‘The Marksman’ Continues Pandemic Box Office Ride as Studios Further Delay Theatrical Releases

Open Road Films’ The Marksman maintained its second consecutive weekend atop the pandemic domestic box office, taking in an estimated $2 million across more than 2,000 screens. The Liam Neeson drama dropped about 35% from its $4 million debut over the previous Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

While the usual list of Universal/Focus Features titles filled out the majority of Top 10 theatrical releases, led by The Croods: A New Age ($1.82 million across 1,800+ screens), the weekend headlines had more to do with Hollywood studios further pushing back major Q1 theatrical releases to later in the year.

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With about 3,000 COVID-19 related daily deaths and almost 200,000 new infections, according  to Johns Hopkins University data, studios realize any influx of moviegoers will still be tempered even as a vaccines roll out nationwide.

Universal/MGM announced they would now release Daniel Craig’s last James Bond role, No Time to Die, to Oct. 8, while Paramount Pictures rescheduled John Krasinski’s  A Quiet Place Part II from April to Sept. 17. Disney’s 20th Century Studios pushed back its theatrical releases The King’s Man, Bob’s Burgers, and Ron’s Gone Wrong from March and April to September and October.

Disney remains on track to release Raya and the Last Dragon in theaters and on Disney+ concurrently on March 5. Marvel’s Black Widow with Scarlett Johansson is still slated to bow theatrically on May 7. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures delayed Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway to June 11; musical Cinderella to July 16; and Ghostbusters: Afterlife to Nov. 11. The studio, which remains loyal to the theatrical window, pushed Uncharted  back to February 2022.

Sony also sold distribution rights to animated feature film The Mitchells vs. the Machines to Netflix.

Universal Pictures’ post-apocalyptic drama BIOS, starring Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones, has been delayed to Aug. 13 from April 16.

“Given the uncertainty of the marketplace, a change of date is certainly better than a change of venue, so to speak from big screen to small screen,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNBC.

Flurry of New Films, Including ‘Spell,’ ‘Come Play,’ ‘Skylines’ and Animated ‘Batman: Soul of the Dragon’ Debuting Jan. 12 on Digital, Disc

A batch of new movies, including Paramount Home Entertainment’s Spell and Jungleland and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Ammonite and Come Play, top the slate of new disc and digital releases available Jan. 12.

Also new in stores are Skylines and two other new films from Lionsgate and several animated cartoon compilations and movies, including Warner Bros.’ Batman: Soul of the Dragon, which is making its digital debut two weeks prior to its release on disc.

Spell, available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, stars Omari Hardwick as a man flying his family to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia. He loses control of the plane in an intense storm and awakens alone, wounded, and trapped in the attic of a woman who claims she can nurse him back to health with a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin.

Jungleland, a DVD-only release, is a buddy film from Vertical Entertainment that stars Charlie Hunnam, Jack O’Connell and Jessica Barden. The film was released Nov. 10 on premium VOD and for digital purchase — four days after its theatrical debut, in a limited release. Directed and co-written by Max Winkler, Jungleland follows two brothers struggling to stay relevant in the underground world of bare-knuckle boxing, and facing danger when one of them falls into debt with a crime boss.

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Ammonite, about a passionate and all-consuming love affair that changes the lives of two 19th century women, becomes available Jan. 12 through digital retailers and on demand, as well as on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.  The film, written and directed by Francis Lee (God’s Own Country), stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

Come Play makes its digital debut Jan. 12, two weeks ahead of its Blu-ray Disc and DVD release. The supernatural thriller is about a young boy who relies on his cell phone and tablet for companionship. He befriends a strange and sinister non-human creature; when the mysterious creature uses the devices to break into our world, his parents must fight to save their son.

The three new releases from Lionsgate include Skylines, the third and final installment in the science-fiction “Skyline” trilogy. Directed by Liam O’Donnell, the film stars Lindsey Morgan and Rhona Mitra and was initially released last December by Vertical Entertainment in theaters and on Apple TV. It is now available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD as well as through digital retailers such as FandangoNow and Redbox On Demand. The film details the battle between defenders from Earth and invaders from the moon.

Also out from Lionsgate, on DVD and digital only, are the crime thriller American Dream,  about two entrepreneurs (Luke Bracey and Michiel Huisman) who wind up beholden to a Russian mobster (Nick Stahl), and Parallel, another Vertical Entertainment release, starring Kathleen Quinlan, in which a group of friends stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse,” but soon discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences.

Also available on Jan. 12 is the crime thriller Coming From Insanity, which home viewers can rent or purchase from digital retailers or watch on demand. The Level 33 Entertainment release follows Kossi, one of many children trafficked and sold into servitude in Nigeria.

