The thriller Léon: The Professional will come out on 4K Ultra HD in a limited-edition Steelbook Dec. 1 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello star in the action thriller about a professional assassin whose work becomes dangerously personal. Calling himself a “cleaner,” the mysterious Léon (Ren0) is New York’s top hitman. When his next-door neighbors are murdered, Léon becomes the unwilling guardian of the family’s sole survivor — 12-year-old Mathilda (Portman). But Mathilda doesn’t just want protection; she wants revenge. Training her in the deadly tricks of his trade, Léon helps her track the psychotic agent who murdered her family.
The limited edition Steelbook features the film on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray and both the theatrical and extended versions.
Bonus materials include “Cast and Crew Look Back”; “Jean Reno: The Road to Léon”; “Natalie Portman: Starting Young”; and the original theatrical trailer.
Advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) network Crackle Plus on Sept. 3 announced the U.S. premiere of original series “Spides,” launching on Sept. 17.
The series stars Rosabell Laurenti Sellers (“Game of Thrones”) as a young woman who wakes from a coma after taking a mysterious drug alongside Falk Hentschel (“Legends of Tomorrow,” “Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Florence Kasumba (Avengers, Black Panther) as local police detectives. The series also stars Damian Hardung (“Name of the Rose”), Désirée Nosbusch (“Bad Banks”), Susanne Wuest (Perfume) and Aleksandar Jovanovic (“Tatort,” “Doctor Who”).
Set in modern-day Berlin, the eight-part series originally broadcast on Syfy follows Nora (Sellers) who falls into a coma after taking an unknown drug and wakes with no memory of her previous life. Meanwhile, local police detectives David Leonhart (Hentschel) and Nique Navar (Kasumba) work to track down the drug in connection to dozens of missing teenagers. In Nora’s quest to discover what happened to her, she uncovers a conspiracy of aliens who are using a synthetic drug to infiltrate humans to use as host bodies.
In addition to “Spides,” Crackle original and exclusive titles include “Corporate Animals,” “Blue Iguana,” “Anything is Possible — The Serge Ibaka Story,” “Road to Race Day,” “On Point,” “Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters,” “The Clearing,” “Crown Vic,” “’85: The Greatest Team in Football History,” “Wonders of the Sea,” “Yelawolf: A Slumerican Life,” and “Going From Broke,” which was recently picked up for a second season.
Spides is distributed in the United States by Screen Media, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment company, and the supplier of exclusive and original content for Crackle Plus.
“We are delighted to add ‘Spides’ to Crackle’s slate of original programming,” Philippe Guelton, president of Crackle Plus, said in a statement. “Our audience loves the sci-fi genre and this thrilling series will not disappoint.”
Crackle, which is minority-owned by Sony Pictures, can be accessed on 26 devices and services, including Amazon FireTV, RokuTV, Apple TV, Smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Vizio), gaming consoles (PS4 and XBoxOne), Plex, iOS and Android mobile devices and on desktops at Crackle.com. Crackle is also available in approximately 500,000 hotel rooms in the Marriott Bonvoy chain.
Five new films appeared on the “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended Aug. 22, led by Lionsgate’s The Silencing and Paramount’s The Vanished, both of which debuted in the top 10.
The Silencing debuted at No. 6 on the weekly chart, which tracks transactional video activity compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The U.S.-Canadian action thriller follows a reclusive hunter and police sheriff who track down a murderer they suspect kidnapped the hunter’s daughter five years earlier. The film, released through digital retailers on Aug. 14, was directed by Robin Pront from a screenplay by Micah Ranum and stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Annabelle Wallis.
