Doc ‘Fake Famous’ About Social Media Influencers Debuting on HBO Max, HBO Feb. 2

The documentary Fake Famous, about social media influencers, will debut on HBO Max and HBO Feb. 2.

From first-time director and veteran journalist Nick Bilton, the film explores the industry of social media influencers through a social experiment. The film’s journey is driven by the casting of three people in Los Angeles who all have relatively small social followings and the attempt to grow them into famous influencers. By purchasing fake followers and an army of bots to “engage” with their social media, the newly made “influencers” discover both the wonders and costs of this unlikely, immersive lifestyle. Each of their stories illuminates the ephemeral world of online influence and the realities of a lifestyle based largely on fantasy.

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Bilton, a technology journalist, explores a fundamental question: What is fame and influence in the digital age? There are now hundreds of millions of people on social platforms who have such large followings that they are considered to be a new kind of celebrity. But are they really famous? Bilton and his team set out to explore what it all really means. Peeling back the layers to reveal what’s really happening behind the scenes of influencer fame, Fake Famous illuminates our obsession with the numbers of likes, followers and favorites we get, and how most of our online world is much more fabricated than we realize.

Joining Bilton in providing insights into today’s social media landscape are interviewees including New York Times technology reporter Taylor Lorenz; Liz Eswein of @newyorkcity; Bloomberg technology reporter Sarah Frier; Justine Bateman, author of “Fame: The Hijacking of Reality”; and others.

Netflix Acquires Animated ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’

Netflix has acquired the Sony animated film The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

The comedy follows a family who encounters a tech uprising while driving their daughter to film school. As robots and household appliances around the world start to go haywire, they have to work together to save the world.

Directed by Mike Rianda and produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film features the voices of Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”) and Maya Rudolph.

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The film originally had the title Connected.

Netflix Renews ‘Bridgerton’

Netflix has renewed “Bridgerton” for a second season.

The romance series, which hit screens on Christmas, is produced by Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and is based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers. It follows eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

The second season will premiere in spring of 2021, Netflix announced.

On Jan. 4, shortly after its premiere, Netflix reported “Bridgerton” was on track to be streamed by 63 million subscriber homes in the 28 days — the fifth-highest tally in the SVOD pioneer’s history. Netflix reported the series was ranked No. 1 across 76 countries worldwide.

The series was also the top binge on the TV Time charts for the week ended Jan. 17.

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Interpret: Discovery+ Fills Strong Niche

Discovery Channel’s new Discovery+ streaming service, which launched Jan. 4 in the United States, is filling a strong niche, according to Interpret research.

Available for $5 per month with a commercial-free version at $7 per month, the platform not only offers shows from Discovery Channel, with more than 55,000 episodes at launch, but also content from Discovery-owned HGTV, TLC, Food Network, Animal Planet, OWN, and more. Discovery also has partnerships with BBC, A&E, Group Nine, and others to provide additional content.

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“Discovery’s portfolio of channels offers an array of science, reality, and non-fiction programming, providing it with a unique niche of content that is differentiated from Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, or other broadcast and cable TV network-oriented streaming services,” according to Interpret.

Interpret’s New Media Measure® found that this type of content is popular, with viewership of Discovery’s portfolio of channels ranging from 7% to 20% of pay-TV subscribers.

“Discovery is betting that those same people will happily pay $5 per month, particularly if they leave traditional pay-TV,” according to Interpret.

Discovery+ is already available in the United Kingdom and Ireland and intends to roll out to 25 international markets this year. A promotion from Verizon provides as much as one year free of Discovery+ to its wireless customers.

FilmRise Streaming Network Grows to 31.5M App Downloads

FilmRise Jan. 21 announced that its owned and operated streaming network has grown its installed base 30% in 2020, to more than 31.5 million app downloads.

With a library of major studio and independent feature films combined with branded series such as “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Forensic Files,” and “The Rifleman,” the New York-based film and television studio and streaming network has seen an incredible surge in consumer appetites for free, ad-supported content, according to a press release.

FilmRise’s monthly ad impressions on its owned and operated AVOD network have reached nearly 150 million, it reported.

In 2020, 12 of the channels on FilmRise’s OTT network have each become the world’s largest free AVOD services in their respective genres — including True Crime, Westerns, Sci Fi, Action, Mysteries and Horror — according to the company.

Danny Fisher, FilmRise president and CEO

“2020 was an unprecedented year not only for FilmRise, but for the entire home entertainment ecosystem,” said Danny Fisher, president and CEO of FilmRise, in a statement. “We saw quite rapidly the consumer’s appetite change from broadcast and cable to OTT platforms much sooner than anticipated.  The pandemic most certainly shortened the inevitable transition considerably.”

