‘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 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.

‘Dumbo’ Remake Flies to Top of Disc Sales Charts

Disney’s live-action version of Dumbo easily debuted at No. 1 on 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 June 29.

Directed by Tim Burton, the remake of the 1941 animated classic earned $114.6 million at the domestic box office.

Another Disney-distributed movie, the superhero blockbuster Captain Marvel, slipped to No. 2 on both charts after two weeks in the top spot.

Paramount’s animated Wonder Park held onto the No. 3 spot on the overall sales chart and slipped a spot to No. 4 on the Blu-ray chart.

Universal Pictures’ Us in its second week dropped to No. 4 on the overall sales chart and N0. 5 on the Blu-ray chart, after debuting in the second spot a week earlier.

No. 5 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart was Disney’s “Signature Collection” Blu-ray re-release of the 1950 animated classic Cinderella.

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Blu-ray Disc formats accounted for 75% of total unit sales for Dumbo, which had 9% of its total sales come from 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc.

On the Media Play News rental chart for the week ended June 30, Captain Marvel held onto the top spot for a third week.

Us took No. 2 for the second week.

No. 3 went to a new release, Lionsgate’s The Poison Rose. Wonder Park slipped a spot to No. 4, while Dumbo debuted at No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 6-29-19
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 6-30-19
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 6-29-19
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 6-29-19
Sales Report for Week Ended 6-29-19
Digital Sales Snapshot for Week Ended 7-1-19

Walt Disney Studios Q1 Operating Income Plummets 63%

Mary Poppins and The Nutcracker proved no match for Marvel superheroes and “Star Wars” as The Walt Disney Co. said first-quarter (ended Dec. 29, 2018) operating income at Walt Disney Studios dropped 63% to $309 million from operating income of $825 million during the previous-year period. Studio revenue fell 27% to $1.8 billion from $2.5 billion a year earlier.

The studio on Feb. 5 said lower operating income was due to a decrease in theatrical distribution results, partially offset by growth in TV/SVOD distribution.

Specifically, Disney’s previous-year results from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco and Thor: Ragnarok dwarfed Mary Poppins Returns and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in the current year. Box office hit Ralph Breaks the Internet was released in the current second quarter.

CFO Christine McCarthy warned theatrical and home entertainment operating revenue would come up short in the current second quarter in the range of $450 million to $500 million compared to the previous-year period — which was the best Q2 ever for the studio.

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Growth in TV/SVOD distribution was due to the performance of Incredibles 2 and Avengers: Infinity War in the current quarter compared with Cars 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the prior-year period.

Overall, the Walt Disney Co. reported earnings per share of $1.84, down 3% from the previous year, when the company posted EPS of $1.89. Total revenue came in at $15.3 billion, about the same as last year.

The down financials nevertheless beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts were anticipating EPS of $1.55 and revenue of $15.18 billion.

Higher revenue from broadcast and parks — run by former Disney home entertainment chief Bob Chapek — offset the declines at Walt Disney Studios.

 

Disney to Demonstrate DTC Service Disney+ April 11

The Walt Disney Co. will demonstrate its pending direct-to-consumer streaming service Disney+ and offer a first look at some of the original content being created by the company’s TV and film studios exclusively for the service at an investor day presentation April 11, the company announced.

Also, effective for the first quarter of fiscal 2019, the company will begin reporting segment operating results for four segments: media networks; studio entertainment; parks, experiences and consumer products; and direct-to-consumer and international (DTCI), the company reported Jan. 18 in a filing with the SEC. In the Form 8-K, the company also recast financial results for the past three fiscal years to reflect the reorganization of Disney’s business segments. In the fiscal year ended Sept. 29, 2018, recast numbers show the DTCI segment with a loss of $738 million.

“Our top priority is fully leveraging our global brands and great content to create world-class direct-to-consumer entertainment,” said Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger in a statement. “We have the structure and management in place to drive growth in our DTC business, and our acquisition of 21st Century Fox further enhances our ability to deliver significant value to consumers and shareholders.”

“Acquiring BAMTech enabled us to enter the DTC space quickly and effectively, as demonstrated by the success of ESPN+,” Iger said in a statement. “The service surpassed 1 million subscribers in its first five months and continues to grow as it expands its content mix, all of which bodes well for our upcoming launch of Disney+. The ability to connect directly with millions of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars fans creates tremendous opportunities for growth. In addition to leveraging our existing IP in new ways, we’re making significant investments in original content exclusively for Disney+, creating an impressive pipeline of high-quality movies and series we believe will make the streaming service even more compelling for consumers.”

The slate of Disney+ content currently in production includes the first-ever live-action Star Wars series “The Mandalorian”; an original series based on Disney Channel’s “High School Musical”; an animated series based on Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” franchise; a new season of the “Star Wars” animated series “Clone Wars”; a live-action version of the animated classic Lady and the Tramp; and original docu-series. A live-action Marvel series starring Tom Hiddleston and a second “Star Wars” series starring Diego Luna are also in development, the company announced.