More Layoffs This Week as Disney Integration of Fox Continues

A second round of layoffs is reportedly rocking the Walt Disney Co. this week as the studio continues to integrate the 20th Century Fox film organization it officially acquired March 20.

The layoffs, initially reported by Variety and then by the Los Angeles Times, are expected to hit hardest in the former Fox motion picture division, in distribution and marketing.

The first round of layoffs occurred in late March, a few days after the $71.3 billion acquisition closed, when some two dozen executives were let go, including Mike Dunn, the longtime head of the home video unit.

At the time insiders told Media Play News that the layoffs were progressing from the top down, and that a total of about 4,000 people would ultimately lose their jobs.

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On the home entertainment front, sources say that Janice Marinelli, who in December was promoted to president, global content sales and distribution at Disney, has in recent weeks opened an office at Fox. Other than that, sources say, it’s been business as usual in the home entertainment organization, with marketers and publicists continuing to prep for the home release of films such as The Aftermath, whose home release days were announced last Monday.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios last week announced its upcoming release slate, with an integrated schedule of Disney and Fox films.

The Walt Disney Studios 2019 summer slate includes Disney’s Aladdin on May 24, Fox’s Dark Phoenix on June 7, Pixar’s Toy Story 4 on June 21, Fox’s Stuber on July 12, and Disney’s The Lion King on July 19.

Fox 2000’s The Art of Racing in the Rain moves up to Aug. 9, and Fox Searchlight’s Ready or Not will debut on the big screen Aug. 23. Three other films have been moved to later dates: Ad Astra, Sept. 20; The New Mutants, April 3, 2020; and Artemis Fowl, May 29, 2020.

The 2019 slate rounds out with Fox’s The Woman in the Window Oct. 4 and Ford V. Ferrari Nov. 15, Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Oct. 18 and Disney Animation’s Frozen 2 Nov. 22, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Dec. 20, and Blue Sky Studios’ Spies in Disguise, moving from September to Christmas.

Among early 2020 titles are Fox’s Underwater Jan. 10, a new Kingsman movie Feb. 14, and Call of the Wild Feb. 21, followed by Pixar’s Onward March 6 and Disney’s Mulan March 27.

The updated calendar also sets release dates for new installments in the franchises “Avatar” and “Star Wars.” With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker bringing the original “Skywalker Saga” to its conclusion, three new as-yet-untitled “Star Wars” films will come out on the pre-Christmas weekend every other year beginning in 2022.

Four new “Avatar” films will bow theatrically on the pre-Christmas weekend every other year beginning in 2021.

Disney+ Is a Safe-Cracker

Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger’s announcement that the studio would abandon its long-standing “vault” strategy for its upcoming subscription streaming service is perhaps one of the most shocking shifts in an industry rocked by change.

At the March 7 shareholder meeting in St. Louis, he said that the studio would pull movies from its vault and offer them all on the pending Disney+ service.

“At some point fairly soon after launching, [Disney+] will house the entire Disney motion picture library,” Iger said. “So, movies that have traditionally been kept in the vault, and basically been brought out every few years, will be on the [streaming] service.”

The vault strategy, exploited by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment for decades, involved putting select movies, mostly animated classics such as BambiThe Lion King, and The Little Mermaid, on retail moratorium for several years to wait for a new crop of children to come along. Oft termed “treasures” or “platinum” or “gold” editions when they emerged after seven years or so for a re-release, they were snapped up at $20 to $30 apiece by eager parents, purchases made all the more urgent by the studio warning that they would soon go back into the vault. When these classic films came out, often in a new format, they shot to the top of the sales charts.

It took the digital entertainment revolution to finally crack the Disney vault — but is it a heist? If enough subscribers sign on to Disney+ at a high enough subscription price, offering a panoply of content may be a lucrative investment, but it could also devalue some of the studio’s most valuable jewels.

Movies Anywhere Celebrates First Birthday With 6 Million Users and 150 Million Movies Collected

Movies Anywhere, the cloud-based digital movie library service backed by most of the major studios, is celebrating its first birthday with 6 million registered users, 150 million movies collected and more than 1 billion minutes viewed.

To mark its first year, for a limited period, fans who sync for the first time with one digital retailer will receive a copy of Happy Feet. Those who sync for the first time with two digital retailers also receive The Martian and The Fate of the Furious.

