Netflix Announces a Series of Features, Including Lin-Manual Miranda’s Directorial Debut

Netflix June 19 announced several features for its upcoming slate, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut.

Tony, Grammy, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, lyricist and actor Miranda (Hamilton) will direct Imagine Entertainment’s film adaptation of Tick, Tick … Boom!, to which Netflix has acquired worldwide rights. Tony Award winner Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen, Fosse/Verdon) will adapt the screenplay based on the original stage show by the late Rent (Pulitzer Prize winner for drama in 1996) creator Jonathan Larson.

Set in 1990, Tick, Tick…Boom! tells the story of Jon, an aspiring theater composer who is waiting tables in New York City while writing Superbia — which he hopes will be the next great American musical and finally give him his big break. Jon is also feeling pressure from his girlfriend Susan, who is tired of continuing to put her life on hold for Jon’s career aspirations. Meanwhile, his best friend and roommate Michael, has given up on his creative aspirations for a high-paying advertising job on Madison Avenue and is about to move out. As Jon approaches his 30th birthday, he is overcome with anxiety — wondering if his dream is worth the cost.

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Netflix also announced the live action family movie The Main Event, set to premier on the service in 2020. It’s based on an original screenplay by Larry Postel, directed by Jay Karas and produced by WWE Studios’ Richard Lowell. WWE Studios is WWE’s multi-platform content division that develops and produces scripted and non-scripted series, documentaries and feature films.

The film follows an 11-year-old aspiring wrestler who, after discovering a magical mask, enters a competition to become the next WWE superstar. It stars Seth Carr (Black Panther), Tichina Arnold (The Neighborhood, “Everybody Hates Chris”), Adam Pally (“The Mindy Project”) and Ken Marino (The Other Two, Black Monday, Bad Milo), alongside WWE superstars Kofi Kingston, The Miz and Sheamus, among others.

Netflix will adapt August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom into a feature film starring  Academy Award winner Viola Davis (Widows, Fences), Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up, Black Panther), Emmy Award winner Glynn Turman (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Tony and Olivier Award Nominee Colman Domingo (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Michael Potts (Show Me a HeroTrue Detective). Academy Award winner Denzel Washington (who starred with Davis in the feature adaptation of Wilson’s Fences), Academy Award Nominee Todd Black and Dany Wolf will produce.

The story follows Ma Rainey, the “Queen of the Blues.” While making a record in a studio in Chicago, 1927, tensions boil between her, her white agent and producer, and bandmates.

Finally, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart and The Curse of La Llorona) are adapting the horror-fantasy children’s book Nightbooks by J.A. White for Netflix. The story follows Alex, a boy obsessed with scary stories, who is trapped by a witch in her modern, magical New York City apartment. His original hair-raising tales are the only thing keeping him safe as he desperately tries to find a way out of the twisted place.

PBS Kids Launches Spanish-Language Shows on Amazon Prime Video Channel

PBS Distribution has launched Spanish-language versions of a variety of PBS Kids programs on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel.

Spanish-language versions of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Scigirls,” “Cyberchase” and “Caillou” debuted on the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Video Channel May 24.

“We’re excited to expand our PBS KIDS channel offering to include a selection of episodes presented in Spanish,” said Andrea Downing, co-president, PBS Distribution, in a statement. “Our aim is to provide educational and entertaining programming for all kids, and this expansion helps further that mission.”

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The launch includes a total of 30 episodes of PBS Kids programming available in Spanish. Subscribers of the PBS Kids Amazon Prime Channel will not need to pay any extra fee for the newly available programs.

Anime Supplier Funimation Acquires Manga Entertainment

Anime content supplier Funimation, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Television, has acquired Manga Entertainment, the leading distributor of anime in the United Kingdom and Ireland, according to a Funimation press release.

Headquartered in London, Manga is a long-term partner of Funimation and serves anime fans across a wide range of channels, including Blu-ray/DVDs, broadcast, theatrical and digital (EST).

“Following its immediate consolidation of Funimation’s U.K. home entertainment business, Manga will become the largest distributor of anime Blu-rays/DVDs, offering fans more than 900 hours of subtitled and dubbed entertainment — the biggest catalog of titles available anywhere in the U.K. and Ireland,” according to the Funimation press release.

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The acquisition also will allow most of the titles — many for the first time — to become available for streaming to fans throughout the U.K. and Ireland on the SVOD FunimationNow service over the coming months, according to the release.

Titles include such series as “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” “Naruto Shippuden,” “Ghost in the Shell: Innocence” and “Sword Art Online.”

“With this acquisition, we will create a truly immersive anime experience for fans in the U.K. and Ireland. This begins with providing fans access to Manga’s library of titles to enjoy whenever and wherever they want on FunimationNow,” said Mitchel Berger, VP of sales and distribution for Funimation in a statement. “Together with the Manga team, Funimation will bring its fan-first omnichannel approach to serving anime fans — engaging with them directly through the widest array of touchpoints.”

“On behalf of Manga Entertainment, we’re thrilled to join Funimation and their expanding global business,” said Jerome Mazandarani, managing director of Manga Entertainment, in a statement. “We’re excited for the new opportunities that lie ahead and to serve anime fans in the U.K. and Ireland in a bigger way than ever before.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Funimation, which today provides streaming, home entertainment, theatrical and broadcast distribution, as well as merchandise licensing in many territories around the world. With a catalog of more than 600 titles encompassing more than 10,000 hours of subtitled and dubbed entertainment, Funimation directly serves consumers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand through its subscription service FunimationNow. In November 2018, FunimationNow became the first Sony Pictures Television service to launch on Amazon’s Prime Video in the U.K.

T-Mobile Downgrades ‘Netflix on Us’ Offer

T-Mobile is changing its “Netflix on Us” offer with its two main unlimited postpaid plans.

No longer will subscribers get the Netflix Standard service, with two concurrent streams per account and video resolution of up to 1080p, at no charge. Because Netflix has raised the price of that plan by $2 from $10.99 to $12.99 per month, T-Mobile will start passing on the extra $2 price to its customers.

Customers with the two T-Mobile plans, rebranded to Magenta, can get the Netflix Basic plan, with one stream and video resolution to 480p, at no extra charge. That plan normally costs $8.99 per month.

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“To account for the Netflix price increase earlier this year, Magenta includes Netflix Basic for families,” read a T-Mobile release. “Existing T-Mobile One customers with Netflix on Us that includes Netflix Standard will see the Netflix price change of $2 per month for Netflix Standard passed through starting in July. To avoid that, those customers can either turn off Netflix on Us or change to Magenta.”

T-Mobile began offering the free Netflix promotion in 2017.

Hulu to Premiere New Kids’ Animated Series ‘The Bravest Knight’ June 21

Hulu June 21 will premiere the first five episodes of a 13-episode order of the new Hulu Original animated kids’ series “The Bravest Knight.”

Based on children’s book by Daniel Errico, The Bravest Knight Who Ever Lived, the story chronicles a young pumpkin farmer’s adventure as he attempts to become the bravest knight who ever lived. The new series features a household with two dads (Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew), making it one of the first children’s television series with an openly gay main character, according to a Hulu press release.

Hulu “continues to be a supporter of LGBTQ content and creators,” according to the release.

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Sir Cedric, now grown and married to the prince of his dreams, shares the story with his adopted 10-year-old daughter Nia of how he transformed from farmer to knight. Nia, who is training to become a knight herself, learns important values such as honor, justice and compassion.

The cast includes T.R. Knight as Sir Cedric, Bobby Moynihan as young Cedric’s troll sidekick Grunt and Storm Reid as Nia. The show also features the voice talents of RuPaul, Christine Baranski, Wanda Sykes, Wilson Cruz, Teri Polo, Steven Weber, Donna Murphy, AJ McLean, Dot-Marie Jones, Maz Jobrani, Chance Hurstfield and others.

Comedy ‘What Men Want’ Tops FandangoNow Chart

The comedy What Men Want was the top film purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12.

FandangoNow is movie site Fandango’s transactional VOD service.

The Paramount film, starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, earned $54.6 million in theaters.

Universal’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the series about a boy and his dragon, dropped one spot to No. 2. It made $160 million at the box office. Meanwhile, the “How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy flew up one spot to No. 8, showing continued strong interest in the franchise for the week.

