Men in Black: International


 Street Date 9/3/19;
Sony Pictures;
Box Office: $79.66 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material.
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson.

The fourth film in the “Men in Black” franchise was supposed to freshen up the franchise with a new cast and creative team. But old habits are hard to break, and Men in Black: International ends up coming across as a bland rehash of the formula established by the original film.

It’s not the fault of the cast, who are doing their best to milk laughs out of the material. And the film looks great, with all the weird aliens, slick gadgets and kooky visual effects one would expect from a “Men in Black” movie.

The issue is that the “MIB” movies don’t seem concerned with the kind of worldbuilding needed to create a viable sci-fi mythology, like establishing a set of rules for how things work. Instead they rely on familiar gags and situations that hint at a bigger picture but ultimately don’t yield many consequences for the characters or the fictional organization they work for that is tasked with secretly defending the Earth from intergalactic threats.

The fourth film kicks off with not one but two flashbacks. In one, a young girl witnesses her parents’ memories erased by MIB agents, causing her to become obsessed with learning the secrets of the organization, which she finally stumbles upon decades later and earns a chance to prove herself as an agent. Played as an adult by Tessa Thompson, she’s dubbed agent M and assigned to the London branch, where MIB boss O (Emma Thompson) thinks something’s not quite right with the operation.

The London branch is run by High T (Liam Neeson), who a few years earlier (in the other flashback) joined agent H (Chris Hemsworth) in fighting off an alien invader named The Hive, and once you hear why they’re called that it pretty much telegraphs every potential plot twist in the movie.

Anyway, back in the present, M and H work together to investigate a potential new threat from the Hive, involving a pair of alien assassins who are looking for a superweapon on Earth, taking them on an adventure through exotic locales in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

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Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth work well together, as we’ve seen in the “Thor” and “Avengers” movies. But their pairing here seems more an attempt to coast off that buzz than come up with fresh ideas.

The shift to London, the globetrotting story and addition of Hemsworth as a suave secret agent are undoubtedly meant to give the film a “James Bond meets Men in Black” vibe, which might have been better served if the film embraced the tone such a mashup would imply, rather than lazily resorting to the familiar buddy cop vs. aliens boilerplate we’ve seen before.

The bonus materials on the Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions mostly reinforce the notion that this is merely the next iteration of a familiar franchise, with a half-hour of behind-the-scenes featurettes about the cast, stunts, production design and gadgets showing how “MIB” is being taken to the next level. But nostalgia isn’t left behind, as there’s a three-minute video recapping the earlier movies.

There’s also a bizarre three-minute NBA crossover video in which M and H discover a number of top NBA superstars are actually aliens. While these were produced as promos for the NBA playoffs around the time of the film’s theatrical run, without that context they play more as a prequel for a “Space Jam”-type movie.

The home video editions also come with a two-minute gag reel.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray are 11-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, some of which shed new light on elements in the movie. There’s also a pair of amusing faux commercials for “MIB”-style products, one for a consumer-approved memory-wiping neuralyzer, and another for a parody ancestry website for people to discover their alien heritage. However, the URL just leads back to the Sony Pictures home page.

Report: Sony ‘PlayStation 5’ to Focus on Major Games, Tech, Including 8K Resolution

Sony Interactive Entertainment appears to be taking a page from Sony Pictures, focusing internal efforts on proven content and wow-factor graphics, among other features.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony’s unnamed fifth-generation video game console — reportedly set to launch in late 2020 — will cater to established game publishers featuring graphics-heavy features.

The strategy is not dissimilar to Sony Pictures focusing on proven franchises such as “Spider-Man,” “Ghostbusters” and “Jumanji.”

“Details when making games have become more important than ever,” Kenichiro Yoshida, CEO of Sony Corp., reportedly said at a recent company briefing.

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Expectations are high for PlayStation, whose PS4 console continues to generate significant sales, including projected 17+ million units in 2019 — five years after launching.

The PlayStation brand, including hardware, software and subscriptions, generated more than $21 billion in revenue — and $3 billion operating profit — in Sony’s most-recent fiscal year.

By comparison, Sony Pictures generated about $9.2 billion in revenue, which trailed televisions and speakers ($10.1 billion) and topped smartphones at $4.6 billion.

The new PlayStation comes as the gaming industry grapples with changing technology and distribution to consumers — notably cloud-based online gaming.

Google plans to launch its Stadia platform in November while Apple readies Apple Arcade — both services circumventing traditional game consoles such as PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

According to WSJ, Sony contends online gaming doesn’t allow hardcore gamers the ability to engage in graphics-heavy content, audio and 8K resolution, among other features, due to spotty broadband connections and other tech challenges.

“[This] clearly demonstrates why it makes sense to have a next-generation console,” Yoshida said.

Shortened Windows Drive South Korean Digital Movie Sales to No. 2 Behind U.S.

Move over Japan. After years of lagging sales, South Korea has emerged as the No. 2 market for digital sales of movies behind the United States, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

The London-based research firm said consumer spending on transactional VOD has increased 800% during the past six years largely due to a shortening of the theatrical window.

Dubbed “Super Premium” and introduced in 2013, the campaign afforded consumers with access to theatrical titles four weeks after their box office debut — shortened from 12 to 16 weeks.

Disney and Sony Pictures were the first studios to incorporate the shorter window, followed by other studios in 2014.

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The Super Premium window has become one of the biggest revenue drivers for the Korean market and typically accounts for two-thirds of transactional revenue, a key factor in the renaissance of the South Korean home video market — and diminished piracy, according to Futuresource.

The report found inconclusive evidence whether the shorter theatrical window negatively impacted exhibitors – as is the rallying cry against narrowing the window in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Futuresource found that the South Korean box office remained steady following the “Super Premium” rollout; albeit at a slower growth rate than before the campaign began.

The report found the Super Premium VOD/EST window has jumpstarted a South Korean home video market in decline following ongoing shrinking packaged-media sales.

“We could see this initiative rolled out to further territories, leveraging South Korea as a leading example,” Futuresource said.

It cautioned that shorter theatrical windows must still be analyzed as to their impact on box office.

“Perhaps [box office revenue growth] could have been higher had this not been introduced,” Futuresource reported. “What is clear is that traditional windows are coming under increased pressure, faced with a fast-paced, digital-first landscape.”

Studios, Distributors, EMA Team Up on Massive Digital Movie Rental Promotion

A consortium of studios and key digital retailers, cable companies and satellite providers is sponsoring a digital rental movie sale May 31 through June 3 in which consumers can stream up to 250 different movies at prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and 99 cents for older, catalog titles.

The “Ultimate Movie Weekend” initiative, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), is believed to be the first time such a coordinated promotion has been undertaken in the United States.

The goal, according to EMA SVP Sean Bersell, is to “introduce consumers who haven’t rented digitally previously to the value and convenience of digital rental, and to entice consumers who haven’t rented digital recently to re-engage.”

The campaign will offer recent releases and catalog movies from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers and cable and satellite companies include Altice USA’s Optimum and Suddenlink TV, Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV app and iTunes, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Cox, DIRECTV, DISH, FandangoNOW, Frontier Communications, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, PlayStation Store, Redbox On Demand, U-Verse, and Vudu.

