Dr. Gerhard “Gerry” Weber, who launched Warner Home Video in Germany in 1982 and later became one of the studio’s top home entertainment executives, died on Jan. 11, just three days after his 86th birthday. His cause of death was complications from Alzheimer’s.
Weber retired in 2002 as SVP and co-managing director of Europe, the Mideast and Africa, based in London. He shared this position with Ron Sanders, who later took charge of Warner Home Video on a worldwide basis and ultimately rose to president, Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Distribution and president, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Weber is survived by his wife, Karin Müller-Weber; daughters Franziska and Anne-Tess; and son Lucas. A third daughter, Katrin, died in 2014.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany, on Jan. 8, 1936, Weber began his career in 1956 at Siemens, the big German industrial company. He later was project manager at business consultancy Baumgartner before shifting over to the entertainment industry in 1968 with his appointment as controller and CFO of Liberty/United Artists Records in Munich. Within three years, he had been promoted to managing director.
In 1972 Weber moved over to Metronom Music GmbH in Hamburg, a subsidiary of Polygram, as deputy managing director and then managing director. After three years as deputy managing director at Phonogram, another Polygram subsidiary, Weber in January 1982 joined WEA Music Gmbh, also in Hamburg, as managing director, marketing and sales, music and video. By the end of the year, he was managing director of the newly launched Warner Home Video operation in Germany.
Over the next 20 years, Weber held a series of progressively more responsible international positions at Warner Home Video. He served as chairman of the German trade association for the video industry, Bundesverband Audiovisuelle Medien e.V. (BVV), which represented the interests of German as well as international program suppliers. He also mentored Warner Bros. veteran Willi Geike, who spent 38 years in senior leadership roles and ultimately rose to president and managing director, Warner Bros. Germany, Austria, Switzerland (GAS) and Poland, a post he held until October 2020.
“Under his leadership, Gerry developed an incredible management team that helped run Warner Home Video Germany, one of the five major markets,” said Warren Lieberfarb, the Warner Home Video president hailed as the father of DVD. “He went on to hold a number of leadership positions throughout Europe, and what set him apart was his management style, proven leadership and thorough knowledge of the market, the product and the industry.”
After retiring, Weber served on the advisory board of a prominent Hamburg-based real estate fund.
Weber’s wife, Karin, recalls, “We loved to travel. We spent our holidays hiking or skiing in Switzerland, and many times visited London and Devon. Our last far-away trip was to Calgary to pick up Lucas in 2018 and doing a round trip through the Rocky Mountains. Gerry always took care of us. … He was a deeply caring husband and father.”
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway hopped to No. 1 on the Official Film Chart in the United Kingdom for the retail week ended July 28.
The family film with CGI characters — featuring the voice of James Corden as the title character — claimed the top spot based on digital sales only, ahead of its release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on Aug. 2. Meanwhile, a boxed set of both “Peter Rabbit” movies entered the chart at No. 2, while the first 2018 film appeared as a standalone release at No. 17.
A 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc re-release of Quentin Tarantino-written True Romance sent the 1993 romantic crime drama onto the chart at No. 4, and the previous week’s chart topper Mortal Kombat (2021) dropped to No. 5, followed by Godzilla vs. Kong (No. 6), The Croods (No. 7), Zack Snyder’s Justice League (No. 8), Promising Young Woman (No. 9) and Tom & Jerry (No. 10).
Warner again dominated among distributors with 50% of the week’s Top 10 selling titles.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Wonder Woman 1984 is the top-selling home entertainment movie in the United Kingdom of 2021 so far, according to Official Charts Company data. The film tops out the year-to-date chart, which lays out the top 40 biggest films in the U.K. across disc and digital sales of the first six months of 2021.
WW84 has racked up 216,000 sales over the first six months of the year, with 67% of its total made up of DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K UHD, and the other 33% on digital download. The DC films production starring Gal Gadot spent six consecutive weeks atop the Official Film Chart, and 18 weeks in the Top 10.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League sits at No. 2, though it’s closely followed by Godzilla vs. Kong at No. 3, with a difference of just 1,600 unit sales between the two films, which have each spent several weeks each at No. 1 on the chart.
Other new releases for 2021 include Roald Dahl’s The Witches (No. 7), Bill & Ted Face the Music (No. 9), Raya and the Last Dragon (No. 15) and The Secret Garden (No. 17).
