Warner’s ‘In The Heights’ Misses Weekend Box Office Projections; Sony’s ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ Performs as Expected

Warner Bros. Pictures’ Latino musical In The Heights was supposed to lure non-action/monster moviegoers back to theaters through June 13.

Instead, the theatrical adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit — which won four Tony awards, including best musical — sputtered, reportedly taking in about 60% ($11.4 million) of the movie’s projected $20 million theatrical gross across 3,456 screens.

Indeed, the movie was edged out by Paramount Pictures’ post-apocalyptic sequel A Quiet Place Part II for top-grossing weekend domestic release with a reported $11.65 million in revenue. The latter has grossed more than $108 million in three weeks at U.S. theaters.

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Despite enhanced studio promotion and strong critical reviews, the ensemble cast-driven Heights was perhaps undermined by its simultaneous availability for free on HBO Max. The movie will likely generate more than 1 million Max household views — which has been the average for most non-blockbuster 2021 Warner titles released concurrently in theaters.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures sequel Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway performed as expected, generating an estimated $10.4 million across 3,346 screens, and on par with studio estimates ranging from $8 million to $10 million. Sony expects the live-action sequel with CGI animals to post an extended theatrical run and come close to the original’s $351.5 million global run.

Separately, Warner’s horror threequel The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reportedly generated $10 million, to bring its domestic total to $43.6 million.


Weekend Box Office Preview: Sony Returns; Warner Hits ‘The Heights’

NEWS ANALYSIS — The emerging domestic box office in the pandemic era gets a dose of family friendly fare the weekend ending June 13  — driven by the return of Sony Pictures and, separately, Warner Bros.’ adaptation of a Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway play.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Sony Pictures has largely remained on the sidelines, repeatedly delaying its major theatrical releases until market conditions improved. With the June 10 release of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Sony is back with a major sequel to its 2018 sleeper hit that generated more than $351 million at the global box office.

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The oft-delayed sequel, featuring the voices of James Corden, Margot Robbie and Lennie James, among others, is projected by Sony to generate upwards of $11 million — less than half of the original’s $25 million opening weekend. The sequel has already generated $45.8 million globally, led by U.K. with $6.5 million in ticket sales.

Warner’s In The Heights

Meanwhile, Warner has pulled out the stops promoting In The Heights, a theatrical adaptation of Miranda’s 2008 Broadway hit that won four Tony awards, including best musical. The movie is directed by Jon Chu, who hit box office gold in 2018 with Crazy Rich Asians.

Heights, like all of Warner’s 2021 theatrical slate, will have a concurrent release on HBO Max for 31 days. Warner, which is releasing the movie on 3,400 screens in the U.S., is banking on a recent Fandango survey that found a vast majority of respondents cited the film as a reason to return to theaters. The movie has a 97% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Miranda’s previously-planned theatrical release Hamilton was instead diverted by Disney to its subscription streaming platform at the beginning of the pandemic when theaters closed worldwide.

Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’ Coming to 4K Ultra HD Aug. 17 for 35th Anniversary

The Jim Henson fantasy Labyrinth will debut on 4K Ultra HD Aug. 17 for its 35th anniversary from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The 1986 film follows a 16-year-old girl (Jennifer Connelly) who is given 13 hours to solve a dangerous and wonderful labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King (the late David Bowie).

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The release will feature Dolby Vision and an hour of new and archival special features. The limited-edition collectible set also includes a 28-page Digibook — featuring artwork, photography and early script pages — styled to resemble Sarah’s book of The Labyrinth from the film.

Drama ‘Life in a Year’ Coming to Digital and On Demand June 22

The drama  Life in a Year, starring Jaden Smith and Cara Delevingne, will come out on digital and on demand June 22 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The story follows Daryn (Smith), a high school track star, scholar and aspiring rapper, who learns that his girlfriend Isabelle (Delevingne) is sick. He then plans to gift her a life’s worth of experiences in the last year she has left.