The Vanished (No. 7), also released through digital retailers in mid-August ahead of an Oct. 20 DVD and Blu-ray Disc release, is about an idyllic family vacation that turns into a living nightmare for parents Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) when their young daughter disappears without a trace. When the local sheriff (Jason Patric) fails to chase down any new leads, the frantic parents have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
Also new to the “Watched at Home” chart are RLJ Entertainment’s Spree (No. 15), a horror satire that follows a social media-obsessed, ride-hail driver played by Joe Keery, and Sony Pictures’ Sputnik (No. 18), a Russian science-fiction horror film that stars Oksana Akinshina as a young doctor who is recruited by the military to assess a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and returned to Earth with a dangerous organism living inside him.
Warner’s Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, a direct-to-video animated superhero film version of the CW Seed series of the same name, debuted at No. 20 after its Aug. 18 disc release date. The film was released through digital retailers two weeks earlier.
The top five on the “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended Aug. 22 remains unchanged from the prior week, with RLJ’s The Tax Collector at No. 1 for the third consecutive week. The film, which stars Shia LaBeouf and Bobby Soto as “tax collectors” working for a Los Angeles crime lord, was released through digital retailers on Aug. 7.
Rounding out the top five are DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour, distributed to home audiences by Universal Pictures, and three seasons of Paramount’s “Yellowstone,” with Kevin Costner.
The Tax Collector (RLJ Entertainment)
Trolls World Tour (Universal/DreamWorks)
Yellowstone: Season 1 (Paramount)
Yellowstone: Season 3 (Paramount)
Yellowstone: Season 2 (Paramount)
The Silencing (2020, Lionsgate)
The Vanished (2020, Paramount)
The Outpost (Screen Media)
Made In Italy (IFC Films)
You Should Have Left (Universal)
The Rental (IFC Films)
Deep Blue Sea 3 (Warner)
Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
The King of Staten Island (Universal)
Spree (2020, RLJ Entertainment)
Scoob! (Warner Bros.)
The High Note (Universal)
Sputnik (Sony Pictures)
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Universal)
Deathstroke Knights & Dragons (Warner)
Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended Aug. 22.
Hollywood, you’re getting better — but we’re still not quite there.
UCLA’s 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report, released in February, found that, overall, there are more acting jobs for women in film. In a look at 145 films released in 2019, women had 44.1% of the lead acting roles and accounted for 40.2% of the total cast.
But if you look behind the scenes, there remains much more of a divide. In 2019, just 15.1% of the directors, and 17.4% of the writers, of top-grossing films were women. The 2020 Hollywood Diversity Report also includes a workplace analysis of the top 11 studios, and found that 82% of ‘C’-level positions, and 80% of all senior executive positions, are held by men.
This is why, for the third year, Media Play News is saluting the top women in home entertainment — with a special focus on the top “captains” who are driving the business — as selected by a panel of studio executives, key retailers, journalists and other industry leaders.
Our list of “captains” this year has expanded from 10 to 12, in recognition of the proliferation of high-profile streaming services. Our Women in Home Entertainment section takes on special significance this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic — which has presented our executives with a whole new series of challenges that are explored, in detail, in the Q&A section with our captains that follows our introductions.
THE CAPTAINS OF HOME ENTERTAINMENT: WHO THEY ARE
Head of Original Content, HBO Max
Aubrey heads up Original Content for HBO Max, presiding over a robust slate of Max Originals that offers programming options for every member of the household from preschool aged children through adults. Max Originals include a wide range of genres and formats, slanted toward Gen Z, millennial and female audiences, including programs such as “Legendary,” “Love Life,” “Expecting Amy,” “On the Trail,” “Raised by Wolves,” “Close Enough,” “Looney Tunes” and more. Previously, Aubrey was EVP of original programming for TNT, where she played an integral role in the network’s evolution into one of the premier destinations for prestige original dramas. Under her leadership, the number of women holding jobs at the highest levels on the average TNT scripted project more than doubled. TNT also jumped an impressive 320% on the annual GLAAD TV report rankings for LGBTQ representation. Prior to joining TNT, Aubrey was a prolific television and film producer, responsible for such projects as “Friday Night Lights” and “The Leftovers” while at Film 44, and films including Bad Santa before that.