The biggest movie on the chart not released this year is Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, from 2019, which landed at No. 4, and Warner’s 2020 Christopher Nolan thriller Tenet at No. 5. Still one of the U.K.’s most successful films more than three years post-release, 20th Century’s The Greatest Showman sits at No. 6.
While animated films such as Universal’s Trolls World Tour (No. 14), Sing (No. 20), Soul (No. 24) and Scoob! (No. 25) are among the most popular of the last six months, several live-action/animation hybrid releases also are performing well in 2021, with Tom & Jerry at No. 13, Sonic the Hedgehog at No. 16, Peter Rabbit hopping to No. 27 and Pokémon: Detective Pikachu landing at No. 37.
U.K. Top Home Entertainment Movies Through June 30
It was a Warner Bros. week in home entertainment in the U.K.
Warner Home Video’s Godzilla vs. Kong finished atop the the Official Film Chart in the U.K. through June 30, more than doubling the sales of its closest competition. The title saw 75% of its weekly sales made up of DVD and Blu-ray Disc units.
At No. 2, the week’s highest new entry was Batman: The Long Halloween — Part 1. The DC animated movie is the first of a two-part series, starring Jensen Ackles, Josh Duhamel, Troy Baker and the late Naya Rivera.
Former chart topper Zack Snyder’s Justice League dropped two spots to No. 3, while Tom & Jerry sustained its No. 4 spot. Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard moved up four spots to No. 5, thanks to its sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, being released theatrically.
Wonder Woman 1984 dropped three spots to No. 6, while Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place fell two spots to No. 7, and Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon spent a second week at No. 8, while Tenet climbed one spot to No. 9.
Finally, Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw jumped nine spots to No. 10, due to the popularity of F9: The Fast Saga in theaters.
Warner Bros.’ Zack Snyder’s Justice League returned to the top spot on the U.K. home entertainment weekly Official Film Chart through June 2, following the film’s release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Scoring double the sales of its closest competition, the Snyder Cut marks its fourth total week at the top with 94% of its sales tally made up of packaged media. Finishing No. 2, Tom & Jerry holds tight in the runner-up spot, also with notable physical sales.
At No. 3 is the highest new entry of the week, Godzilla vs. Kong. The fourth installment in Legendary and Warner Bros. Pictures’ “MonsterVerse,” the two movie monsters, Godzilla and Kong, clash in a battle for the ages. Its predecessor Godzilla: King of the Monsters also landed in the week’s Top 10 at No. 9.
The previous week’s chart topper, Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) dropped to No. 4, while Wonder Woman 1984 landed at No. 5. Peter Rabbit (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) held tight at No. 6.
Lionsgate’s sci-fi adventure Chaos Walking, starring Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming), debuted at No. 7 on digital downloads only, landing just ahead of another Tom Holland movie Spider-Man: Homecoming (SPHE), which leapt six spots to No. 8. Finally, Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom climbed three spots to No. 10.
Warner Bros. finished an impressive week in U.K. home entertainment, securing 50% of the top 10 selling titles for the week ended May 19.
The studio’s The Little Things, starring Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek, made a No. 1 debut on the Official Film Chart, leading the list of the U.K.’s most popular films as the week’s biggest release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
In the film, deputy sheriff Joe Deacon (Washington) is sent to Los Angeles for a quick evidence-gathering assignment — but as he teams up with detective Jim Baxter (Malek) to help solve a serial killer case in the city, disturbing secrets from his past are unearthed that could threaten more than the case.
Wonder Woman 1984 held on for another week at No. 2, as three-week chart topper Zack Snyder’s Justice League dropped to No. 3. DC animated adventure Justice Society: World War II launched at No. 4, knocking Spider-Man: Far From Home down one spot to No. 5.
Crime thriller The Virtuoso, starring recent Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, debuted at No. 6, landing just ahead of soccer star Eric Cantona’s produced, Man United documentary, The United Way, at No. 7. Venom returned to the Official Film Chart at No. 8, and Tenet finished at No. 9.
Finally, 2018 comedy adventure Peter Rabbit jumped back to No. 10, thanks to consumers catching up with the character ahead of the release of sequel Peter Rabbit 2, which is in U.K. cinemas now.
