The Offer

STREAMING REVIEW:

Paramount+;
Drama;
Not rated;
Stars Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Dan Fogler, Burn Gorman, Colin Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, Patrick Gallo.

There are a few ways to interpret “The Offer.” On the surface, it’s the story of the quest to achieve a creative vision no matter what it takes. From another perspective, it’s a studio, Paramount, celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of its greatest achievements, The Godfather, by sensationalizing a unique period of Hollywood history.

The details as presented in the 10-part limited series series now streaming in its entirety on Paramount+ likely lean more on the side of embellishment than fact, punching up the outlandishness beyond the point of believability in some cases. But that hardly matters when the end result is as entertaining a guilty pleasure as it turned out to be.

The particulars of the making of the “Godfather” films are easy enough to come by, given the plethora of bonus materials on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy over the years, not to mention countless books on the subject. The primary inspiration for “The Offer” is credited to the experiences of producer Albert S. Ruddy, thus making him the central figure for the series.

Ruddy (Miles Teller) is introduced as a bored programmer at the Rand Corporation who, thanks to a chance encounter, ends up creating “Hogan’s Heroes” for CBS (in truth, Ruddy’s Hollywood experience stretches back before his time at Rand).

Wanting to break into film, Ruddy convinces Paramount boss Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to give him a shot with a low-budget film starring Robert Redford.

Meanwhile, Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) writes The Godfather, which turns out to be one of the best-selling novels of all time. Paramount owns the rights to make a movie version, but parent company Gulf + Western doesn’t want to risk too much money on yet another “gangster picture,” so they stick Ruddy on it.

Ruddy immediately breaks convention by hiring Puzo to write the screenplay (Hollywood for the longest time had taboos about creatives crossing mediums — TV to movies, novels to screenplays, etc.). When Puzo’s efforts stall, Ruddy brings in Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to direct — another controversial move given Coppola’s disastrous track record as a director despite an Oscar win for writing Patton. Coppola is reluctant at first, but agrees to the project on the basis of bringing authenticity to an epic story about an Italian family.

Sticking Puzo and Coppola in a house together to hash out the screenplay (even though in real life they supposedly worked on it separately), Ruddy must then deal with a bigger obstacle to the film — opposition from the mafia itself, who see the book as a slur. Frank Sinatra is particularly offended by a crooner character in the novel, and vows to shut down the production.

Now supposedly thrust into the middle of a mob war against Hollywood, Ruddy makes pals with mob boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), which gets some heat off the film but doesn’t please the corporate brass at Gulf + Western or Paramount. Meanwhile, Colombo’s support of the film draws out some of his enemies within the mob who seek to replace him.

And so the series continues as a tug-of-war between artistic integrity, mafia greed and the corporate bottom line. The mob influence on the production was probably played up to draw parallels to the movie’s storyline, while the show contains no shortage of references to nostalgia touchpoints from the era audiences will recognize, from other movies to some of the actors up for roles in the film.

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As with most docudramas, certain events and characters are condensed and conflated for the sake of the narrative. For instance, Colombo rival Joe Gallo is shown being taken out because his attempts to extort the production threaten the budget to film in Sicily, when in reality he wasn’t killed until after the movie was released.

The cast is mostly solid, and Teller does a great job carrying the load as Ruddy, though his portrayal as a miracle worker and solver of all problems seems to be a bit overblown. Ribisi, on the other hand, is so over-the-top as Colombo he seems like he’s on a different show. But the standout is Goode as Robert Evans, so completely transforming into the iconic Hollywood executive that it might as well be Evans playing himself. If Paramount+ doesn’t greenlight a docudrama of Evans’ autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture starring Goode, it will be missing out.

Through Evans, “The Offer” gets to indulge a bit in telling the story of Paramount in general in the early 1970s, when he was brought in by Gulf + Western boss Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) to turn the studio’s fortunes around. As such, the show delves a bit into the success of Love Story, starring Evans’ wife Ali MacGraw, and how their marriage disintegrated when he started to focus on The Godfather, and she ended up in the arms of Steven McQueen on the set of The Getaway. Evans also keeps an eye on his next project, Chinatown, despite his corporate overlords wanting to dump it as something they “don’t understand.” (Corporate stooges being idiots when it comes to art is a big theme of the show.)