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The film also stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Nia Long.

Executive producers include Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and James Lassiter.

Sony Corp. CEO: Sony Pictures Not For Sale

Following separate high-profile industry mergers involving WarnerMedia and Discovery, and Amazon and MGM, Sony Pictures, which has no branded streaming service, might seem a logical acquisition target.

Not happening, according to Sony Corp. CEO Kenichiro Yoshida. In an interview with the Financial Times, Yoshida said the studio remains key to Sony’s ongoing strategy distributing content across music, films, video games and animation. Observers contend Sony Pictures Entertainment could fetch upwards of $30 billion on the M&A market.

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“There is a drastic realignment in the media industry, but I think our strategy of creating content as an independent studio while working with various partners will work,” Yoshida said.

Indeed, rather than try and reinvent the streaming video wheel with a branded service as Warner Bros., Disney, Lionsgate and Paramount have done, Sony Pictures inked separate Pay 1 deals with Netflix and Disney+, among others.

“I think the reason we were able to sign good deals with Netflix and Disney is because they were attracted to our PlayStation Productions pipeline,” Yoshida said. “We can strengthen our ability to create content through such group-wide collaboration.”

The CEO admitted the company had looked at MGM, which Amazon acquired for $8.45 billion, which includes distribution rights to “James Bond” movies. Sony, like Comcast, had reportedly valued MGM’s assets around $6 billion.

“I think MGM has an incredible library, but everything comes with a price and that needs to be considered,” Yoshida said.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment reported fourth-quarter and fiscal-year 2020 (ended March 31) revenue of $139 million and $778 million respectively. That was down 54% ($164 million) and 15% ($140 million), respectively, from the previous-year period that ended just as the COVID-19 pandemic started. Overall studio revenue dropped 24% to $7.1 billion, from $9.3 billion in fiscal-year 2019.


Horror Film ‘The Unholy’ Due on Digital May 25, Disc June 22

The horror film The Unholy will be available for digital purchase May 25, and on Blu-ray, DVD and on demand June 22 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Based on James Herbert’s best-selling book Shrine, the film follows a young hearing-impaired girl who is visited by the Virgin Mary and can suddenly hear, speak and heal the sick. As people from near and far flock to witness her miracles, a disgraced journalist (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hoping to revive his career visits a small New England town to investigate. As terrifying events begin to happen all around him, he starts questioning if these miracles are the works of the Virgin Mary or something much more sinister.

The film is produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead).

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Starz CEO: Sony Pay 1 Output Deal Wasn’t Working for Us

Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch said losing Sony movies to Netflix and Disney was a strategic win for his company as “the value wasn’t there” for Starz.

Netflix and Disney earlier this year made separate sequential Pay 1 output deals for Sony Pictures’ 2022 movie slate, wresting the content from Starz.

The 2017-21 Pay 1 deal between Starz and Sony was projected to generate about $1.3 billion in license fees for Sony — up about $330 million from the previous $739 million pact from 2014 to 2021. Over time, Starz apparently questioned the value of the content it was paying big money for.

Jeffrey Hirsch

Speaking May 12 on the virtual MoffettNathanon 8th Annual Media and Communications Summit, Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch said that other than three box office hits — Spider-Man: Far From Home, Jumanji: The Next Level and Venom — the bulk of the studio’s theatrical slate failed to resonate with moviegoers. Hirsch said box office data has always been a big deal in the Pay 1 window — and what he saw from Sony wasn’t compelling.

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“About 50% of the movies coming from Sony that we were paying for made under $10 million at the box office,” Hirsch said. “And if you look at the Top 10 movies over the last 12 months [prior to the pandemic], if you take [those movies out], none of those movies we got [from Sony] were in the Top 10.”

Hirsch said that based on the Starz consumer, on a title-by-title basis, management didn’t think the value was there to extend the agreement. By comparison, the executive said that while the 15 movies Starz is getting from corporate parent Lionsgate, i.e. John Wicks, Borderland, Knives Out, etc., is less than the Sony agreement, the titles’ impact on Starz subscribers is greater.

“We, early on, went negotiating a pay-1 output deal [with Lionsgate] ahead of Sony,” Hirsch said. “We really looked at the data, and other than those three movies, we were paying for stuff that wasn’t really resonating with our consumer. For us the value wasn’t there.”

Indeed, Starz, which is owned by Lionsgate, ended 2020 with 28 million subscribers, which included 14.6 million streaming subs and 13.4 million linear subs — the latter down from 19.9 million at the end of 2019. The streaming sub service, which includes a $8.99 tier in the United States, and $5 internationally, grew almost 70% from 8.6 million in 2019.

Oscar-Lauded ‘The Father’ Due on Disc May 18

The drama The Father, which earned Anthony Hopkins a Best Actor Oscar, will come out on DVD and Blu-ray May 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film, nominated for a total of six Academy Awards, also earned an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

It is already available for digital purchase.

In The Father, a man (Hopkins) refuses all assistance from his daughter (Olivia Colman) as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.

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Special features include deleted scenes and the featurettes “Homecoming: Making The Father” and “Perception Check: Portrait of The Father.”

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Golden Globe-Nominated Pic ‘French Exit’ Due on Digital May 11, Disc June 15

The comedic drama French Exit, which earned Michelle Pfeiffer a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, will be available for digital purchase May 11 and on Blu-ray and DVD June 15 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

“My plan was to die before the money ran out,” says 60-year-old, penniless Manhattan socialite Frances Price (Pfeiffer) in the film, but things don’t go as planned. Her husband, Franklin, has been dead for 12 years. With his vast inheritance gone, she cashes in the last of her possessions and resolves to live out her twilight days anonymously in a borrowed apartment in Paris, accompanied by her directionless son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), and a cat named Small Frank — who may or may not embody the spirit of Frances’ dead husband.

Extras include deleted and extended scenes.

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Sony Pictures Streaming Deals: Pay-TV Window Shattered, and Disney Plays Second Fiddle to Netflix

NEWS ANALYSIS — While some of the headlines surrounding Sony Pictures’ movie streaming deal with Disney revolve around the future availability of the Spider-Man franchise on Disney+ and Hulu, buried in the details are two important facts: The agreement is secondary to the studio’s mega-pact with Netflix. It also turns the traditional pay-TV movie window on its ear.

For Sony Pictures — which unlike other major studios, does not have its own branded streaming video service — the Disney deal affords the studio incremental revenue opportunity on catalog and new-release movies.

The agreement — which, similar to the Netflix deal, covers new theatrical titles released from 2022 to 2026 — will only make the titles available on Disney+ and Hulu, in addition to Disney’s ABC, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX and National Geographic channels, after their availability on Netflix. How long that wait will be isn’t clear, with some reports suggesting at least a year delay.

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Netflix, however, gets access to upcoming Sony releases Morbius, starring Oscar winner Jared Leto, and Uncharted, featuring “Spider-Man” actor Tom Holland, about six to nine months after their 2022 theatrical and home entertainment debuts. Sony is also producing movies for Netflix.

“This … establishes a new source of first-run films for Netflix movie lovers,” said the streamer’s Scott Stubler.

Both agreements significantly alter the existing Pay 1 TV window currently operated by Starz, HBO, Epix, FX and Showtime, among others.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says the Starz deal has been an eight-year window, but believes Netflix may have a much shorter exclusive — despite reportedly paying Sony $1 billion over the course of the agreement.

“Without seeing the terms, it’s clear that Netflix isn’t getting as good a deal as the headline/hype suggested earlier this month,” Pachter said. “People assumed Pay 1 window meant the same as HBO/Starz/Epix for eight years, and the Disney deal suggests it is a lot shorter than that.”