Campbell manages Hulu’s suite of on-demand and live streaming businesses within the Walt Disney Co.’s Direct-to-Consumer & International business unit. Campbell previously served as chief marketing officer of Hulu. Her team of marketers was responsible for creating and executing initiatives across brand, creative, subscriber growth, entertainment publicity, consumer research and viewer experience. Campbell has earned several industry accolades, including one of Business Insider’s Most Innovative CMOs, Cynopsis Media’s Top Women in Digital Media, Ad Age’s Women to Watch and FierceCable’s The Fierce 50: Executives Reshaping the Business of Pay-TV. Most recently, she made Forbes’ Most Influential Global CMOs list for embracing transparency in influencer marketing.
Though she is leaving in September to lead publisher Conde Nast’s studio and distribution unit, Chu is being honored as one of the key players behind the successful launch of Disney+. Chu is responsible for identifying and developing series, feature films, short-form content and other entertainment formats for the service. Reporting to Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing, Chu leads the Disney+ Originals teams for scripted, unscripted and content operations, partnering closely with Disney-owned internal content creators, including The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Over the course of her career at Disney, Chu has served in a variety of roles. Prior to her current position, she served as executive of story and franchise development at Walt Disney Imagineering. From 2013 to 2016, she worked for Bob Iger as VP, office of the chairman and CEO, leading corporate synergy in the integration of Lucasfilm and the grand opening of Shanghai Disney Resort. While at ABC Entertainment, managing content production for the broadcast network’s digital platforms, Chu garnered an Emmy nomination for “Lost: Mysteries of the Universe,” a pioneering streaming extension of the fan-favorite series “Lost.” Chu began her career at Jigsaw Productions, working on Academy Award documentary nominee Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and “The Blues,” a seven-part series on PBS with directors Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Alex Gibney.
With more than 20 years of experience in the media and entertainment business, Downing has a successful history of leading organizations for growth and profitability in dynamic landscapes. Her vision for PBS Distribution (PBSd) has evolved the focus of the organization to a global distribution company with a diversified portfolio of businesses, including three direct-to-consumer subscription video-on-demand (DTC-SVOD) services at its core. A strategic leader with a strong operational background who embraces change to transform organizations with new business strategies and products, Downing leads the company including strategic, financial, and operational aspects of PBSd.
EVP and Managing Director — North America, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Gallagher leads UPHE’s physical home entertainment business, including sales, operations, finance, customer marketing and distribution partnerships across the United States and Canada. She assumed her present position in March 2018, after serving as SVP of sales, customer marketing and category management for UPHE’s U.S. physical sellthrough and rental businesses. She started at Universal in 2000 as assistant category manager and served in various sales, category management and customer marketing positions. Gallagher began her career in 1999 at Sony Pictures Entertainment (at the time, Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment).
EVP, Global Marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Hoffman oversees strategic marketing and business strategy for Universal and its distributed lines worldwide across new-release, catalog and TV properties for both digital and physical, focusing on the complete product lifecycle. Her responsibilities encompass defining go-to-market strategies and the overall approach for consumer engagement, including developing and leveraging new platforms and technologies as well as direct-to-consumer initiatives to drive profitable growth across all formats. During her tenure at Universal, Hoffman has overseen the campaigns of some of the studio’s biggest, revenue-generating releases and has successfully been a driving force behind Universal’s leading footprint in new industry initiatives.
VP, Original Content, Netflix
Holland, a 17-year Netflix veteran, is responsible for acquiring and launching original series for Netflix members around the globe. Under her purview, Holland and her team have launched award-winning and critically acclaimed projects that span drama, comedy, family/YA, documentaries, unscripted, stand-up specials and docu-series. She was named to the 2018 Time 100 list of the most influential people. According to the magazine, “in less than a decade, Cindy has helped orchestrate one of the biggest entertainment revolutions since the invention of the television.”
GM, Digital Store Category Management, Microsoft Corp.
