoping to reignite their relationship, college students Emily (Liberato) and Randall (Le Gros) arrive at their weekend getaway only to discover a peculiar older couple already staying there. They all agree to share the home but, after an indulgent night of partying, they’re awoken to a living nightmare of apocalyptic proportions. A mysterious airborne microbe has infected the water and it’s making its way to the house.

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AMC Networks Expects Upwards of 5.5 Million SVOD Subs by Year’s End

AMC Networks Nov. 2 said it expects 5 million to 5.5 million paid subscribers by the end of 2020 for its portfolio of streaming services, which include AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, UMC and IFC Films Unlimited. Shudder, which features horror/thriller based content, just topped one million subs. The company also expanded distribution of AMC+ with launches on Amazon Prime and Apple TV platforms.

“AMC Networks is fast becoming the global leader in SVOD services for targeted audiences,” CEO Josh Sapan said in a statement.

Indeed, since acquiring Acorn TV and UMC as part of its $65 million acquisition of home entertainment distributor RLJ Entertainment in 2018, AMC has sought to market SVOD services focusing on specific niches of entertainment. Acorn targets fans of British-themed TV shows; UMC offers movies and series for African Americans, while IFC and Sundance target independent films and series.

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SVOD helped AMC’s “international and other” business segment increase third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue 9% to $199 million, from $182.5 million in the previous-year period. Operating income increased $23 million to $11.2 million, from a loss of $11.5 million last year. Adjusted operating income increased $14 million to $28 million, from $13.5 million.

Overall, AMC saw total Q3 revenue decrease 9%, or $65 million, to $654 million compared with the previous-year period. The decline reflected a decrease of 17.3% at “national networks” operating segment, offset by the previously mentioned “international and other” revenue gain. Operating income topped $139 million, a decrease of 17.2%, or $29 million, versus the prior-year period. The decrease reflected a decrease of 28.8% at “national networks” and an increase of $23 million in operating income at “international and other.”

National networks includes AMC, WE tv, BBC America, IFC and SundanceTV; and AMC Studios, the company’s production business.

On Oct. 21, AMC announced the final results of the tender “Dutch Auction” offer and repurchased approximately 10.8 million shares of common stock for $251 million.

 

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 ‘Strategic’

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.