Gravitas Ventures Acquires ‘Queen Bees,’ Coming to Theaters and On Demand June 11

Gravitas Ventures has acquired North American rights from Arclight Films to distribute the dramatic comedy Queen Bees. The film will come out in theaters and on demand June 11.

The Astute Films production, directed by Michael Lembeck, stars Ellen Burstyn, James Caan, Ann-Margret, Jane Curtin, Christopher Lloyd, Loretta Devine, Elizabeth Mitchell and French Stewart.

In the film, while her house undergoes repairs, a fiercely independent senior Helen (Burstyn) moves into a nearby retirement community — just temporarily. Once behind the doors of Pine Grove Senior Community, she encounters lusty widows, cutthroat bridge tournaments and a hotbed of bullying “mean girls” the likes of which she hasn’t encountered since high school, all of which leaves her yearning for the solitude of home. But somewhere between flower arranging and water aerobics Helen discovers that it’s never too late to make new friends and perhaps even find a new love.

A heartwarming and humorous look at life’s second act, Queen Bees (previously known as At Last) is inspired by the true story of producer Harrison Powell’s own grandmother’s second chance at love after moving into a retirement community as a widow.

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“As a witness to the joy that finding love at 80 can bring, we knew it was a film we wanted to make and the amazing cast really brought it to life,” producer Dominique Telson said in a statement.

Queen Bees is a feast for the heart,” Arclight Films’ chairman Gary Hamilton said in a statement. “The astounding performances of Ellen Burstyn, James Caan and the rest of the star cast make us laugh and feel good. Michael did an extraordinary job in making this a film for all ages united by the universal topic of love. We trust this gem in the hands of our longtime valued friends at Gravitas Ventures and are certain that with them, this diamond will shine and bring joy to domestic audiences.”

“Michael’s film is the breath of fresh air audiences need right now, a hilarious and life-affirming story with excellent performances from an iconic cast. We look forward to presenting the film to North American audiences,” Tony Piantedosi, VP of acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures, said in a statement.

Survey: More Than Two-Thirds of Americans Would Prefer to Watch First-Run Movies at Home After Pandemic

A December survey of American consumers found 67% would prefer to watch recently released movies at home after the pandemic instead of going to the movie theater.

Meanwhile, 12% said they would prefer to watch recently released movies in the theater, according to the Savanta survey of 500 Americans.

Half (50%) said they are likely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform, but about one-third (32%) said they are not likely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform (17% said they are neither likely nor unlikely to pay to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform).

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The survey found respondents are willing to pay on average of $14 to watch a recently released movie on a streaming platform — with 46% willing to pay less than $10, 30% willing to pay $10 to $19, 15% willing to pay $20 to $30, and 8% willing to pay more than $31.

Half said they weren’t sure when they would return to a movie theater. Meanwhile, 17% think they would go to a movie theater in the next six months, 13% think they would go to a movie theater within the next month, 11% think they would go to a movie theater within the next two-three months, and 8% think they would go to a movie theater within the next four to five months.

Savanta is a New York-based research and advisory firm.

HBO Max Saw Strong ‘WW84’ Streaming Response

Simultaneous access to the box office debut of Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max proved a success for WarnerMedia, which turned Hollywood on its ear earlier this year when it announced it would release its entire 2021 theatrical slate in theaters and on Max at the same time.

On Max, anticipation for Wonder Woman 1984 was apparent, with nearly half of the platform’s retail subscribers viewing the film on the day of its arrival, along with millions of wholesale subscribers who have access to HBO Max via a cable, wireless, or other partner services. Combined HBO and Max subscribers topped 38 million at the end of the most-recent fiscal quarter. Max also saw the total viewing hours on Christmas Day more than triple in comparison to a typical day in the previous month.

The consumer response was noteworthy considering Max is the most-expensive SVOD platform on the market at $14.99 monthly — double the price of Disney+.

Wonder Woman 1984 broke records and exceeded our expectations across all of our key viewing and subscriber metrics in its first 24 hours on the service, and the interest and momentum we’re seeing indicates this will likely continue well beyond the weekend,” Andy Forssell, EVP and GM, WarnerMedia Direct-to-Consumer, said in a statement. “During these very difficult times, it was nice to give families the option of enjoying this uplifting film at home, where theater viewing wasn’t an option.”

Movie Theater Stocks Take Pre-Market ‘Wonder Woman’ Bounce

With the relative release success of Wonder Woman 1984 suggesting consumers are willing to return to movie theaters during the pandemic, stocks of the publicly traded exhibitors inched higher in Dec. 28 pre-market trading.

Shares of AMC Entertainment and Cinemark Holdings, representing the No. 1 and No. 3 theatrical chains in the U.S., climbed 5.6% and 1.8%, respectively. No. 2 exhibitor Regal Cinemas remains temporarily shuttered. Separately, EPR Properties, landlord to many movie complexes, saw shares inch up 0.7%.

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In addition, Cinedigm, which has been looking to offload its digital projection business, saw shares increase 2.2% following the WW84 weekend.

The uptick comes as the exhibition business reels from the ongoing pandemic that has seen theatrical revenue plummet 80% heading into the Wonder Woman 1984 holiday weekend. AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor has been operating on the edge of bankruptcy, with cash reserves expected to run out in January without an uptick to business or outside funding.

Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley Securities, said the relative early box office success of WW84, driven by more than 10,000 private watch parties, underscores the appeal of large screen exhibitions for the right movie.

“When consumers are allowed back to theaters with attractive content, they will once again become moviegoers,” Wold wrote.

Shawn Robbins, analyst at Boxoffice Pro, said that with WarnerMedia’s decision to release WW84 on HBO Max simultaneously with its theatrical debut, the jury remains out on the strategy’s impact on Hollywood and exhibitors.

“We’ll have to continue waiting until next year to truly gauge how studios feel about this strategy and for how much longer they’ll deem it necessary,” Robbins told Bloomberg. “This film alone may not be a great barometer to go by.”

Number of Movies Seen in Theaters by Americans Fell by Two-Thirds Due to Pandemic

COVID-19 has indeed hit theaters hard, according to data from Interpret.

The number of movies seen theatrically by Americans plunged by two-thirds from the second quarter of 2019 to the same quarter of 2020, according to Interpret’s New Media Measure.

Year-over-year, comparing Q2 2019 with Q2 2020, the study found a 66% plummet in the number of movies seen theatrically per quarter by Americans ages 13 to 65. On average, Americans were seeing six movies in theaters per year before the pandemic, dropping to just two in 2020, according to the data.

“For many years, there has been this push and pull between studios and theater owners regarding the length of the theatrical release window,” Interpret VP Brett Sappington said in a statement, citing the move by Warner to put all new theatrical releases on its streaming service HBO Max concurrent with their bow in theaters. “Theater owners need adequate time with Hollywood’s newest releases to fill theaters. Studios want to experiment with distribution to be relevant to the newest generations of viewers. COVID has forced an evolution that will affect movie distribution well into the future.”

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Disney Launching ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ in Theaters and Disney+ Next March

Disney will launch the feature film Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on the Disney+ SVOD platform in March 2021. It marks the first time Disney is launching a new theatrical release on its branded streaming platform and in theaters concurrently.

It will be available on Disney+ as a Premier Access add-on for $29.99.

The company previously moved the live-action Mulan remake from its theatrical slate and into the home via premium VOD over the Labor Day weekend. Pending theatrical release Soul is now bowing on Disney+ on Christmas Day.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a computer-animated adventure fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, the film is produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho and was written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim. The film features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran as the lead character, Raya, and Awkwafina as Sisu, the last dragon.

According to the Disney website, “Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world — it’s going to take trust as well.”

AMC Announces Private Theater Rentals for as Low as $99

As the pandemic keeps movie theater attendance low, AMC Entertainment has announced the official launch of private theater rentals for as low as $99 for up to 20 people.

The rentals are accessible through an automated booking and purchase system on the AMC website and mobile app. The launch comes four weeks after the initial beta launch of the product, which resulted in 110,000 inquiries around the country, dwarfing the total number of AMC’s private theater rentals in all of 2019 (26,000) by more than four times, according to AMC.

Guests can book a private showing at amctheatres.com/rentals or by updating and using the AMC Theatres mobile app. They select a movie that’s playing in their local theater, the time and date of their requested showtime, confirm and checkout. Rentals must be made at least one day in advance and are subject to availability at the theater.

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New releases, such as Tenet, The War With Grandpa and Freaky, are available starting at $149 plus tax, up to $349 plus tax, depending on location and theater. The rental charge covers the cost of up to 20 tickets, and there is no additional required charge or minimum food and beverage charge as part of the rental. Outside food and drink may not be brought into the screening.

AMC Safe & Clean policies and protocols include mandatory mask wearing and appropriate social distancing within the auditorium. In addition, AMC abides by all state and local directives regarding movie theater operations, and in rare cases, the total allowed guest count may be less than 20 to comply with state and local directives.

“The results and feedback from our guests about AMC Safe & Clean have been overwhelmingly positive, and private theater rentals at AMC provides an additional layer of safety and security to those moviegoers who are looking to see movies with just their family members and friends,” Elizabeth Frank, EVP of worldwide programming and chief content officer, said in a statement. “It’s unprecedented for AMC to receive 110,000 contacts in four weeks about a private theater rental, based only on word of mouth and organic publicity, and we are excited about and appreciative of the interest this has sparked among AMC guests.”

Alamo Drafthouse Renting Entire Theaters for $150

As the movie theater industry continues to suffer during the pandemic, Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse is allowing customers to rent out entire theaters for $150.

Renters must buy tickets (or have friends and family buy them) and buy a minimum of $150 in food and drinks (no outside food).

Renters must pick from a list of movies that include new releases, such as Tenet (at select theaters), and older movies such as Jurassic Park, The Matrix and Wonder Woman.

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“When we began rolling out Your Own Private Alamo in select Alamo Drafthouse locations in August, we had no idea what the response would be,” reads the Alamo website. “It was big. Really big. In just the past few weeks we’ve hosted over 700 groups of families and coworkers at just a handful of theaters. And now we’re excited to expand to even more locations and, for the first time, open up the ability to book new release titles like Christopher Nolan’s epic Tenet.”

Windows Are Closing

Several “captains” in this month’s Women in Home Entertainment section noted that one of the long-term effects of the pandemic may be a change in how entertainment is distributed to consumers.

Indeed, we’ve already seen the beginnings of that dramatic shift in content windowing with premium VOD releases such as Trolls World Tour and Scoob!, which went directly into homes as theaters were shuttered. On the heels of those developments, theater chain AMC bowed to the changing times, making a shortened window deal with Universal Pictures. The deal allows Universal to distribute titles on PVOD as few as 17 days after they bow in AMC Theatres, which will receive a cut of the PVOD revenue.

The imprimatur of a theatrical release will certainly take a hit as more quality titles rush into the home window, and the pandemic may forever change how consumers view the home market. The quality of content on TV and from SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had already boosted the allure of watching at home, and the closing theatrical window will likely do the same.

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The home entertainment market has had to adapt to numerous distribution models, from video rental stores to sellthrough at mass merchants to VOD. The market has also undergone numerous format changes, from Betamax to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to 4K Ultra HD to digital. Now, it seems, the theatrical marketplace is being forced to adapt, too.

“There will have to be a descreening [in the theatrical business],” noted Michael Nathanson, of research firm MoffettNathanson, in a DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group presentation Aug. 20.

“We are the most overscreened countries in the world, the U.S. and Canada,” he added.

Meanwhile, AMC’s if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them deal with Universal “shocked” and “puzzled” his team, Nathanson said.

“We think it’s a very dangerous precedent,” he said, adding it is “a bad outcome for theaters.”

“At the end of the day, the theatrical business will be one of blockbusters,” he said.

Meanwhile, PVOD will only gain, with a 17- to 30-day window established and Disney, Universal and Warner leading the charge, he said.

“I think PVOD just becomes the way of the world,” he said.

Atom Tickets Survey: Three-Quarters of U.S. Moviegoers Ready to Return to Theaters in a Month

Moviegoers are more eager to return to theaters than they were back in May, according to a new Aug. 17 “Return to Moviegoing” survey from ticketing service Atom Tickets.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers said they were ready to return to theaters within one month and 40% said they are ready to return to theaters immediately, up from 59% and 25% respectively, in a May survey. On the flipside, only 0.8% said they never plan to return to theaters and 15% said they would wait until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus, down from 21% in May.

The August survey received more than 16,000 U.S. digital moviegoer responses, according to Atom.

When asked to identify the most important safety measure to make them feel confident about going back to a movie theater, having spaced seating in the theater auditorium remained the most critical safety feature with 34% saying this was a key condition. The next most critical safety measure noted by moviegoers was staff and guests wearing masks at 30%, more than doubling in importance from Atom’s May survey (14%) and rising in importance over heightened theater cleaning procedures at 13% (down from 21% in May). Of note, 85% of August moviegoers surveyed said that they plan on wearing a mask even if it is not required by the theater or local government.

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The contactless trend that’s surging in the food and retail industries continues to be top-of-mind for moviegoers, with 87% of moviegoers surveyed in August saying that purchasing digital tickets from their own device and eliminating the need to interact with a cashier is an important safety measure, relatively flat with May findings (88%). Concessions may also look different in a post-COVID world, with customers leaning into ordering ahead and picking up their items instead of waiting in lines and being served directly over the counter. Of those who had never pre-ordered movie theater concessions, 68% said they are now likely to try it (up from 61% in May). Among those that had previously preordered their movie snacks, 90% said they would do it again.

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“We’re encouraged by this new survey and believe it’s a good sign for the movie industry. Our data also showed that eagerness to return to the movies has more to do with how often you went to the movies before the pandemic rather than by age or region,” Matthew Bakal, chairman and co-founder of Atom Tickets, said in a statement. “I’m pleased to see the heightened interest in safety measures including pre-ordering tickets and concessions. We know people want to enjoy the movies together with friends and family and will do so responsibly.”

The survey also revealed new films will get most moviegoers to return to the big screen, with 49% of those surveyed saying they would rather wait for new movies to be released before returning versus 35% who said they would return to cinemas to see re-releases of classic movies. Also, according to the survey, the 2020 films that moviegoers were most excited to see on the big screen were Black WidowWonder Woman 1984 and the “James Bond” movie No Time to Die. For 2021, moviegoers were eager to see The Eternals from Marvel Studios, The Batman and Jurassic World: Dominion.

Complementing new safety and cleaning guidelines by movie theaters, Atom has launched new buffered seating maps and Safety Guidelines on their app and website.