Johnson-Marletti has responsibility for digital content categories (Gaming, Movies & TV, Entertainment and Consumer Apps) across all Microsoft digital storefronts. She is charged with working with external content creating partners to optimize customer experiences and financial opportunities through creative content marketing programs, and business model innovation. Johnson-Marletti joined Microsoft in 2001 and has since made multiple contributions across a number of different businesses, including nine years in the Xbox Division. Prior to coming to Microsoft, Johnson-Marletti spent almost 10 years with Bristol Myers-Squibb, where she held several positions across dales and dales management in the Southern California area. A former professional women’s basketball player, Johnson-Marletti is a Los Angeles native who currently lives on the East Side of Seattle with her two teen children.
EVP, Consumer Insights and Innovation, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Overall is responsible for identifying and developing the studio’s capabilities to become a more consumer-centric, data-driven organization. Her group utilizes data analytics and consumer insights, enabling SPHE and Sony Pictures Television Distribution to make better-informed decisions to satisfy consumer demand for content. Formerly, Overall was SVP of SPHE’s United Kingdom, Norther Europe and EMEA partnerships. In this role, she was responsible for defining the commercial strategies for the region and supporting the EMEA territories. She joined SPHE in 2008 as the managing director for Australia and New Zealand.
EVP and GM, Film, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Schell joined Warner Bros. in 2014 as EVP and GM of film at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and oversees all aspects of the transactional home entertainment business for Warner Bros. films worldwide. At Warner Bros. she has taken on additional responsibilities managing theatrical lifecycle marketing, cross-enterprise synergy initiatives, and immersive entertainment. Schell spent her early career at the Walt Disney Co. and Allen & Co. and is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Business School. At NBC Universal, she held roles of SVP of digital strategy and business development for NBC Universal, and EVP of business development and digital for Universal Pictures.
Amy Jo Smith
President and CEO, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Smith heads the leading trade group for the home entertainment industry. The DEG promotes entertainment platforms, products and distribution channels that support the movie, television, music, consumer electronics and IT industries. A former White House communications advisor, Smith since 1997 has led the industry-funded organization through the industry’s wholesale evolution from videocassettes to DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and today’s digital age. She joined the DEG as executive director under then-President Emiel Petrone, and was promoted to president in 2013 and CEO in 2017. Before the DEG she was SVP and group director at ad agency Cohn & Wolfe.
Senior EVP, Worldwide Marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Wong leads Sony Pictures Television Distribution’s global home entertainment marketing team and is charged with delivering breakthrough marketing campaigns across a wide range of product from Sony Pictures Entertainment’s studio labels and television series. Specific areas of oversight include consumer and brand strategy, creative advertising, media and digital, PR and strategic partnerships, content development and new product development. Wong’s insights-driven marketing strategy is the foundation for product development and continued marketing innovation around new platforms critical for growth in the industry, such as Movies Anywhere, augmented reality, 4K UHD and other direct-to-consumer digital offerings. With more than 25 years in advertising and consumer marketing, Wong began her career at Young & Rubicam, before joining what would become Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, where she rose to EVP of worldwide marketing in 2001 and her present position in 2006.
Sony Pictures announced it is offering consumers access to branded catalog movies and new releases in a drive-in atmosphere on the studio’s backlot in Culver City, Calif., beginning Aug. 14 and on subsequent Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays thereafter.
Showtimes, which begin at 8 p.m. PT, will be limited to 75 cars paying $30 per vehicle. The movie line-up includes Baby Driver, Bad Boys for Life, Bloodshot, Don’t Breathe, Ghostbusters (1984), Grown Ups, Jumanji: The Next Level, The Karate Kid (1984), Men in Black (1997), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, among others. Tickets will be handled by Atom Tickets.
Sony will also debut The Broken Hearts Gallery, a romantic comedy from executive producer Selena Gomez.
The drive-in campaign, which is similar to marketing efforts currently in operation at 160 Walmart parking lots and select third-party venues into October, is in response to ongoing closures of movie theaters due to the coronavirus pandemic.