“This has been a very exciting first year of growth and immersive engagement for Movies Anywhere,” said Karin Gilford, GM, Movies Anywhere. “Our users are among the most passionate and engaged movie fans, so it’s been incredibly rewarding to see them embrace and value our product in such a positive way.  We look forward to further evolving and enhancing the Movies Anywhere experience in the upcoming year.”

The service, which allows consumers to access their digital movie purchases in one place with one password, is backed by five Hollywood studios and six digital retailers. Studios include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures (including Focus Features, DreamWorks and Illumination Entertainment), The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm) and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers are iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV and FandangoNow.

Other first-year milestones for the service include:

  • Fans have streamed more than 35 million movies on more than 100 different devices;
  • 95 percent of users reported high levels of satisfaction with the app, according to an August 2018 Futuresource report; and
  • The service was nominated for “Fan Favorite App” in the Google Play Best of 2018 Awards.

 

The digital movie sales and rights-locker storage service launched last October with support from five of the six major studios, four of the biggest online retailers, and an opening library of more than 7,300 movies. Over the past year the service has grown to more than 7,500 movies and has added FandangoNow and Microsoft Movies & TV to its digital retailer lineup. Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are not part of the service, which also does not feature television programming.

Digital purchases of movies, TV shows and other filmed content, known in the industry as “electronic sellthrough,” or EST, rose 18% in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in the year prior, a significant uptick from the single-digit gains posted in prior years, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. Industry observers attribute at least some of the gain to the rising popularity of Movies Anywhere platform.

 

Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ Coming to Disc and Digital Nov. 6

The family film Christopher Robin will come out on digital (including Movies Anywhere) and on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 6 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

In the live-action adventure, A.A. Milne’s characters from the Hundred Acre Wood — Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl —venture into mid-century London to help grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and remind him to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.

The film made $98.3 million in theaters.

Bonus features on Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD and digital) and digital include: “In Which … A Movie Is Made for Pooh ,” a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie; “In Which … Pooh Finds His Voice,” featuring voice actors; “In Which … Pooh and Walt Become Friends,”  exploring the legacy of Walt Disney’s first encounter with Pooh; and “In Which … Pooh and Friends Come to Life,” about the special effects of bringing the stuffed characters to life. The digital release includes the exclusive bonus feature, “In Which … We Were Very Young,” about the original teddy bear given to Christopher Robin Milne 98 years ago. Bonus features may vary by retailer.

Disney Releasing 25th Anniversary Blu-rays for ‘Nightmare Before Christmas,’ ‘Hocus Pocus’ Sept. 2

Walt Disney Studios will celebrate the 25th anniversary of two of its popular Halloween-themed titles with new Blu-ray and digital (including Movies Anywhere) releases of Hocus Pocus and The Nightmare Before Christmas Sept. 2.

Produced by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animated musical-fantasy that follows Pumpkin King Jack Skellington’s misguided mission to make Yuletide his own.

The release includes a new sing-along mode version, which includes pop-up lyrics to 11 songs, as well as the original film.

Bonus features (may vary by retailer) on Blu-ray and digital include song selection; six making-of featurettes; deleted storyboards; deleted animated sequences; Burton’s early short film “Frankenweenie”; a tour of Jack’s Haunted Mansion, transformed by Disney Imagineers for Disneyland; Burton’s original poem that inspired the movie narrated by Christopher Lee and set over illustrations based on Burton’s art; storyboard-to-film comparison; the theatrical trailer; and the teaser trailer.

Bonus features exclusive to the Blu-ray include Burton’s early film Vincent, narrated by Vincent Price, and a view of the promotional posters from the movie’s release.

Hocus Pocus stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three 17th century witches who are accidentally brought to the 20th century.

The Blu-ray includes the original theatrical film and the “We Love Hocus Pocus: Trivia and Treats Edition,” featuring pop-up factoids, trivia, deleted scenes, concept art, filmmaker commentary and behind-the-scenes secrets. The Blu-ray also includes the original 1993 production featurette.

‘Freaky Friday: A New Musical’ Due on DVD Sept. 25 From Disney

Freaky Friday: A New Musical, which premieres on the Disney Channel Aug. 10, will come out on DVD Sept. 25 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

Based on Disney Theatrical Productions’ stage adaptation of the novel by Mary Rodgers, the musical stars Cozi Zuehlsdorff as 16-year-old Ellie Blake and Heidi Blickenstaff as her uber-organized mom Katherine. Mother and daughter are constantly at odds. During a quarrel, they accidentally break the hourglass given to Ellie by her deceased father and magically switch bodies.