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The tagline for the Ultimate Movie Weekend is “Rent the Biggest Movies for Less.” Participating retailers will offer between 50 and 250 movies at discounted prices as low as $2.99 for recent releases and $0.99 for catalog movies. The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale includes some of the latest releases that are not yet available on subscription video services. Among the movies in the promotion are A Star Is Born (2018), Bumblebee, Fifty Shades of Grey, First Man, Forrest Gump, The Hunger Games, Robin Hood (2018), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Step Brothers, and Wonder Woman.

The promotional campaign will be supported by a significant media buy, social media marketing, direct-to-consumer outreach, and a dedicated website, The Ultimate Movie Weekend sale is patterned after similar successful efforts last year in Australia, France and the U.K.

“While the popularity of digital movie rentals continues to grow, there is the opportunity to introduce even more consumers to the value and convenience of digital rental, so the industry has come together to offer a compelling promotion that we hope will attract new customers and remind infrequent digital renters of this option,” said EMA president and CEO Mark Fisher. “Plus, with the start of the summer, which is traditionally a heavy movie-viewing season, it’s a good time to remind consumers of the pleasure of getting together with family and friends for a movie night.”

According to industry statistics, in the first quarter of 2019, digital rental generated $564 million in consumer spending, which accounted for approximately 10% of all home entertainment consumer spending in the quarter.

“This is the first effort of its kind in the U.S., and the breadth of participants demonstrates that the home entertainment industry is making it a priority to communicate the value proposition of digital rentals to consumers,” said Richard Smith, SVP, domestic digital sales, for Paramount Pictures and chair of EMA’s Ultimate Movie Weekend planning committee. “We see significant potential to grow this sector of the industry, and in doing so grow the overall home entertainment market.”

“Our studio partners have assembled a fantastic slate of movies, many unavailable on subscription services, which FandangoNow will offer at compelling prices,” added Cameron Douglas, VP of home entertainment at Fandango and chair of the EMA. “Convenience and value have always been the hallmark of home entertainment, and these great movies at discounted prices draws attention to the ease and affordability of renting digitally.”

Cinemark Partners with Sony Pictures for $5 Summer Movie Series

Cinemark May 22 has partnered with Sony Pictures for the exhibitor’s annual $5 “summer movie clubhouse” film series.

The $5 series card enables users to 10 Sony catalog family movies and is available exclusively at participating Cinemark theatres. Consumers can also purchase individual $1 tickets at participating box offices the morning of the show.

Cinemark operates 547 theatres with 6,051 screens in the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and 13 other Latin American countries.

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“We take great pride in giving our communities the perfect entertainment destination for an affordable price all summer long,” James Meredith, SVP, marketing and communications, at Cinemark.

Sony is using the promotion to plug upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, opening July 2 and “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” opening Aug. 16.

For participating theatres, movie selections and to print $2-off concession coupons, click here.

Power Marketing 2019: Home Entertainment’s Top Campaigns and the People Behind Them

Welcome to Media Play News’ first-ever Power Marketing special report. Here, we profile the campaigns behind some of the year’s top-selling disc and digital home releases — and the marketing executives and teams that made them happen.

Our focus is primarily on the big studios — and the big titles — but we kept an eye on independents and retailers as well. As you’ll see, there’s no shortage of ingenuity and innovation.

The Power Campaigns

Avengers: Infinity War — Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International

To capitalize on audience reaction to the epic and unexpected story arc of Avengers: Infinity War during the film’s theatrical run, Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International’s worldwide marketing team formed an aggressive pre-sell campaign. The campaign began at the theatrical window and reinforced that this film is the “beginning of the end of a 10-year journey” for the Marvel brand and is an essential must-have for both hardcore MCU collectors and general movie-loving audiences. The campaign capitalized on Marvel’s year-long 10th anniversary celebration, in which the brand was “always on” in theaters, and tied in with creative promotions driving the entire Marvel catalog.

Disney released a timed trailer with Marvel 10th anniversary events taking place at San Diego Comic-Con International a short time before the film’s July 31 digital release, resulting in a 109% lift in orders. The trailer generated 3.5 million organic impressions on Facebook within a 24-hour span. Additionally, Comic-Con attendees were given the opportunity to take part in a Twitter scavenger hunt that sent fans looking for “infinity stones” throughout the show floor. While only attendees participated in the actual hunt, it trended in Twitter’s top 10 nationally.

The Disney marketing team also launched innovative promotions with leading tech and gaming communities, including Marvel Studios’ first-ever Amazon Alexa Skill trivia game, which included a call to action to purchase the film on Amazon Prime Video.

On digital platforms, the team deployed several creative executions that generated excitement and increased sales. Thanos “took over” all Marvel and talent social media pages. A Facebook AR activation allowed users to apply Thanos’ “fade to ash” effects to their own pictures, and a video series was launched to bring casual consumers up to speed on the MCU backstory. The Russo brothers hosted a Vudu viewing party that generated hundreds of millions of impressions on Twitter and spiked digital sales by more than 33%.

The Disney marketing team also leveraged excitement about the film to create robust integrations with Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Freeform, as well as leading sports brands, including ESPN’s e-sports airing of the Overwatch league, regional MLB home games and a custom Dodger Stadium takeover.

The international team planned big, bold stunts, including the installation of a massive fist gauntlet that “broke ground” in a key London mainline station, a light show in London where the Avengers “A” was beamed into the city skyline, and huge Blu-ray Disc cover installations that were erected in malls throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Avengers: Infinity War wound up being the No. 1 physical and digital release of 2018, and the fastest-selling digital release ever.

Batman: The Animated Series — Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (TV)

Jeff Brown and his team crafted an innovative, interactive 13-month campaign to successfully publicize and market the long-awaited release of the fully-remastered Batman: The Animated Series — Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray boxed set. The campaign strategically balanced traditional mainstream approaches with topline genre outreach, global entertainment promotion and grassroots social interaction.

The campaign utilized the two largest fan gatherings in the United States — San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con — as tentpoles for announcements, exhibitions, media activations, and direct interaction with press and consumers. The promotional window opened with a surprise revelation of the remastering of the episodes at the “Batman: The Animated Series” 25th anniversary celebration panel before a capacity crowd of 3,000 at New York Comic Con in October 2017. WBHE continued a teaser approach for the following eight months until San Diego Comic-Con in 2018, with a full day of high-profile and genre-based media interviews capped by an at-capacity 2,000-seat panel, where most details were revealed. From there, WBHE enacted an aggressive three-month publicity blitz, leading up to a final New York Comic Con panel before 3,000 enthusiastic fans 17 days before the DVD and Blu-ray Disc’s street date.