NEWS ANALYSIS — Bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic on its business operations, major studios Disney, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and Sony Pictures face the fiscal music this week, reporting quarterly results, beginning with Sony before the market opens Aug. 4.
Most attention will be directed at Disney, which reports results after the market closes Aug. 4. With nearly every aspect of its business under siege during the pandemic, expect CEO Bob Chapek to focus on the positive: Disney+, which launched service in Asia (i.e. Japan) during the reporting third quarter, undoubtedly adding to the 54.5 million subscribers the platform reported at the beginning of May.
It’s an Ace card Chapek can use to counter Netflix’s July fiscal gem, generating almost 11 million new subscribers globally to surpass 190 million.
Disney moved intended theatrical release Artemis Fowl to its subscription streaming video platform during the quarter, while Pixar’s Onward joined the service after movie theaters shut down due to the pandemic.
Disney studio, pay-TV (ESPN) and theme park business segments will have little positive to report except maybe reduced operating costs — underscoring the company’s tens of thousands of furloughed workers. Disney re-opened parks in Paris, Florida, Shanghai and Hong Kong and then closed Hong Kong again temporarily following spikes in COVID-19 infections.
But Disney did score a coup of sorts when it contracted with the NBA to host the league’s pandemic-shortened season, including hosting players, coaches and staff at its facilities in Orlando, Fla.
“Many of Disney’s operations require bringing people together in large groups,” The Motley Fool’s Parkev Tatevosian wrote in a note. “The company won’t get back to running on all cylinders until there is a vaccine or treatment breakthrough for the coronavirus.”
ViacomCBS has busied itself expanding the portfolio and distribution reach for ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV, in addition to online-based Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) to consumers spending increasingly more time with over-the-top video.
The company inked a deal with NBCUniversal’s upstart Peacock streaming service for NBCUniversal’s Peacock for library movie and TV show content, including The GodfatherTrilogy, “Ray Donovan,” “Undercover Boss,” and “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” among others.
“We believe COVID-19 is a catalyst for ViacomCBS to push through … significant hidden value in Paramount’s library and in ViacomCBS streaming services,” Laura Martin, analyst with Needham & Co., wrote in a July 31 note. “Film and TV libraries are becoming more valuable over time. With 140,000 TV episodes plus 3,600 films in the ViacomCBS library, this suggests valuable optionality to maximize economics through either developing or licensing its intellectual property to others.”
With its theatrical business sidelined, Sony Pictures Entertainment in May announced an expansion of its “Imax Enhanced” releases, including catalog titles, as well as theatrical releases for home entertainment across the Europe, North America and Asia Pacific regions.
Imax markets a branded in-home “Imax private theatre” package that offers consumers the required technology, screen and audio to screen Blu-ray releases, including 4K UHD, in the home.
“SPE’s investment in the Imax Enhanced program ensures that we will continue to deliver even more of our films to audiences who now expect to experience movies at the highest technical quality — even in their own homes,” Pete Wood, SVP of new digital distribution at Sony Pictures, said in May.
In its previous fiscal result, Lionsgate attributed a $50 million loss due to COVID-19. The home entertainment distributor added more than 10 million Starz SVOD subscribers. Look for Lionsgate to up focus on home entertainment, which generated record $600 million in catalog revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31.
The distributor sold about $257 million in packaged-media product, down about $500,000 from 2019. Disc sales of major feature movies increased nearly 43% to $154.8 million from $108.4 million in the previous-year period.
OTT.X on July 28 announced plans to host its first-ever Career and Leadership Development Summit on Aug. 12, using an online format similar to its popular “OTT.X Online Live” sessions.
The summit will feature three components, including a conference session with career and leadership development presentations delivered by successful executives; a series of informal discussion sessions between industry executives and conference attendees; and a “happy-hour” networking session.
