Disney Touting ‘Cruella’ Limited-Edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Retailer Exclusives

Best Buy’s ‘Cruella’ Steelbook

Walt Disney Studios has revealed limited-edition retailer exclusives for its upcoming 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc release of the live-action film Cruella, starring Emma Stone. The movie has generated $222 million at the global box office, including $85.7 million domestically.

The movie releases on packaged media nationwide Sept. 21 with exclusive editions at Best Buy, Target and Walmart. The three versions are now available for advance orders on the retailers’ websites.

Target’s ‘Cruella’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

The Best Buy release includes a limited run of the film packaged in a collectable Steelbook case.

The Target version features two gold-foiled exclusive lithographs designed by Poster Posse artist Nicky Barkla and Bella Grace.

The Walmart release includes an e-book. Bonus features on all three versions include deleted scenes, bloopers, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and cast interviews, among other features.

Walmart’s ‘Cruella’ 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Set in 1970s London amid the punk rock revolution, Cruella follows a young grifter named Estella (Stone), a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets.

One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howards End, Sense & Sensibility). But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.

Bob Chapek: Pandemic Brought Flexibility to Disney Content Distribution

As Hollywood puts the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, Disney, like other studios, has revisited its distribution strategy of original movies and TV shows. Speaking May 24 on the virtual JPMorgan 49th Annual Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference, CEO Bob Chapek said the pandemic put renewed focus on how consumers want to access content, rather than traditional norms revolving around the 90-day theatrical window.

“One of the things we learned is flexibility is good because there’s two dynamics going on: One is people’s willingness to return to theaters and theaters’ ability to return in a meaningful way,” Chapek said. “And then the second is the change in consumer behavior that’s happening naturally, with COVID probably acting as a bit of a catalyst, but was going to happen anyway.”

Disney is returning to the movie theater in late summer with exclusive (and curtailed) 45-day windows for 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy and Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Free Guy launches on Aug. 13 and Shang-Chi on Sept. 3. The films mark Disney’s first exclusive theatrical releases since the Aug. 28 release of The New Mutants.

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Other theatrical titles Cruella (May 28), Black Widow (July 9) and Jungle Cruise (July 30) will debut in cineplexes and on $29.99 Premier Access via Disney+ simultaneously.

“We’re trying to offer consumers more choice as they gain confidence in how they want to go ahead and return to theaters,” Chapek said, adding that consumer return to the box office has been stronger in select international markets.

“We’re seeing some hesitancy to return [to movie theaters] in a way that would look anything like normal back in 2019,” he said. “And as such, during this sort of interim period, it’s really nice to be able to give consumers some flexibility.”

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow

When asked why a theatrical tentpole title like Black Widow would get concurrent purchase access on Disney+, Chapek said the Marvel Universe movie, starring Scarlett Johansson, had been delayed twice — and a third delay was not an option.

“At the same time, we always knew that there was a risk that exhibition wasn’t going to be fully developed or that consumers wouldn’t want to go back and sit in the theater,” he said. “We realized we had to sort of ‘prime the pump’ and give theatrical exhibition a chance, but we couldn’t put all our eggs in the exhibition basket, because we knew that in the weeks leading up to the decision, the domestic market was not coming back and is still fairly weak. We’re really confident we made the right call there.”

Pixar Animation’s Luca

The June 18 release of Pixar Animation’s Luca direct to Disney+ without a $29.99 purchase fee, and bypassing theatrical surprised some observers. Chapek said the decision revolved around keeping Disney’s evolving distribution channels stocked.

“We’ve increased our investment in creative content to ensure that all channels have a full complement of offerings to sort of keep everybody happy,” he said. “We want to make sure, given the importance of Disney+ in the marketplace and our shareholders, that we keep feeding that machine.”

Indeed, Disney’s Christmas Day release of Pixar’s Soul was topped only by Warner’s same-day release of Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max.

“We believe that Luca will get a lot of eyeballs,” Chapek said.

‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ Repeats Atop Domestic Weekend Box Office Concurrent With Disney+ Access

Walt Disney Studios’ strategy of simultaneously releasing films in theaters and on its branded subscription streaming service, at an additional cost, appears to be working.

Despite its availability on Disney+ at a $29.99 purchase price, Raya and the Last Dragon topped the domestic box office for the second weekend March 14 with a reported $5.5 million in projected ticket sales from more than 2,100 screens nationwide. That’s down just 35% from $8.5 million in domestic ticket sales in the previous-week period. So far, the animated Raya has generated $15.8 million in U.S. ticket sales and $52.6 million globally since debuting March 5.

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The remaining top theatrical releases mirrored the previous weekend, with Warner Bros. Pictures’ Tom & Jerry generating $4.1  million ($26 million total) from 2,434 screens; Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) with $2.25 million ($6.9 million total) from 1,995 screens; and Boogie (Universal/Focus Features) with $730,000 ($2.2 million) from 1,272 screens.