Over the course of the 13-month campaign, WBHE employed numerous engaging publicity tactics to maintain fan interest, ramping up as street date approached. These efforts included:

  • A stealth initial soft launch that garnered more than 2,000 preorders before officially announcing the product, resulting in a greater immediacy for initial demand;
  • An announced lower-than-expected exclusive limited-edition number that drove even greater sales and forced an eventual expansion of that production run to more than double the original total;
  • Inclusion of a digital copy with each disc set, as a consumer value add;
  • Continuous social presence utilizing the acting stars of the series (Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Loren Lester, John Glover, Diane Pershing), as well as Bat-friendly celebrities (Kevin Smith, Troy Baker, Diedrich Bader, Jason O’Mara) to garner millions of impressions;
  • Maintaining an active and responsive social presence to keep fans engaged and interested, as well as addressing their concerns for the myriad technical issues that befell the release;
  • The creation of special split-screen videos to better exemplify the vast improvement between the original footage and the remastered episodes;
  • The creation of an unboxing video featuring the series’ star with largest online following (Tara Strong), posted on street date;
  • The production of a series of GIFs featuring cast and filmmakers with Tenor that garnered 250,000 added impressions;
  • And a Twitter-based two-week promotion — “BTAS on Tour” — that allowed fans to “follow” the travels of an actual boxed set, including visits to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, Springsteen on Broadway, the World Series at Dodger Stadium, Warner Bros. Studio Tour, Universal Studios, L.A. Comic Con, Randy’s Donuts, Voodoo Donuts, the “Friends” couch and more.

Bumblebee — Paramount Home Entertainment

For the global home entertainment release of the hit film Bumblebee, the Paramount Home Entertainment (PHE) marketing team executed a multi-phase campaign to drive digital and physical sales and generate tons of buzz. The team additionally elevated the title with an innovative product offer: 14 deleted/extended scenes and an animated motion comic with a new Bumblebee adventure — also offered as a printed comic in the Blu-ray. The gift-ability of the title was heavily promoted on packaging and through a special trailer, helping to drive pre-Easter sales.

PHE targeted multiple audiences through comprehensive media buys during both the electronic sellthrough and physical windows. From major sporting events such as MLB’s opening day to Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards and promoted posts across social media, the carefully orchestrated advertising campaign reached parents, kids, “Transformers” fans and more to ensure awareness and drive purchases across all consumer targets.

Augmenting the paid media was a robust social media campaign that included multiple custom activations for the various fan segments. Among the highlights were a partnership with Volkswagen that blended contextual storytelling with custom social creative, concerted messaging for National Women’s Day highlighting the film’s heroine, and a wildly successful April Fool’s activation that included a vintage-looking 4:3 digital trailer for a special VHS release that generated online coverage reaching 53 million unique monthly visitors and garnered 12 million social impressions.

The campaign was rounded out by widespread publicity including news coverage of a towering Bumblebee at WonderCon and San Francisco’s Pier 39, a behind-the-scenes press day with the film’s screenwriter, foley artists and Bumblebee in VW form as well as talent interviews, Easter segments and more.

Ultimately, the combined marketing efforts drove both digital and physical sales that exceeded expectations and sent Bumblebee to the top of the sales charts.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom — Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

To market the global home release of the huge blockbuster hit Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the marketing team at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment developed a groundbreaking interactive campaign in partnership with Facebook and Messenger. The campaign focused on sharable in-store and in-home augmented-reality (AR) experiences showcasing the film’s celebrated dinosaurs. It was not only the largest effort of its kind for both partners, but also the first integrated AR experience across the Facebook family of apps — specifically Facebook and Messenger.

The day the film was released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, participating retailers across 18 countries set up eye-catching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom displays with instructions on how to activate the AR experience. Shoppers could scan a special QR code to launch the sharable AR effect that placed the ferocious Indoraptor directly in their path, providing them with an up-close encounter with one of the newest dinosaurs from the “Jurassic” franchise. In the United States alone, the experience spanned more than 17,000 stores across multiple national retail and grocery chains.

A second experience awaited buyers in the United States, Canada and 14 other countries. The in-home experience was activated through
a collectible insert that came with each purchased disc, using the Messenger camera. The experience unveiled an interactive baby version of the film’s Velociraptor hero, Blue. The animated Baby Blue could be placed in any environment, and images and video of her behaving curiously, playfully and aggressively could be captured and shared with friends.

“Just as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom transports viewers into an immersive world of discovery and wonder, the new AR offerings extended that excitement and innovation to retail stores and consumer homes,” said Hilary Hoffman, UPHE EVP of global marketing. “We were thrilled to have a world-class partner in Facebook to help power these engaging AR experiences.”

The AR activation was one of several successful elements of the overall integrated marketing campaign, which also included broadcast and digital marketing as well as a global press event. The AR activation was used to directly target consumers, offering them an additional incentive to purchase the film.

Ready Player One — Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (Film)

To market the global home entertainment release of Ready Player One, Jessica Schell, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment EVP and GM of film, and her team developed and implemented a successful comprehensive marketing strategy targeting fans of both the film and the book — along with general film enthusiasts. The campaign culminated with an immersive experiential activation at San Diego Comic-Con, leading to strong physical and digital sales, making it one of the top-performing home entertainment titles of the year.

Drafting off of Warner Bros.’ successful theatrical marketing campaign for the film, the WBHE marketing team worked closely with Blair Rich, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, to align campaigns and leverage best practices from the film’s theatrical opening. Marketing data insights from the theatrical team helped WBHE hone in on key Ready Player One fans, while tapping into relevant expansion audiences, focusing on sci-fi/adventure aficionados, Steven Spielberg fans, and consumers who buy a lot of home entertainment product.

During the theatrical marketing campaign, WBHE used “homage” poster art featuring Ready Player One lead character Parzival incorporated into one-sheets of classic Warner Bros. films such as Bullitt and The Lost Boys, providing the imagery to key digital retailers iTunes and Vudu.

WBHE also created a new interactive activation at Comic-Con. Featuring iconic sets and moments from the film, the activation also incorporated a pivotal scene from The Shining. The installation contained two Ready Player One-themed escape rooms, which tested fans’ knowledge of 1980s culture; re-creations of several sets from the film; a full arcade; props and costumes from the film; and photo opportunities accompanied by custom hashtags. The “surprise” element exclusive to WBHE was a faithful re-creation of the Overlook Hotel hallway, elevators, the doors to room 237, and the iconic bathroom from The Shining, along with atmospheric sound and visual effects.

WBHE hosted a media and influencer preview prior to the activation opening that included a private guided tour and stand-up and photo opportunities. In keeping with the retro 1980s themes included in the film, a VHS copy of the film was designed and created and was given to press along with a copy of the film’s soundtrack on vinyl, which was released by WB’s Water Tower Music. The highly coveted VHS giveaway was signed by Ernest Cline, author of the Ready Player One novel.
The activation was a social media success, reaching more than 3.2 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The activation also secured the No. 1 spots across the Ready Player One social accounts, including the highest-performing posts on Instagram for the activation announcement as well as a post giving a look inside the exhibit. The Facebook page also saw the highest-performing post with a photo album featuring images from SDCC weekend, and the No. 1 Tweet featuring the “Riverdale” cast at the activation.

Venom — Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Following a top-grossing run at the box office and overwhelmingly positive audience reviews, Lexine Wong, Senior EVP of worldwide marketing, and the SPHE marketing team took advantage of the holiday gift-giving time period with a December release. They set goals to create an innovative marketing campaign for the home entertainment release of Venom that would break through the holiday clutter, be buzzworthy, have the potential to go viral, and proclaim collectibility. The campaign took a multi-pronged approach to target consumers, press and media with various standout activations.