Featured speakers include industry veterans Steve Nickerson, formerly of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Toshiba Corp.; Jason Peterson, chairman of the GoDigital Media Group; and Michele Edelman, head of growth with Premiere Video.
Other speakers include Teresa Philips, CEO of Spherex; Narendra Reddy, EVP and GM of The Africa Channel; and Paulette Pantoja, CEO of Blu; Jill Allen, SVP of digital distribution for Sony Pictures; Beth Anderson, AVP of digital strategy and business development for BBC Studios; Allison Martin, senior manager of content planning for BBC Studios; Kristen Bedno, director of domestic distribution and marketing for Vision Films; Lise Romanoff, managing director and CEO of worldwide distribution for Vision Films; and Lonni Silverman, director of client services, for Sony Pictures.
“The goal of the summit is to help prepare an inclusive population of professionals interested in advancing in business and technical roles in the entertainment industry and to provide opportunities to develop their leadership skills, contacts and confidence,” said Mark Fisher, OTT.X president and CEO. “Supporting the growth and professional development of future leaders and the diversity of those holding leadership positions is vital to our industry’s continued success. Our first Leadership Development Summit will provide a platform for leaders to share valuable insights and for a diverse community of professionals of all levels to connect and learn from each other.”
Fisher also will speak, as will Eric Hanson, OTT.X’s VP of industry leadership.
To create an inclusive and diverse community of participants, women and minorities are especially encouraged to register and attend, Fisher said. The morning conference portion of the event is free for all OTT industry professionals. Afternoon discussion and networking sessions are free to any employee of an OTT.X member organization.
The conference is being hosted by OTT.X’s Leadership Development Foundation (LDF), an organization dedicated to the vision of a diverse and inclusive business and technical workforce in the OTT video entertainment industry, supported by a broad range of career and leadership development opportunities. The LDF is overseen by a steering committee with representatives from content providers, channels, retailers and service providers in the OTT video industry.
Next year (2021) is shaping up to be a busy one for Hollywood. Sony Pictures and Paramount Pictures have joined Disney and Warner Bros. in further delaying high-profile 2020 theatrical releases until 2021 due to ongoing surges in coronavirus infections in some parts of the country.
To date, the United States leads the world with more than 4 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Paramount announced that another Tom Cruise starrer, Top Gun: Maverick, sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, has been delayed until July 2, 2021 from its previously delayed Dec. 23, 2020 debut. The studio previously pushed back Mission: Impossible 7 to Nov. 19, 2021 from its original July 21, 2021 date. Mission: Impossible 8 had been scheduled for Aug. 5, 2022. It now has a tentative Nov. 4, 2022, release appointment.
Sci-fi franchise A Quiet Place saw sequel Part II delayed again to next April from the upcoming Labor Day weekend. The John Krasinski/Emily Blunt starrer had been originally slated for March 8 — just as the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction globally.
Paramount, which earlier this month inked catalog movie license deals with NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service for 2021, 2022 and 2023, also pushed back screen debuts for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Jackass, Under the Boardwalk and The Tiger’s Apprentice.
Sony Pictures is delaying its latest “Spider-Man” sequel to Dec. 17, 2021, from Nov. 5, 2021. The third installment starring Tom Holland as the webbed crusader had originally been slated for July 16, 2021. Separately, Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 is now scheduled for Oct. 7, 2022, from April 2022.
Deep catalog product isn’t the only part of the studio library fueling home entertainment as theatrical titles are stalled during the pandemic.
Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution, notes that Sony Pictures had a full pipeline of high-profile product when the pandemic hit. “And we’ve been actively promoting those titles to keep them top of mind, as well as releases from the end of last year, like Little Women and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” he says.
“Mother’s Day gave us an opportunity to revisit one of our more recent releases, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women,” adds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong. “Our team worked with Hello Sunshine to help launch a brand-new online series called ‘Comedians on Classics’ just in time for the holiday. The content featured rising female comedian Taylor Tomlinson giving a fresh and hilarious take on the beloved Louisa May Alcott story, which resonated with the film’s audience. The video has been viewed over 515,000 times since launch.”