Warner’s animated sequel The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, which earned $105.8 million in theaters, debuted in the third spot on the chart.

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Jumping up one spot from No. 5 in the previous week to No. 4 was Lionsgate’s Cold Pursuit, starring Liam Neeson as a grieving snowplow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son. The film earned $32 million at the box office.

Warner’s DC superhero flick Aquaman floated up from No. 9 to No. 5.

Boosted by the impending May 17 theatrical debut of the third installment in the Lionsgate series, the double feature of John Wick and John Wick 2, starring Keanu Reeves as a hitman out for revenge, landed at No. 10 on the week’s chart.

The top 10 films purchased and/or rented on FandangoNow for the week ended May 12 were:

  1. What Men Want*
  2. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World*
  3. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part *
  4. Cold Pursuit*
  5. Aquaman *
  6. Glass*
  7. Isn’t It Romantic*
  8. “How to Train Your Dragon” Trilogy*
  9. The Mule*
  10. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 (Double Feature) *

*Available in 4K

Feature Optimizes Low-light Streaming Video for Mobile Phones

VisualOn Inc., a video streaming solutions provider, has launched its Adaptive NightVision feature, which enhances its proprietary media platform player by allowing low-light or dark scenes to display more clearly on mobile devices.

The feature allows subscribers to select the viewing effects they want directly on their mobile devices.

“Something that looks great on a TV in a darkened room may not look good at all on a mobile phone in a coffee shop,” said Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder, nScreenMedia, in a statement. “The ability to adapt to a specific viewing environment is critical for service and content providers for every viewer to have a good experience. VisualOn’s solution is a great example of the type of player feature that viewers need to effectively compensate for mobile viewing conditions.”

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VisualOn’s Adaptive NightVision is built on an advanced algorithm that analyzes the video, in real time, for contrast, brightness, color saturation and key metrics, according to a company press release. Viewers can set their preferred experience through a slider directly in the Media Platform player.

“Our successful demonstration at NAB and the recent feedback from ‘The Long Night’ episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ has prompted greater urgency for Adaptive NightVision,” said Michael Jones, SVP and head of business development, VisualOn, in a statement. “As streaming services mature, consumers want to experience the same quality that is provided by their traditional TV service on their mobile devices. We feel this is really a democratization of content. Adaptive NightVision provides an optimal viewing experience for mobile devices by giving control to consumers while not limiting artists to create content for small screen viewing.”

Epix Coming to DirecTV and DirecTV Now

Epix, the premium TV network owned by MGM, and AT&T have reached a distribution agreement that will make Epix available on a subscription basis to DirecTV customers for $5.99 a month beginning May 19.

The network will also be available soon on the streaming service DirecTV Now, according to an Epix press release.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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“We are thrilled to expand our relationship with AT&T and make our growing slate of original programming and Hollywood movies accessible to viewers across the DirecTV universe,” said Michael Wright, president of Epix, in a statement. “It’s an exciting moment of growth for us as we build a brand that delivers a superior customer experience with high-powered, premium original series to a new audience on DirecTV and DirecTV Now.”

“AT&T has been a tremendous partner of ours over the years,” said Monty Sarhan, EVP and GM of Epix, in a statement. “We are extremely excited about launching on DirecTV and expanding Epix’s availability nationwide. This is an incredibly important platform for us and a truly momentous launch for our network.”

“We are pleased to add Epix to our vast content offering in the premium TV category. With its growing lineup of original programming, Epix is a great addition for our DirecTV customers,” said Dan York, senior EVP and chief content officer for AT&T, in a statement.

Epix will provide DirecTV subscribers access to the upcoming premieres of original series “Godfather of Harlem,” starring and executive produced by Forest Whitaker; “Pennyworth,” the origin story of Batman’s butler Alfred, from Warner Horizon and DC; “Perpetual Grace, LTD,” from MGM and featuring Sir Ben Kingsley; “Belgravia,” from Julian Fellowes; docu-series “Slow Burn,” based on the hit podcast;  and a weekly series, “NFL: The Grind,” from NFL Films. Epix also has original series “Get Shorty,” “Deep State,” “Elvis Goes There” and “PUNK” as well as more than 2,000 Hollywood movies.