Warner Bros. dominated home entertainment sales in the U.K. for the week ending May 12 — with a mixture and new and catalog titles.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League finished atop the Official Film Chart for a third consecutive week via digital downloads. The four-hour director’s cut held off competition from DC Extended Universe sister film and former chart topper Wonder Woman 1984.
Horror reboot Wrong Turn made its Top 10 debut at No. 3. A group of friends hiking the Appalachian Trail venture off the beaten track, and find themselves confronted by the deadly ‘Foundation’ — a group of settlers who have lived in the mountains for over 150 years.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Far From Home swung up eight spots to No. 4, while Jumanji: The Next Level moved up four spots to No. 5. Warner’s award-winning Judas and the Black Messiah finished strong at No. 6; Joker dropped two spots to No. 7, while the mind-bending Tenet upped six spots to No. 8.
The 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, entered the Official Film Chart for the first time at No. 9, thanks to a new 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc Steelbook edition. Finally, Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame rose six spots to No. 10.
Veteran Hollywood publicist Ronnee Sass, who left her mark on home entertainment through lavish release campaigns for classic Warner Bros. movies such as Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz — and an engaging, ebullient personality that made her a favorite among talent and journalists alike — died March 20 at the age of 72 after a battle with leukemia.
She is survived by her husband of 23 years, Evan Diner, a brother and two nieces.
Acclaimed director Richard Donner (The Omen, Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon) said of Ms. Sass, “In all my years at Warner’s, many of the brightest days were dealing with Ronnee Sass, because she cared for the people as much as the project. And she cared for both a tremendous amount.”
Ms. Sass began her home entertainment career at what was then Warner Home Video in 1995, after working in film distribution and co-founding an independent PR and advertising agency in Baltimore — Wolff, Freed and Greenberg.
For most of her Warner Bros. career, Ms. Sass’ focus was on publicizing the studio’s rich library. Over the next 20 years Ms. Sass was instrumental in big anniversary campaigns for such storied classics as Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Casablanca, Blade Runner and The Wizard of Oz. She even brought the surviving Munchkins to Beverly Hills for a gala DVD release party for the latter film’s 65th anniversary in 2004 — and to New York five years later for the movie’s 70th anniversary release, a campaign that included a nationwide balloon tour. In January 2006 Sass was promoted from executive director of publicity and promotion to the newly created position of VP of publicity and promotion for theatrical catalog, under Jeff Baker.
“She was the best, most passionate, most beloved publicist in the history of home entertainment, up there with my friend Fritz Friedman from Sony,” Baker recalls. “You lived to see and experience her persona — what a woman! While many of our projects and events were worth covering, Ronnee took them to new heights and the press was never disappointed as she always delivered.”
“Ronnee was a consummate professional, working across the industry to bring the Warner Bros. library to fans everywhere,” said Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “But more importantly, she was a ray of sunshine, always smiling, lighting up any room she entered. She will be missed.”
“Ronnee had multiple talents that included the professional characteristics of an excellent journalist, and a unique forte in relating to people of all walks of life, from the most important celebrity to the average person,” said former Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb, the father of DVD. “She will be missed, but always remembered.”
Ron Sanders, a longtime Warner Bros. executive who most recently served the studio as president of worldwide theatrical distribution while remaining president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, said, “Ronnee was that rarest of breeds who was so effortlessly good at solving the communications crisis of the moment, while being a genuinely wonderful human being. She always had a smile or a laugh and made all of us enjoy life more.”
Ronnee Lynn Sass was born in Baltimore, Md., on May 26, 1948. She graduated from Pikesville High School in Baltimore and went on to attend the University of Maryland, College Park. In the early 1980s she worked in film distribution for studio field agencies in Baltimore.
“I first met her in 1982,” said publicist Carl Samrock, who worked for Warner Bros. from 1982 to 1997. “I remember her incredible personality, her ability to relate to people — she just had this way about her, and when I had my own agency between 1997 and 2017, she was our first client. It was just amazing the way she dealt with people like Clint Eastwood, Dick Donner and Billy Friedkin.
“I still remember an event with Warren Beatty — we took a picture of Ronnee with Warren and hung it up on our wall with the caption, Ronnee and Clyde.”
