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.”

Disney Inks Licensing Deal for Sony Movies

The Walt Disney Co. and Sony Pictures Entertainment have announced a multiyear content licensing agreement for U.S. streaming and TV rights to Sony Pictures’ new theatrical releases across Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution’s portfolio of platforms.

Platforms include its streaming services Disney+ and Hulu, as well as linear entertainment networks ABC, Disney Channels, Freeform, FX and National Geographic.

The deal covers theatrical releases from 2022 to 2026 and begins for each film following its Pay 1 TV window. The agreement builds upon the companies’ prior arrangement, which saw Sony movies licensed to FX in the post-Pay 1 TV window.

The films will go to Disney platforms after Netflix, which also recently made a licensing deal with Sony.

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The deal also grants rights to a significant number of Sony’s library titles, ranging from the “Jumanji” and “Hotel Transylvania” franchises to Sony Pictures’ universe of Marvel character films, including Spider-Man.

The agreement provides Hulu access to a significant number of library titles beginning as early as this June.

“This landmark multiyear, platform agnostic agreement guarantees the team at Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution a tremendous amount of flexibility and breadth of programming possibilities to leverage Sony’s rich slate of award-winning action and family films across our direct-to-consumer services and linear channels,” Chuck Saftler, head of business operations for ABC, Freeform, FX Networks and acquisitions in DMED’s Networks division, said in a statement. “This is a win for fans, who will benefit from the ability to access the very best content from two of Hollywood’s most prolific studios across a multitude of viewing platforms and experiences.”

“This groundbreaking agreement reconfirms the unique and enduring value of our movies to film lovers and the platforms and networks that serve them,” Keith Le Goy, president, worldwide distribution and networks, Sony Pictures Entertainment, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to team up with Disney on delivering our titles to their viewers and subscribers. This agreement cements a key piece of our film distribution strategy, which is to maximize the value of each of our films, by making them available to consumers across all windows with a wide range of key partners.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Clint Eastwood Film ‘In the Line of Fire’ Coming to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray June 15

The 1993 Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire will come out on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, remastered with high dynamic range, on June 15 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

In the film from director Wolfgang Peterson, Eastwood stars as Frank Horrigan, a veteran Secret Service agent haunted by his failure to protect John F. Kennedy from assassination. Thirty years later, he gets a chance to redeem himself when a brilliant psychopath threatens to kill the current president and take Horrigan with him. Taunting him by phone and tantalizing him with clues, the assassin (John Malkovich) lures Horrigan into a battle of wits and will that only one man can survive. The film co-stars Rene Russo as Horrigan’s risk-taking field chief.

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The release features Dolby Atmos audio, original theatrical 5.1, and original theatrical stereo. Special features include audio commentary with Petersen, five deleted scenes, several featurettes and a theatrical teaser. The release does not include a regular Blu-ray copy but does come with a digital copy, for a limited time.

Analyst: Netflix Paying Sony $1 Billion For Movie Rights

Netflix’s big distribution deal with Sony Pictures for exclusive streaming access to new theatrical and original-produced movies beginning in 2022 is expected to cost the SVOD behemoth more than $1 billion, according to media analyst Michael Pachter. Netflix and Sony did not disclose financial details of their landmark agreement, which supplants Sony’s long-time distributor (since 2006) Starz.

“This is meaningful for Netflix as many of its earlier exclusive licensing deals have expired, the content pulled back by studios such as Disney and WarnerMedia seeking to shore up their competing streaming services,” Pachter wrote in an April 12 note.

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The agreement comes as other studios pull content from Netflix for proprietary services. MGM-owned Epix and MGM have opted for an exclusive partnership with Paramount+, while NBCUniversal is considering pulling content from both HBO Max and Netflix to shore up its Peacock service, while potentially leaving some of its content available to co-owned Hulu on a non-exclusive basis.

“While these are clearly exceptional times and exhibitors are willing to negotiate terms they typically would not have in a pre-COVID environment, we think these types of negotiations will continue, and we expect to see more original content from streamers playing in theaters post-pandemic,” Pachter wrote. “We think exhibitors are now more willing to negotiate favorable terms with far more flexible windows than they had in the past, as long as their counterpart is willing to pay.”

Indeed, the analyst contends Netflix acted proactively as studios continue to hold back major tentpole titles due to the pandemic. With many lower-budget movies slated for release last year shifted to streaming to recoup production budgets, most larger budget titles have been pushed back to later this year or into 2022. Despite the expected July 9 theatrical bow of Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow, and exhibitors in some markets, including Los Angeles, expanding seating capacity to 50% from 25%, Pachter says the exhibition industry is not expected to “normalize” until this summer at the earliest as more moviegoers get vaccinated.

“Attendance levels will not materially improve until tentpole titles return to theaters, and studios clearly prefer the lower risk of releasing tent-pole titles when vaccine s should be widely distributed in the U.S. and Europe,” wrote the analyst.

Netflix Licenses Rights to Sony’s Kevin Hart Feature ‘Fatherhood’

Netflix has licensed the worldwide (except for China) rights to Fatherhood from Sony Pictures for a June 18 release on the service.

The film stars Kevin Hart (Jumanji: The Next LevelThe Upside), Alfre Woodard (Juanita, Clemency), Lil Rel Howery (Bad TripGet Out), DeWanda Wise (Someone Great, Jurassic World: Dominion), Anthony Carrigan (“Barry,” “Gotham”), Melody Hurd (Them) and Paul Reiser (“Mad About You,” “The Kominsky Method”).

Based on the book Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love by Matthew Logelin, the drama features Hart taking on the toughest job in the world — fatherhood.

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Earlier this year, Hart and his HartBeat Productions inked an exclusive partnership with Netflix for feature films as well as a first-look production deal. (Fatherhood was independently licensed and not part of this overall deal.)

Higher Ground Productions, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will present the film, alongside Netflix and Sony.