Leveraging social analytics and fan conversations, the team took a risk and leaned into the comedy and fandom of the Eddie Brock and Venom relationship. The result was a new home entertainment announce trailer that was a tongue-in-cheek parody of traditional romantic comedies. Debuting the trailer exclusively with Entertainment Weekly and garnering widespread pickup across mainstream, fanboy and entertainment press, the trailer was further integrated across paid media and all digital touchpoints of the campaign. The response was outstanding, accumulating millions of views over the life of the campaign.

In addition, to celebrate the digital release, the team partnered with Super News Live to host a Venom Block Party with a special guest appearance by Venom co-creator Todd McFarlane, a live mural painting by local and well-known street artists, Venom-themed snacks and special cast appearances. The event generated extensive press coverage with both local and national press outlets.

Next, in a first-of-its-kind co-branded NFL broadcast partnership, Wong and her team worked with the NFL to create a series of hype videos integrating Venom with football highlights to get sports fans excited about the upcoming match-ups.

Amazon had an exclusive limited-edition Venom Blu-ray with glossy foldout packaging and art from illustrator Marko Maney.

Finally, to drive customers to Walmart, SPHE created special 1980s “throwback” Venom action figures packed in a Blu-ray gift set, complemented by a themed commercial that was amplified on paid and organic social, digital media and on the retailer’s channels.

Through pulling all marketing levers and taking a unique approach to a holiday campaign, the Venom home entertainment campaign made Adweek’s “The 7 Biggest Movie Marketing Moments of 2018,” the only home entertainment campaign to be featured.

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The Power Marketers

Jeff Brown
EVP and GM, Television, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Brown for more than two decades has been an instrumental member of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) team, helping guide the division to the forefront of home entertainment innovation. Brown’s team manages all digital and physical WB Television (WBTV) content for both new-release and catalog on a global basis. WBHE content includes live-action TV series, non-theatrical family and animation programming. Additionally, Brown manages third-party partner relationships with content owners such as BBC as well as original content development exclusively for home distribution. In recent years, under Brown’s tenure, WBHE has achieved five years of television transactional share growth; over 50% expansion of its made-for-video slate, including the Home Media Award-winning top DTV of 2018, The Death of Superman; leadership in TV digital with innovation in pricing, promotion, new customer acquisition strategies and use of data-driven analytics; and leadership in “collection offerings,” including the Home Media Awards presented by Media Play News title of the year for 2018 —
Batman: The Animated Series — Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray boxed set.

Regarded as a digital pioneer in the home entertainment realm, Brown has paced WB’s television digital efforts for high-profile series such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Friends,” as well as for evergreen animation brands such as “Scooby-Doo.” Brown further grew WB’s success with an unprecedented expansion into made-for-video content.
Early in his career, Brown was an instrumental member of the Warner Bros. team that led the DVD/Blu-ray Disc revolution. He was later based in London as Warner Bros. head of EMEA, where he helped engineer the company’s adaptation of a global franchise marketing planning process. He then moved back to the United States and assumed responsibility of WBHE’s television business unit.

Before joining WBHE in 1996, Brown worked in marketing management for General Mills and Nestle, as well as operating as general manager/owner of two successful entrepreneurial ventures.

Hilary J. Hoffman
EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Hoffman has consistently shown a knack for leveraging creativity, data and intuition to craft marketing plans for the home release of some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and franchises, from Jurassic World to Despicable Me and the “Fast and Furious” line. With an eye on maximizing revenue, she defines go-to-market consumer strategies and the overall approach for consumer engagement, both through traditional media and through new platforms and technologies. Hoffman and her team focus on the complete packaged-goods and digital product lifecycle. Her marketing ability and leadership strengths were recognized in 2014 when she was asked to transform the marketing department into an innovative global organization.

Hoffman currently oversees strategic marketing and business strategy for Universal Pictures and its distributed lines worldwide across new-release, catalog and TV properties for both physical and digital. She is currently implementing new data-driven decision-making tools to optimize media spend and measure effectiveness of marketing elements.

David Kite
SVP, Global Marketing, Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International
Kite oversees global marketing for the in-home release of studio and TV content distributed by The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Television. He is responsible for the global in-home release calendar of new-release and catalog titles across physical and digital retailers, overall creative product strategy, linear and digital marketing and customer relationship management that drive sales, ownership and consumption of the company’s content. This includes the creation and implementation of all creative marketing and bonus materials.
With nearly 20 years of experience at The Walt Disney Company, Kite has held leading roles in digital marketing, product management and distribution strategy. Most notably, Kite’s team has spearheaded campaigns for six of the top 10 bestselling in-home titles of the past 36 months: including the top selling physical releases of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, which currently holds the record as the bestselling 52-week digital title of all time. Kite and his team are currently working on campaigns for Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Alita: Battle Angel and Dark Phoenix.

Amanda Kozlowski
EVP, Home Entertainment and Digital Distribution Marketing, Lionsgate
Kozlowski oversees marketing efforts across traditional and emerging platforms and technologies for Lionsgate’s entire home entertainment and digital distribution division. The division includes the distribution of Lionsgate’s feature film slate, titles from one of the largest television businesses in the world, Starz original programming, a 17,000-title film and television library, and titles from leading content partners such as Roadside Attractions, A24, CBS Films, Grindstone, Pantelion and Saban Films. Kozlowski recently transformed the global marketing team to focus on complete lifecycle marketing and distribution strategies, planning for content from its initial release through the streaming and TV windows. In addition, Kozlowski plays a lead role in the studio’s enterprise-wide marketing technology, ad technology, market research, marketing analytics, CRM and customer acquisition initiatives.

Kozlowski previously served as SVP of digital marketing, leading Lionsgate’s digital marketing strategy. She has also overseen the execution of Lionsgate’s domestic EST/VOD sales efforts and distribution deals with Roadside Attractions, Miramax Films and StudioCanal. Prior to joining Lionsgate, she oversaw campaigns for marketing agency A.D.D. Marketing + Advertising as well for the nonprofit organization Film Independent.

Her biggest challenge, she said, is “creating clever campaigns that generate attention while remaining authentic to each IP and its audience. With a wealth of content available to consumers and so many marketing messages targeting them, cutting through the clutter authentically is more important than ever.” Her biggest opportunity, she said, is the fact that more content is being consumed than ever — and there are more channels for audiences to choose from, as well. “As someone who grew up in a smaller Southern city with a love for indie film, I had to really work to access content that interested me,” Kozlowski said. “The immediacy that consumers have to connect to all kinds of stories today is incredibly exciting.”

Kozlowski said that the arrival of motion picture group chairman Joe Drake and president of worldwide marketing Damon Wolf to Lionsgate the past year “has reinvigorated our data marketing initiatives. With their support, we launched the Lionsgate Data Center this year to help us better locate and understand our consumers. As someone who’s been working on marketing technology and consumer data for over four years, it’s incredibly exciting to see data-driven decision making taken the next level.”

Vincent Marçais
EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Paramount Home Entertainment
Marçais has served as EVP of worldwide marketing for Paramount Home Entertainment for just over a year, overseeing brand, creative, media, customer marketing, international marketing and consumer research for all of the studio’s home entertainment releases on physical and digital. He reports to Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Marçais previously served as EVP of worldwide brand and customer marketing for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. In this role he oversaw the release campaigns for all transactional businesses (Video-on-Demand, DVD, Blu-ray Disc and Digital HD) and also managed joint consumer marketing efforts with digital retailers and U.S. and international operators. During his tenure Marçais was a key driver of the division’s transformation from a pure physical distribution company into a digital new media company. His marketing savvy helped spur sales to consumers of such films as The Martian, Joy, Brooklyn, and the “X-Men,” “Ice Age” and “Planet of the Apes” franchises.

Marçais began his career with French car manufacturer Citroën and joined Fox Video France in 1991, where he held numerous marketing and sales positions. From 2002 to 2006 he served as Fox’s VP of marketing for the European home entertainment operation. Marçais relocated to Los Angeles in 2006 to serve as SVP of international marketing for Fox and became EVP of worldwide brand and consumer marketing in 2012.

Jessica Schell
EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Schell joined Warner Bros. in 2014 and has global responsibility for all operations related to the physical and digital sales, marketing, creative, distribution, finance and administrative functions of the studio’s film home entertainment releases, including new theatrical titles and catalog. Schell has been successful in combining traditional marketing strategies with her extensive background in digital marketing and new media to create cutting-edge campaigns for such titles as Wonder Woman, Aquaman, It, Ready Player One, Crazy Rich Asians, American Sniper and the “Lego” franchise, driving both digital and physical sales. Schell also identifies and engages new technology marketing opportunities and platforms for the studio’s home entertainment offerings, including virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

Schell oversees the continued growth of WBHE’s Blu-ray Disc business, and also manages the growing market for 4K UHD Blu-ray titles, including the top-performing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, The Matrix Trilogy and The Dark Knight Trilogy. She has been instrumental in the continued growth of the digital transaction business, including electronic sellthrough and VOD. During her tenure, Warner Bros. has been the No. 1 home entertainment theatrical studio with a 17% share, the No. 1 home entertainment theatrical catalog studio with a 20% share, and the No. 1 home entertainment physical 4K studio with a 22% share, with consumers spending more than $100 million in combined sellthrough and rental sales of WB 4K theatrical product.

Additionally, under Schell’s leadership WBHE received three Home Media Awards presented by Media Play News for 2018 home entertainment offerings, including Best Blu-ray Disc and Best Restoration for the 2001: A Space Odyssey 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and Best Horror Disc for It.

Prior to joining Warner, Schell spent nine years at NBC Universal, most recently serving as EVP of worldwide new media and digital entertainment for Universal Pictures.

Lexine Wong
Senior EVP,
Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Wong leads Sony Pictures Television’s Global Home Entertainment marketing team. She is charged with delivering breakthrough marketing campaigns across a wide range of product from Sony Pictures Entertainment’s studio labels, spurring consumer engagement and driving transactions across both digital and physical windows. Her specific areas of oversight include consumer and brand strategy, creative advertising, media and digital, PR and strategic partnerships, content development for digital/physical product, and new product development.

Wong began her career at Young & Rubicam, the ad agency, and after joining what is now Sony Pictures Home Entertainment rose to EVP of Worldwide Marketing in 2001 and her present position five years later, just as the industry was launching Blu-ray Disc.

Wong’s focus is on providing value and measurable impact for consumers through entertaining, shareable and highly interactive experiences across all channels. Wong’s insights-driven marketing strategy provides a strong foundation for product development and continued marketing innovation around new platforms critical for growth in the industry, such as Movies Anywhere, virtual reality, augmented reality, 4K UHD and other direct-to-consumer digital offerings.

Under her direction, Wong’s team in 2018 was responsible for buzzworthy publicity and media campaigns for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Venom and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

The Power Teams

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Jennifer Anderson, SVP, Marketing, is responsible for leading the strategic development and execution of brand marketing and creative for all SPHE new release and catalog business. She oversees a cross functional team including brand and product marketing, promotions and creative advertising.

Jane Mohon, SVP, Marketing Services, is responsible for data-driven consumer strategy overseeing digital and social media marketing, traditional and digital media planning and buying as well as publicity. She finds synergies across paid, owned and earned media by connecting the dots among consumer activation opportunities.

Joe Burg, Executive Director, Content Development, leads a team of content producers in the ideation and production of home entertainment original content and is a lead producer on new technology initiatives.

Gregg Shack, VP, Creative Advertising, guides the team’s creative strategy, developing key art, print and audio visual assets for ad campaigns.

Jana Simmons, VP, TV & Customer Marketing, partners with the commercial teams and customers to develop marketing programs for all SPHE’s transactional retail partners.


Amelia Rogers, SVP, Integrated Marketing, oversees the integrated marketing team covering both owned and third-party content.

Erin Carter, SVP, Integrated Marketing, focuses on retail marketing and distribution efforts.

Whitney Dickinson, VP, Media and Data, runs media planning and the division’s efforts for the Lionsgate Data Center.

Tom Gundred, SVP, Creative Development, oversees print, AV and digital creative direction across film and television content.

Paramount Home Entertainment

Dina Marovich, SVP, Worldwide Media & Interactive Marketing, oversees all media planning and buying for the division.

Rozita Tolouey, SVP, Brand Marketing, drives the division’s global marketing strategies for new releases and acquisitions.

Michele Bell, SVP, Worldwide Creative Services, is responsible for all of the division’s creative advertising materials.

Brenda Ciccone, SVP, Worldwide Publicity & Communications, oversees all publicity and corporate communications for the division on a global basis.

Melinda Froelich, SVP, International Marketing, is responsible for international marketing, advertising, public relations, promotions and release strategy.

Hilarie Hildebrandt, SVP, Customer Marketing, focuses on executing consumer-focused programs with each retail client.

Alanna Powers, VP, Brand Marketing, oversees strategies for catalog titles.

Leda Chang, VP, Digital Marketing, drives interactive initiatives.

Jacqueline Gustafson, VP, Home Media Content, supervises bonus material strategies.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Pam Blum, SVP, UPHE Marketing, oversees creative marketing services and the development of value-added content for UPHE’s releases on a worldwide basis.

Lea Porteneuve, SVP, Global Publicity & Communications, oversees global business, technology and executive communications for UPHE, spearheading all strategic publicity initiatives in support of the studio’s digital and physical home entertainment offerings.

Jeff Ackermann, SVP, Global Brand Marketing — Live Action New-Release & Catalog, spearheads global strategic marketing, product development and management of new-release titles from Universal Pictures and Focus Features, and the studio’s extensive catalog library.

Stephanie Lutjens, VP, Global Brand Marketing — Family, TV & Promotions, leads global strategic marketing, product development and management of family new release and TV, in addition to managing worldwide home entertainment promotions.

Joe Eibert, VP, Digital Marketing, leads digital marketing strategic planning and execution for UPHE releases.

Nadia Haney, VP, Global Marketing, Emerging Technology, is responsible for consumer-focused global strategic marketing for
emerging formats.

Denise Haro, SVP, Global Consumer Insights & Strategy, oversees business insights, marketing data analytics, and UPHE’s consumer insights and research with a focus on aligning global commercial strategy around product, window, messaging and innovation.

Ted Chi, VP, Digital Marketing Strategy, is responsible for establishing and leading the strategy and execution of marketing for the Digital Distribution group.