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Those familiar with The Kid Stays in the Picture (the book or the 2002 documentary adaptation of it narrated by Evans) might note a number of discrepancies between Evans’ own accounts of these events and how “The Offer” portrays them. For instance, in the show, Coppola and Ruddy are fighting with Gulf + Western over how long The Godfather is, preferring the nearly three-hour version we all know and love today, while the bean-counters want to maximize screenings with a two-hour version (a classic debate in Hollywood — the best-known recent example involving the 2017 Justice League movie). Evans has to swoop in from a drunken stupor over his failed marriage to save the longer cut, thus sending the film on a path toward Oscar glory.

In Evans’ own account, Coppola turned in a two-hour version, and Evans ordered him to recut it to make it longer, thus delaying the film from a Christmas 1971 release to March 1972 (a delay mentioned in the show that doesn’t make much sense if the longer cut already existed). Conjecture over the editing of The Godfather has occupied much discussion over the years, and Coppola’s own accounts would likely fill further volumes.

For however inaccurate it may be, “The Offer” is still first and foremost a love letter to The Godfather, and should only serve to build on fans’ appreciation of that classic film, and a love of cinema in general.

Craig and the Camel May Be Gone, But Transactional Marketing Still Going Strong

For me, the pinnacle of marketing at the height of the DVD era was Craig Kornblau on a camel.

It was the heyday of event marketing. DVD had become such a monstrous success that disc revenues were outpacing theatrical. DVD potential was even a factor in deciding whether to greenlight movies.

No wonder, then, that at a time when a hot new DVD release could sell 20 million copies or more, just in the first week, the release of a big theatrical film on disc was hailed as a big event — and marketed accordingly.

I remember Disney’s gala launch party for the Ratatouille DVD, with more than a thousand guests crowding a ballroom at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel for a gastronomical feast.

I remember flying to London for a party to celebrate New Line Home Video’s release of the Lost in Space movie.

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I remember Warner Home Video’s Superman party, where I joked to then-president Ron Sanders that the shindig probably cost the studio more than they were spending on advertising with Home Media Magazine all year.

I remember being flown to London by PolyGram to celebrate the DVD release of Phantom of the Opera, as well as three Super Bowls (thanks, Bill Sondheim!) to drum up excitement for the subsequent NFL Super Bowl DVD.

And then there was Craig Kornblau and the camel. The “event” was the 2002 DVD release of The Scorpion King, and amid a throng of beefy warriors, belly dancers and flame explosions I remember looking up and seeing Kornblau, at the time president of Universal Studios Home Video, and his top marketing executive, Ken Graffeo, riding down Sunset Boulevard on a pair of massive dromedaries. A Los Angeles Times article from October 2002 picks up the story from there: “Moments later, the entire caravan, writhing women, camels and all, crossed Sunset Boulevard to the Virgin Megastore across the street, where confused shoppers were rapidly overrun by belly dancers, snake handlers and jugglers.”

The reporter quoted Kornblau as saying the studio hoped to generate earn more than $36 million in the first week of sales, more than the first week of box office for the film’s theatrical release.

These days, physical and digital sales of movies, even combined, area fraction of DVD sales 20 years ago, due to the rise and domination of subscription streaming.

And yet studio marketers continue to “eventize” new transactional releases, although invariably some, if not most, of a campaign’s components take place virtually, often through tie-ins with social media influencers.

In this year’s Power Marketing report, our fourth annual look at the top marketing campaigns of the past year, we profile nearly a dozen standouts from the major studios — and as you’ll see, creativity and ingenuity are certainly not in short supply. Universal Studios Home Entertainment, for example, launched F9 into the home market by getting stars Vin Diesel and Ludacris to share custom content on their Instagram accounts, followed by F9 Fest, a huge press and social media influencer event with interviews, a rooftop zipline stunt experience and even an F9 museum, featuring vehicles from the film.

And Paramount celebrated the 50thanniversary of The Godfather, and the landmark film’s 4K Ultra HD debut, with all sorts of creative executions, strategic partnerships and publicity events. A press screening on the studio lot was preceded by a panel discussion with director Francis Ford Coppola and stars James Caan and Talia Shire — along with a street-naming celebration and the presentation of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Coppola.

Craig and his camel may be long gone, but “eventizing” home releases is certainly still a “thing.

‘Yellowstone’ Tops Disc Sales for Third Week; ‘Godfather’ Tops Blu-ray Chart

Paramount Home Entertainment’s DVD and Blu-ray release of the fourth season of the hit cable series “Yellowstone” remained No. 1 the week ended March 26 on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales.

It’s the third consecutive week in the top spot for “Yellowstone,” a drama from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Taylor Sheridan and starring Kevin Costner as the head of a multi-generational family that controls the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.

However, with just 21% of its total unit sales on Blu-ray Disc, the “Yellowstone” season was only No. 6 on the Blu-ray Disc chart.