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Multi-title deals in 2020 with entertainment companies, including Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT), have added content to FilmRise’s channels, the company noted. Content included Warner Bros. films Sleepers, The Informant!, Cobra and Insomnia and NENT’s six seasons of the “Doc Martin” series and the original British version of “Shameless.”

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FilmRise has a library of more than 30,000 movies and TV episodes. It is currently the largest independent provider of content to ad-supported streaming services, according to the company, providing content to platforms including The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, IMDb TV, Peacock, Tubi and Crackle.

Series ‘Almost Paradise’ Headed to IMDb TV Feb. 1

Electric Entertainment’s “Almost Paradise,” which originally premiered domestically in March 2020 on the broadcast network WGN America, is headed to AVOD service IMDb TV Feb. 1.

“We have established a wonderful relationship with Amazon’s IMDb TV,” said Electric CEO Dean Devlin. “This marks our third partnership with the free streaming service — the first being the re-imagining of the hit TV series ‘Leverage 2.0,’ and secondly, the streaming of all three seasons of ‘The Outpost.’ We can’t be more pleased with how our relationship is blossoming and look forward to more opportunities with the rapidly growing AVOD service.”

The series stars Christian Kane (“The Librarians,” “Leverage,” “Angel”) as Alex Walker, a former U.S. DEA agent who was forced into early retirement. Once the DEA’s most resourceful undercover operative, the combination of his partner’s betrayal and a life-threatening battle with hypertension sent him as far from the madness as he can go — a small tropical island in the Philippine Archipelago. He now runs the gift shop at the island’s luxury resort hotel, gets his disability payments at the nearby U.S. Air Force base, and generally manages his transition from Jason Bourne to Jimmy Buffett. But, the island’s luxury resorts attract rich, powerful, and sometimes criminal elite from around the world, often on a collision course with Alex. Despite his best efforts to begin a tranquil new life, he’s pulled back into a world of dangerous people and deadly situations, either through his friends in the local police department or running into people from his old life.

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FilmRise Inks Content Deal for YouTube Talent

Studio and streaming network FilmRise and talent management company Night Media have entered into an agreement to bring a dozen digital native creators to digital streaming platforms and broadcast television.

FilmRise will package and produce broadcast and streaming content from Night Media creator videos.

The creators have garnered millions of subscribers and views on YouTube, according to a press release.

“The opportunity to leverage FilmRise’s vast global streaming network and Night Media’s most popular YouTube creator brands to streaming audiences is very exciting to us and we believe there will be huge cross-over success,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement.

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Night Media represents nearly two dozen digital native creators across genres including comedy, lifestyle, philanthropy, gaming, challenges and travel, among others. FilmRise will be offering to digital platforms packaged content from “Mr. Beast” (47 million subscribers per month), “Preston & Brianna” (20.1 million subscribers per month, collectively), “Dallmyd” (11.5 million subscribers per month), “Matt Stonie” (13.1 million subscribers per month), “Unspeakable (25 million subscribers per month), “Guga Foods” (3.75. million subscribers per month) and “Azzyland” (13.2 million subscribers per month), among others.

“FilmRise’s leading position in the content streaming universe home entertainment industry creates a perfect opportunity for our talent to gain more exposure on multiple platforms to further their ever-growing audience,” Reed Duchscher, CEO of Night Media, said in a statement.

FilmRise will debut packaged seasons of “Mr. Beast” and “Preston & Brianna” on streaming networks in the spring.

Cinedigm Acquires Fandor Streaming Service

Cinedigm has acquired Fandor, a subscription streaming service for independent films, documentaries and international features.

Fandor has a catalog of more than 4,600 film titles from more than 400 film companies.

Cinedigm plans to leverage its content library, technology, engineering and distribution capabilities to rapidly expand Fandor’s content offering, relaunch the service’s apps and dramatically expand distribution to Cinedigm’s global footprint of more than 900 million connected devices, according to a press release.

Cinedigm will continue to offer the service (currently at $5.99 per month) ad-free, but also plans to offer a free, ad-supported on-demand tier as well as a linear streaming channel.

Cinedigm plans to draw from a pool of more than 7,000 relevant film titles in its library, including thousands of classic, cult and foreign titles from streaming service The Film Detective, which it acquired in December 2020, according to the release.

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Cinedigm also plans to relaunch Keyframe, Fandor’s web and video-based publication dedicated to covering the art of cinema.

Phil Hopkins, president of Cinedigm’s Film Detective division, will oversee Fandor and Keyframe, with the goal of relaunching the service in the coming quarter.

