Apple TV+ Gets Tom Hanks WW2 Movie ‘Greyhound’

Apple TV+ has reportedly secured streaming rights to Tom Hanks’ new World War II naval movie, Greyhound, originally slated to hit theaters on May 8 and then delayed to June 19 from Sony Pictures.

With the exhibition industry shuttered due to the coronavirus, Sony shopped the $50 million budget movie to alternative channels, with Apple reportedly winning the bidding war. The media/tech giant is eager to upgrade a content portfolio that features about 30 original series and scant catalog fare. Apple hasn’t announced a release date for the movie.

Sony retains theatrical distribution rights for Greyhound in China, according to CNBC.

Hanks stars as a U.S. Navy commander assigned to his first war-time mission defending a merchant ship convoy under attack by German submarines in the Atlantic.

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It marks the first Hanks movie to debut in the over-the-top video distribution channel. The Oscar winner, who wrote the screenplay, co-stars with Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan and Elisabeth Shue, among others.

Hanks is no stranger to war movies, including 1998 Oscar winner Saving Private Ryan, and 2001 HBO series “Band of Brothers,” which Hanks helped produce, direct and write.

HBO Max Acquires Seth Rogen Film ‘An American Pickle’ From Sony

HBO Max has acquired worldwide rights to the Seth Rogen starrer An American Pickle from Sony Pictures.

The film will be released under the upcoming platform’s Warner Max label. HBO Max acquired the film from Sony so that it would not be delayed due to COVID-19 theater closures and will now reach audiences this year via the new streaming platform, according to an HBO Max press release.

Starring Rogen in dual leading roles, An American Pickle is an adaptation of the 2013 New Yorker series “Sell Out” by Simon Rich. Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1920 with dreams of building a better life for his family. One day, while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine preserves him perfectly and when he emerges in present day Brooklyn, he finds that he hasn’t aged a day. But when he seeks out his family, he is troubled to learn that his only surviving relative is his great grandson, Ben Greenbaum (also played by Rogen), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand.

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“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be partnering with HBO Max to release this film,” said Rogen in a statement. “We worked very hard and put as much of ourselves in this story as possible. We’re very proud of the end result and we can’t wait for people to get to see it”

“HBO Max is in the market for motion pictures that stand out. And An American Pickle does stand out — with Seth in this wonderfully original, funny, and heartfelt film that we look forward to debuting this summer,” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max, and president of TNT, TBS and truTV.

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“I am a huge fan of the original New Yorker story ‘Sell Out’ and am in awe of how brilliantly Seth, Simon and Brandon translated it to film as only they could have,” added EVP of original films Jessie Henderson.

‘Frozen II’ Tops Disc Sales in March

The Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen II was No. 1 on the top 10 list of combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales for March 2020 according to the NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service, its second straight month as a top seller.

The No. 2 seller in March is Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: The Next Level, the adventure sequel that arrived on disc March 17.

Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was released on disc March 31, and after only one day on shelves managed to take No. 3 on the monthly sales list.

No. 4 on the March list was Universal’s 1917, a March 24 disc release.

The March 10 disc release of Fox’s Spies in Disguise was No. 5.

Lionsgate’s Knives Out, which was the No. 6 seller in February, repeated in the No. 6 spot for March.

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For the year, Disney’s Frozen II remains the top seller, while Warner’s Joker (No. 10 in March) is still No. 2.

Jumanji: The Next Level joins the yearly chart at No. 3, with Rise of Skywalker at No. 4 (again, after just one day of sales).

Knives Out climbed to No. 10 on the year-to-date list.

