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Geared towards comic book and genre fans, Agent DVD Insider scoops DVD and Blu-Ray release announcements and news, along with commentary from industry experts and fellow comic fans.


Agent DVD Insider
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19 Oct, 2017

Movies Anywhere a Good Next Step, But Some Digital Ownership Holes Remain


The introduction of Movies Anywhere, an expansion of the Disney Movies Anywhere platform to include four more studios, is the most significant advancement of the promotion of digital ownership since the launch of UltraViolet.

The concept behind UltraViolet was to give consumers more choices in playing back their digital content by linking several digital retailers. After it launched in 2011, UltraViolet became primarily associated with the code included with Blu-rays and DVDs that allowed consumers to have a free digital copy of a movie or TV show with the purchase of the physical disc. The content itself would be stored in the cloud, and UltraViolet accounts would give consumers the rights to access the content whenever they wished from affiliated websites and apps such as Flixster, CinemaNow or Vudu.

But, there were significant gaps in the service. Apples’ iTunes, one of the biggest retailers of digital content, did not sign up. Neither did Disney, which launched its own, proprietary Disney Movies Anywhere service, which was compatible with iTunes.

In essence, while you could buy almost any content from any retailer, you could only watch it across platforms depending on the interconnectivity deals they had in place. This could lead to some eclectic digital collections, as some studios began offering digital copy only through UltraViolet. So you could have some movies on iTunes and some on Flixster and no means to visit one site to gauge your entire library. In many cases, especially for families, this could lead to inadvertently buying the same content again without realizing you had it on a different service. (Some studios, such as Paramount and Universal, allowed the same code to redeem a digital copy on both iTunes and UltraViolet, which opened up options but was still essentially owning the movie twice in two different spots, even if it were free).

One key difference between digital and physical ownership, of course, is the nature of the playback device. With a disc, you put it in a Blu-ray or DVD player and watch it as many times as you want, and the brand or location of the player shouldn’t matter. With streaming, however, the retailer where you bought (or redeemed the code for) the movie also provides the playback device, via the retailer’s app or a video plug-in at their website.

Thus, the key for consumers looking for the best option to see as much of their collection as possible in one spot would be finding a retailer that used as many of the available rights lockers. With its deal with Disney Movies Anywhere, Walmart’s Vudu soon became the only digital retailer where consumers could see their cloud-based collections of movies and TV shows from all six major studios and participating mini-majors such as Lionsgate.

But, it’s not as if these facts where widely marketed or known to mainstream consumers, many of whom erroneously expect everything ever made to show up eventually on Netflix. For digital ownership to remain viable, the ability to access content couldn’t be so annoying as to drive more viewers to subscription streaming.

Another problem facing UltraViolet was the decline in compatible retailers, particularly big names such as Flixter and CinemaNow.

So, unless studios wanted to incur the wrath of other retail partners to exclusively promote Vudu as the digital solution, they needed to facilitate a way to expand how their movies interacted with a variety of digital retailers.

Aside from a few early technical snafus, creating a Movies Anywhere account and linking all a consumers’ retail accounts is a relatively seamless process. Plus, as a reboot of DMA, the new Movies Anywhere offers something that UltraViolet never did — a playback app. You still have to visit a participating retailer to buy the movie, but you can watch it through the MA app in addition to that retailer if you want.

Now, the Movies Anywhere app and website just allow you to see which movies you own that are connected to the Movies Anywhere platform (not unlike how the UV site lets you see which UV-linked movies you own). So you can’t watch your content from holdouts such as Paramount and Lionsgate there. And because those studios haven’t signed up yet, their movies won’t automatically cross-populate between participating retailers Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play the way the rest of your collection will (with some exceptions).

Also, the biggest drawback to Movies Anywhere thus far is that it doesn’t include TV shows. All the major retailers connected to Movies Anywhere also sell TV episodes and seasons, and many TV DVDs and Blu-rays include UltraViolet codes for the content. Thus, you can’t watch TV shows on the Movies Anywhere app or website, and if you own TV content on iTunes it won’t show up in Vudu, or vice versa.

That, and the lack of Paramount and Lionsgate content, means consumers may still have to jump between retailers to see all their content.

But, if those issues can be worked out, and soon, then Movies Anywhere represents a good step toward the one-stop option for digital content studios are looking to achieve.


17 Oct, 2017

Retailers Offer a Web of 'Spider-Man' Exclusives

Target and Best Buy exclusive 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Blu-rays
Target and Best Buy exclusive 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Blu-rays

Retailers offered several exclusives for Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Homecoming Oct. 17.

Target touted a "triple exclusive" with a comic book, special packaging and artwork, and an exclusive bonus disc. Target also offered $5 with the purchase of both the movie and a $9.99 Spider-Man flip mask.

Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of the movie.

Walmart offered a gift set with two Mashems figures, one Spidey and the other a mystery figure.

Amazon had the Spider-Man: Homecoming UHD Blu-ray with a collectible mask case.

Among other titles, Target offered Universal's Girls Trip with an exclusive one-year subscription to Essence.

For Warner's animated Batman vs. Two-Face, Best Buy offered the Blu-ray with Steelbook packaging, while Target offered lenticular box art.

One of the bigger Target exclusives during the week was a $24.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo set of Netflix's Stranger Things: Season 1 in retro packaging styled like a VHS tape with a collectible mini-poster.


3 Oct, 2017

Retailers Load Up on 'Pirates' Booty

Best Buy 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Steelbook
Best Buy 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales' Steelbook

Retailers offered quite a few options for consumers looking to buy Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales on disc.

Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive digital bonus content in the form of featurettes "From the Depths" and "How to Steal a Bank."

Best Buy had Steelbook editions for the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray versions. Best Buy also had the first four "Pirates" movies as low as $7.99 each.

Target is giving a $5 gift card with preorders for Spider-Man: Homecoming. The Blu-ray will include a comic book and an exclusive bonus disc.

Walmart had a display of Fox and MGM Halloween-themed Blu-rays and DVDs with limited-edition cover art by Mexican-Cuban-American artist Orlando Arocene. The copies at Walmart came with an exclusive coloring book featuring the designs.

 


28 Sep, 2017

Celebrating the 30-Year Legacy of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'


Today marks the 30th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which premiered in first-run syndication Sept. 28, 1987.

At the time, few put much stock in the prospects of Paramount’s attempt to bring “Star Trek” back to the small screen, despite the success the crew of the original series had been enjoying in movie theaters. However, despite a bumpy start, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” would go on to represent a significant milestone in the evolution of science-fiction on television.

By the mid 1980s, television networks weren’t interested in weekly sci-fi dramas anymore. In the 1960s, shows such as the original “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” proved there was a market for it, but advancements in visual effects over the ensuing decades would prove problematic for such productions, especially with Star Wars raising audience expectations. Space-based shows were either too expensive for networks to pursue when done right, or would seem too cheesy when done on the cheap, to the point where audiences would stay away.

For example, the 1978 “Battlestar Galactica” generated a significant fan base, but not large enough for ABC to justify its weekly budget. So, the network canceled the show, then retooled its premise to cut costs. The result, “Galactica 1980,” was widely panned as one of the worst shows of all time.

“Star Trek,” of course, had migrated to the big screen by 1979 with the first film starring the cast of the original 1966-69 show. That project had evolved from an attempt by Paramount to revive “Star Trek” on television in the 1970s by making it the anchor of a new TV network. When those plans fell through, the success of Star Wars inspired Paramount executives to bring their own vaunted space franchise into cinemas.

While the business of Star Wars may have had some influence on its existence, the creative direction of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is more of a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning ode to space exploration that was released in 1968, when the original “Star Trek” was still on the air.

While Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a box office success, it was also a troubled production that proved expensive for the studio, which overhauled the film production team to ensure a tighter budget on the sequels. This led to what most fans regard as the best of the “Trek” films, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which was followed in 1984 by Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986 by Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The three formed a tidy trilogy, with Star Trek IV proving to be the biggest box office hit of the entire franchise (a title it would hold until the J.J. Abrams movies).

During production of the fourth movie, the studio decided to take advantage of the 20th anniversary of the franchise with a new TV show. With production budgets of the films once again inching upward, the studio decided a cast of unknowns would be a cost-effective alternative way of carrying on the franchise. (Indeed, the fifth film to feature the original cast would fall victim to budget restrictions.)

By this time, network sci-fi was usually just a high-concept adjustment to an otherwise normal TV show — Knight Rider and its talking robotic car had just finished airing on NBC. Paramount decided to air the new “Star Trek” episodes in syndication, bypassing networks and selling the episode rights directly to stations in local markets. Syndication is typically a distribution model for reruns of old shows and movies, but using it for original content wasn’t unheard of, such as with American airings of the British show “Space: 1999” in the 1970s.

As to the problem of production costs, the show’s visual effects team decided it could save time and money by compositing the show on video tape, resulting in complex visual effects that at the resolution of televisions at the time would appear to be motion-picture quality. (This process, however, wasn’t suitable for high-definition, leading to the show being painstakingly remastered in the past few years for a Blu-ray release).

Gene Roddenberry returned to create the show, essentially reinventing the concept he had brought to NBC more than 20 years earlier, refining it to reflect changes to his humanist philosophy over the ensuing decades. Roddenberry’s involvement with the new show might be considered ironic in some circles, given how the show was a response to the movies, which didn’t achieve their measure of success until after Roddenberry’s role in their production was reduced following the first film.

Likewise, it could be argued that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” didn’t take off until many of the storytelling restraints Roddenberry imposed upon it were lifted after he took on a reduced role in its production in the later seasons. He died in 1991.

By then the show had caught on, and its success led to a glut of programming using first-run syndication, such as the long run of “Baywatch” following a brief network run. Hollywood being the hot-bed of imitation that it is, by the 1990s many shows in this new wave of syndication were low-budget sci-fi and fantasy efforts, such as “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and its spinoff, “Xena: Warrior Princess.”

Paramount itself would produce one such show in the form of “War of the Worlds,” a two-season sequel to the 1953 film based on the H.G. Wells novel.

By 1993, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was popular enough to justify its own spinoff, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was born, inverting the “Trek” formula by being set on board a space station rather than a ship.

With syndication having proved viable, distributors also began to piece together ad hoc networks for their shows, such as the “Prime Time Entertainment Network,” which aired “Babylon 5,” a space station-based rival to “DS9,” and “Time Trax,” a show about a time traveling cop aimed at the “Quantum Leap” crowd.

By the mid 1990s, deregulation would allow these syndication relationships to coalesce into new national networks, with the WB and Paramount’s UPN joining CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. With “Star Trek: The Next Generation” coming to an end in 1994 (and itself migrating to the big screen), and “DS9” proving a success amid an increasingly crowded syndication field, Paramount decided that a fourth “Trek” show, “Star Trek: Voyager,” would anchor its new network, finally realizing the plans it has previously tried in the 1970s.

As if on cue amid this resurgence, the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) launched in 1992, and over time cable channels would prove to be a viable home for televised sci-fi. “Stargate SG-1,” based on the 1994 Stargate movie, would premiere on Showtime in 1997 before itself migrating to the Sci-Fi Channel.

All these shows, but especially “Star Trek,” would prove to be a stomping ground for sci-fi writers on TV.

Prominent “TNG” and “DS9” writer/producer Ronald D. Moore and several other writers from those shows would go on to produce the 2003-09 remake of “Battlestar Galactica” for Sci-Fi Channel that many consider to be one of the hallmarks of the current age of prestige serialized television dramas. After that, Moore adapted “Outlander” for Starz.

Another notable “DS9” writer, Robert Hewitt Wolfe, went on to produce “Andromeda,” a future-set sci-fi show based on ideas by Gene Roddenberry.

“Star Trek; Voyager” alum Bryan Fuller was later responsible for the likes of “Dead Like Me,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Hannibal” and “American Gods.”

Still other “Trek” veterans would stay on with the franchise, with “Star Trek: Enterprise” airing for four seasons on UPN following the end of “Voyager.” With the end of “Enterprise” in 2005, producers felt it was only appropriate to conclude where it started, setting the finale of the 18-year run of revived “Star Trek” as another adventure for members of the “TNG” crew.