“This acquisition of Fandor, coming on the heels of our Film Detective acquisition, solidifies Cinedigm’s position as the leading global streaming company for independent films,” Chris McGurk, Cinedigm chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “As a key element of our recently announced streaming rollup strategy, Fandor will immediately benefit from our streaming distribution muscle, huge library of independent films, Matchpoint technology, cost savings and infrastructure and synergies with our wide portfolio of enthusiast streaming channels. We fully expect an immediate EBITDA uplift from Fandor and strong revenue and profit growth going forward.”

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“The paradox of the streaming revolution is that it has never been harder to discover classic, essential and new independent and foreign films,” Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of Cinedigm Networks, said in a statement. “The founders of Fandor had the right idea, launching very early in the streaming growth cycle while still establishing a strong and resilient brand and viewer base. Our mission at Cinedigm is to enable viewers, including independent film enthusiasts, to stream their passions, and I can’t think of a streaming service that is truer to our mission than Fandor.”

“The opportunity to leverage Fandor’s passionate community of independent film enthusiasts will be integral in the service’s growth,” Phil Hopkins, president of the Film Detective, said in a statement. “Being able to communicate and collaborate with this community of content creators, bloggers, and editorial writers will allow us to significantly expand Fandor into the global focal point for streaming independent films, documentaries, classics and foreign films.”

FilmRise Acquires Feature ‘Drunk Bus’

FilmRise, a film and television studio and streaming network, has acquired the exclusive North American distribution rights to the coming-of-age comedy Drunk Bus.

Starring Charlie Tahan (“Ozark”), Kara Hayward (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “To The Stars”) and newcomer Pineapple Tangaroa, the film, originally to premiere at SXSW 2020, follows a young directionless campus bus driver and a punk-rock, charismatic Samoan security guard who is hired to protect him on the nightshift as drunk college students are ushered from one party to the next.

Michael (Charlie Tahan) is a recent graduate whose post-college plan is derailed when his girlfriend leaves him for a job in New York City. Stuck in Ohio without a new plan of his own, Michael finds himself caught in the endless loop of driving the “drunk bus,” the debaucherous late-night campus shuttle that ferries drunk college students from parties to the dorms and back. When the bus service hires a security guard to watch over the night shift, Michael comes face to tattooed face with Pineapple (Tangaroa), a larger-than-life punk rock Samoan who challenges him with a kick in the ass to break from the loop and start living or risk driving in circles forever.

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The film also stars Zach Cherry (“You,” “Duncanville”), Dave Hill (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Joe Pera Talks with You”), Sarah Mezzanotte (“Chambers,” “Blame”) and Tonatiuh (“Vida,” “Angelyne”) and features a cameo by My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero.

Drunk Bus won the Best Narrative Feature Award at the 2020 San Diego International Film Festival from both Jury and the Audience.

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Drunk Bus is the directorial debut feature film for John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke and writer Chris Molinaro’s first produced screenplay,” Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, said in a statement. “FilmRise is delighted to support these talented emerging filmmakers with the addition of this festival favorite and critically acclaimed comedy to our 2021 New Release line up.”

HBO Max Orders Series Based on Life of Julia Child

HBO Max has given an eight-episode first-season order to the Max Original “Julia,” based on the life of world-renowned chef Julia Child.

The series, from Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment, stars Sarah Lancashire (“Happy Valley”) and David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”), and is directed by Charles McDougall (“House of Cards”) and written by Daniel Goldfarb (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

The series is inspired by Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, “The French Chef,” which pioneered the now popular genre of cooking shows. Through Julia and her singular can-do spirit, the series explores an evolving time in American history — the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women’s movement, the nature of celebrity, and America’s cultural growth. At its heart, the series is a portrait of a loving marriage with an evolving and complicated power dynamic.

In addition to Lancashire and Hyde Pierce, the series also stars Brittany Bradford (Broadway’s Bernhardt/Hamlet), Fran Kranz (“Homecoming”), Fiona Glascott (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), Bebe Neuwirth (“Madam Secretary”), Isabella Rossellini (Silent Retreat) and Jefferson Mays (“I Am the Night”).

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“We are so happy to help bring the incomparable Julia Child back to the small screen, when we need her more than ever,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said in a statement. “This show’s look into her life, marriage and trailblazing career as she transformed the way we talk about food is an absolute delight. Our incredible cast and formidable creative team are a recipe for success, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

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“We’re delighted to expand our relationship with HBO Max by teaming with our production partners at 3 Arts on ‘Julia,’ the complex and compelling story of the celebrated chef, author and TV personality who almost single-handedly invented the world of food television,” Jocelyn Sabo, Lionsgate Television Group SVP, said in a statement. “Combining an extraordinary creative team, powerhouse cast and timely subject matter, the series has all the ingredients to resonate with HBO Max audiences for years to come.”