Bonus Material on the DVD includes blooper reels, deleted scenes and audition tapes for the two leads.

Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Coming May 29 on Digital, June 5 on Disc

A Wrinkle in Time, starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling and directed by Ava DuVernay, will come out May 29 on Digital HD, 4K Ultra HD and Movies Anywhere and June 5 on Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD and On-Demand from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.

The film has earned $93.7 million in theaters.

Based on Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Medal-winning young adult novel, the story follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid) who — with the help of Mrs. Which (Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Kaling) — journeys across dimensions with classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) and younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) in search of her father (Chris Pine), a world-renowned physicist who mysteriously disappeared four years ago.

Bonus material includes an extended featurette providing inside access to the cast and crew; audio commentary from DuVernay and team; deleted scenes; bloopers; and two music videos, “I Believe,” performed by DJ Khaled and Demi Lovato, and “Warrior,” performed by Chloe x Halle.

Disney Files Amended Redbox Complaint

The Walt Disney Co. and subsidiaries Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios have filed an amended complaint against Redbox, claiming the kiosk vendor infringes copyright law by selling digital codes to its movies.

The complaint, filed April 9 in U.S. District in Los Angeles, alleges Redbox continues to sell separately digital codes included in Disney movie “combo packs,” featuring the DVD, Blu-ray and/or 4K/UHD disc to a particular title.

Disney claims Redbox sells the codes without authorization and in violation of applicable license agreements included in writing with every packaged media release.

“Redbox will continue to knowingly and materially contribute to the infringement of the copyrighted works unless and until ordered to stop doing so,” read the complaint.

The media company last November filed suit against Redbox, seeking to prohibit it from selling codes to titles such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Moana at a discount to what digital copies sell for on Amazon or iTunes.

A planned hearing scheduled last month on a motion by Redbox to dismiss the lawsuit was postponed.

Disney contends Redbox sells codes to the following titles: Coco (2017), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), Beauty and the Beast (2017), Finding Dory (2016), The Jungle Book (2016), Moana (2016), and Inside Out (2015).

Lucasfilm titles include Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015).

Marvel copyrights include Doctor Strange (2017), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), and Iron Man 3 (2013).

More importantly, Marvel’s Black Panther, the top box office movie of the year, is slated to release into retail channels shortly.

Disney now wants to jumpstart legal proceedings.

“The obvious consequence of Redbox undercutting of licensee prices is that licensees will likely sell fewer digital downloads of Disney movies and Disney will earn less revenue,” Janice Marinelli, president of Disney/ABC Home Entertainment, said in the compliant.

A Redbox representative was not immediately available for comment.

Movies Anywhere Offers Music-Only Version of ‘Last Jedi’

A score-only version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi with an audio track that isolates composer John Williams’ music is available exclusively on Movies Anywhere for a limited time to those who link a digital purchase of the film to the service.

The Lucasfilm blockbuster distributed by Walt Disney Studios debuted on digital March 13 and arrives on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray March 27.

Movies Anywhere March 12 added FandangoNow to its list of retail partners, which also include Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Walmart-owned Vudu. The digital movie rights locker service features content from Disney, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.

Apple, Disney and YouTube Top Millennial Brands in New Report

Apple, Disney and YouTube, respectively, ranked as the top three most “intimate” brands among millennials, according to MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2018 Report, which is the largest study of brands based on emotions. Brand intimacy leverages and strengthens the emotional bonds between a person and a brand.

“We were surprised and pleased to see YouTube as an addition to the top three most intimate brands for millennials this year,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner, MBLM. “We believe its rise is due to our culture’s continued need for escape and the brand’s immediate, diverse content, personalities and growing offerings in movies and live TV. YouTube is clearly an established ritual in the lives of many millennials today.”

By comparison, in MBLM’s 2017 report, Disney placed first, followed by Amazon and Netflix.

The other brands that rounded out the top 10 were Target, Amazon, Nintendo, Google, Xbox, Netflix and Whole Foods.

The age group of 18-24-year-olds had a slightly different mix of top companies. The top 10 for that group were Apple, Amazon, YouTube, PlayStation, Starbucks, Nintendo, Google, Netflix, Coca Cola and Walmart.

The report analyzed the responses of 6,000 consumers and 54,000 brand evaluations across 15 industries in the United States, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. The full report will be released on March 13, 2018.