The good news for Paramount was that the top-selling Blu-ray for the week was another of the studio’s titles: The Godfather Trilogy boxed set re-released on 4K for the first time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of director Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 original. Sales of new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set comprised 78% of total trilogy sales for the week, with 10% from regular Blu-ray and 12% from the legacy DVD (the set was re-released on Blu-ray as well, but not DVD). The Godfather Trilogy was No. 3 on the overall disc sales chart.

Maintaining its No. 2 position on the overall sales chart for a third week was Warner’s The Matrix Resurrections, which dropped to No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart after two weeks in the top spot there. It sold about 87% as many copies as the “Yellowstone” fourth-season disc.

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Disney’s animated Encanto dropped to No. 4 on the overall sales chart but remained No. 3 on the Blu-ray Disc sales chart. Encanto won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the March 27 Academy Awards ceremony, after the weekly cutoff for this reporting period.

The No. 5 overall disc seller, and No. 10 on the Blu-ray Disc chart, was another TV show to disc release from Paramount — Dexter: New Blood. The limited series serves as a capper to the 2006-13 series about a serial killer who murders bad guys while working for the police. Dexter: New Blood had 29% of its total unit sales come from Blu-ray Disc.

The only other new release in the overall top 20 was Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures’ Nightmare Alley, which landed at No. 8 overall and No. 4 on the Blu-ray Disc chart. From director Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley is a psychological thriller about a down-on-his-luck grifter (Bradley Cooper), based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham. It had 45% of its sales come from 4K Ultra HD, and an additional 28% from regular Blu-ray, for a total of 73% from Blu-ray formats.

The No. 5 Blu-ray Disc, and No. 6 overall seller, was Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

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The Media Play News rental chart for the week ended March 27 had the same top five as the previous week, with Matrix Resurrections in the top spot for a third time.

Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Afterlife remained No. 2, followed by Universal and MGM’s House of Gucci at No. 3, Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ The King’s Man at No. 4, and Lionsgate’s American Underdog remaining No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 3-26-22
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 3-27-22
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 3-26-22
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 3-26-22
Sales Report for Week Ended 3-26-22
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 3-28-22

PVOD, TVOD, Here I Come!

This month’s cover story in the February 2021 issue of Media Play News could’ve been written about me. I love movies. I’m prone to binge-watching episodic series. And I enjoy weird documentaries and concert videos.

Since I tend to be a Type A control freak, I like to be in charge of what I watch and when I watch it. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that I haven’t watched any broadcast TV at all since Election Night last November.

I also enjoy going to the movies, mostly for the thrill of watching something new, something fresh, something most people haven’t seen yet. So when theaters were shuttered — and here in California, they’re still dark — I jumped at the chance to watch new movies in my family room, even if it would set me back $20. Being a man of a certain age, I passed on Trolls World Tour, but the lure of Scoob! and childhood memories of my Saturday morning cartoon marathons made the Warner release my very first PVOD purchase. I wasn’t disappointed, and since then I’ve probably watched at least a half dozen other premium VOD releases – drawn, again, by the thrill of being among the first to see it.

At the same time, I’ve been buying and renting much more frequently, both digitally and on disc. I’m as addicted to Netflix as the next guy, but maybe being in the industry makes me a little more aware than most people about all the great content I’m missing that’s not available on Netflix or the other streamers.

So during the past 11 months (has it really been almost a year?) of this never-ending COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve rented and bought dozens of movies, new and old, and at the same time made numerous trips to my DVD/Blu-ray Disc room to pull out favorites from my personal collection.

I just finished watching all six “Rocky” movies on Blu-ray Disc with my middle son. We tried starting the “Rambo” series, but the discs are damaged so I just placed an order for a new set of “Rambo” Blu-rays for $25.

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Before that, I had a nostalgic moment and pulled out my Incredible Mr. Limpet DVD, the first movie I saw in the theater.

My youngest son and I watched all six years of “The Sopranos” on Blu-ray Disc — his first time, and my third — and after that we went on a gangster movie binge. We watched the first two “Godfather” movies from my library, bought the new edit of the third film in the series, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, on Blu-ray Disc from Amazon, and rented several other movies, including Goodfellas and Casino, digitally through Redbox On Demand.

My wife, meanwhile, raced through The Queen’s Gambit and “Designated Survivor” on Netflix and, before that, “Outlander” on Hulu.

I’ll join her, eventually, since there is an awful lot of great programming I’d like to get back to — including season 3 of “Ozark,” although by now it’s been so long I’ll probably have to watch the first two seasons again just to figure out what’s going on.

