Virus Reckoning: Four Studios to Report Fiscal Earnings This Week

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.”

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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 Godfather Trilogy, “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.”

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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 to Host Career and Leadership Development Summit

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.

Steve Nickerson

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.”

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Jason Peterson

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.

For more information and to register visit the OTT.X website.

Sony, Paramount Join Latest Movie Delay Bandwagon

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.

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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.

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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.

Restocking the Shelves, Part Four: Maximizing Recent Releases

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.”

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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.”

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part Three: Seeing Through Windows

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part Two: Home Entertainment Marketing Shifts Into High Gear

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part One: Home Entertainment Divisions Mine Catalog as Theatrical Slate Stalls

Bob Bakish

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

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.’

Restocking the Shelves, Part Three: Seeing Through Windows

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.

Hilary Hoffman

“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.”

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“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.

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part Two: Home Entertainment Marketing Shifts Into High Gear

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.”

Jeff Brown

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.

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part One: Home Entertainment Divisions Mine Catalog as Theatrical Slate Stalls

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.’

Restocking the Shelves, Part Two: Home Entertainment Marketing Shifts Into High Gear

As the theatrical pipeline has dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, home entertainment divisions have turned to their marketing gurus to create excitement around the catalog releases filling the void.

Jason Spivak, EVP of U.S. distribution at Sony Pictures Television Distribution, says the studio’s home entertainment marketing team, headed by senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong, has been “getting really creative when it comes to catalog.”

Wong says Sony has been mining its vault for product appropriate for “seasonal events — finding little gems that we can elevate and create a buzz behind.”

Jason Spivak

“As Easter was the first major holiday in this new period of uncertainty, we worked quickly with our theatrical counterparts to create a Pinterest hub of Easter-themed activities to ensure that families would be able to celebrate the holiday at home with perennial favorite Peter Rabbit,” Wong says. “The activities were seeded to parenting influencer and bloggers to help foster excitement not only for the first “Peter Rabbit” film, but also for the upcoming second installment, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.”

Sony Pictures also has been closely monitoring fan conversation on social media.

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“Shortly after quarantine began, we noticed that the 1993 film Groundhog Day had entered the social media zeitgeist in a major way as people settled into the repetition of stay-at-home routines,” Wong says. “To join the conversation and invite those at home to revisit the movie, we created an official Instagram account for the film that encouraged fans to post their own Groundhog Day moments and launched a tongue-in-cheek trailer for a ‘sequel’ …oddly similar to the first film’s trailer.”

Lexine Wong

Social media watch-alongs featuring classic Sony Pictures films “also proved to be an invaluable tool in allowing movie fans to maintain the communal watching experience that they love, even during a period when we aren’t physically able to be together,” Wong adds. “We worked with editorial partners like Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, Nerdist, ComicBook.com and others in collaboration with film talent to help host live viewings of fan-favorite titles while viewers posted reactions in real-time via social media.

“While these watch-alongs initially began with new release titles like Bloodshot and Bad Boys for Life, selections have since delved into catalog favorites like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Hook, Center Stage, War Room, The Mask of Zorro and This Is the End — catering to a wide range of viewer tastes.”

See also: Restocking the Shelves, Part One: Home Entertainment Divisions Mine Catalog as Theatrical Slate Stalls

Another initiative at Sony Pictures was the launch of the Sony Pictures Kids Zone YouTube Channel. “The hub was the brainchild of moms and dads on our team who found themselves in a brave new world of juggling work-from-home with parenting duties,” Wong says. “Our content team had hours’ worth of kid-friendly activities, educational content and sing/dance-alongs that had been created for past titles, so they set about curating playlists to help parents who were in a similar position of looking for ways to entertain and educate their kids. The launch saw coverage from dozens of press outlets, exhibitor partners, prominent celebrity moms and social media influencers.”

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Hilary Hoffman, EVP of global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, notes that “with the current resurgence in catalog interest, we have used this time to create compelling new collections and promotions at retail to keep the space fresh and updated and have sought to further heighten exposure through creative marketing.”