Impressively, The Croods: A New Age (Universal/DreamWorks Animation) continues to resonate across multiple platforms with $530,000 ($54.3 million) in weekend ticket sales. The title, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc Feb. 23, currently ranks as the top-selling packaged-media release in 2021, according to The NPD Group’s VideoScan tracking service.

In the meantime, with Los Angeles area theaters slated to re-open next weekend at 25% capacity, the box office is expected to continue a slow but steady return to normalcy as moviegoers get vaccinated. More than 101 million arms have received the COVID-19 vaccine through March 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The domestic box office was up 16.5% last weekend (March 5-7) from the previous-year period with $22.95 million in revenue; and up 166% Feb. 26-28 with $19.74 million.

‘Hocus Pocus’ Remains Country’s Top-Selling Disc for Second Week

Disney’s perennial Halloween best-seller Hocus Pocus spent a second-consecutive week atop the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart the week ended Oct. 10.

The 1993 film about three Salem witches transported to modern times frequently finishes in the top five during October.

Coming in at No. 2 on the overall disc sales chart, and No. 5 on the Blu-ray Disc chart, was Warner’s Beetlejuice. The creepy 1988 comedy from director Tim Burton is another catalog title getting a boost from the Halloween season. Likewise, Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas held onto the No. 4 spot, and jumped to No. 8 on the Blu-ray chart. And Warner’s It: Chapter One rose a spot to No. 5 on the overall disc chart.

The week’s top new release, at No. 3 overall and No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart, was Paramount’s Star Trek: Picard — Season One. The sci-fi series, a sequel to “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was initially released on the CBS All Access streaming service in January before making its way to disc Oct. 6.

Another newcomer, RLJE Films’ The Tax Collector, debuted at No. 6 overall and No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart. The latest film from director David Ayer is a gritty drama about a pair of street thugs who collect protection money getting caught in the middle of a turf war.

Coming in at No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart (and No. 12 overall) was the newly released anime movie Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna from Shout! Factory.

Universal’s remake of The Secret Garden debuted at No. 7 on both charts.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 56% of first-week Picard disc sales, compared with 52% for Tax Collector, 49% for Secret Garden, and 95% for Digimon.

A Best Buy-exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Tax Collector accounted for 11% of the title’s total sales. The special 4K edition will be widely available Dec. 15.

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On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended Oct. 11, the Redbox-exclusive Ava remained No. 1 for a second week. Tax Collector debuted at No. 2, pushing Lionsgate’s The Silencing to No. 3.

Debuting as the No. 4 rental was Universal’s The 2nd, an actioner about an agent protecting the daughter of a Supreme Court justice from kidnappers.

Lionsgate’s The Secret: Dare to Dream dropped to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 10-10-20
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 10-11-20
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 10-10-20
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 10-10-20
Sales Report for Week Ended 10-10-20
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 10-12-20

European Cinema Operators ‘Shocked’ at Movies Bypassing Theaters for Disney+

Similarly to the situation in the United States, European theater operators are reeling from studios delaying new-release movies due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the trade group representing European exhibitors, has lashed out at Walt Disney Studios’ decision to bow Pixar Animation’s Soul on SVOD service Disney+ rather than in theaters.

“Disney’s decision to release Soul directly onto their streaming platform, depriving many audiences across Europe from seeing it on the big screen, has shocked and dismayed all cinema operators,” UNIC said in a statement.

Indeed, Soul represents the third major Disney title (after Artemis Fowl and Mulan) to forgo a theatrical release due to the pandemic. UNIC is upset since control of the pandemic is better in Europe than in the U.S., which has resulted in significantly better box office revenue.

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The vast majority of cinemas across Europe are now open and able to offer a “safe and enjoyable” return for moviegoers, according to UNIC. Like U.S. exhibitors, European operators have invested heavily in social distancing and sanitation protocols in theaters.

“Yet again, however, they find a distributor delivering another blow,” UNIC wrote. “The decision on Soul is doubly frustrating for operators who were counting on the release after the film was previewed at a number of key European film festivals.”

The trade group argues that there is compelling evidence that where moviegoers have returned, their experience was both safe and enjoyable. It also stressed that without major new releases, consumers won’t return to the big screen. Indeed, across Europe, many cinemas have since re-opening screened countless local releases, underlining the fact that first-run titles are now more important than ever.

UNIC said decisions to postpone titles, bypassing cinemas and the value they create, are extremely disappointing — and concerning — and will only delay the day that the whole industry is able to put crisis behind it.

“It is no exaggeration to say that by the time some studios decide that the moment is right to release their films, it may be too late for many European cinemas,” read the statement.