But until movie theaters reopen, I’m going to keep bringing the theater into my home.

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 12/8/20;
Paramount;
Drama;
$22.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Talia Shire, Sofia Coppola, George Hamilton, Diane Keaton, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, Richard Bright, Donal Donnelly, Raf Vallone.

For his latest trick, director Francis Ford Coppola has taken on the challenge of re-editing the oft-maligned The Godfather Part III into something a bit more palatable for fans of the first two “Godfather” films.

The legendary filmmaker has been busy lately quite literally reimagining his career. Last year saw new edits of Apocalypse Now and Cotton Club hit Blu-ray (in the form of Apocalypse Now: Final Cut and Cotton Club Encore, respectively). Those efforts may have given him the nerve to revisit the concluding film of the “Godfather” saga for its 30th anniversary.

Coppola has trimmed the film by 13 minutes (from 170 minutes to a tighter 157), rearranged a few scenes to improve the main story’s pacing, and reworked the film’s opening and closing scenes. He also reverted the title to what he preferred it to be when he was making it with original “Godfather” novelist and screenwriter Mario Puzo. In calling it a Coda with the subtitle “The Death of Michael Corleone,” Coppola sees the film more along the lines of his original intentions — as an epilogue to the story of the original films.

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In the third movie, set in 1979 and 1980, the aging Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) reflects on his decades in charge of one of America’s most notorious crime families, and continues to strive for the legitimacy he claimed to be pursuing in the first two films, which took place in the 1940s and 1950s. He embarks on a scheme to buy out a European conglomerate partly owned by the Vatican, but runs headlong into church corruption and rivals unwilling to give up the old ways.

The story quite cleverly plays into a few real-life events from the late 1970s and early 1980s, namely the death of Pope John Paul I after just a month after his ascendency, and a church banking scandal — though the script has to massage the actual timeline in order to fit the fictional Corleones into the proceedings.

Coppola’s new vision of the third “Godfather” comes complete with a sumptuous new digital restoration. The Blu-ray presentation of the new version comes devoid of extras save for a minute-and-a-half introduction from Coppola, who basically recounts his reasons for the new edit that were already quoted in Paramount’s press release announcing it.

In terms of the film’s new structure, however, some of the cosmetic changes and the shorter running time make the film a bit easier to handle as a standalone movie, but many of the problems that plagued the film upon its original release aren’t so easy to erase.

The first two “Godfather” films on their own tell an almost perfect circular narrative — the contrast in the rise of power between Vito Corleone and his son, Michael, 30 or so years apart. That they were made within two years of each other — 1972 and 1974 — only deepens the connection between the two films as broader, singular work.

It’s no coincidence, then, that supercuts of the first two films in chronological order were already being broadcast on TV by 1977.

Thus, when the third film, released 16 years after the second, by design focuses solely on Michael’s older years and his attempts to transition the family away from crime, it is only natural to compare it with the original, in which the older Vito also hinted at wanting to go legit after tiring of bloodshed. It is not a comparison that works favorably to Part III, despite its many positive traits.

That inevitable comparison may have been why Coppola was reluctant to make a third film to begin with, and when he finally agreed to do it (after reportedly encountering financial problems due to some of his films underperforming in the 1980s), his instincts told him to make it more of an epilogue to the saga rather than a continuation of it. It was the studio that saddled the film with the Part III moniker, and likely the pressure to make it an epic on the scale of the first two (both of which won Best Picture Oscars).

Interestingly, in recutting the film, Coppola discards the leisurely pacing of the original edit, and the entire ceremony of Michael being honored by the Vatican, by moving the scene of Vatican’s banking representative asking Michael for help to be the new opening scene. This new structure is similar enough to how the first film opens, with the mortician asking Don Vito for help, that the obvious intention is to further explore the parallels between the father and son crime lords. If there’s no way to rework the foundations of the film as a whole to get it to measure up, at least its ambitions as a character study give it weight.

It’s an interesting contrast. Vito’s eldest son, Sonny, is so eager to replace his father as a criminal mastermind that his shortsightedness gets him killed, putting Michael in line to take over the family business, a path Vito never intended. The only ambitions of Michael’s eldest son, Anthony, lead him to becoming an opera singer. With Michael’s daughter, Mary, the lynchpin of his attempts to legitimize, Michael has nowhere to turn but his nephew, Vincent, Sonny’s illegitimate son, to serve as the new Don.

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Coppola’s new ending seems to tread on the subtitle as more of a symbolic notion of the main character’s death, rather than the literal one that seemed tacked onto the original theatrical cut.