Netflix Inks Production Deal With Regina King

Netflix has entered into a multiyear first look deal with director, producer, and award-winning actress Regina King and her production company Royal Ties to produce films and series for the service.

Her sister, Reina King, will serve as head of production of the shingle.

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Named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2019, Regina King most recently won an Academy Award for her role as Sharon Rivers in feature film If Beale Street Could Talk as well as an Emmy Award for her role as Latrice Butler in “Seven Seconds.” King has also taken on many roles behind the camera directing episodes of “This Is Us,” “The Good Doctor” and the season three finale of “Insecure,” among other projects. She is next set to star in Damon Lindeloff’s upcoming series “Watchmen.”

“Regina King is a multi-faceted talent both behind and in front of the camera,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos in a statement. “She’s been a trailblazer for years, with boundless creativity and impeccable taste in projects, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she will bring her formidable talents to Netflix.”

“I am beyond thrilled to join the Netflix family,” said King in a statement. “They are at the top of their game and as an artist I am so excited to come play in this wonderful sandbox they have created for storytellers.”

In addition to the Academy Award, King also won a Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award and the National Board of Review award for her supporting role as Sharon Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk. King has also won three Emmy Awards, including one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie for her work in the Netflix racial crime drama “Seven Seconds” and ond for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie category for her role in the ABC anthology series “American Crime,” which also garnered her first Golden Globe Award nomination.

King is also known for feature film roles in the Jerry Maguire, How Stella Got Her Groove Back with Angela Bassett, Enemy of the State opposite Will Smith, Mighty Joe Young with Charlize Theron, Boys N the HoodMiss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous alongside Sandra Bullock, Cinderella Story opposite Hilary Duff, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde with Reese Witherspoon, and Daddy Day Care opposite Eddie Murphy.

‘Reborn,’ ‘The Court’ and ‘Rough Justice’ From ‘Walter Presents’ Library Streaming in May From PBS

PBS Distribution will begin streaming three international crime dramas from the “Walter Presents” library on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in May.

The channel is available to Prime members for $5.99 a month after a seven-day free trial.

Streaming beginning May 10 is “Reborn,” a French crime-thriller taking witness-protection to a whole new level. Felon Alexis Marceau gives up his criminal friends in exchange for immunity. With his new identity, he also has reconstructive surgery to make him unidentifiable. Six years later, he is known as Matthias Leblanc. He is working in Turin, Italy, as a construction worker when judge Delphine Baron offers to revoke his house arrest, in exchange for three months of service. This means working undercover at his old job where he and his partner ran a small shipping business controlling the traffic of illicit goods. Matthias is hesitant but accepts — no one knows he’s alive or will recognize his new face. But he knows the people, place and methods better than anyone. Once undercover and back in Dunkirk, Alexis struggles to keep away from his ex-wife and son. And to make matters worse, his affection for his old life returns — the camaraderie, the easy money and the adrenaline.

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Streaming beginning May 24 is the second season of “The Court.” The Icelandic legal drama follows the professional and personal lives of three Reykjavik lawyers — Logi, Brynhildur and Hordur. Logi is one of the country’s most brilliant legal minds and the most troubled. He’s determined to uncover the truth about what really happened one night in his youth, an incident that left a man dead and Logi in prison for manslaughter. However, his internal demons threaten to send him spiraling into alcoholism. Standing between Logi and self-destruction are his two lawyer colleagues — Brynhildur and Hordur — whose own private lives are far from simple.

Streaming beginning May 31 is the Belgian crime drama “Rough Justice.” Set in Antwerp, Belgium, the series, based on the novels by Toni Coppers, follows superintendent Liese Meerhout as she leads her close-knit team in the homicide division to the bottom of the city’s darkest crimes. Always seeking to protect the vulnerable and maintain justice, she is not afraid to push the boundaries to get to the bottom of even the most complex cases — usually using unorthodox methods. But when haunting emails from an anonymous sender start appearing in her inbox, a case she thought she had long put behind her resurfaces, and the usually steely and implacable superintendent becomes unnerved.