Even writers who didn’t work on “Trek” were certainly influenced by it, given “TNG” an even bigger footprint on the landscape of television over the past 30 years.

So, it’s only fitting that one of the latest entries in this legacy is “The Orville,” a loving homage to “TNG” created by long-time fan Seth MacFarlane and produced by many of talents who cut their teeth on “Star Trek” so many years ago.

And, of course, the franchise itself is back on TV with “Star Trek: Discovery,” which, in keeping with the tradition of finding new distribution models to deliver new “Star Trek,” is the flagship of the CBS All-Access streaming service.

In many ways, “Discovery” is a bold departure from the franchise fans might be used to — a reinvention of “Star Trek” for the golden age of television of the 21st century. And in that, the franchise has in its own way come full circle, as the wide-ranging impact that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” had on the television landscape will continue to be felt for years to come.


26 Sep, 2017

A Slew of 'Transformers' Options at Retail

'Transformers' Steelbooks at Best Buy: 5-film collection and 'The Last Knight' UHD
'Transformers' Steelbooks at Best Buy: 5-film collection and 'The Last Knight' UHD

The big national retailers inundated consumers with a number of exclusive versions of Paramount's Transformers: The Last Knight Sept. 26.

Best Buy offered three Steelbook editions containing the new film — Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD versions, plus a Steelbook five-film collection.

Target offered a version of the Blu-ray combo pack with special box art and an exclusive bonus disc containing 50 minutes of additional content.

Walmart offered a couple of gift sets containing the fifth live-action "Transformers" movie. One had the Blu-ray combo pack with die-cast miniatures of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in vehicle form. Another had the UHD version with an "immersive 360-degree video experience" and limited-edition viewing goggles.

Among other titles, Best Buy had a line of Marvel Cinematic Universe Blu-rays with new box art. These are slimmed down from the usual Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and contain just the Blu-ray and Digital HD for $19.99 each.


19 Sep, 2017

Retailers Hail 'Wonder Woman' With Exclusives


Several retailer exclusives were available to consumers for Warner's Wonder Woman.

Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack of Wonder Woman with digibook packaging containing a 64-page book excerpt.

Walmart offered a DVD edition with no extras, and a Blu-ray gift set with a wearable tiara based on Wonder Woman's headgear.

Best Buy offered an exclusive 3D Blu-ray combo pack containing character traiding cards, and a Steelbook for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition. Best Buy also had an exclusive $79.99 four-pack of the UHD Blu-rays of all four DCEU films: Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel.

Best Buy also had exclusive 4K UHD Blu-ray Steelbook editions for Sony Pictures' Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, the original Starship Troopers and the 40th Anniversary re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Walmart offered separate DVD releases for vol. 1 and vol. 2 of PBS's The Vietnam War documentary for $29.96 each.


12 Sep, 2017

Unwrapping Exclusives for 'The Mummy'

(L-R): Target and Walmart exclusive 'Mummy' box art
(L-R): Target and Walmart exclusive 'Mummy' box art

Universal's The Mummy arrived on disc Sept. 12 with exclusive offers from each of the big three major retailers.

Target offered the horror reboot in exclusive Blu-ray Steelbook packaging. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray as a collector's set with digibook packaging containing a prequel comic book.

Walmart offered a couple of exclusive editions of The Mummy. For the Blu-ray, Walmart had exclusive box art and 30 minutes of exclusive digital bonus content. For the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Walmart offered a virtual reality viewer and the exclusive bonus content.

Target also offered a Steelbook Blu-ray for another Universal title, the 35th anniversary re-release of E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial.

Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging for several classic horror films on Blu-ray, including Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and the original The Mummy.


5 Sep, 2017

Best Buy Offers 'Flash' Steelbook

Best Buy Blu-ray Steelbook for 'The Flash: Season 3'
Best Buy Blu-ray Steelbook for 'The Flash: Season 3'

The latest Best Buy exclusive Blu-ray Steelbook is Warner's The Flash: The Complete Third Season.

Best Buy is also taking preorders for its exclusive 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Steelbook of Warner's Wonder Woman.