The further examination of Michael and his ill-fated attempts to scrub his sins are still the film’s greatest asset, even if Pacino’s portrayal seems more akin to his prototypical ’90s persona than his earlier performances as the character. The film’s most-glaring weakness, however, remains the casting of Sofia Coppola in the key role of Mary. The part had originally been intended for Julia Roberts, who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, and then Winona Ryder, who left just before production due to nervous exhaustion, leaving the director to cast his own daughter in the role.

On paper, Mary’s pivotal place in Michael’s final arc is clear: She’s the shining beacon who will salvage the family’s legacy, much in the same way Vito originally envisioned Michael, but those expectations are threatened when she literally flirts with the criminal underpinnings of the family business, in the form of her cousin, Vincent (Andy Garcia). A more talented performer would have imbued Mary with a life and vibrance that forces the audience to care about her in a way that elevates the film’s reliance on her character. As much as she evolved into a talented director and screenwriter in her own right, Sofia is just not an actress, and her flat performance serves mostly to distract from the strong inter-generational dynamics between Pacino and Garcia — a criticism leveled as much at the film in 1990 as it is today. Given Mary’s foundational position to the story’s emotional underpinnings, no amount of re-editing can minimize that impact.

However, at least Mary’s arc is there for viewers to interpret. A more fundamental problem for the film is the complete absence of Tom Hagen, Robert Duvall’s character from the first two films who was practically another son to Vito and served as the family’s lawyer. Duvall opted out of the project due to a pay dispute, so Hagen was said to have died offscreen and George Hamilton was brought in to play a new family lawyer in a perfunctory role. Without Duvall, the screenplay was forced to put more emphasis on Vincent and especially Mary.

There’s no telling how much an expanded role for Duvall, with Hagen at the heart of the Corleone moral quandaries, would have elevated the film’s potential to stand alongside its predecessors.

Paramount Sets Dec. 8 Blu-ray Disc, Digital Release Date for New Edit, Restoration of ‘The Godfather Part III’

Paramount Home Entertainment has set a Dec. 8 date for the Blu-ray Disc and digital debut of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone — a new edit and restoration of The Godfather Part III.

The rebranded version of the third and final film in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy “achieves director-screenwriter Coppola and screenwriter Puzo’s original vision for the finale, which has been meticulously restored for the finest presentation of the Corleone saga’s last chapter,” the studio said in early September, when it first announced the project.

The 1990 release of the third film was maligned by critics as not living up to the standard set by the first two films in the franchise, which won the Oscar for Best Picture for the 1972 and 1974 movie years, respectively.

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became The Godfather Part III,” Coppola said in a Sept. 3 statement. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”

The Blu-ray presentation will include the newly restored and re-edited film, an exclusive introduction by Coppola, and access to a digital copy of the film.

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Coppola’s three-part movie adaptation of Puzo’s novel chronicles the rise and fall of the Corleone mob family. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, The Godfather Part III was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film follows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in his 60s as he seeks to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor to his empire.

Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope worked from a 4K scan of the original negative to undertake a frame-by-frame restoration of both the new Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and the original The Godfather Part III. Zoetrope and Paramount’s restoration team began by searching for more than 50 original takes to replace lower-resolution opticals in the original negative. This process took more than six months and involved sifting through 300 cartons of negative.  American Zoetrope worked diligently to repair scratches, stains, and other anomalies that could not be addressed previously due to technology constraints, while enhancements were made to the original 5.1 audio mix. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, midway through the project all work — even the search for the negative — shifted to the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles and was completed remotely.

“Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of Paramount Archives.

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Godfather Part III has a 69% favorable rating from critics and a 78% favorable rating from audiences. This compares to 98% for The Godfather from both segments and 98% from critics and 97% from audiences for The Godfather Part II.

Paramount Releasing ‘The Godfather Trilogy: Corleone Legacy’ Blu-ray June 11

Paramount Home Entertainment will release The Godfather Trilogy: Corleone Legacy on Blu-ray June 11.

The latest repackaging of the three “Godfather” films comes with a bonus disc of previously released extras, plus a mini-poster of the Corleone family tree, three cards with movie posters for each film on one side and character portraits on the other, and a cardboard frame for the portraits.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the novel by Mario Puzo, the trilogy chronicles the rise and fall of the Corleone family through organized crime. The first two films won the Oscar for Best Picture for 1972 and 1974, respectively.

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Paramount previously released the films and bonus content on Blu-ray in 2017 as The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition, and in 2008 as The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration.