In a First, Sony and Snapchat Employ Augmented Reality With ‘Jumanji’ Release

With the March 20 release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungleon 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing the jungle to life for fans with an augmented reality experience through Snapchat.

In the first of its kind for a home entertainment release, when consumers purchase a copy of the film on disc at any retailer and scan the Snapcode on the front, the packaging elements will start to move, making their way across the retail environment and encouraging people to follow it with their camera phone. Once scanned through the app, users can explore a 360 jungle with a hippo jump-scare and a message from Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) telling consumers that the next adventure lies inside the packaging. Upon opening the packaging, consumers can scan the insert inside the box which will trigger a second experience that brings the characters from Jumanji to life.

“Given the incredible box office success with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, we are continuing the consumer excitement into the home entertainment window by partnering with Snapchat in this groundbreaking AR packaging experience to drive in-store retail engagement and physical product purchase, while giving consumers a new way to interact with the Blu-ray and DVD and share their experience.” said Nicole Longo, Sony director of marketing.

“Much like they reimagined Jumanji itself, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has thoughtfully reframed AR marketing to drive sales for their home entertainment release,” said Jeff Miller, head of creative strategy, Snap. “Their Snapchat lenses set a new bar for contextual augmented realityintegration with physical packaging.”

In addition to having the Snapcodes on the front of the product, the codes will also be on in-store retail signage and displays. Sony also will employ national TV spots, digital marketing, social media, radio and on-platform ads on Snapchat to support the AR effort.

The film earned more than $400 million at the box office.

Sony Celebrates ‘Groundhog Day’ With 4K BD Release, Theatrical Screenings

Sony Pictures Entertainment will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the comedy classic Groundhog Day with a series of theatrical screenings in the United States and Canada in time for the holiday Feb. 2, on the heels of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release Jan. 23 exclusively at Best Buy stores.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray includes Dolby Atmos audio, a commentary with director Harold Ramis (who died in 2014) and deleted scenes.

“We are excited to bring Groundhog Day, widely considered one of the best comedies of the 90s, back to the big screen for its 25th anniversary,” said Adrian Smith, president, domestic distribution for Sony Pictures Releasing.

To find participating theaters, consumers can visit GroundHogDayMovie.com or the film’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/GroundhogDay.

Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell star in the movie about a man who relives Groundhog Day over and over.

Groundhog Day has been restored from the 35mm original camera negative, utilizing in 4K the full resolution, detail and color depth inherent in the film, according to the Sony release.

‘LBJ’ Director Rob Reiner to Be Honored by AAFCA

Veteran actor, writer and director Rob Reiner — who most recently directed LBJ due from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Electric Entertainment on digital and disc Feb. 6 — will receive the inaugural Stanley Kramer Award for Social Justice from the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA).

The award recognizes him for his career-long activism and support for progressive politics. The director, whose LBJ earned AAFCA’s Seal of Approval, will be presented his award at the 9th AAFCA Awards, scheduled for Feb. 7 at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.

“Even as an actor, Rob Reiner made a statement. In the years he spent on ‘All in the Family,’ he was the liberal voice countering Archie Bunker’s extremely conservative one,” said Gil Robertson, president of AAFCA, in a statement.

Much like Kramer, as a director, writer and producer, Reiner, has craftily used the art form as a springboard of political activism that has resonated far beyond Hollywood, noted a Sony release. His films have spearheaded progressive dialogue on a variety of critical societal issues, be they gender roles and attitudes in When Harry Met Sally or race and justice in Ghosts of Mississippi.

The AAFCA honored Kramer at its 2017 ceremony and decided to create the AAFCA Stanley Kramer Award for Social Justice to encourage and applaud filmmakers like Kramer for infusing their films with a sense of purpose and social responsibility.

“Film served as an important vehicle to explore and examine social issues for Kramer,” Robertson said in a statement. “Our hope is that, through this awareness, it will inspire other filmmakers to continue making those statements.”

Reiner’s LBJ takes a look at President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Woody Harrelson), covering the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. The film also stars Michael Stahl-David, Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, Jeffrey Donovan and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

CES 2018: From Consumer to Concept

The 2018 CES in Las Vegas marked a continuation of the trade show’s rather rapid shift from consumer to concept.

Once again, there was significantly less emphasis on traditional consumer electronics and more of a focus on technological innovation, from driverless cars to drones, from connected homes to voice-activated anything.

The “wow” factor dominated the show floor, even as Mother Nature flexed her muscle, with the city flooded by a rainstorm on opening day and the show virtually shut down for nearly two hours on day 2 by a blackout show organizers attributed to the rain.

In the old days, visitors to CES – which this year saw more than 3,900 exhibitors  showcase their technologies on a record 2.75 million net square feet of exhibit space across Las Vegas – could expect to see many of the products on display available for purchase later in the year.

But in recent years, CES has become something of a proving ground for tech firms engaged in a game of one-upmanship – resulting in a parade of technological marvels that, like concept cars, may never come to market.

Indeed, the show floor at CES 2018 was something of a theme park, with people lined up outside several of the bigger booths for scheduled shows.  At the LG booth, visitors were led through a winding canyon of curved TV screens showing majestic waterfalls and other natural wonders. At the Panasonic booth, visitors were treated to an elaborate stage show highlighted by a woman dressed as a robot. And at Samsung, the star attraction was a 146-inch TV, dubbed The Wall, that through modular MicroLED technology can be adjusted to better fit your room by removing or adding pieces.

