‘Rollers’ Coming to Theaters and VOD June 18 From Level 33

The indie comedic drama Rollers will come out in theaters and on VOD June 18 from Level 33 Entertainment.

Written and directed by Isaiah Smallman, the film follows Rufus Paisley, a closet alcoholic with only one thing left to live for, the concert venue Rollers. To keep it alive, he’s drained every ounce of personal capital he’s got. Now the historic venue, once owned by his parents, is in trouble and he’s running out of ways to save it, and himself.

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The film stars Johnny Ray Gill, Kevin Bigley, Kate Cobb, Vicky Jeudy, Joel Allen, Meredith Thomas, Spencer Rayshon Stevenson, Karina Bonnefil, John W. Lawson, Leslie A. Jones, Isaiah Smallman, Courtney Dietz and Grant Withington.

The film features music from Ural Thomas & The Pain, Charles Jones and Barbara Howard.

Mama Bear Studios launched a podcast tracking the making of Rollers, a weekly comedy conversation show hosted by Smallman and Jon Schimpf (an industry insider). The show features interviews with other successful industry players including some of the cast and crew of Rollers.

ROLLERS trailer from Level 33 Entertainment on Vimeo.


‘Boss Baby’ Sequel Coming to Peacock and Theaters on Same Day

The animated sequel The Boss Baby: Family Business will debut on the Peacock streaming service and in theaters on the same day, July 2.

The film, from Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation, will be available to Peacock Premium subscribers, who pay $4.99 a month for the service, at no additional cost. It’s the first time Peacock has had a simultaneous theatrical-streaming release.

Peacock is owned by Universal’s parent company, NBCUniversal.

The film features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Lisa Kudrow, James Marsden and Jeff Goldblum, and follows the Templeton brothers, who have become adults and drifted away from each other. Then, a new boss baby brings them together.

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TV Time: Warner’s ‘Mortal Kombat’ Most Anticipated Movie in April

Warner Bros.’ Mortal Kombat was the most anticipated movie in April on the TV Time chart.

Based on the video game franchise of the same name, the film follows Shaolin Monk Liu Kang, from Earth, who gets invited as a competitor in a mysterious, intergalactic tournament of ancient martial arts. It premieres April 23 in theaters and on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service.

A Whip Media company, TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by nearly 1 million consumers every day, according to the company. TV Time’s “Anticipation Report” is based on data from those users.

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, premiering on Amazon Prime April 30, took the second spot on the chart. The action thriller is based on the 1993 novel of the same name by Tom Clancy and is a spin-off of the Jack Ryan film series.

Coming in at No. 3 was Netflix’s Thunder Force, premiering April 9 on the streaming service. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spenser and Jason Bateman, the film follows two childhood best friends who reunite as an unlikely crime-fighting superhero duo when one invents a formula that gives ordinary people superpowers.

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Also from Netflix, Stowaway, premiering April 22, took the fourth spot on the chart. In the film starring Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, Shamier Anderson and Toni Collette, a three-person crew on a mission to Mars faces an impossible choice when an unplanned passenger jeopardizes the lives of everyone on board.

Another space story, Lionsgate’s Voyagers, landed at No. 5. Starring Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead, the film follows a crew of astronauts on a multi-generational mission who descend into paranoia and madness, not knowing what is real or not. It hits theaters April 9.

Rounding out the chart at No. 6 was Concrete Cowboy, which began streaming on Netflix April 2. Starring Idris Elba and Caleb McLaughlin (“Stranger Things”), it follows a rebellious teen, sent to live with his estranged father for the summer, who finds kinship in a tight-knit Philadelphia community of Black cowboys.

 Most Anticipated April Movies

  1. Mortal Kombat – April 23 (Warner Bros., theaters and HBO Max)
  2. Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse – April 30 (Amazon Prime)
  3. Thunder Force – April 9 (Netflix)
  4. Stowaway – April 22 (Netflix)
  5. Voyagers – April 9 (Lionsgate, theaters)
  6. Concrete Cowboy – April 2 (Netflix)


TV Time features a global community of 16 million users who have reported more than 18 billion views of TV and movie content across 230,000 titles.

Analyst Michael Pachter: Breaking Windows Destroys Value

Michael Pachter thinks the right thing for studios to do after the pandemic subsides is to reopen some windows.