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is coming up with inventive ways to market films that premiered digitally at premium prices (due to the theaters shutting down) once they become available on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and regular digital channels.
“With captive at-home audiences demonstrating a heightened need for great family entertainment during this time, we recognized a unique opportunity to evolve and elevate our new home entertainment release for Trolls World Tour to fit the tone and tenor of the moment,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “We created a robust Dance Party Edition offering that includes dynamic song and dance elements and all-new character-driven short-form content, we launched TikTok and Zoom-style Trolls music videos, and we adapted other marketing efforts to virtual tactics to remain connected to consumers in real time and further keep Trolls World Tour relevant.”
At Warner Bros., the May release of Scoob! was the studio’s first-ever PVOD and premium digital ownership title. The animated film came to market through “a tremendous joint effort between our theatrical team and home entertainment,” says Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, film, for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “When the health crisis hit and the decision was made to release Scoob! in homes, the marketing campaign for the film shifted from theatrical to at-home messaging and we enjoyed a very successful release. International release plans were just announced and it will be a mix of theatrical exhibition in markets where theaters are open, and premium in-home viewing.”
Schell says the film has become Warner Bros.’ No. 1 digital release, ever. “We recently announced our 4K and Blu-ray release dates for Scoob!,” Schell says, “and we are leveraging the extensive at-home messaging and awareness from the May debut and are drafting heavily on the film’s success to continue strong sales through our physical availability.”
Home entertainment’s success in supporting new releases cut off by theater closings is attracting attention from the studio hierarchy. Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, Paramount Pictures’ parent company, sang the praises of home entertainment during a presentation during the first Credit Suisse Virtual Communication Confab in mid-June. He said home entertainment has helped Paramount justify capital spending on new movies during a year of uncertainty.
“We sold The Lovebirds [to Netflix] early in the COVID-19 window,” he said. “We also accelerated the EST window with Sonic [the Hedgehog], which performed very well for us.”
The movie, starring Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic, grossed more than $300 million at the global box office before the theatrical shutdown.
The executive said the company is monetizing the Paramount library by releasing more than 100 movies via CBS All Access and through the “Sunday Night Movie” on the Paramount Network.
While the theatrical pipeline may be stalled for now, home entertainment executives look forward to its robust return.
Ron Schwartz, the longtime president of worldwide home entertainment at Lionsgate, says the entertainment industry is united in helping the theatrical exhibition business return to full strength quickly.
“We, like everybody else, are eager to see our partners in the theater business open again soon,” he says. “We want to see crowds again flock to theaters, to see tentpoles and art-house films, to buy concessions and to enjoy a tremendous community experience that has made our industry so special for so many years. It’s an important part of our ecosystem, and we’re all looking forward to a safe and productive return to the movie-going experience, which we believe is right around the corner.”
Some challenges lie ahead, Schwartz says: “What will exhibition look like when theaters reopen? What’s going to happen with capacity? We can’t rush back, but we have to make sure we give theaters enough great content so they can re-open quickly, successfully, and thrive.”
The home entertainment side of the business, Schwartz says, will remain catalog-driven until theaters have fully re-opened and the supply of theatrical titles has been completely replenished. “We will continue to work with our retail partners to come up with creative ideas, dig deep into our catalogs, and look for repromotes and anniversaries — any opportunities to engage the consumer,” he says.
Schwartz says he is heartened that during the stay-at-home period, the public’s love of movies, TV shows and other filmed content seemed to intensify.
“The one thing we’ve all seen is a love of content,” he says. “We’re seeing it consumed like never before — physical, streaming, transactional, packages — and it is clearly evident that the public’s appetite to consume our product is not only healthy but still growing. That’s why I remain so bullish about our business.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final installment in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’
One positive trend that has emerged during the pandemic, home entertainment studio executives say, is that consumers seem to be gaining a better understanding of the difference between transactional and subscription streaming and are realizing that not everything they might want to see is available on Netflix or the other big SVOD services.