Sandy Choi, SVP, Brand Marketing, North America Partnerships, manages the North American third party partners which includes developing marketing campaigns for partner releases across both physical and digital platforms and leading the cross-functional team that oversees the overall management of partner relationships.

Kelly Harrington, VP, Global Brand Marketing, Catalog, 1440 Productions & Licensing, leads global strategic marketing and management of UPHE catalog releases, 1440 Production new releases, and commercial marketing for licensing.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Kristina Fugate, SVP, Marketing, Film, handles all theatrical new-release and catalog brand marketing efforts across disc and digital platforms, which also includes creative advertising, franchise lifecycle management and global strategy.

Chris Baldwin, SVP, Worldwide Promotions & Partnerships, oversees all global promotions and partnerships for WBHE, including new-release, catalog, TV, family and animation titles.

Jack Walker, SVP, Media & Digital Marketing, oversees all media and digital marketing for WBHE, including new-release, catalog, TV, family and animation, and games. Walker reports to Jessica Schell and Jeff Brown.

Emily Zalenski, SVP, Worldwide Publicity, Film, oversees worldwide publicity, events and experiential marketing efforts for new-release and catalog titles. She also manages corporate communications for WBHE.

Nicole Coleman, SVP, Trade Marketing and Sales Integration, oversees the theatrical catalog P&L for the home entertainment group across the physical and digital retail landscape, and also leads trade marketing and sales planning for both physical and digital film and television content.

Laura Lupinetti, VP, Film Trade Marketing, is responsible for driving go-to-market strategy for WBHE’s new-release and catalog businesses, curating content and price variability to maximize sales and placement across various retail windows.

Rosemary Markson, SVP, TV Marketing, leads global marketing for Warner Bros. TV series across all transactional platforms, with responsibility for strategy development, product management, consumer marketing and business planning for current on-air series and library/catalog content.

Mary Ellen Thomas, VP, Television Marketing, Family & Animation, oversees product development and marketing for animated and live-action made for videos, episodic animation, and partner brands (Peanuts, Dr. Seuss, Viz Media, and WWE).

Melissa Hufjay, VP, Publicity, Television, oversees worldwide publicity, events and Comic-Con presence for all television, family, animation and live-action/animated made-for-video titles.

Zandra Palmer, VP, Trade Marketing, provides strategic direction to field sales and brand marketing teams in the development of effective retail programs across all distribution platforms in North America, both physical and digital, to achieve or exceed financial objectives.

Beyond the Majors

In addition to major studio promotions, Media Play News selected some notable campaigns from the independent studio and consumer retail realm:

The Final Wish — Cinedigm

The Final Wish has become one of Cinedigm’s highest-grossing VOD, digital and physical releases of 2019 due to a well-structured campaign consisting of grassroots, social media, publicity and traditional media. The horror film, released on digital, VOD and theatrically Feb. 8 (on disc March 19), premiered at Screamfest, the largest horror festival in the United States, and maintained its momentum through word-of-mouth screenings with horror site Dread Central. Social media consisted of a seven-month campaign in which engagement was high, boosted by an extremely targeted paid campaign and organically by a supportive cast and crew. A 30-second spot was created for TV and YouTube highlighting the film’s pedigree and cast.

About the Marketer: Kim Staruk, executive director of marketing, Cinedigm

Staruk joined the company in March 2014. She oversees the general partner relationship, overall business strategy and marketing plans for key content partners such as Hallmark, Status Media and the NHL. Staruk previously spent four years as a brand manager at Universal Music and two years at Sony.

“Awards Watch” — FandangoNow

Capitalizing on Fandango’s position as the destination for all things movies, FandangoNow’s annual Awards Watch Campaign was a Fandango-FandangoNow, cross-company collaboration. As part of a promotion with “The Today Show” and to help drive tune-in to the Golden Globes, FandangoNow offered a code for 50% off all Globe-nominated movies, from the day the nominees were announced on “Today” through the following weekend. During Awards season, culminating with the Academy Awards, nominated movies contributed up to 50% of FandangoNow’s business. Both past winners and new-release nominees were supported across the platform with all marketing touchpoints, including homepage takeovers and dynamic awards checklists, across connected devices and TVs, and on social media.

About the Marketer: Nantalie Song, senior director of marketing, FandangoNow

Song is the brand and consumer marketing lead for Fandango’s transactional video-on-demand service. She oversees marketing strategy and ad campaigns across owned-and-operated platforms, including social, smart TVs and OTT devices. She weaves research into stories to drive customer acquisition and retention, as well as collaboration among internal and external partners.

About the Marketer: Chad Ludwig, head of brand marketing, Fandango

Ludwig leads brand strategy and growth efforts for Fandango (ticketing), FandangoNow and Rotten Tomatoes. Previously, he has served in similar leadership roles, including COO of Oxford Road (a direct-to-consumer advertising agency), head of marketing for JibJab (expanding their subscription eCard business and launching the kids entertainment brand, StoryBots), and GM for Disney Movies Online (Disney’s initial foray into streaming movies and premium content). He’s successfully led a variety of efforts across business models (direct-to-consumer subscription, micro-transaction and/or e-commerce) and platforms (mobile, web, social and app-based).

“Back to the Movies” — Redbox

Redbox executive Ash Eldifrawi leveraged his experience as both a licensed clinical psychologist and a marketing executive to forge the “Back to the Movies” campaign. The continuing campaign, which began in August 2018, is aimed at combating digital isolation and creating meaningful consumer dialogue around the power of Movie Nights in bringing people together. The campaign encouraging co-watching has become part of “the overall positioning and core mission of our company,” he says.

A Redbox August 2018 Omnibus Survey found 61% of Americans missed the days when movie nights were a planned activity with friends and family; 58% of Americans said binge-watching TV shows — an activity most often done alone on the small screen — has replaced their movie-watching experience; 68% of Americans said having a regular movie night would bring them closer to friends/family; and 81% of Americans said watching a movie is therapeutic/makes them feel better. As a psychologist, Eldifrawi backed up the campaign with further research that showed binge-watching stimulates the pleasure center of the brain that drives addiction while watching a feature together with others stimulates a different part of the brain that has to do with deeper meaning.

The campaign is promoted on social media with videos on millennial-targeted ATTN:, with a spot that explains the psychological dangers of too much isolated binging, and on mom-targeted Scary Mommy, with a spot that features a mother who neglects her family to watch her phone.

The Redbox site further promotes the continuing campaign with a page asking viewers to take a pledge to “escape your digital bubble” and “enjoy more movie nights” with the hashtag #BacktotheMovies. Pledgees get a surprise offer. Next up, engaging studio partners in the cause and a wider media campaign.

About the Marketer: Ash Eldifrawi, chief marketing and customer experience officer, Redbox

Eldifrawi is responsible for all functions of product management and marketing, where he works to drive alignment and collaboration between different functions for new products, services and enhancements. Prior to joining Redbox, he served as chief commercial officer at Gogo, where he joined in 2010 after serving as CMO at Hayneedle. Earlier in his career, he served as director of brand advertising at Google, and spent time at Wrigley and in management consulting at McKinsey & Co. He recently co-authored the book The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness, building on his doctoral work in clinical psychology at The Chicago School of Psychology, where his research focused on neurology and biopsychology.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Prange.)





‘Grinch,’ ‘Widow,’ ‘Girl in the Spider’s Web’ Debut in Top Three Spots on Redbox Disc, Digital Charts

Three new releases took the three top positions on both Redbox charts the week ended Feb. 10, led by Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, the latest take on the classic children’s Christmas story from Universal Pictures.

The Grinch debuted at No. 1 on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming.

Bowing at No. 2, also on both charts, was 20th Century Fox’s Widows, a heist film with an ensemble cast headed by Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez.

And debuting in third place on both Redbox charts was Sony Pictures’ The Girl in the Spider’s Web, an action thriller that is both a reboot and a sequel to the critically hailed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The computer-animated Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch earned just over $270 million in U.S. theaters and is aimed at a younger crowd than its darker, live-action predecessor, 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which earned slightly less in North American theaters ($260 million).

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Widows, about a band of women who turn to crime so they can pay back a crime boss after their husbands are killed in a botched $5 million heist, scored a domestic gross of $42.4 million.

And The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a theatrical underperformer with Claire Foy in the lead role as the avenger of battered women, took in just $14.8 million at the box office.

High demand for these three new releases pushed Lionsgate’s Hunter Killer to No. 4, also on both charts. The action film, about a squad of Navy SEALs who save the kidnapped Russian president from a military coup, had debuted at No. 1 the prior week.

Rounding out the top five on the Redbox disc-rental chart was Universal Pictures’ First Man, a biopic about Neil Armstrong’s celebrated 1969 moon landing. The film finished at No. 6 on the Redbox digital chart. The week before, First Man had been No. 2 on both charts, after a No. 1 debut the previous week.

On the Redbox On Demand, the No. 5 spot went to 20th Century Fox’s The Sisters Brothers, a Western comedy from 20th Century Fox with John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters, two assassins in the California Gold Rush.

The film – which earned just over $3 million in a limited theatrical release – also was the fourth new disc release to debut in the top 10 on the Redbox kiosk chart, coming in at No. 10.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Widows, The Girl in the Spider Web and The Sisters Brothers were all released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 5 and for digital sale Jan. 22.


Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending February 10

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (new)
  2. Widows (new)
  3. The Girl in the Spider Web (new)
  4. Hunter Killer
  5. First Man
  6. Night School
  7. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
  8. Halloween (2018)
  9. Venom
  10. The Sisters Brothers (new)


Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending February 10

  1. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch
  2. Widows
  3. The Girl in the Spider Web
  4. Hunter Killer
  5. The Sisters Brothers
  6. First Man
  7. The Hate U Give
  8. Crazy Rich Asians
  9. Venom
  10. Halloween (2018)


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Buy or rent Redbox On Demand movies

‘The Wife’ Taps Into the Times, Say Filmmakers

Watching Glenn Close in The Wife is like waiting for a long-simmering teapot to explode.

The film is available now on digital, DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Close — who plays the wife of an acclaimed author who’s had more influence on his success than anyone knows — has cleaned up during awards season, garnering Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe awards, among other plaudits.

It’s a performance that also happens to capture the zeitgeist.

“We just happen to have gotten the movie made right on the cusp of the Times Up movement, so finally, the magical slot where pissed off women are the new black,” noted screenwriter Jane Anderson, who adapted the novel by Meg Wolitzer.

The story follows Joan and Joe Castleman, married for nearly 40 years, as they experience the pinnacle of Joe’s success as a novelist when he wins the Nobel Prize. Through flashbacks with a young Joe and Joan, the audience is privy to just how much of that success is attributable to Joan, who makes a pact with the man she loves to achieve their respective desires.

Close’s daughter Annie Starke plays the young Joan, a part she wasn’t initially keen on playing.

“Honestly, when I was first approached about it, I was like no, no, no, no, no,” Starke said.

But as a fan of Anderson’s and after reading the book, her two grandmothers came to mind.

“They were both married quite young, and they took a back seat to my grandfathers,” she said. “My dad’s mom in particular had an extraordinary career. She was a chemist in the 1940s. She actually worked on the Manhattan Project and when she got pregnant, she got fired, and she also worked for GE and was part of the team that literally invented fluorescent lighting.”

Her other grandmother, her mother’s mom, had regrets.

“She never went to college,” Starke said. “She was truly one of the most brilliant women that I’ve ever had the honor of knowing.

“When she was older and unfortunately about to pass she told my mom, she told me, ‘I haven’t done anything with my life.’ And still to this day I get heart pangs when I think about it. And so honestly it was a project that made me think about the incredible women that I have the honor of saying that I am related to and for this to be, at least for me, an homage to who they were. I think I would have been an absolute idiot to have passed that up, and I’m so glad that I didn’t.”

Close and her daughter collaborated on the character.

“We had hours of conversations,” Starke said, including “a lot of deep conversations about who Joan is, what makes her tick.”

Playing the younger version of a woman played by your actual mother involved seeing her parent in a new way, Starke added.

“I would just straight up observe my mom,” Starke said. “I tried to get her mannerisms a little bit, like her way of walking. We kind of sized each other up in ways we never sized each other up before.”

Novelist Wolitzer noticed the way the actors and filmmakers changed things to translate the book to film.

“The quiet in the film was so amazing to me because the book, if you read the book, is not a quiet book. It’s kind of loud. She’s kind of letting loose. She’s letting it rip for the first time, and you’re present for it,” Wolitzer said. “It was so interesting how so much was in this quiet space.”

She said she found herself searching over the actors’ faces because the “actors really kind of convey [the emotions in the book] through the face.”

Close, in particular, added her own touch to the screenplay.

“I rewrote that final scene about three times,” Anderson said, incorporating notes from Close about how a long-married couple might shift from intimacy to anger.

“Writing for Glenn is a really exciting process, because she doesn’t give up,” Anderson said.

“As the writer of a novel, to have your book made into a film by such major talent in every major part is a true honor,” Wolitzer said.

Lionsgate Snags Top Spot on Redbox Disc, Digital Charts with ‘Hunter Killer’

Lionsgate snagged the top spot on both Redbox charts the week ended Feb. 3 with Hunter Killer, an actioner starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman about a squad of Navy SEALs who save the kidnapped Russian president from a military coup.

The film, which earned $15.8 million at the domestic box office, debuted at No. 1 on both the Redbox kiosk chart, which tracks DVD and Blu-ray Disc rentals at the company’s more than 40,000 red vending machines, and the Redbox On Demand chart, which tracks transactional video-on-demand (TVOD), both electronic sellthrough (EST) and streaming.

The new Lionsgate release pushed the prior week’s top Redbox title, Universal Pictures’ First Man, to No. 2 on both charts.

The biopic about Neil Armstrong’s celebrated 1969 moon landing earned $44.9 million at the domestic box office.

Night School, also a Universal Pictures release, held onto the No. 3 on the Redbox disc-rental chart and moved back up to No. 3, from No. 5 the prior week, on the Redbox on Demand digital chart.

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A third Universal Pictures films, Halloween, the 11th installment in the horror franchise, slipped from No. 2 on both charts the prior week to No. 4 on the kiosk chart and No. 6 on the kiosk chart.