Warner’s Batman: Soul of the Dragon, the 41st film in the DC Universe series of animated movies, arrives on digital sellthrough Jan. 12 ahead of its Jan. 26 release on Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The Elseworlds tale is set in the 1970s and finds Bruce Wayne in martial arts training alongside other students under a master sensei to confront a deadly menace. Batman, joins forces with Richard Dragon, Ben Turner and Lady Shiva, and their mentor O-Sensei, to battle the monsters of this world and beyond.

Also on the cartoon front, Paramount Home Entertainment is out with Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants: The Complete Twelfth Season on DVD only. In the 12th season, Gary tries out a new pair of legs to keep up with SpongeBob and Plankton and practice ruling the world in SpongeBob’s aquarium.

Cartoon fans also may be interested in Mill Creek Entertainment’s release of Ultraman Taro: The Complete Series  on Blu-ray Disc as both a special edition Steelbook and in standard packaging. It’s the North American debut of the series, which has never been broadcast on TV or available on any home entertainment format.

A complete list of new disc and digital releases, compiled each week by the Media Play News market research team, can be found here.

Pachter: PVOD Not a Threat to Theatrical

A common theme throughout the pandemic has been Hollywood’s quest to supplant theatrical releases to wary moviegoers with direct-to-consumer home entertainment options such as premium VOD and digital retail.

PVOD got an early boost last spring when Universal Pictures reported it generated $100 million releasing Trolls World Tour direct to consumers in the early days of the pandemic. The move was eyed as catalyst to jumpstarting PVOD — a distribution channel previously considered dead. Since then Warner Bros. Pictures and Disney have released high-profile movies Scoob! and Mulan on PVOD — the latter initially only to Disney+ subscribers — with little mention of revenue generated.

“The silver lining to 2020 from a theatrical perspective is that studios have had the opportunity to test the feared PVOD window, with the results not as compelling for the studios as many had expected, and not as damaging to the exhibitors as feared,” Pachter wrote in a Jan. 11 note.

Indeed, Disney made Mulan available to consumers shortly after then Disney+ exclusive, followed by release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Scoob! bowed on disc on July 21, 2020 — two months after its May 15 PVOD release.

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“Studios have opted to postpone major releases into 2021 and later, indicating that studios by and large prefer a theatrical release over PVOD, but will wait for a more normal environment,” Pachter wrote. “With that said, expect more films to shift to streaming as subscription services seek more content after heightened consumption coupled with several months of halted productions.”

While PVOD revenue remains largely a guarded secret by studios, the so-called “dynamic windows” ironed out between Universal Pictures, AMC Theatres and Cinemark, affording exhibitors a cut in digital revenue appears a better business model for all parties during the pandemic.

Under the deal movies with opening weekends over $50 million remain in theaters for 31 days (five weekends) and smaller films stay in theaters at least 17 days (three weekends), with a simultaneous theatrical/PVOD window for the remainder of the window (with downstream windows unaffected).

“We see the Cinemark-Universal model of to be the model on which most negotiations will be based in the coming months,” Pachter wrote. “We think this is the best solution for exhibitors, assuming the PVOD release is constructed as a revenue share between studios and exhibitors.”

 

Universal Sets Jan. 12 Home Release for Kate Winslet Starrer ‘Ammonite’

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has set a Jan. 12 home release date for Ammonite, a romantic drama about a passionate and all-consuming love affair that changes the lives of two 19th century women.

The film, written and directed by Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) and starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, will be available to home viewers through digital retailers and on demand, as well as on Blu-ray Disc and DVD.

The home release comes with an exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette with the cast and crew “taking audiences on a beautiful behind-the-scenes journey into the making of this remarkable film,” according to a news release.

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In 1800s England, acclaimed but unrecognized fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet) works alone on the rugged Southern coastline. With the days of her famed discoveries behind her, she now searches for common fossils to sell to tourists to support herself and her ailing mother. When a wealthy visitor entrusts Mary with the care of his wife Charlotte Murchison (Ronan), she cannot afford to turn his offer down. Proud and relentlessly passionate about her work, Mary initially clashes with her unwelcome guest, but despite the distance between their social class and personalities, an intense bond begins to develop, compelling the two women to determine the true nature of their relationship.

Alongside Winslet and Ronan, the cast of Ammonite includes Gemma Jones (Bridget Jones’ Diary franchise, Sense & Sensibility), James McArdle (, Mary Queen of Scots), Alec Secareanu (God’s Own Country, “Strike Back”) and Fiona Shaw (“Killing Eve,” Colette).

With each purchase of Ammonite, either on disc or through digital retailers, consumers are eligible to earn points toward special rewards through the Universal All-Access Rewards program. Members can redeem their points for digital movies, signed collectables, boxed sets, and other exclusive prizes. To register visit www.MyUniversalRewards.com.

Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984′ Tops Domestic Christmas Box Office

Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984 topped the three-day Christmas weekend domestic box office with $16.7 million in ticket sales. The tally is the highest in the U.S. since the pandemic began in March shuttering theaters — and significant considering the movie was made available simultaneously on subscription streaming service HBO Max.

Universal Pictures’ western drama News of the World, starring Tom Hanks, finished No. 2 with more than $2.4 million in estimated ticket sales across 1,900 screens, according to industry data. World displaced The Croods: A New Age (Universal), which generated $1.73 million in domestic revenue across 1,726 screens; it made $3 million in Russia. The title has sold $29.1 million in domestic tickets ($98.2 million worldwide) since its debut Nov. 25.

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WW84, starring Gal Gadot, opened in just 40% of available domestic theaters. The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman generated $36 million in foreign markets along with $38.2 million in international revenue on its Dec. 16 debut.

Other new releases, included Focus Features’ Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan, with $270,000 in ticket sales in the No. 3 spot; and Roadside Attractions’ Pinocchio with $110,000 in revenue.

Sony Pictures’ ‘Monster Hunter’ Tops Underwhelming Weekend Box Office Ahead of ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Christmas Debut

Sony Pictures’ Monster Hunter knocked off Universal Pictures’ The Croods: A New Age to lead another pandemic-sidelined weekend box office (Dec. 18-20). Hunter, starring Milla Jovovich, topped $2.2 million in estimated ticket sales across 2,300 screens, according to industry reports.

Previous topper The Croods: A New Age had an estimated $2 million in ticket sales across more than 1,900 screens nationwide. The animated sequel from DreamWorks Animation has tallied $27 million in domestic revenue after four weeks release; $79.4 million worldwide.

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Box office revenue among the movies totaled around $5.5 million as moviegoers continue to stay away from theaters in major markets due to ongoing spikes in coronavirus infections. To put some perspective on the revenue freefall, with one week to go in the fourth quarter, projected domestic box office revenue ($110 million) is just 46% greater than what Netflix generated ($59 million) renting DVDs in Q3. And legacy by-mail disc rentals are no longer a line item on Netflix’s financials.

Theatrical results could improve significantly over the coming Christmas weekend box office with the launch of DC superheroine Wonder Woman 1984 — the first major studio release since The Croods: A New Age. But with HBO Max streaming the movie concurrently all bets are off.

Universal, Focus Features Dominate Another Pandemic Weekend Box Office

Universal Pictures and subsidiary Focus Features again led a slow pandemic-addled domestic weekend box office (Dec. 11-13) devoid of new releases and safety-conscious moviegoers. The top 10 releases generated $5.63 million in ticket sales, which was 24% from $7.4 million in revenue during the previous-week period, according to industry data.

Universal’s DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age continued to lead ticket sales with $3 million in revenue across more than 2,000 screens; $24.1 million since its debut three weeks ago. The sequel to the 2013’s The Croods generated $8.4 million overseas to bring its global haul to above $76 million.

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Focus Features’ Half Brothers sold $490,000 in tickets across 1,386 screens. The movie had made $1.3 million in two weeks. Vince Vaughn horror flick Freaky sold $315,000 in tickets, topping $8.2 million domestically ($13 million worldwide) since its debut.

Other box office tallies: 2003 re-release of Elf, starring Will Ferrell, sold $400,000 in tickets to finish third on the weekend. Finally, Robert De Niro’s pandemic mainstay, The War With Grandpa, sold another $260,000 in tickets to near $18 million ($27 million worldwide) since its bow Aug. 28.

NBCUniversal Boss Defends Expedited Movie Access in the Home

Long before Warner Bros. decided to release its entire 2021 theatrical movie slate (beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day) into the home and cineplex simultaneously, Universal Pictures made waves generating more than $100 million in premium VOD revenue early in the pandemic releasing animated sequel Trolls World Tour into homes instead of on the big screen.

The studio then slashed the 90-day theatrical window down to 17 days. Instead of affording exhibitors three months of exclusivity, Universal offered to revenue-share PVOD sales with accommodating movie chains such as AMC Theatres and Cinemark.

What is clear about the film business is that while the rest of the entertainment business evolved in a rapid way across the world, the film business stayed stuck in the mud on the traditional theatrical windowing basis, says Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, parent of Universal Studios.

Speaking Dec. 8 on the virtual the virtual UBS Global Investor confab, Shell said the traditional release window ignored a market segment of consumers who love movies, but who either don’t go to the theater as often or prefer to watch new releases in their home.

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“Somebody gets excited about a movie that weekend, can’t get a babysitter, and decides they’ll see it in a couple months or next year on HBO,” Shell said. “We, as a movie company, did not serve those customers. And that is not the right way to maximize what is the Rolls Royce content of the entertainment business. We’re leaving a lot money on the table [ignoring $19.99 PVOD].”

Shell said Universal Pictures remains a staunch advocate of the moviegoing experience, including driving to the cineplex and watching content on a big screen with enhanced sound the way filmmakers intended viewers to consume the content.

“I think when the pandemic ends, it’s going to be a bit like the roaring ’20s, when you’re not going to want to be at home anymore,” Shell said. “The idea of sitting at home in your apartment on a Friday night watching Netflix is going to be less appealing.”

But he said the studio is also cognizant to the reality about changing consumer habits watching movies, including on portable devices. Shell reiterated that to Universal, the transactional business model of movies remains of primary importance.

Shell admitted he has been outspoken advocating for the collapse of the theatrical window, arguing it brings enhanced value to the overall business, including theaters.

“There are a lot of people who want to watch a movie in a non-premium way, which is in the home” he said. “I think theatrical will continue to thrive and as more windows collapse … more money is going to made by everybody involved in the movie business. And it’s better for consumers.”

Universal Pictures (Again) Leads Pandemic Weekend Box Office

Universal Pictures continues to drive the domestic weekend box office with a larger slate of new releases than any other studio — including seven of the top eight revenue-generating titles from Dec. 4 to 6.

That’s more than a little ironic, considering that Universal was the first studio to significantly cut the theatrical window on new movie releases in exchange for expedited premium VOD access into consumer homes.

The move, followed by threats of a boycott and then a landmark revenue-sharing deal with theater chains, was the pandemic-related entertainment story of 2020 until Warner Bros. decided to shelve the theatrical window altogether, beginning with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day and continuing throughout 2021

The DreamWorks Animation sequel The Croods: A New Age, distributed by Universal, again led ticket sales the first weekend of the month, generating an estimated $4.4 million across more than 2,000 screens, according to industry data. The title has generated $20.4 million in revenue domestically ($41 million worldwide) since debuting Nov. 25.

Other titles, included Focus Features’ Half Brothers with $670,000 across 1,369 screens; and Vince Vaughn-starrer Freaky with $450,000 across 1,502 screens, bringing the film to $7.7 million in tickets sold in the U.S., and $12.6 million globally.

Additional Universal/Focus titles included All My Life ($350,000); Come Play ($231,000), the latter generating $11 million globally since launching Oct. 30; Let Him Go ($210,000; $9.6 million worldwide since Nov. 6 debut); and 2018 re-release The Grinch ($59,000; $512 million globally since original debut), starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, rounded out Universal’s top performers.

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101 Studios’ The War With Grandpa was No. 5 with $335,000 in revenue from 1,285 screens. The Robert De Niro comedy has sold $26.1 million in tickets globally since debuting Oct. 9.

The weekend box office totaled $7.2 million, down about 45% from $13.2 million during the previous-week period, Nov. 27-29.

Amblin Partners Inks New Film Distribution, Streaming Deal With Universal

Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners production company has signed a new multiyear film distribution partnership with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group. The new deal calls for Amblin movies to be marketed and distributed theatrically via Universal Pictures and Focus Features each year, while also providing Amblin with new opportunities in the streaming film marketplace via Peacock.

Amblin’s continuing partnership with Universal builds on a long history between the two companies, dating back to Spielberg’s arrival on the Universal lot as an intern in 1968. The new agreement further evolves the entities’ 2015 agreement that resulted in a number of hits, most recently Oscar Best Picture Winner Green Book, and 1917, which won three Oscars, two Golden Globes and grossed more than $385 million at the worldwide box office.

NBCUniversal has also agreed to re-invest in Amblin, continuing its position as an equity holder and providing fresh capital to fund new production and development efforts across the company’s film and television businesses.

Alibaba Pictures, eOne and Reliance Entertainment will all continue as equity holders, with Alibaba releasing Amblin films in China; eOne releasing in the U.K., Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Benelux; and Reliance releasing in India.

Participant, which as a founding partner played a key role in the formation of Amblin Partners in 2015, is ending its role as an equity holder of the company. This transition will allow Participant flexibility with respect to distribution of its films, while still keeping open opportunities to work together with Amblin on future projects.

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“My decades-long relationship with Universal truly transcends any single business deal, and to once again renew our corporate vows reaffirms that Universal is Amblin’s home,” Spielberg said in a statement. “In addition to Universal, we are blessed to continue forward with a global family of partners, including Alibaba, eOne and Reliance, each of which has supported us for many years and enabled our storytelling to touch the lives of millions of moviegoers around the world.”

“Steven Spielberg and Amblin Partners have delivered award-winning critical and commercial hits that stand the test of time amongst films in the Universal canon,” added Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.