Disney Denies Scaling Back 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc Releases

Following ongoing online scuttlebutt suggesting Walt Disney Studios planned to discontinue releasing catalog movies on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, the company issued a statement denying the rumors.

“There are no plans to discontinue releases in a particular format,” a Disney spokesperson told Forbes in a statement. “We evaluate each release on a case by case basis and pursue the best strategy to bring our content into consumer homes across platforms that meet a variety of demands.”

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Disney released its first 4K Ultra HD title in 2017 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Subsequent releases include titles from 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Pending 4K UHD releases include  Hocus Pocus and Home Alone on Sept. 15.

However, in recent months as the coronavirus pandemic has locked down theaters, a vital source of Disney revenue, the studio has turned its attention toward its Disney+ streaming service and downplayed its physical-media releases.

On Aug. 7, Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits, wrote that Disney was not planning on releasing any future live-action catalog movies on 4K UHD Blu-ray, opting instead for 4K digital only.

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“I started to receive word from retail and industry sources that Disney had made an internal decision to suspend the 4K Ultra HD release of live-action catalog titles from both their own vaults and those of their newly acquired 20th Century Fox label,” Hunt wrote.  The longtime industry observer wrote that he checked with “multiple reliable” sources on the matter. “I have indeed been able to essentially confirm the rumor.”

According to Hunt, Disney’s would still be releasing 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays for new-release theatrical titles, animated movies from the Disney Animation and Pixar studios, and “Star Wars” and “Marvel” franchise content.

Disney, Universal Suspend Box Office Data Reporting

With most movie theaters shuttered due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Walt Disney Studios and Universal Pictures say they are suspending reporting box office results. The move comes after domestic weekend ticket sales plummeted to a 20-year low and most screens around the world remain closed.

While Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and other studios have not yet announced similar actions, they are expected to follow suit.

The move late March 19 by Universal and Disney comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered state residents to remain at home as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of 10,000 people globally. The United States saw COVID-19 infections more than double on Thursday.

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“Given the current large number of theater shutdowns around the globe, Disney will suspend global weekend reporting for the time being. Wishing you and your families the best during these testing times and please be safe,” Disney said in a media statement.

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Media analyst Michael Pachter downgraded AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest exhibitor with more than 1,000 theatres, to “neutral” rating heading into the weekend.

“If closures last longer than we estimate, AMC would need additional relief from either government assistance, rent relief from landlords, or additional sources of cash in order to avoid a potential breach of debt covenants, which could force debt restructuring,” Pachter wrote in a March 20 note.

 

Disney Releasing ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ Digitally Dec. 31, on Disc Jan. 14

Disney will release the fantasy sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil through digital retailers Dec. 31, and on Blu-ray, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Jan. 14.

The sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, a live-action reimagining of the classic Sleeping Beauty, stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent and Elle Fanning as her goddaughter, Princess Aurora.

Directed by Joachim Rønning, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil finds the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora challenged by a new alliance forged on the eve of the Aurora’s wedding to Prince Philip.

The cast also includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville and Michelle Pfeiffer.

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The film earned $111.6 million at the domestic box office and $480.6 million worldwide.

Blu-ray and digital bonus materials include two extended scenes; outtakes; the Bebe Rexha music video of “You Can’t Stop the Girl”; a Maleficent: Mistress of Evil VFX reel; and the featurettes “Origins of the Fey,” in which Jolie discusses Maleficent’s lore, her newly discovered origins and the diversity of the cast who portray the Fey; “Aurora’s Wedding,” in which Fanning gushes over Aurora’s fairytale wedding, and special guests give their best to the bride and groom; “If You Had Wings,” a glimpse of the elaborate visual effects that allow the Fey to take to the skies.

The digital version at select retailers will include an exclusive “Lickspittle” featurette, in which fantasy-film veteran Warwick Davis considers how every aspect of the film’s design inspired his tragic character.

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Aladdin (2019)

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/10/19;
Disney;
Fantasy;
Box Office $354.53 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for some action/peril.
Stars Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar.

Disney’s live-action version of Aladdin is essentially a beat-by-beat reconstruction of the animated classic, with a few key differences.

Like before, the story involves a master thief named Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who roams the streets of Agrabah yearning to find a purpose for his life, until he meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) when she poses as a commoner to escape the boredom of palace life. Aladdin’s exploits gain the attention of the kingdom’s Grand Vizier, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), who forces Aladdin to retrieve a magic lamp from the Cave of Wonders, where touching any of the forbidden treasure inside will cause the cave to collapse (although playing with the magic carpet apparently doesn’t count as part of the treasure). But of course the forbidden treasure gets touched, forcing Aladdin to unleash the Genie (Will Smith) to escape. With his three wishes, Aladdin assumes the guise of a prince to woo Jasmine, further rousing the ire of Jafar, who wanted the power to make himself sultan.

A key difference from the animated version is the film attempts to give Jasmine a bit more agency with a bigger story arc, a handmaiden (Nasim Pedrad) and her own musical number, a song called “Speechless” designed to give her a bit more of an active role in the story than just sitting around waiting for her father to marry her off. And the “One Jump Ahead” number, used in the animated version to establish Aladdin’s character before he meets Jasmine, here is used after he meets her and his framed as his attempts to impress her by escaping the authorities.

Director Guy Ritchie injects a lot of energy into the early goings, but the film loses steam as it builds to its perfunctory conclusion, and just sort of rushes to finish the checklist of key plot points from the original version as it hastily wraps up.

The live-action Jafar comes across more as a shifty schemer than a truly menacing villain, and the film cheats a little in how it dispatches him because of how a few lines of dialogue were altered to make the final confrontation a little less concise.

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Fortunately, the film fares a bit better with the two relationships it needs to work: Aladdin and Jasmine, and Aladdin and the Genie.

Massoud makes for a charming Aladdin and shares a natural chemistry with Naomi Scott, so the love story manages to feel a bit more authentic. And they can do their own singing, which comes in handy for the centerpiece “Whole New World” magic carpet sequence (though the journey ends up weaving through some natural local splendor rather than the globetrotting of the original film).

And Will Smith does a great job as the Genie, which is no easy task considering how iconic Robin Williams made the character’s animated incarnation. Rather than try to compete with Williams’ memory, Smith successfully puts his own hip-hop infused spin on it.

So, while the live-action version isn’t going to supplant the animated version (freshly released on its own new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition), it certainly proves entertaining enough in its own right. And how could it not? It already has the advantage of performing what has to be on the shortlist for consideration for the greatest Disney soundtrack of all time (there’s a reason the original film won two Oscars for its music).

Like a tribute band playing the hits, it’s never as good as the original, but you can still dance to it. And the film has the added benefit of original composer Alan Menken on board so that the subtle updates to the film’s sound don’t detract from the nostalgia.

The Blu-ray isn’t heavy on extras, but what is included focuses mostly on the music and how the filmmakers translated the animated version to live-action.

The two key making-of featurettes are a five-and-a-half-minute spotlight on Ritchie and his approach to directing the material (he also co-wrote the screenplay). A second, four-and-a-half-minute featurette focuses on Will Smith bringing the Genie to life.

The lengthiest extra is Massoud’s video journal, which runs nearly 11 minutes and offers an interesting look at filming select scenes from his perspective. It’s always fascinating to see how much of the sets they still bother to make anymore in an age of ubiquitous CGI.

There are also six deleted scenes running a total of 11 minutes that broaden the context of a few scenes in the film.

Separate from this is a two-minute deleted song sequence for a duet between Jasmine and Aladdin to sing while they are separated.

Rounding out the Blu-ray are a two-minute blooper reel and three music videos: the fairly straightforward “Speechless” by Naomi Scott, and a pair of bizarre covers of “Whole New World,” featuring Zayn and either Zhavia Ward or Becky G, depending on whether the female part is in English or Spanish.

As for digital exclusives, there’s a couple of good ones: a two-minute featurette about the staging of the massive “Prince Ali” number, and a four-minute look at creating the “Speechless” song for Jasmine.

Disney Rebranding Rewards Program

Walt Disney Studios is rebranding its premiere loyalty program, Disney Movie Rewards. After Sept. 26 the service will be known as Disney Movie Insiders.

The announcement came Aug. 24 during an event tied to the D23 Expo weekend in Anaheim, Calif.

Launched in 2006, Disney Movie Rewards, which can be accessed online and through a branded app, allows fans of the Disney studio and Disney-owned brands such as Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar to earn points through seeing Disney movies in theaters, and purchasing Disney DVDs and Blu-rays. The points can be redeemed for merchandise and one-of-a-kind experiences like touring The Walt Disney Studios lot and Walt Disney’s office.

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Recognizing the value of connecting 1:1 with their biggest movie fans, Disney has been reimagining the Disney Movie Rewards program to provide more personalized and engaging experiences and evolve how they interact with their members.

Disney Movie Insiders is touted as a place where new fans and super fans unite. Members will be able to watch trailers and special content about upcoming movies, buy movie tickets directly, have more ways to earn and redeem points for rewards, get Insiders access to special perks and sweepstakes, and play various interactive experiences on a new mobile app.

Rewards members who have logged into their account within the past five years will automatically be upgraded to the new program. Lapsed members will need to log in before Sept. 23 for their accounts to carry over. Rewards points will carry over to the new app.

The Disney Movie Insiders program will be available in the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada (excluding Quebec) for those 13 years and older at the time of enrollment.

More information and updates are available at www.disneymovierewards.com/update.