Speaking at a DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group virtual presentation March 24, the Wedbush Securities media analyst said the way for content owners to get the most from their content is to once again have a theatrical window, along with several others in which they can maximize the value of content.

“It is suboptimal if a consumer spends the same amount of money … and subscribes to five services and consumes three times as much content,” he said. “Somebody loses. So the creatives can’t get paid and the publishers of their content can’t get paid if the total pie stays the same and people consume more. So it’s in the best interest of everybody in the value chain to maximize profit, which means theatrical, followed by PVOD or VOD, followed by DVD, and then make the streaming guys wait three years.”

He isn’t keen on the moves by several studios of late to send first-run theatrical releases to their streaming services concurrently with theatrical release, and he thinks it shouldn’t last.

“I think that if the world ever returns to normal, and that’s a 2022 prospect at the earliest, but if the world returns to normal, I think greed is going to thrive,” he said. “I think that the studios are going to maximize the theatrical window again, maybe that’s a 45-day window and not a 70-day window, but you’re going to have [a theatrical window] for a while. You have to remember all the constituencies involved in creating film. Directors like to win Best Director, and actors like to be on ‘The View’ and they like to be on ‘Access Hollywood’ and they like to measure their success in terms of box office. So when you release a movie like Bird Box direct to Netflix, what does everybody get paid? It’s impossible to actually track how much revenue that generated. Ultimately, everybody who works in this industry is motivated by getting paid for their hard work and the best way to get paid is to maximize revenue.”

Disney’s strategy of Premier Access on its streaming service (with an additional fee) for first-run films is a short-term phenomenon, he contended.

“I don’t think they’re going to see any meaningful spike in subscribers, that they are going to abandon this pretty quickly,” he said, noting, “Honestly, nobody is signing up for Disney+ to see Black Widow, period, or Mulan or Raya.”

WarnerMedia’s scheme to send all of its first-run films to its streaming service HBO Max for a year “was an overcommitment,” he said.

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“If you remember a famous HBO product, ‘Game of Thrones,’ we can say, ‘You know nothing, [AT&T CEO] John Stankey,’” Pachter said. “That guy knows nothing about anything. And I’m a big fan of Jason Kilar, and he’s I think in charge of the studio at HBO Max. … My bias is that AT&T bit off way more than they could chew when they bought Time Warner. They’re trying to package HBO Max and sell it and maybe later sell the studio, and I think they’re doing everything they can to make the HBO Max asset worth a lot because they think they’re going to get a Netflix multiple on that, so I think they’re making bad decisions for the creatives and for maximizing profit for the content by shoving it onto HBO Max. I really think that’s where that’s all coming from, but again It’s hard to get in the head of somebody who actually doesn’t know what they’re doing, so it’s hard to second guess. I don’t think the guy knows what he’s doing. I don’t think he has a clue — in way over his head.”

‘Avatar’ Reclaims All-Time Box Office Crown Following Imax China Re-Release

A new generation of Chinese moviegoers this weekend flocked to the virtual world of Pandora, as Imax Corporation generated $6.2 million at the box office with the re-release of James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar, helping it reclaim the all-time box office crown.

Imax theaters captured 30% of the movie’s weekend box office, despite accounting for only 1% of screens in the market. The strong performance helped Avatar once again become the top-grossing theatrical release of all time with more than $2.8 billion in ticket sales. Imax has now earned a lifetime box office of $249.5 million with Avatar, which remains the highest-grossing film in the high-definition 3D format.

“A big-screen sized thank you to Imax for their contribution to the success of Avatar at the box office,” producer Jon Landau said in a statement.

Imax CEO Rich Gelfond says Avatar changed “everything” for the exhibitor’s business model — catapulting brand awareness, notably in China.

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“Yet again, Chinese moviegoers are demonstrating the pent-up demand for theatrical blockbusters that awaits cinemas around the world as they reopen,” Gelfond said.

The original 2010 Imax 3D release of Avatar in China generated $24 million on only 14 screens — a per screen average of $1.7 million — and playing to round-the-clock sold out shows. The film jumpstarted Imax’s ascent to become one of the most recognized entertainment brands in China.

The following year, the exhibitor signed a 75-theater deal with Wanda — at the time the company’s biggest international theater deal ever — and established Imax China as its own wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. Today, China is Imax’s biggest market in terms of theaters with more than 700, and the market accounts for approximately one-third of the company’s annual global box office.

Nine out of the top 10 performing Chinese theaters screening Avatar over the weekend were Imax, and the film is the highest grossing re-release in 3D since Chinese theaters reopened in July.

With this weekend’s re-release, Avatar reclaimed the box office crown it relinquished to Disney/Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Imax holds a piece of the history of both films. Avengers: Endgame continues to hold the record for the biggest opening weekend of any Imax film ever, with $91.5 million worldwide, and was the second Hollywood film ever to be shot entirely with Imax cameras.

The second and third installments of the “Avatar” franchise are currently slated for December 2022 and 2024, respectively.

Starz Inks Multiyear Agreement for Lionsgate and Summit Label Movies

In another nod to over-the-top video distribution, Lionsgate and multiplatform subsidiary Starz March 2 announced the closing of a multiyear exclusive first window output deal for all theatrically released Lionsgate and Summit label movies when current agreements expire at the end of 2021 and end of 2022, respectively.

The agreement will bring to Starz movie franchises such as “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves; Borderlands, based on the best-selling video game franchise, directed by Eli Roth and starring Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jack Black; White Bird: A Wonder Story, featuring Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson in the follow-up to Lionsgate’s box office hit Wonder; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, produced by Oscar winner James L. Brooks and adapted from the Judy Blume classic; and The Hunger Games prequel based on Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Future installments of the “Saw” franchise will also be included under the deal.

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“This agreement is the next logical step in capitalizing on the combination of our two companies,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “It gives our brands and franchises an exciting new platform home, accelerates the convergence of our studio and platform businesses and will support Starz’s continued growth into one of the world’s leading premium subscription platforms.”

With 28 million subscribers, more than half of whom are streaming subscribers, Starz offers more than 7,500 premium TV episodes and feature films, including original series, first-run movies and other programming.  It recently launched #TakeTheLead initiative that spotlights a spectrum of women both in front of and behind the camera for audiences worldwide.

“Combining our strong slate of original programming focused on narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences with Lionsgate’s diverse pipeline of both commercially successful and critically acclaimed franchises further enhances the value proposition we bring to our subscribers and partners,” said Alison Hoffman, President of Domestic Networks for Starz, in a statement.

“Demand for movies has never been greater, and this agreement has significant benefits for our company, our consumers and our partners,” added Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution, in a statement.  “It represents a great opportunity to continue monetizing our robust theatrical slate while supporting the continued strong growth of Starz.”

Thriller Shot in One Take ‘Rendez-Vous’ Due on VOD Feb. 12 From Level 33

The Mexican horror thriller shot in one take, Rendez-Vous, will debut in theaters and on VOD Feb. 12 from Level 33 Entertainment.

The film follows Lili and Eduardo, who meet for the first time after connecting on a dating app. Eduardo arrives late but with a good reason in a place like Mexico City: he was mugged, and they took his phone so he couldn’t text her to say he was running late. While at first everything seems to be going fine, when Lili finds Eduardo’s phone in his jacket, things take an unexpected and terrifying turn for the worse.

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The film won multiple festival awards, including honors for Best First Time Director at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival and for Best Mexican Feature Film at the Espanto International Film Festival.

Liam Neeson Continues Pandemic Box Office Run with ‘The Marksman’

Open Road’s The Marksman topped Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984 at domestic box office Jan. 15-17 with an estimated $3.7 million in ticket sales across 1,975 screens. The movie starring Liam Neeson is the second Open Road feature film after last October’s Honest Thief released theatrically during the ongoing pandemic that has resonated with consumers willing to frequent the box office.

Thief generated $14.1 million in the United States; $28.3 million worldwide before being released into on DVD/Blu-ray Disc by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on Dec. 29.

WW84 ended its run atop the box office with $2.6 million in the No. 2 spot. The DC superhero movie starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig, has generated $35.8 million at the domestic box office since its Christmas Day debut; $141.7 million worldwide. It was released concurrently on streaming video service HBO Max.

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Ongoing pandemic hit The Croods: A New Age actually gained box office revenue from the previous week with more than $2 million to finish No. 2. The Universal/DreamWorks Animation title has generated $130 million at the global box office and is slated to bow on disc Feb. 23.

Rounding out the estimated $10.3 million weekend box office includes the usual run of titles including Tom Hanks western News of the World with $1 million ($8.5 million total); Screen Gems’ Monster Hunter with $920,000 ($16 million global); Lionsgate’s Fatale ($500,000; $8.4 million); Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman ($410,000; $4.1 million); 101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa ($182,000; $34 million); Roadside Attraction’s Pinocchio ($149,000; $21.9 million) and Walt Disney Studios’ re-release of The Emperor’s New Groove with $173,000.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Tops $100 Million Global Box Office

Entering the New Year’s Day weekend, Warner Bros. Pictures DC superhero movie Wonder Woman 1984 has reportedly topped $100 million at the worldwide box office, the studio disclosed on New Years Eve. WW84 generated $16.7 million on its opening Christmas Day weekend debut in the U.S. — the same day WarnerMedia made the movie available on the HBO Max streaming video platform.

The sequel to the 2017 Wonder Woman generated $85 million globally through Dec. 27, including $23.9 million in revenue in China, where the movie starring Gal Gadot in the title role first opened.

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“Congratulations to Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Chuck Roven and the entire cast and crew who made Wonder Woman 1984, allowing fans and film lovers to return to the thrilling experience of being at the movies,” Jeff Goldstein, president of Warner Bros. Distribution, and Andrew Cripps, president of International Distribution, said in a joint statement.

Earlier this week, Warner announced it had fast-tracked development on the third installment of the Wonder Woman franchise to be written by Patty Jenkins, who is again attached to direct the third installment.

Top 10 of 2020: The Biggest Home Entertainment News Stories

With the coronavirus pandemic raging, the big Hollywood movie studios made unprecedented changes in their film-release strategies in 2020, rushing top-tier titles into the home and boosting new and existing streaming services.

It truly was a year like no other.

Here are the top 10 home entertainment news stories of 2020 as chosen by the Media Play News editorial staff.

1. Blockbusters Enter the Stream: With movies theaters shuttered during the pandemic, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros. took the unprecedented move to send top tier theatrical releases to their sister streaming services.

First, Walt Disney Studios offered the live-action blockbuster Mulan exclusively to Disney+ subscribers over the Labor Day weekend as a $29.99 add-on to unlock access to the movie months before its regular availability — marking Disney’s first-ever Premier Access (PVOD) release and a sea change in studio window strategy. The studio defended the decision — which was followed by sending Pixar Animation’s Soul to the Disney+ streaming service, this time at no additional cost, on Christmas — as a reality of the times. “We thought it was a really nice gesture to our subscribers during the holiday period to provide [Soul] as part of the service,” said Disney CEO Bob Chapek. “I think what we’ve learned with Mulan is that there’s going to be a role for [PVOD] strategically with our portfolio of offerings.”

After debuting such top-tier titles as Roald Dahl’s The Witches on its new streaming service HBO Max, WarnerMedia in December shocked the industry by announcing that the streaming service would offer subscribers free access to all Warner Bros. theatrical releases through 2021 concurrently with their box office debut.  The new strategy rankled exhibitors and creators, while offering moviegoers an alternative to the cineplex during the pandemic. The studio bowed Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max and in theaters Christmas day. Notably, WW84 posted the largest opening weekend domestic box office during the pandemic with $16.7 million — driven in part by 10,000 watch parties, or small groups renting out theaters for private screenings.

2. HBO Max Debuts: WarnerMedia in May launched its much-anticipated HBO Max subscription streaming service at $14.99 per month — the most-expensive SVOD platform on the market — with several glaring problems. The platform, which promised an ad-supported edition in 2021, bowed without consumer access via the Roku or Amazon Fire TV platforms (reportedly representing 70% of Internet access), which contributed to stalling the Max sub growth out of the gate. The fact that existing services HBO Go and HBO Now were also still available didn’t help matters, confusing consumers about what they were actually getting with an HBO Max subscription. (Both were mercifully laid to rest two months after HBO Max’s launch.) WarnerMedia eventually inked distribution deals with Roku and Amazon, helping it generate 38.6 million combined HBO/HBO Max subscribers through Sept. 30.

3. Peacock Launches: NBCUniversal April 15 launched its own streaming video platform, Peacock, the media giant’s first over-the-top video platform and an SVOD service with an ad-supported option. The company initially made the premium service available at no cost to Comcast’s X1 and Flex (Internet-only) customers before rolling it out nationally in July. It quickly generated 20 million subscribers. To boost the offering, NBCUniversal wrestled away exclusive streaming rights to the popular comedy series “The Office” from Netflix. The series, to begin streaming in a tiered plan on Peacock Jan. 1, 2021, had been a longtime draw for Netflix.

4. TVOD Has Its Moment: After it and other studios rushed titles to early digital release during the pandemic, Universal Pictures made the bold move to drop Trolls World Tour from its theatrical slate to distribute the animated sequel directly to consumers in April via premium VOD. The strategy generated $100 million in revenue in 28 days and helped revive the PVOD business model — and the transactional VOD business at large — as other studios soon joined suit by rushing titles to PVOD. Soon, titles that might have topped the box office were heading up the charts of such transactional services as Redbox On Demand, FandangoNow and Vudu.  The latter two TVOD services in April became sister services when NBCUniversal’s Fandango acquired the 10-year-old Vudu from Walmart.

“All the press is about SVOD and AVOD services, ad-supported or subscription, but transactional sort of quietly had a moment in 2020,” said Fandango VP of home entertainment Cameron Douglas during a November panel.

5. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em … : In a peace offering to theater chains, Universal Pictures inked pacts with AMC Theatres and Cinemark affording the studio early PVOD access for select theatrical releases in exchange for splitting the home entertainment revenue with exhibitors. Universal and subsidiary Focus Features picked up the right to offer consumers PVOD access to movies with less than $50 million in domestic opening weekend ticket sales. Under the pact, movies with a higher box office could be released on PVOD 31 days after their theatrical bow. As a result, Universal maintained a steady year-end theatrical slate, spearheaded by The Croods: A New Age, Freaky and News of the World, among other titles.

6. Hail to New Chiefs: In February, former Disney home entertainment head Bob Chapek was named CEO of The Walt Disney Co., with previous boss Bob Iger assuming executive chairman duties. Chapek, who most recently headed Disney’s Parks & Recreation unit, said he was well-suited directing Disney’s renewed focus on direct-to-consumer business.

In another big studio shift, ex-Hulu boss Jason Kilar became CEO of WarnerMedia in the spring and proceeded to announce layoffs — among them longtime executive Ron Sanders — and other shifts to refocus the studio on streaming.

Meanwhile, Netflix in July announced that 20-year veteran and chief creative officer Ted Sarandos would share co-CEO duties with co-founder/co-CEO Reed Hastings. The move appeared to signal a reduction in executive duties and possible retirement for Hastings, who quickly downplayed the shared corporate duties as a strategic maneuver. “Let me be really clear: I’m in for a [another] decade,” Hastings said.

7. Movie Theaters Face Existential Crisis: Movie theaters worldwide shuttered in mid-March due to the expanding coronavirus pandemic. The situation caused havoc for exhibitors, with the world’s largest, AMC Theatres, struggling to remain solvent and later opening some theaters with limited seating and strict safety protocols. Indeed, No. 2 exhibitor Regal Cinemas threw in the towel in the fall, remaining closed indefinitely. Meanwhile, studios shifted blockbuster movies online, a further blow to the exhibition business.

8. AVOD Marches on: Ad-supported VOD upped its growth trajectory with Pluto TV (owned by Viacom) and Tubi (acquired in March by Fox Corp.) expanding distribution worldwide — the latter with first-run Fox Entertainment programming such as “The Masked Singer,” among other programs. Redbox increased its digital presence, launching an ad-supported VOD platform called Redbox Free On Demand.

9. Catalog in the Spotlight: Catalog titles topped the charts on disc and digital as the new-release pipeline slowed due to the coronavirus. Studios polished catalog titles for 4K Ultra HD release, such as Paramount’s Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, Sony’s six-film “Resident Evil” collection, and Warner’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies. With the pandemic raging, resonating and topical titles such as Sony’s Groundhog Day and Warner’s Contagion caught on with consumers. “It’s uncanny how it kind of mimics what’s going on in the real world today,” Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Games, said of Contagion.

10. Streaming Short Timer: It wasn’t all good news for digital delivery. Quibi, the $1.7 billion mobile device-centric, short form-content video streaming service, announced just six months after starting operations that it was shuttering. Launched by DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman, in the end Quibi reportedly had fewer than 1 million subscribers willing to pay $4.99 monthly for ad-supported content no longer than 10 minutes.