After she left her Baltimore agency and joined Warner Bros., Ms. Sass initially handled aspects of the studio’s theatrical Oscar campaigns. Each year, publicity team members throughout the department would be assigned to staff the broadcast/event, and the Warner costume department would lend out dresses for the women and suits, if needed, for the men.
Ms. Sass left Warner Bros. in 2014.
As word of her death spread, tributes flowed in to her Facebook page, many from the home entertainment community.
Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, wrote, “Ronnee’s smile could light up any room. Such a wonderful and lovely person. She will be missed by all but never forgotten.”
Smith was at Warner Bros. in 1997 when DVD was launched and the DEG was founded as the DVD Entertainment Group.
Producer-director Chris Roe, who has produced documentaries on “Creepshow” and The Night of the Living Dead and currently represents legendary actor Malcolm McDowell, wrote a lengthy tribute to Sass.
“Words cannot express the extreme sadness I feel at this time after learning that my good friend Ronnee Sass passed away today,” Roe wrote. “Ronnee was an extremely extraordinary human being. She was the best publicist I ever worked with. We became very close friends during A Clockwork Orange’s 40th anniversary activities for Warner Bros. 10 years ago.
“Ronnee was a force of nature. … In a business where so many go out of their way to brag about how good they are, Ronnee simply showed her brilliance through her thoughtfulness, creativity and work. She had a fierce work ethic. She would work around the clock to get things perfect. … She was a shining example of excellence in her profession.”
Karen Penhale, a longtime associate of Samrock, wrote that Ms. Sass “was a stellar publicist for Warner Bros. who led us through countless amazing and successful publicity campaigns for all of the studio’s great classics. We worked hard, traveled together, laughed, cried, got yelled at by some talent and applauded by others and became dear friends in the process. Having worked with many of the best film directors in Hollywood, we were looking forward to lots of lunches in the future to remember all our great adventures together. I will miss her as will so many, many others as her friends and family now do. RIP dear friend, RIP.”
Ms. Sass was an avid gardener, creating elaborate flower arrangements and centerpieces whenever she could.
In addition to Mr. Diner, Ms. Sass is survived by her brother, Steven, of Baltimore, and nieces Lauren Sass Jacobson of Baltimore and Felicia Greenfield of New York City.
A private family service will be held, followed by a celebration of Ms. Sass’s life, to be scheduled at a later, safer date. Donations in her memory may be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Warner Home Video’s Tenet held on to the No. 1 spot on home entertainment’s first Official Film Chart of 2021 in the U.K. The time-bending epic starring David Washington had more than double the unit sales (physical and digital) of its closest competition, Disney/Marvel’s The New Mutants at No. 2.
The New Mutants entered the chart as the highest new entry of the week on digital downloads only. A dark spin-off of the X-Men series, the superhero horror movie stars Maisie Williams and Anna Taylor-Joy.
Roald Dahl’s The Witches (Warner) dropped to No. 3, as festive classic Love Actually (Universal) held on for another week at No. 4. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Spider-Man: Far From Home re-entered the chart for the first time since October at No. 5. Bad Boys For Life (Sony) also returned to the Top 10, at No. 6, while Little Women (Sony) climbed to No. 7.
Last Christmas (Universal) dropped two places to No. 8, as Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) rose to No. 9, and Warner’s Birds of Prey finished at No. 10.
The Official Film Chart Top 10 – Jan. 6, 2021
The New Mutants
Roald Dahl’s The Witches
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Bad Boys For Life
Little Women (2019)
Jumanji: The Next Level
Birds of Paradise and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
In a new-release-starved home entertainment market, consumers covet fresh content. Warner’s release of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi espionage thriller Tenet turned the U.K. weekly Official Film Chart on its head through Dec. 23. The title outsold the other top-five titles combined with nearly 150,000 packaged-media/digital unit sales. The title also ended the ride of Warner’s Elf (No. 5) atop the charts at three weeks.
Warner’s The Witches entered the chart at No. 2, with the remake starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer and Stanley Tucci. Jim Carey’s The Grinch (2000) remained No. 3, followed by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment’s Love Actually at No. 4.
Universal’s Last Christmas (No. 6), 20th Century’s Home Alone (No. 7), Warner’s The Polar Express (No. 8), and Jim Henson Video’s The Muppet Christmas Carol (No. 9) rounded out the Top 10, with the 2018 animated version of The Grinch moving up one spot to No. 10.