This focus on futuristic technologies rather than new and improved CE gadgets prompted show producer the Consumer Electronics Association to officially change its name to the Consumer Technology Association in November 2015.

At the time, CTA president Gary Shapiro said in a press release, “Several years ago, our executive board directed us to focus on promoting innovation….The name Consumer Technology Association addresses that.”

For show attendees from the home entertainment sector, prospects of an HDR (high dynamic range) format competition came out into the open. On the eve of the show, Twentieth Century Fox, Samsung and Panasonic announced a push for HDR10+, a non-royalty HDR technology also supported by Warner Bros. Panasonic and Sony displayed 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc players with Dolby Vision’s HDR technology, which is not royalty tree.  And Philips/Technicolor (aligned with LG) touted Advanced HDR by Technicolor, which representatives said promises a cheaper HDR solution that is especially convenient for broadcasters because they  don’t have to employ multiple teams to shoot the same live event. (Shooting in HD as well as 4K with HDR requires two sets of cameras/teams with HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, the Technicolor reps said.)

“CES was just a preview of the tremendous technological innovations to come in augmented and mixed reality as evidenced by the proliferation of devices and experiences being touted at the show,” said Danny Kaye, EVP of 20th Century Fox, and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab. “Couple that with the onset of 5G and the broad range of support shown for HDR10+, and we’re on the brink of a fundamental shift in the way in which consumers view our content across all of their devices.”

At an event highlighting the Fox Innovation Lab’s VR project Isle of Dogs and HDR10+ support, Karen Gilford, GM of digital locker Movies Anywhere offered an update on its progress since the October launch. At 81 days after launch, consumers had placed nearly 80 million movies in lockers and had streamed more than 3 million hours of content, she said. The locker launched with more than 7,500 movies from five studios — Walt Disney (including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment — and with retail support from Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu.

“Movies Anywhere gives fans more control over their libraries with innovative product features that deliver a great experience,” Gilford said. “As the app continues to gain traction, consumers can expect to see the integration of new partners and a continued evolution of product features that serve them in unprecedented ways.”

New release and seasonal titles have been the top performers across redemptions and purchases, she said.

Added Keith Feldman, president, worldwide home entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, “Movies Anywhere advances the experience of our most avid consumers and serves these highly engaged movie fans with relevant and unique content when their interest is at its peak, strengthening the entire entertainment ecosystem.”

In other show news:

  • Chinese TV manufacturer TCL announced plans to join Roku’s “Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program,” a new platform enabling OEM brands to incorporate voice-activated Roku Connect software as a home entertainment network. TCL manufactures Roku-branded TVs. “Consumers will love the benefits of … having more affordable options –using their voice, having a simplified set up and Wi-Fi connectivity, and holding just one remote control,” said Roku founder/CEO Anthony Wood.
  • LG Electronics  showcased what it said is the world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display featuring 33 million pixels — four times the clarity of 4K Ultra HD. “OLED is clearly a next- generation technology leader and for this reason, LG Display is accelerating its research and development into OLED so that we can provide  differentiated products to customers and markets,” CTO In-Byung Kang said in a statement.
  • Digital platform security firm Irdeto announced the launch of its next-generation piracy control solution. The new online piracy detection and enforcement solution provides data-driven web video discovery tools with expert analyst oversight, multi-language site searches, integrated social media and search engine discovery, as well as peer-to-peer stream discovery such as SopCast and Ace Stream, according to Irdeto. These new features enable content owners and distributors to quickly and accurately identify and then shut down pirated content across streaming video on demand, direct download and hybrid pirate websites.
  • Media services company Pixelogic announced its London facility is the first in Europe to offer Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray authoring with its proprietary Dolby Vision authoring tools. Since launching the service last year, Pixelogic has delivered more than 20 UHD Blu-ray Disc titles in Dolby Vision authored in its Los Angeles office, including BBC Worldwide’s first Dolby Vision UHD Blu-ray title, Earth: One Amazing Day. Other titles include Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, Lionsgate’s Saban’s Power Rangers, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Resident Evil: Vendetta.
  • Samsung announced what it billed as “the world’s first QLED TV featuring 8K AI upscaling technology.” This technology upscales standard definition content to 8K by employing a proprietary algorithm to adjust screen resolution based on the image quality characteristics of each scene. The technology “uses a proprietary algorithm to improve the TV’s picture performance regardless of native image,” said David Das, SVP, consumer electronics marketing, Samsung Electronics America. This includes detail enhancement — upgrading standard definition content, noise reduction, edge restoration function — which more clearly outlines on-screen objects, according to Samsung. “The TV intelligently upscales the resolution to an 8K viewing experience,” Das said.

Stephanie Prange and Erik Gruenwedel contributed to this report.

Sony Rebrands Crackle Streaming Service

Sony Pictures Entertainment has rebranded its Crackle streaming service to Sony Crackle.

Founded in 2004 as Grouper.com featuring licensed movies and TV shows, Sony acquired the service in 2006 for $65 million and named it Crackle in 2007.

As over-the-top video services delved into original content, Crackle joined the fray with Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” followed by “The Art of More,” “The Oath,” “Snatch,” and “SuperMansion,” among others.

Original movies include Extraction and Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser.