Study: Consumers Streamed ‘Contagion’ Movie Often During Early Pandemic Days

Director Steven Soderbergh probably never envisioned how his 2011 sci-fi drama Contagion — about the global effects to trace the origins of the MEV-1 pathogen — would foreshadow real world events. The drama, which featured an international cast and myriad cameos, was the most-streamed movie in March and April, according to new data from JustWatch.

The website, which offers content recommendations in more than 45 countries, found that in 36 countries there was huge demand for the movie, with monthly searches on Google spiking upwards 16.6 million. Before the pandemic, around 130,000 people searched for the movie per month.

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Outlier countries included Spain, France, the Baltic states and southeast Asian countries where movies such as Oscar winner Parasite, Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter or Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games were streamed more than other content.

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HBO Max Announces Animated ‘Aquaman,’ Wolfgang Puck and Adam McKay Series, Deal With Steven Soderbergh

HBO Max, WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer service debuting in spring 2020, announced a smattering of content deals during the studio’s Television Critics Association day.

The service has greenlighted the three-part animated miniseries Aquaman: King of Atlantis that will be executive produced by James Wan (Aquaman and the upcoming Malignant) through his Atomic Monster production company. Based on the classic DC character created by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris, each of the standalone episodes will have a unique storyline following the adventures of Aquaman as protector of the deep.

“This DC property is a fan favorite rich with well-known characters and dynamic storylines,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max, in a statement. “On the heels of Warner Bros. Pictures’ box office smash hit, we are certain AquamanKing of Atlantis will be an exciting addition to our already robust slate of kids and family programming.”

At the same event WarnerMedia announced that filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has signed a three-year deal to develop content for both HBO Max and HBO, which shall be exclusive in all forms of television and a first-look for features. Soderbergh’s first project with HBO Max is the previously announced feature Let Them All Talk, starring Meryl Streep, Candice BergenDianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan. It’s the story of a celebrated author (Streep) who takes a journey with some old friends to have some fun and heal old wounds. The film will launch on HBO Max in 2020.

“This arrangement grew out of talks Michael Sugar and I were having with Sarah Aubrey during the negotiations for Let Them All Talk, and there were four things tractor-beaming me toward this deal: One, I have a history with both HBO and Warner Bros.; two, my definition of a good product, a good process, and a good working culture is shared by the WarnerMedia family; three, the wide range of potential outlets aligns with my range of interests, and four: I get to witness and participate in the building of something new at a very large scale. Oh, and there is a financial aspect, so that’s probably five,” said Soderbergh.

“Steven is a groundbreaking filmmaker who not only tells unique, irresistible stories, but is also a master of so many genres,” said Aubrey. “In many ways, he is the anti-algorithm constantly surprising, never predictable and his career is living proof that one gifted filmmaker can impact our culture again and again. I can’t wait for the projects that we’re working on together to premiere on HBO Max.”

“From Behind the Candelabra, to The Knick and Mosaic, we know first-hand that Steven Soderbergh’s creative genius knows no bounds,” said Casey Bloys, president, HBO programming.  “An indefatigable innovator, we couldn’t be more excited to continue our relationship with Steven and provide a home for his future projects.”

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The service has also ordered eight episodes of “The Event,” an unscripted documentary series featuring a look behind the scenes of events created by Wolfgang Puck Catering and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.

“Wolfgang is one of the most accomplished chefs of our time and for decades has been the go-to restaurateur and caterer for the biggest names and events in Hollywood and across the country,”said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer of HBO Max, and president of TNT, TBS and TruTV. “This series will usher viewers into a world of opulence and luxury and showcase the unpredictable challenges he and his team encounter while executing the biggest and most exclusive A-list events we all wish we were invited to.”

“We are really excited to share a behind the scenes look at planning our most creative and complicated events with HBO Max subscribers,” said Puck.

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In addition, HBO Max has greenlit writer-director Adam McKay’s “The Uninhabitable Earth,” an anthology series inspired by David Wallace-Wells’  best-selling book and New York Magazine article of the same name. It will be comprised of stand-alone fictional stories covering a wide range of genres and possible futures that could result from the rapid warming of our planet. McKay (The Big Short), who recently closed a five-year, overall television deal with HBO and HBO Max, is attached to write and direct the first episode.

“Adam is one of the rare artists who can deliver a pointed, impactful message in a piece of great entertainment,” said Reilly. “I can’t wait to see what he does with this material, as there is no timelier and more relevant message than a wake-up call on climate change and the growing impact on our lives.”

“I’ve been chomping at the bit to get this show going. I’m very happy that HBO Max stepped up and made the commitment. There’s obviously no subject as vast and daunting,” said McKay.