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According to NPD, the March 2020 top 10 by units sold were:

  1. Frozen II (Disney)
  2. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  4. 1917 (Universal)
  5. Spies in Disguise (Fox)
  6. Knives Out (Lionsgate)
  7. Midway (2019) (Lionsgate)
  8. Ford v Ferrari (Fox)
  9. Joker (Warner)
  10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Sony Pictures)


Year-to-date Top 10 (through March 2020):

  1. Frozen II (Disney)
  2. Joker (Warner)
  3. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony Pictures)
  4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney/Lucasfilm)
  5. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Disney)
  6. Midway (2019) (Lionsgate)
  7. Zombieland: Double Tap (Sony Pictures)
  8. Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount)
  9. Ford v Ferrari (Fox)
  10. Knives Out (Lionsgate)


‘Frozen II’ Tops Disc Sales in February

Special Offer From ‘Media Play News’ and Sony: 4K Digital Codes to ‘Bad Boys for Life’

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Media Play News are offering five lucky readers free digital codes to the 4K home release of the action-comedy Bad Boys for Life, with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which is being released digitally today, March 31.

The codes will be given to the first five people who 1) like us on Instagram, and 2) go to the Bad Boys for Life post on our Instagram account and in the comments answer the question, “What was Will Smith’s highest-grossing movie?”

You can follow us on Instagram and search for the story post here.

Smith and Lawrence return for the third “Bad Boys” movie with a new case that finds them teaming with a hotshot division of the Miami PD to take down a merciless cartel.

The cast also includes Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nuñez, Kate del Castillo, Nicky Jam and Joe Pantoliano.

The film earned $204.4 million at the domestic box office and $419 million globally.

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Sony Pictures Partnering for Video Game-Based ‘Crossfire’ Movie

Smilegate Partners with Sony Pictures for CROSSFIRE Movie

Sales of video games may be lagging, but Hollywood is upping interest in game-themed movies.

Sony Pictures is partnering with South Korean video game publisher Smilegate and China’s Tencent Pictures on the film adaptation of the popular franchise, “Crossfire.”

Smilegate previously signed a contract with Original Film, a film production company that co-produced the “Fast & Furious” franchise, for “Crossfire” to be the first Korean game IP to enter Hollywood. In 2017, Smilegate completed the first script for a Crossfire film with Chuck Hoganwho is best known for writing the screenplay of Michael Bay’s film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

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Video games continue to draw moviegoers at the box office with feature-film success such as Angry Birds, Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, World of Warcraft and most recently, Sonic the Hedgehog.

“We have discussed and prepared the movie for a long time. Through Crossfire movie, we will make [the franchise] a leader in making a good precedent in diversifying the game industry,” Paek Min-jung, EVP of marketing/IP business development at Smilegate, said in a statement.

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Crossfire, launched in 2007, is a first person shooting game and is currently played in more than 80 countries worldwide by approximately 1 billion gamers. The Crossfire-based e-sports league “Crossfire Stars” records an average viewership of 20 million people for each event. Launched in 2013, Crossfire Stars continues to expand in ChinaSouth AmericaSoutheast Asia and Africa.

In addition to releasing a movie version of Crossfire, Smilegate is actively promoting various businesses utilizing the IP, including an esports drama is scheduled to be broadcast in China produced by Chinese major production Youhug and Tencent Video.

Microsoft is developing the console game, Crossfire X, which will be launched this year. A theme park has opened up in the Suzhou region of China that offers visitors a handson and real-life Crossfire experience.


Sony Pictures TV Chairman Mike Hopkins Joins Amazon Prime Video

Mike Hopkins, the former Hulu CEO who left to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television, is moving back to over-the-top video, becoming SVP at Prime Video and Amazon Studios. Hopkins begins on Feb. 24, reporting to founder Jeff Bezos.

Hopkins replaces Jeffrey Blackburn, who previously announced he was taking a one-year sabbatical in 2020. Jen Salke, head of Amazon Studios, reports to Hopkins.

Hopkins previously headed Hulu, before leaving to become chairman of Sony Pictures Television.

“I want to thank Mike for his outstanding leadership since arriving at the studio in late 2017. From day one he was charged with rethinking the way we run our television businesses,” Tony Vinciquerra, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, wrote in a staff memo.

Blackburn, in a separate Amazon staff memo, said Hopkins has more than 20 years of industry experience at Fox, Hulu and Sony — including an extensive track record as a global business leader in media, film and TV — negotiating landmark content and distribution agreements, running marketing operations, leading product/tech teams, and overseeing production of television content.