Best Buy also continues to promote its offer of a free $10 gift card with the purchase of $50 or more of select TV seasons on disc.

Target offered Nickelodeon's Paw Patrol: The Great Pirate Rescue! with an exclusive print eye patch and digital copy.

Walmart had Sony Pictures' Kevin Can Wait: Season One in an exclusive $19.96 gift set with a triple-feature DVD of Kevin James movies.


29 Aug, 2017

Retail Exclusives Focus on 'Baywatch,' 'Lion King'


New releases Baywatch and The Lion King: Signature Collection were the focus of most of the retailer exclusives Aug. 29.

Target offered Paramount's Baywatch Blu-ray with exclusive box art on metal packaging.

Best Buy offered the Baywatch Blu-ray with an exclusive bonus disc.

Walmart offered Blu-ray versions of Baywatch with a bonus digital copy of Pain & Gain accessible through the Vudu streaming service.

For Disney's Blu-ray re-release of The Lion King, Best Buy offered the animated movie in Steelbook packaging for a $5 premium over the regular Blu-ray edition.

Target offered the new Lion King Blu-ray combo pack with 32-page storybook packaging and limited-edition film frames.

On the other hand, the new Lion King discs had limited availability at Amazon.com, where it was offered only through third-part Marketplace sellers. Amazon has been limiting accessibility to recent Disney discs, including not taking preorders for them.

Best Buy also had an exclusive for Warner's Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray, adding a graphic novel to the widely available gift set that also includes a Harley Quinn figurine. Target offered a Batman and Harley Quinn Blu-ray steelbook.


22 Aug, 2017

The Rush for 'Guardians' Exclusives

Best Buy's 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' 4K/3D Blu-ray Steelbook
Best Buy's 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' 4K/3D Blu-ray Steelbook

Exclusives for Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seemed to be in great demand Aug. 22, particularly Steelbook editions of the Blu-ray at Best Buy.

The Steelbook edition was apparently sold out throughout several Southern California Best Buy locations before they even opened Tuesday morning, with customers arriving early to pick up a copy in person greeted by half-empty Guardians displays (though the Best Buy standalone Guardians displays were impressive, incorporating a social media photo op with lifesize cardboard cutouts of the team). A clerk at a Costa Mesa, Calif., store said all their copies of the Steelbooks were diverted to a large number of online preorders, and the Best Buy website indicated no copies available at any stores within hundreds of miles.

One of the reasons for the high demand for the Steelbook, particularly the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version, was that it was the only way for fans to get their hands on a 3D disc of the film, as Disney relegated the 3D edition to a Best Buy exclusive. While Disney has held back on releasing 3D versions of the studio's films in recent years, the choice to limit 3D availability of the "Guardians" sequel to a single-retailer premium exclusive was a particularly interesting one given how much the potential for 3D influenced the film's visual style, which only adds to the potential demand among fans for the 3D version, regardless of how niche the format may have become.

Based on information posted online by fans around the United States looking for the 4K/3D combo, stores in places like New Jersey and Tennessee had plenty of copies of the 3D exclusive on shelves, which points to some curious allocation decisions on the part of Best Buy as to how many copies were produced and where they were sent for the title's launch day. Even the Steelbook of the standard Blu-ray edition was sold out at most stores, which definitely points to the popularly of the collectible packaging as well.

Shoppers would have better luck finding the exclusives at Target and Walmart, though some problems were reported with those as well.

Target offered the Blu-ray and UHD Blu-ray with an exclusive digital "Meet the Ravagers" featurette redeemable through the Disney Movies Anywhere streaming service. However, several fans took to the Internet to complain that their exclusive codes either didn't work or were listed as having been no longer valid after erroring out. Such issues aren't altogether uncommon for new releases and are usually ironed out within a day or so of the title's release.

Walmart offered the Blu-ray version of the film with exclusive box art and two packs of Upper Deck Marvel trading cards.

Best Buy had a variety of exclusives with other new releases as well, such as Steelbook packaging with Warner's Supergirl: Season 2 and Lionsgate's Ash vs. Evil Dead: Season 2 Blu-rays, and lenticular packaging on Lionsgate's The Walking Dead: Season 7 Blu-ray.