To that end, she says, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment generated millions of impressions by employing a Twitter catalog watch-party series, which spotlighted several library classics and anniversary releases such as Halloween, Apollo 13, Breakfast Club and Jaws. The studio was able to enlist the help of cast members, filmmakers and special celebrity guests such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Howard and Anthony Michael Hall, and partnered with notable filmmaker Kevin Smith to produce a special podcast for the 45th anniversary of Jaws.

Mike Takac

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment routinely partners with digital retailers and in June has teamed with Apple TV and iTunes to promote top catalog films with new key art that features a travel postcard line look. “It’s a fun, creative way to re-position our titles to evoke the feeling of summer travel at a time when most people are stuck at home,” EVP of sales Mike Takac says.

Looking ahead at the rest of the year, Takac says, “We know our success is going to ride largely on our ability to monetize our catalog. We’re fortunate to have some national promotions. We’re going to drive around DC Fandom, we’ll have a ‘Back to Hogwarts’ push, and of course we’re going to drive Halloween and holiday really hard, with a little more consumer marketing than we’ve done in the past.”

Takac says Warner Bros. also is working on a promotion to encourage consumers to buy and rent movies they’ve always been meaning to watch. “We’re still working on that,” he says. “But we can probably bubble them up in a more meaningful way.”

To boost interest in its DC content, Warner is planning a big promotion called DC FanDome, a company-wide initiative that will take place Aug. 22.

Jessica Schell

“It’s a free virtual fan experience celebrating all the superheroes and super villains in the DC Multiverse and will include panels featuring past, present and future talent; filmmakers and creators from DC properties; announcements on upcoming projects; exclusive content debuts; cosplay and fan art; and much more,” says Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, film, for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “It will be a 24-hour immersive global event designed to appeal to fans, families and kids, and the virtual themed worlds will be full of special presentations and localized content to appeal to a worldwide audience. This is a truly massive undertaking and all of WarnerMedia is coming together as one to produce this special event.”

Studios have also been designing special deals to entice consumers.

Warner also has been testing “pricing elasticity,” Takac says, for titles “deep in our catalog that we normally don’t promote. We’ve been working on that for many months and may be able to leverage that in the back half of the year.”

The Walt Disney Co., which owns both Disney Media Distribution and Fox Home Entertainment, also is focused on special pricing for its catalog as well as partnerships with retailers, says SVP of marketing David Kite, Disney Media Distribution.

Early on, says Kite, “we partnered closely with all divisions across the Walt Disney Co. to align our strategies and act responsively to the disruptions in the market.”

Initially, he says, “we achieved a great amount of success with the early in-home releases of Onward and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which reaffirms the value and appeal of both our content and the window.”

More recently, Kite says, “our team has created unique monthly in-home promotions in collaboration with our digital and physical retail partners, offering consumers access to the movies they love at special pricing while they’re at home with their families.”

Adam Frank, Lionsgate’s SVP of worldwide digital sales and distribution, attributes a large part of Lionsgate’s success with catalog titles to its close relationships with retailers.

“Retailers have always been the lifeblood of our home entertainment business,” Frank says. “We need them, they need us, and we pride ourselves on win-win relationships. We look for openings, mine titles from our library and identify anniversaries and seasonal opportunities. It’s similar to the strategy we’ve employed for years, but now with even more consumers entering the space for the first time, and these newer consumers building their libraries through impulse purchases.”

One recent partnership was a “Best of Lionsgate” catalog promotion with Microsoft Movies & TV, with more than 25 films, mostly action titles. “We saw a triple-digit lift, week over week, amounting to incremental revenue in the six digits” he says.

Editor’s Note: This is part two 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.’

Apple TV+ Gets Tom Hanks WW2 Movie ‘Greyhound’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Frozen II’ Tops Disc Sales in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

‘Frozen II’ Tops Disc Sales in February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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