Hopkins’ responsibilities at Sony will be split between Keith LeGoy, worldwide distribution president, and Jeff Frost, president of U.S. production.


‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Coming to Digital Feb. 4, Disc — Including 4K — Feb. 18

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as the venerable Fred Rogers, will debut on digital Feb. 4, and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Hanks, who picked up an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the role, portrays children’s television icon Mister Rogers of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” in this film based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about kindness, love and forgiveness from America’s most beloved neighbor.

The film also stars Susan Kelechi Watson and Chris Cooper.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood made $60.9 million at the global box office, all but about $300,000 of it in U.S. and Canadian theaters.

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Bonus features on the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD include more than 15 minutes of additional scenes, a blooper reel, an all-new featurette starring Daniel Tiger, filmmaker commentary and a behind-the-scenes look at the film.

Oh, What a Year — With Transformational Changes, Home Entertainment in 2019 Got Smaller — and Bigger

The phrase “transformational change” has been used so much it’s become a cliché — and yet there really is no better way to describe what happened in not just home entertainment, but also the entertainment industry overall, in 2019.

The completion in March of the Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of 20th Century Fox saw the number of major studios drop to five from six. Some of the home entertainment sector’s most familiar faces were suddenly gone, including Mike Dunn, the longtime leader of Fox’s home entertainment unit, and Danny Kaye, the visionary behind Fox Innovation Labs. Later, in the summer, Janice Marinelli, Disney’s home entertainment chief, also exited in a surprise move, given that she had opened an office on the Fox studio lot and was reportedly screening staffers.

In November, two new streaming giants emerged to take on longtime leader Netflix, Apple TV+ and, most significantly, Disney+.

Meanwhile, a new flavor of streaming gathered momentum: free to consumers, paid for by advertisers. Among the heavyweights jumping into what’s known as “AVOD” are ViacomCBS, with its Pluto TV acquisition, and Comcast Corp., which in December was reported to be in advanced talks to acquire Xumo TV, which boasts more than 140 digital channels of programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment.

The overall impact of all these developments on home entertainment: It got smaller — and bigger.

Smaller, because the traditional transactional business model that has defined home entertainment since its birth more than 40 years ago has increasingly come under fire, with subscription streaming, in particular, gobbling up more and more consumer attention — and dollars — that previously would have gone toward buying or renting movies, either on disc or through digital retailers.

But also bigger, because streaming, in its various incarnations, is now widely accepted as being part of home entertainment — which is now broadly defined as people watching what they want, on demand. There’s even a new name for all of this — direct-to-consumer — which was first adopted by Disney and is now used interchangeably with “home entertainment.”

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Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment, says 2019 “was the year of transition.”

“From media mergers and changing consumer viewing habits to the explosion of streaming services, the landscape has shifted dramatically,” he says.

The Nov. 1 launch of Apple TV+ marked the tech giant’s entry into the content business, with nine original series. One of them, “The Morning Show,” picked up several Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a first for a new streaming service.

Less than two weeks later, Disney launched its much-ballyhooed Disney+, with a full menu of in-demand movies and series — including the “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian.” Disney said more than 10 million people signed up for the service in the first 24 hours. By the end of November, the service had 24 million subscribers, according to estimates from Wall Street firm Cowen & Co. (Netflix as of October had more than 60 million domestic subs.)

“It’s an exciting time and we believe we have a unique and significant role to play,” Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing for Disney+, told Media Play News on the eve of the service’s launch. “Disney+ will compete based on the unparalleled strength of our brands, the quality of our intellectual property, and expertise in high-quality video streaming.”

And yet industry insiders insist that despite streaming’s growth, there’s room for transactional — largely because new theatrical films, particularly the blockbusters, aren’t available on SVOD services. This distinction has prompted FandangoNow, one of the big digital retailers, to boldly proclaim on its home page, “New releases not on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu subscriptions.”

“Because we’re the first point of entry for fans to see movies in theaters, and first at home, we’ve seen a significant growth among consumers who are excited to own movies as soon as they’re available digitally,” says Cameron Douglas, head of FandangoNow. “Fans looking for high-quality content right out of theaters, including 4K HDR movies, don’t have to wait until they arrive later on subscription services, and innovative deals like rental binge bundles and the availability on new platforms keep them coming back to transactional digital services like our own.”

“New movie releases continue to be sought out by consumers during the first window in the home amidst the frenzied buzz around new streaming services,” adds Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “While there’s no denying the landscape is becoming more competitive, this business has successfully co-existed with abundant availability of non-transactional content for a long time and we expect it to continue to do so.”

“There is space — and demand — for both transactional content as well as streaming — just as there is consumer interest in both digital and physical,” says Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Beyond new releases, streamers have a limited selection of older films and TV shows, particularly with their increased focus on original content.

“For many consumers, their streaming options are good enough,” says Mark Fisher, president and CEO of home entertainment trade association the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). “But just like the days when the first video rental stores opened and made it easy for the consumer to watch anything they wanted to watch when they wanted to watch it, online VOD retailers offer that same opportunity to the consumer. I know that every time I see a montage of old movie clips, I’m driven to watch titles that aren’t new releases — and these are titles not readily (or easily) found on the streaming services.”

Sales of digital movies, in particular, were a bright spot, with consumer spending up nearly 7% in the first nine months of 2019, according to trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

“We’ve continued to see growth in EST (electronic sellthrough) — both in our new releases and in our catalog,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution, for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Certainly the enhanced consumer experience enabled by Movies Anywhere is part of that, as is increasing consumer connectivity in their homes. EST continues to gain prominence in our marketing planning, release data scheduling, and retailer partnerships.”

Ron Schwartz, president of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, says Lionsgate EST revenue grew 30% this year, “four to five times faster than the overall industry. With increased collaboration between studios and retailers, and more offerings such as dynamic bundling, customers are starting to build their lockers up to 10-plus titles. Recent data shows that once a customer gets to between 10 and 12 titles in their locker, their EST purchasing behavior doubles.”

In addition to selling movies, digital retailers also offer them for a la carte streaming, the digital equivalent of a physical movie rental. Redbox remains the only retailer to offer both digital and physical rentals, the former through an e-commerce site and the latter, through a network of more than 40,000 kiosks situated outside (or inside) large retailers like Walmart, convenience and drug stores, and other retailers.

“Redbox owns the transactional space with more transactions across physical and digital formats — for rental and purchase — than any other transactional provider,” says Redbox CEO Galen Smith.

In 2019, he said, Redbox expanded its offering of 4K Ultra HD discs into new markets, and stepped up promotions as well, with its Back to the Movies campaign and a joint Dinner & A Movie offering with meal delivery service DoorDash.

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In addition, Redbox Entertainment, a new content acquisition and production division, has further transformed Redbox into a multi-channel content provider and programmer. Launched in October, the new division is headed by Marc Danon, who spent eights at Lionsgate, most recently as SVP of acquisitions and business development.

Disc sales in 2019 continued to decline in the low double digits, with DEG reporting that in the first nine months of the year, combined 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, and DVD revenues were down 18.5% to an estimated $2.3 billion — exactly half what they amounted to five years ago, in 2014.

But studios continued to support the disc. And while a trend among smaller titles is to release them only on DVD and digital, bypassing Blu-ray Disc, major new releases are still getting significant marketing campaigns behind them, particularly for the 4K Ultra HD editions. The UHD disc also made headlines last August when the UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. Filmmaker Mode, bowing next year, will allow viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates.

“For the time being, 4K UHD is still the gold standard for at-home content,” says Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment & Games. “With hardware costs dropping and television functionality such as Filmmaker Mode being made available next year, there is still a great value proposition in owning content in 4K UHD, both physically and digitally, as is still represents the best home-viewing experience.”