 

Criterion July Slate Includes ‘Bull Durham’

The Criterion Collection in July will release new Blu-ray special editions of the classic 1988 baseball movie Bull Durham and Steven Soderbergh’s directorial debut, sex, lies, and videotape.

Arriving July 10 (order date June 12) on Blu-ray and DVD, Criterion’s Bull Durham features a new 4K digital restoration supervised by director Ron Shelton, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, plus an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD master audio on the Blu-ray.

Extras include two audio commentaries featuring Shelton and actors Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins; a new conversation between Shelton and film critic Michael Sragow; “Between the Lines: The Making of Bull Durham,” a 2002 program featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Shelton, Costner, Robbins and actress Susan Sarandon; “The Greatest Show on Dirt,” a 2008 appreciation of the film featuring former players, broadcasters, and sports-film aficionados; a NBC Nightly News piece from 1993 on the final season of baseball at Durham Athletic Park, where Bull Durham takes place and was shot; an interview with Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball, from a 1991 episode of NBC’s “Today”; the film’s trailer; plus excerpts from a 1989 piece by longtime New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell, with new comments from the author.

The new DVD and Blu-ray editions of 1989’s sex, lies, and videotape arrive July 17 (order date June 19), with a new 4K digital transfer supervised by Soderbergh, and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include audio commentary from 1998 featuring Soderbergh in conversation with filmmaker Neil LaBute; a new program Soderbergh responding to fan questions; interviews with Soderbergh from 1990 and 1992; a new documentary about the making of the film featuring actors Peter Gallagher, Andie MacDowell and Laura San Giacomo; a new conversation with composer Cliff Martinez and supervising sound editor Larry Blake; a deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh; trailers; plus an essay by critic Amy Taubin and, in the Blu-ray release, excerpts from Soderbergh’s diaries written at the time of the film’s production.

Coming July 3 (order date June 5) are Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets of Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood, a collection of six films pairing director Josef von Sternberg with German actress Marlene Dietrich.

The set includes the films Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Empress (1934) and The Devil Is a Woman (1935).

All six films feature new 2K or 4K digital restorations, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. Also included are new interviews with film scholars Janet Bergstrom and Homay King; director Josef von Sternberg’s son, Nicholas; Deutsche Kinemathek curator Silke Ronneburg; and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Other extras include a  new documentary about actor Marlene Dietrich’s German origins, featuring film scholars Gerd Gemünden and Noah Isenberg; a new documentary on Dietrich’s status as a feminist icon, featuring film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence and Patricia White; The Legionnaire and the Lady, a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of Morocco, featuring Dietrich and actor Clark Gable; a new video essay by critics Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López; The Fashion Side of Hollywood, a 1935 publicity short featuring Dietrich and costume designer Travis Banton; a 1971 television interview with Dietrich; plus a book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins and Farran Smith Nehme.

Also due July 10 is 1967’s Dragon Inn on Blu-ray and DVD, with a new 4K digital restoration supervised by cinematographer Hua Hui-ying, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with actor Shangkuan Ling-fung; a 2016 interview with actor Shih Chun; scene analysis by author and New York Asian Film Festival cofounder Grady Hendrix; newsreel footage of the film’s 1967 premiere in Taiwan; the trailer; a new English subtitle translation; and an essay by critic Andrew Chan.

The 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death, with David Niven and Kim Hunter, arrives on new Blu-ray and DVD editions July 24 (order date June 26), with a new 4K digital restoration, plus uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Bonus materials include a 2009 audio commentary from film scholar Ian Christie; a new interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow; a new interview with film historian Craig Barron on the film’s visual effects and production design; an interview from 2009 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese; The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film by Craig McCall featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff; plus an essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek.

HBO’s ‘Mosaic’ Available for Digital Download March 5

Oscar- and Emmy-winning director and executive producer Steven Soderbergh’s six-part limited series Mosaic, starring Sharon Stone, Garrett Hedlund and Beau Bridges, will be available through digital download starting March 5 from HBO Home Entertainment.

Set against the backdrop of a mountain resort town, Mosaic follows popular children’s book author and illustrator Olivia Lake (Stone). When she disappears, leaving behind a blood-soaked studio, all eyes turn to two new men in her life: graphic artist Joel Hurley (Hedlund) and charming stranger Eric Neill (Frederick Weller). It’s left to detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) and Eric’s sister, Petra (Jennifer Ferrin), to unravel the mystery.

HBO previously released a Mosaic app that allowed viewers to explore the world of the story and choose different paths through the narrative.