“Because consumers are spending so much watching digital video at home, they are acutely aware of which titles are available on the various platforms,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution.
“It has become clear that consumers sheltering at home not only have become increasingly engaged in our catalog offerings to keep entertained, but also have progressively grown to become more savvy in navigating the spectrum of formats,” says Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “As such, we have continued to invest and reward consumers to stay engaged in the category and have been working in lockstep with our digital and physical retail partners to ensure that we remain hyper-focused on delivering the broadest access and best possible in-home experience.”
“Consumers have become much more receptive to different price points,” adds Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong. “They realize not everything’s on Netflix, and it’s worth it to them to pay a transactional amount for something they really want to watch. They really have embraced all the ways to consume digital video.”
That includes the physical disc. “We are encouraged by the resilience,” Spivak says. “When you think of the structural impediments, stores being closed, online ordering taking longer to fulfill — consumers who love the physical disc are persevering and that business is holding up quite well.”
Studios were fortunate that two of the biggest retail sellers of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Walmart and Target, were able to remain open throughout the pandemic because they also sell groceries and thus were deemed “essential” businesses. Alanna Powers, SVP of brand marketing, catalog, at Paramount Home Entertainment, says studio marketers have already met with Walmart to discuss fourth-quarter plans, with a focus on catalog.
“We went through a whole planning session with the Walmart team,” Powers says.
But the biggest lift to DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales, studio marketers say, comes from e-commerce sellers such as Amazon.
“We’ve seen quite a boom in e-commerce,” Powers says. “Initially we were unsure about the supply chain and how retail would react, but we kept all our new-to-Blu-ray titles on the calendar and saw a very positive response so we’ve continued to fill the slate with additional titles.”
Indeed, in addition to monthly waves of “Paramount Presents” releases, Paramount recently has come out with a 25th anniversary edition of the Alicia Silverstone comedy Clueless and 40th anniversary editions of horror classic Friday the 13th and John Travolta’s Urban Cowboy. Clueless and Friday the 13th also are available in limited edition steelbooks.
“We’re really leaning more into the collector’s market,” Powers says. “That’s where e-commerce really shines.”
It’s not just movies, either. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment enjoyed a banner spring with TV product, says Jeff Brown, EVP and GM, Television. “The second quarter was a panacea for transactional television content, physical as well as digital,” Brown says. “Our business grew over 40%, year on year. And if you exclude ‘Game of Thrones,’ which had an extraordinary performance last year with the final season broadcast and transactional release, our business nearly doubled. This really shows peoples’ appetite for television content, and while obviously stay-at-home behavior contributed to this, there were several other opportunities we were able to capitalize on.”
One was the fact that Warner now distributes TV content from HBO and Turner digitally as well as physically.
Another is a strong slate of product, released just in time for viewers to enjoy while encouraged by state and local governments to stay in their homes. “Our top drivers included ‘Rick and Morty,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ as well as the animated original movie titles Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, which was probably our best-performing DC animated movie since Batman: The Killing Joke and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” Brown says.
The third factor behind Warner’s strong TV quarter is a series of “Entertaining the World” promotions, Brown says, with a menu of promotional actions for digital retailers such as Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and FandangoNow.
“We promoted shows such as ‘Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,’ ‘Two and a Half Men,’ ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire,’ and Hanna-Barbera and DC animated classics,” Brown says. “We were able to look at the total Warner-HBO-Turner TV and animation library and come up with compelling retail programs, and we coordinated this on a semi-monthly ‘wave’ basis to provide an abundance of promoted content to retailers in a timely manner.”
Editor’s Note: This is part three in a four-part series, “Restocking the Shelves: With No Theatrical Releases, Studio Home Entertainment Marketers are Getting Creative.” The complete story will be available in the July print and digital editions of ‘Media Play News.’