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“As evidenced by the exceptional growth of 4K UHD to date, it is clear that there is a sizable appetite for premium high-definition products, and that format plays a meaningful role in boosting retail traffic,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Retail partnerships are key, Cunningham adds. “Given that physical and digital transactional consumption rates are remaining steady year over year and that disc purchases are making up more than half of that consumption, there’s no question that movie buyers continue to be vitally important to retail,” he says. “At no other time in our industry has it been more critical to ensure that we work together to retain the loyalty of movie consumers, creating urgency for our products and delivering the utmost value, quality, accessibility and convenience possible.”


‘It: Chapter Two,’ ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Debut Atop Disc Sales Charts

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s It: Chapter Two debuted at No. 1 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc units sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Dec. 14.

The second part of the adaptation of the popular Stephen King Novel focuses on the adult versions of the characters shown fighting the fear monster in 2017’s It: Chapter One. The film earned $211.6 million at the domestic box office.

A collection of both films was No. 18 on the overall sales chart and No. 14 on the Blu-ray chart.

Sony Pictures’ Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a close No. 2 on both charts, selling 74% as many total copies as the horror sequel, and 86% as many Blu-rays. The latest film from Quentin Tarantino, which re-creates Hollywood in 1969, earned $141 million from U.S. theaters.

The previous week’s top seller, HBO’s Game of Thrones: The Complete Eighth Season, slipped to No. 3 on both charts.

The No. 4 overall seller and No. 5 on the Blu-ray chart was Disney’s Toy Story 4.

Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw was no. 5 overall and No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

A third newcomer, Universal’s Hustlers, was No. 7 on both charts. The film, based on the true story of a team of strippers who conspire to rip off their Wall Street clients, earned $105 million at the domestic box office.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 63% of total It: Chapter Two sales compared with 72% for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 52% for Hustlers. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format accounted for 15% of It: Chapter Two‘s total, 21% for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 7% for Hustlers.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Dec. 15, It: Chapter Two was No. 1, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was No. 2, and Hustlers was No. 3.

The previous week’s top rental, Lionsgate’s Angel Has Fallen, was No. 4, while Fox’s Ready or Not was No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 12-14-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 12-15-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 12-14-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 12-14-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 12-14-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 12-16-19

IMDb: ‘Birds of Prey’, ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Most Anticipated Movie, TV Show in 2020

Online movie/TV database has announced the Top 10 movies and TV shows of 2019, as well as the most anticipated movies and TV shows of 2020.

Rather than base its rankings on statistical samplings or critic reviews, Amazon-owned IMDb determines its list by the actual page views of the more than 200 million monthly visitors to the website. The data is derived from the subscription-based IMDbPro movie and TV rankings, which are updated weekly throughout the year.

IMDb Top 10 Movies of 2019
Joker (Warner Bros.)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)
Avengers: Endgame (Disney/Marvel)
Captain Marvel (Disney/Marvel)
It: Chapter Two (Warner Bros.)
The Lion King (Disney)
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony Pictures)
Alita: Battle Angel (Disney/Fox)
Aladdin (Disney)
Us (Universal Pictures)

IMDb Top 10 TV Shows of 2019
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Chernobyl” (HBO)
“Stranger Things” (Netflix)
“The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix)
“The Boys” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Black Mirror” (Netflix)
“The Walking Dead” (AMC Network)
“Peaky Blinders” (Netflix)
“Sex Education” (Netflix)
“You” (Netflix)

IMDb Most Anticipated Movies of 2020
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Warner Bros.)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount Pictures)
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures)
No Time to Die (MGM)
Black Widow (Disney/Marvel)
Mulan (Disney)
Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.)
Dune (Warner Bros.)
The King’s Man (Disney/Fox)
Fast & Furious 9 (Universal Pictures)

IMDb Most Anticipated New TV Shows of 2020
“Star Trek: Picard” (CBS All Access)
“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (Disney+)
“The New Pope” (HBO)
“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” (AMC Network)
“Snowpiercer” (TNT)
“The Stand” (CBS All Access)
“The Outsider” (HBO)
“Stargirl” (DC Universe, The CW)
“Hunters” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Katy Keene” (The CW)

For comparison purposes, the IMDb 2018 year-end Top 10 lists are available here: