CEO: Sony Pictures Won’t Be in the ‘Day-and-Date Release Business’

With no proprietary streaming video platform to leverage, Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, isn’t willing to join Hollywood studios writing the obit for the traditional theatrical window in exchange for expedited direct-to-consumer access in the home.

In an interview with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, Vinciquerra said the economics surrounding big-budget motion pictures mandate an exclusive theatrical release. That thinking would appear at odds with Warner Bros., which is releasing its entire 2021 theatrical film slate concurrently with SVOD access on HBO Max, beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day.

Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra

“We think the [theatrical] window will become more flexible, which we think is a good thing for our films,” Vinciquerra said, adding that he believes 30 days is the best window to amortize the studio’s marketing over both theatrical and home entertainment windows. “Some films will do better with a shorter window, some will do better with a much longer window. We think that’s the way to go.”

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Indeed, the executive said that when action adventure sci-fi movie Venom was released theatrically on Oct. 3, 2018, the studio was quick to negotiate a shorter box office since it wanted the Tom Hardy-starrer into home entertainment channels by the winter holidays. The title, which generated $856 million at the global box office, was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Dec. 18 — generating $60 million in packaged-media revenue.

The reverse strategy was deployed in 2019 for the Jumanji: The Next Level, which Sony kept in theaters for more than four months following its Dec. 4 debut — generating $800 million in global box office ($45.5 million in disc sales).

“The first Jumanji went in theaters forever,” Vinciquerra said.  “We backed up the window. It depends on the film.”

When asked how much Sony theatrical movies would “suffer” in 2021 facing increased home entertainment competition from PVOD and transactional VOD via Warner Bros., Disney and Universal Pictures, among others, in the midst of a pandemic, the CEO wasn’t concerned.

“We don’t think we will suffer, once theaters are open and they have a significant number of their seats to sell. We think will be fine,” Vinciquerra said, adding that the studio had no plans to enter the “day-and-date release business”.

The executive contends that with the current backlog of theatrical titles, when released at the box office the onslaught of content — in addition to a vaccine — will jumpstart moviegoers.

Vinciquerra said its recent animation fantasy release, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, is the top-performing box office title ever released in Japan. He said the Chinese box office has rebounded as well.

“Once people feel comfortable to go to theaters, the safety protocols appear to be strong, and the vaccine is in the marketplace, we think theaters will be back [in April or May 2021],” he said. “We’re pretty optimistic.”

Vinciquerra dismissed reports of Wonder Woman 1984‘s weak opening box office last weekend in China as more to do with reviews of the movie than the state of the exhibition business.

He said Warner’s decision to release movies through Max has made it easier for Sony to book theatrical dates in 2021 — and generate interest from actors, creators and directors eager for the box office experience and its impact financially and culturally.

“It’s been a bit of boon for us,” he said. “That actually worked very well for us.”

AT&T Sells Crunchyroll to Sony’s Funimation

AT&T has agreed to sell its Crunchyroll anime streaming service to Funimation Global Group for $1.175 billion.

Funimation is a joint venture between Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment’s (Japan) subsidiary, Aniplex Inc.

Crunchyroll is an anime direct-to-consumer service within AT&T’s WarnerMedia segment with more than 3 million SVOD subscribers. It serves 90 million registered users across more than 200 countries and territories offering AVOD, mobile games, manga, events merchandise and distribution.

The combination of Crunchyroll and Funimation provides the opportunity to broaden distribution for their content partners and expand fan-centric offerings for consumers, according to the AT&T-Sony joint release.

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“The Crunchyroll team has done an extraordinary job of not only growing the Crunchyroll brand but also building a passionate community of anime fans. Crunchyroll’s success is a direct result of the company’s culture and commitment to their fans,” Tony Goncalves, chief revenue officer of WarnerMedia, said in a statement. “By combining with Funimation, they will continue to nurture a global community and bring more anime to more people. I’m incredibly proud of the Crunchyroll team and what they have been able to accomplish in the digital media space in such a short period of time. They’ve created an end-to-end global ecosystem for this incredible art form.”

“We are proud to bring Crunchyroll into the Sony family,” Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “Through Funimation and our terrific partners at Aniplex and Sony Music Entertainment Japan, we have a deep understanding of this global artform and are well-positioned to deliver outstanding content to audiences around the world. Together with Crunchyroll, we will create the best possible experience for fans and greater opportunity for creators, producers and publishers in Japan and elsewhere. Funimation has been doing this for over 25 years and we look forward to continuing to leverage the power of creativity and technology to succeed in this rapidly growing segment of entertainment.”

“We are excited to embark on this new journey. Crunchyroll has built a world-class brand with a passionate fan-base of over 3 million subscribers, 50 million social followers and 90 million registered users. These amazing fans have helped to propel anime into a global phenomenon,” Joanne Waage, GM of Crunchyroll, said in a statement. “Combining the strength of the Crunchyroll brand and the expertise of our global team with Funimation is an exciting prospect and a win for the incredible art form of anime.”

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

Sony Subsidiary to Acquire Faith and Family SVOD Service Pure Flix

Sony Pictures Entertainment subsidiary Affirm Entertainment will acquire faith and family subscription streaming service Pure Flix, the studio announced.

The SVOD service provides movies and TV shows to viewers in the United States and Canada.

Following the closing of the deal, Pure Flix chief content officer and founding partner David A.R. White will join Affirm and will serve as head of outreach and special projects.

“Pure Flix is a natural fit with our Affirm brand, which is known for its high quality, uplifting, inspirational content,” Keith Le Goy, president of networks and distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “We love creating and sharing stories that are both impactful and entertaining, and the Pure Flix service will enable us to do more of that every day. Pure Flix has done an amazing job building a robust community of engaged subscribers, and we look forward to continuing to grow and delight audiences with well-curated faith and family entertainment.”

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“For over 15 years, Pure Flix has strived and succeeded to bring faith and family entertainment to our loyal audiences,” Michael Scott, CEO of Pure Flix, said in a statement. “We are thrilled with the creative opportunities and the ability to reach a broader audience through this agreement with Affirm Entertainment. We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to our longtime Pure Flix supporters as we continue to bring them inspirational and high-quality content in the years ahead.”

Affirm has produced such films as Soul Surfer, War Room, Risen, Heaven Is for Real, Miracles From Heaven and, most recently, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood in partnership with TriStar Pictures.

Sony Pictures Inks Nordics DVD/Blu-ray Disc Distribution Deal With SF Studios

SF Studios, a distribution and production company in the Nordics, Nov. 4 announced the signing of a new home entertainment distribution deal for DVD and Blu-ray Disc with Sony Pictures Entertainment, effective Jan. 11, 2021. The new deal covers feature films and TV series in the Nordic and the Baltic markets.

The agreement covers upcoming Sony Pictures titles such as Ghostbusters: AfterlifePeter Rabbit 2Uncharted, the Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters movies Morbius and Venom 2: Let There Be Carnage, and a third MCU “Spider-Man” film with Tom Holland as the superhero. Other Sony catalog titles include: Once Upon a Time in HollywoodBlade RunnerAngry BirdsMoneyballMen in Black, “Outlander” and “The Crown,” among many other new and library titles and TV series.

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“We are incredibly happy and proud to have entered this agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment,” Martin Brandtler, Nordic head of home entertainment distribution at SF Studios, said in a statement. “We are very excited to be working with the Sony team and thrilled to be able to share Sony’s exciting content with consumers in the Nordics and the Baltics.”

This summer, SF Studios announced a new deal with Warner Bros. covering distribution of physical home entertainment products. The new deal with Sony Pictures is another step in this direction. SF Studios and SPE have an existing relationship for theatrical distribution in the Nordics, which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

“With the existing theatrical distribution arrangement between SF Studios and SPE in place, this is a natural next step between our two companies and is a great partnership to bring our feature and television titles, both current and future hits as well as the power of our library, to the Nordic and Baltic market,” said Louise Emblem, VP of distribution and networks for Nordics and Benelux at Sony Pictures. 

Established in 1919, SF Studios has headquarters in Stockholm and offices in Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki and London. The company is producing and distributing feature films and TV series as well as providing digital services SF Anytime and SF Kids. SF Studios is part of Nordic media company Bonnier.

Sony Pictures Ups Fiscal Half-Year Home Entertainment Revenue 36%

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Oct. 28 reported second-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue of $171 million, which was up 6.8% from revenue of $160 million during the previous-year period. Through six months of the fiscal year (ending March 31, 2021), home entertainment generated $490 million in revenue, which is 36.1% higher than $360 million generated during the same period last year.

Sony has generated strong packaged-media and digital sales from Jumanji: The Next Level, Bad Boys for Life, Little Women, Bloodshot, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Flatliners, among others.

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As expected, Sony Pictures theatrical revenue nosedived 98.2% to $13 million due to exhibitor shutdowns from the coronavirus pandemic, and Sony’s decision to delay all major box office releases until 2021. The studio generated box office revenue of $715 million in the previous-year period.

The studio released just two new movies into movie theaters in the quarter: The Broken Hearts Gallery ($4 million) and The Last Shift, which generated zero revenue.

By comparison, Sony in the previous-year period released Spider-Man: Far From Home ($1.13 billion); Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ($356 million), The Angry Birds Movie 2 ($125 million) and Overcomer ($33 million).

Sony Pictures Television revenue grew 24.4% to $529 million, from $425 million last year. Ancillary revenue skyrocketed to $145 million from just $6 million last year.

When also factoring in TV productions ($480 million), media networks ($470 million) and intersegment revenue of $4 million, total motion picture revenue totaled $1.81 billion, down about 25% from revenue of $2.42 billion last year.

Sony Pictures Combining Home Entertainment, TV, Theatrical Marketing; Wong Gets New Key Role

Sony Pictures Entertainment is combining marketing teams between theatrical, television and home entertainment distribution, with veteran home entertainment executive Lexine Wong assuming a new key role.

The reorganization, which precedes Sony’s fiscal results on Oct. 28, is expected to reduce staff by about 35 personnel. The studio cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in part for the changes, including the fact Sony is holding off releasing most major movies until 2021.

Under the management reshuffle, Keith Le Goy,  president of networks and distribution, and Josh Greenstein, president of the motion picture group, will jointly oversee studio marketing. Andre Caraco, co-president of global marketing, is exiting after 30 years at Sony.

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Wong, previously senior EVP of worldwide marketing for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, becomes head of global multichannel distribution marketing. She is one of three executives managing Sony’s new U.S. marketing group, along with Paul Noble and Danielle Misher, co-heads of global theatrical marketing. All three report into Greenstein and Le Goy.

Josh Greenstein and Keith Le Goy

Additional flow chart changes have Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution for North America television and home entertainment; Flory Bramnick, EVP of distribution for North America television and ad sales; Adrian Smith, president, domestic distribution for theatrical; Paul Littmann, EVP of distribution for global; Jamie Stevens, EVP of worldwide consumer products; and Jeffrey Godsick, EVP of brand strategy and global partnerships, all reporting to Le Goy and Greenstein.

Because of the coronavirus-induced closure of movie theaters, Sony Pictures has pushed most of its big movies into 2021, including Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Venom: Let There Be Carnage. The studio’s next big wide release is Monster Hunter, scheduled to open in theaters on Dec. 30.


‘The Craft: Legacy’ Coming to PVOD, Digital Sellthrough Oct. 28

The Craft: Legacy will be available in time for Halloween Oct. 28 on PVOD for a 48-hour rental period at $19.99 and for digital purchase at $24.99 from Blumhouse Productions, Red Wagon Entertainment and Columbia Pictures.

An international theatrical release is anticipated in several territories, with details to be solidified in the weeks ahead, according to the producers.

A continuation of the 1996 film The Craft, in which aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers, the film is written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and stars Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale, On the Basis of Sex), Gideon Adlon (The Society, Blockers, The Mustang), Lovie Simone (Selah & the Spades, Greenleaf), Zoey Luna (Pose, Boundless) and Nicholas Galitzine (Cinderella), with Michelle Monaghan and David Duchovny.

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“I’m thrilled to be able to share The Craft: Legacy with audiences all over the world this Halloween,” Lister-Jones said in a statement. “It’s been a true privilege to take on such an iconic title. I can’t wait for the world to meet the incredible young women who make up our new coven.”

“Zoe Lister-Jones has put a bewitching twist on continuing The Craft franchise, and October is the perfect season for it,” producer Jason Blum said in a statement. “We’re thrilled that our partners at Sony Pictures are looking at the landscape opportunistically this Halloween, for audiences to watch at home in the U.S.”

CEO: Sony Pictures Sitting on Theatrical Sidelines Until 2021

For Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Jan. 17 theatrical release of the sequel Bad Boys For Life will be as good as it gets at the 2020 box office. The Will Smith-Martin Lawrence starrer generated more than $424 million at the pre-COVID-19 global box office — and was released, digitally, to home audiences on March 31.

Speaking Sept. 9 on the Bank of America Securities Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, studio chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra said releasing a big-budget movie as theaters slowly re-open from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown is fiscally irresponsible.

“What we won’t do is make the mistake of putting a very, very expensive $200 million movie out in the market unless we’re sure that theaters are open and operating at significant capacity,” Vinciquerra said.

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Sony’s major theatrical slate, which includes Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Fatherhood, Morbius, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Escape Room 2 and Connected have all been pushed back to 2021.

Warner Bros. has been the first major studio to test the post-COVID-19 waters at the box office, releasing Christopher Nolan’s espionage thriller Tenet on limited domestic screens last weekend following an international launch. The movie generated $20.3 million in ticket sales without theaters in California and New York, bringing the movie’s global tally to nearly $150 million.

Vinciquerra said Sony this weekend would release in theaters smaller-budget film Broken Hearts Gallery, a romantic comedy from first-time director Natalie Krinsky and executive producer Selena Gomez. The studio has generated strong home entertainment revenue from Bad Boys For Life and Jumanji: The Next Level.

“You’ll see a lot of strange things happen over the next six months in how films are released, how they’re scheduled, how they’re marketed, but once we get back to normal, we will have learned a lot I think and found ways to do things that are somewhat different and hopefully better,” Vinciquerra said.

Sony Inches Up Q4 Home Entertainment Revenue

Sony Pictures Entertainment May 13 announced that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment generated revenue of $303 million in the fourth quarter (ended March 31), which was up 1% from revenue of $300 million in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, sales of DVD, Blu-ray Disc and digital titles declined almost 10% to $918 million, from $1.01 billion in the previous-year period.

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Overall, Sony Pictures revenue topped $4.37 billion, up 11.7% from $3.91 billion in the previous fiscal year. Theatrical sales increased 142% to $471 million from $194 million. For the year, box office revenue topped $1.7 billion from $1.19 billion.

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Sony’s top-grossing releases in the fiscal year included Spider-Man: Far From Home with $1.13 billion in global ticket sales, including $391 million in the United States. Runner-up was Jumanji: The Next Level with $797 million in worldwide box office, including $317 million domestic.

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Finally, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood filled out the podium with $372 million in worldwide ticket sales, including $142 million domestically.

Sony Pictures Expands Imax Distribution in the Home With Hundreds of New Movies

Sony Pictures Entertainment May 4 announced an expansion of its theatrical distribution with Imax Corp., encompassing hundreds of new movies in the 3D format over the next two years, including all upcoming SPE theatrical releases. The “Imax Enhanced” releases include hundreds of catalog titles, as well as theatrical releases for home entertainment available across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific regions.

Imax markets branded in-home “Imax private theatre” packages that include the required technology, screen and audio features for the well-heeled costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. The set-up can also screen Blu-ray releases, including 4K UHD.

The distribution format features digitally remastered 4K HDR content and DTS premium audio delivered through high-end consumer electronics and streaming platforms.

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The Imax Enhanced content library includes Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jumanji: The Next Level, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Venom, Bad Boys for Life, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Only the Brave, Men In Black: International, Zombieland: Double Tap, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Little Women (2019), and Charlie’s Angels (2019).

“The success that SPE has enjoyed in collaborating with Imax and DTS has inspired the decision to significantly increase our volume of content,” Pete Wood, SVP of new digital distribution at Sony Pictures, said in a statement. “SPE’s investment in the Imax Enhanced program ensures that we will continue to deliver even more of our films to audiences who now expect to experience movies at the highest technical quality — even in their own homes.”

Imax CFO Patrick McClymont said working with Sony Pictures and DTS is helping deliver ever-expanding roster of “movie favorites” across multiple genres.

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“We look forward to continuing to drive momentum on all fronts by working tirelessly with our leading consumer electronics and streaming partners on delivering breakthrough technology and content experiences for consumers around the world,” McClymont said.

Bill Neighbors, GM of Imax parent Xperi, said that with consumers looking for new ways to access movie content, Sony Pictures’ content library is a “seamless fit” with the Imax brand.

“[The deal is] preserving the films’ best-in-class sight, sound and scale for an at-home entertainment experience that truly stands out,” Neighbors said.

Now available on four streaming platforms in 14 countries and across 17 consumer electronics manufacturers, Imax Enhanced uses proprietary digital remastering technology to deliver ultra-vivid 4K HDR picture with more vibrant colors. Select content features Imax’s expanded aspect ratio — enabling viewers the full scope and scale of the picture. Imax and DTS have also partnered with Hollywood sound mixers to use a special variant of the DTS:X codec technology integrated in home audio equipment to deliver a signature sound experience with more immersive, powerful audio.

To ensure optimized playback of fully immersive Imax Enhanced content, the two companies are also designing “Imax Mode,” calibrated to deliver the best viewing and listening experience in the home.