Rounding out the top five on the kiosk chart was Sony Pictures’ Goosebumps 2, down a notch from the previous week.

On the Redbox On Demand digital chart, 20th Century Fox’s The Hate U Give slipped to No. 4 from No. 3 the prior week, while Sony Pictures’ The Wife debuted at No. 5.

The Wife, starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater, is a drama about a wife who grapples with a lifelong deception as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Wife, an art-house film highly praised by critics, debuted at No. 8 on the Redbox kiosk chart.

A third new release, Walt Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, debuted at No. 7 on the Redbox kiosk chart. Disney is the only studio that does not sell product directly to Redbox, prompting the kiosk vendor to buy copies at retail. That explains the relatively low showing for film that earned nearly $55 million in North American theaters.

On the Redbox On Demand chart, the newly released Indivisible, from Universal Pictures, debuted at No. 9. The Christian is based on the true story of Darren Turner, an Army chaplain striving to balance his faith with the war in Iraq.


Top DVD and Blu-ray Disc Rentals, Redbox Kiosks, Week Ending February 3

  1. Hunter Killer (new)
  2. First Man
  3. Night School
  4. Halloween (2018)
  5. Goosebumps 2
  6. Venom
  7. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (new)
  8. The Wife (new)
  9. The Hate U Give
  10. White Boy Rick


Top Digital, Redbox On Demand, Week Ending February 3

  1. Hunter Killer
  2. First Man
  3. Night School
  4. The Hate U Give
  5. The Wife
  6. Halloween (2018)
  7. Alpha (2018)
  8. Boy Erased
  9. Indivisible (new)
  10. Venom


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Buy or rent Redbox On Demand movies.

The Heroes of Telemark


Sony Pictures;
$24.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris, Ulla Jacobsson, Michael Redgrave.

There’s no accounting for what memory can preserve from a movie not seen in decades, and with 1966’s The Heroes Telemark (aside from its convincing portrayal of incessantly frigid temperatures), it’s always been the nifty sweaters Kirk Douglas and Ella Jacobson wear inside a cozy Norwegian home just made for lovin’. Or it would be, were the place not transformed by circumstances into a kind of mission central for fighting Nazis in early 1942.

In this case, memory has not played tricks. The sweaters really are nifty, though with perhaps just enough white in them that I’d be a lock to spill a glass of red wine in the wrong place were somebody to gift me with one. Still, you have to think that this isn’t the likely takeaway that director Anthony Mann had in mind for what turned out to be his final credit for a movie he lived to complete — though this fairly handsome production for its day did pretty fair business in Europe. Yet, in my Midwestern city, it failed to rate a downtown booking, and I caught its local opening engagement at a normally second-run campus movie house in a year when studio execs and marketers had less than a firm idea of what people wanted to see. Probably not Resistance fighting, or at least not in college towns when Blow-Up wasn’t that far away on the horizon.

Still, I’m guessing the picture worked well enough in drive-ins because it had a reliable veteran superstar (Douglas) teamed with an on-the-rise arthouse hunk (Richard Harris) — and this would be way before years of Demon Sauce gave Harris that Keith Richards look he sported in Randa Haines’s underrated Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. Before long, Harris would eschew the likes of Antonioni and Red Desert to find himself playing Cain in John Huston’s The Bible and King Arthur in Joshua Logan’s stillborn stab at Camelot — an entire career right there for a lot of actors. Here, though, he’s playing a character based on Knut Haukelid, who wrote a 1954 remembrance that served as one of two sources for the film — a book called Skiis Against the Atom, which pretty well sums up the 134 minutes we spend here.

Harris (name modified to called Knut Strand) is a resistance fighter in Telemark, Norway, where the Nazis are trying to produce the heavy water that’s needed to construct an atomic bomb amid Germany’s race against the Allies to do just that. Douglas, too, is Norwegian and a physics professor to boot, though from appearances, he also seems to have had time to work in some weight training. Then again, this is a country where all the men and probably lots of women automatically exercise by half-living on skis; even Michael Redgrave (as “Uncle” — who shares the house with Jacobsson) doesn’t look out of sorts, looking more spry than he did in The Browning Version a decade-plus earlier.

Nothing risible is meant by all this because Heroes’ skiing sequences are as memorable as the sweaters. Thus, I’m once again reminded of the remark someone once made to the effect that of you could find someone who shot exteriors like Mann and interiors like Nicholas Ray, you would have the perfect filmmaker. Or at least you would if the exteriors, as here, were shot by Robert Krasker, who was also behind the camera for Olivier’s Henry V, Carol Reed’s The Third Man, Visconti’s Senso, and (for Mann) El Cid.

Jacobbson is not only a honey here but Douglas’s ex-wife — a plot point I’ll just bet you wasn’t in Haulkelid’s book. For most of the going, “Selfless” isn’t exactly the middle name of Kirk’s character here (Rolf’s the name), which makes her less than willing to welcome him back into the sack when he and Harris end up using her place as headquarters in which to plot blowing up the nearby factory where the heavy water is being manufactured. This was during the Swedish actress’s lamentably short run as a Hollywood hopeful, well after she’d appeared partially nude in the internationally popular One Summer of Happiness (1951, though not till ’55 in the States). Even with its delayed release, its ‘PG’-level sexuality agitated a lot of wheezing political hacks into their daily round of agitation over life as it’s lived. Here, however, she mostly keeps the sweater on.

The major heavy here is bad old Anton Diffring (a kind of meaner-looking Peter Van Eyck), an actor immediately recognizable to any movie lover with a memory and a pulse; he probably played more Nazis on screen than Roy Rogers played characters in billion-decibel shirts who were named “Roy.” Diffring and the rest of the film play out in ways that one pretty well expects, and the result is a respectable (but that’s all) finale to Mann’s career that’s ultimately less distinguished than its great skiing scenes. Mann would begin one more picture — 1968’s A Dandy in Aspic — before succumbing to a heart attack in the middle of filming. Lead Laurence Harvey took over, though Columbia Pictures gave Mann full on-screen credit; I’ve never seen it, but Britain’s classy Indicator series has a release coming March ’18 that’ll probably be all-region.


Heroes on Blu-ray appears to be the product of a master with some mold on it, one that really gets (going from 1966 memory) all there is to be gotten out of Krasker’s visuals — a rap that has nothing to do with this Blu-ray’s status as an on-demand selection. Though the word “Choice” doesn’t appear (per usual) on the disc jacket, this release appears to be another of Sony’s manufactured-to-order high-def releases of predominantly Columbia Pictures product. The problem for on-demand naysayers (and Sony issues BD-Rs) is the large number (out of relatively few issued titles) of movies that I, at least, like, love or treasure as oddball curios: The Bitter Tea of General Yen, The Triplets of Belleville, Gideon of Scotland Yard, Real Genius, Spanglish, the Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette and the Gillian Anderson Little Women.

The last, at least, is one you’d think might be worth a full-scale marketing job, what with a brand new sibling go-around scheduled for Christmas under the eye of director Greta Gerwig. But this is just an observational aside and nothing more because I’m adverse to plopping Anton Diffring and Louisa May Alcott into the same piece of writing.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Heroes of Telemark’ and ‘Reap the Wild Wind’