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.
Target's 'Left Behind' Blu-ray combo pack
As the magnitude of new releases begin to pick up after the holiday season, the first retail exclusive of 2015 comes in the form of the latest Nicolas Cage Thriller, eOne's Left Behind.
The only special promotion for the title, however, came at Target, which offered a special Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with bonus features. The wide release is just a Blu-ray-only edition.
Otherwise, retailers are still burning off surplus inventory after the holidays.
Best Buy had a buy-one-get-one-free deal on $9.99 fitness titles.
Walmart offered preorders for the Jan. 27 release of Downton Abbey: Season 5 on DVD ($29.96) and Blu-ray ($34.96), with immediate access to the first episode on Vudu.com.
Coming off the holidays, the big retail chains were more focused on clearing inventory than pushing a relatively small slate of new releases spearheaded by Sony Pictures’ The Equalizer.
Best Buy offered $5.99 movies on DVD and Blu-ray and $9.99 TV seasons on DVD and Blu-ray.
Target offered $5 DVDs and a buy-3-get-1-free deal.
Walmart introduced the Vudu Spark, its own HDMI dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI port to allow viewers to use their HDTV to view Vudu content. The $24.96 device includes $20 in Vudu purchases.
Unsurprisingly, studios avoided releasing any major new releases Dec. 23 to avoid them getting swallowed by a last-minute Christmas shopping rush. The new titles amounted to a few films that barely dented the box office and a few boxed sets of cable TV shows.
Instead, the big chains offered huge savings on catalog title and recent hits. Target had a buy-3-get-1-free deal on $5 DVDs, and had assortments of $9.50 and $14.99 discs.
Target also offered a free $5 gift card with a disc preorder of Game of Thrones: Season Four, Big Hero 6 or The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 at Target.com/pre-order.
Best Buy touted TV seasons for $14.99 or $199 each.
Walmart was apparently the only place to get a DVD copy of Warner's new release The Good Lie, with Reese Witherspoon, available elsewhere just as a Blu-ray/DVD combo.
In other sellthrough news, Paramount Home Media Distribution is lauding the first-week sales of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the top disc debut in terms of box office to disc sales ratio among 2014 films grossing more than $100 million, although the studio hasn't released unit data or comparative numbers.
Walmart's TMNT BD gift set
The big retailers celebrated the Dec. 16 disc release of Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by trying to prove which one had the most “Turtle Power.”
Target offered a wide array of exclusives. First, it offered the Blu-ray combo pack (not the 3D edition) in four different character slipcovers, one for each of the Turtles. These special editions also included 30 minutes of exclusive bonus content. In addition, Target offered a free pizza and soda at the Target Café with purchase of the movie (copies of which were on display at the Café).
Not to be outdone, Walmart offered a gift set of the 2D Blu-ray with four Turtles figurines, and also the DVD edition with a Vudu.com digital copy.
Best Buy’s BD combo pack in a steelbook case seemed rather tame by comparison.
The 2D Blu-ray combo packs at all the stores came with free ninja masks.
Walmart offered the DVD of Fox’s The Maze Runner with the DVD of Chronicle.
Target offered a $5 discount with purchase of The Maze Runner on disc and any book in the series.
Among other exclusives, Best Buy had Anchor Bay’s Black Sails: The Complete First Season on DVD and Blu-ray early, well before the Jan. 6 wide release.
Target offered a 10% discount on all movies and TV shows on disc through its Carthwheel coupon app.
Walmart had exclusive availability of the DVD of the first season of “Survivor’s Remorse.”
Walmart and Best Buy exclusive 'Guardians of the Galaxy' covers
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was the title with the biggest retail exclusives Dec. 9, but the promotions weren’t as high-impact as those for some other blockbuster releases earlier in the year.
For those who prefer extra content, Target offered an exclusive bonus featurette through its TargetTicket.com streaming service.
For exclusive covers, Best Buy offered the 3D Blu-ray in a steelbook case designed to resemble the Walkman prop used in the film. Walmart offered the 3D Blu-ray with a selection of embossed character sleeves, one for each of the five team members.
Among other new releases, Best Buy offered CBS’s Under the Dome: Season 2 on DVD and Blu-ray with an exclusive bonus disc.
Walmart offered a special double-feature DVD two-pack pairing Warner’s Dolphin Tale 2 with the first movie. It also paired the Sony Pictures football drama When the Game Stands Tall with Rudy in both DVD and Blu-ray two-pack configurations.
What makes for a great gift set? Is it an old TV favorites making its way to home video for the first time, or a hit movie packaged with an awesome collectible? Is it as simple as simple as finding new ways to bundle popular franchises? Perhaps remastering the content for high-definition can offer a fresh perspective of a classic on Blu-ray.
In any case, it’s the content that matters, and studios are finding bigger and more creative ways to bring that content to the fans who love it. To get you started on your holiday shopping, we count down our top 10 boxed sets for the holiday season.
1. Batman: The Complete Television Series
Warner/Fox; $199.70 DVD, $269.97 Blu-ray
Holy boxed sets! The campy 1960s “Batman” TV series was one of the most-anticipated home video releases of all time, and now it’s finally here. The limited-edition Blu-ray is an essential addition to any Batman collection, including not only all 120 episodes beautifully remastered for high-definition on 13 discs, but also retrospective bonus features, a Batmobile replica, trading cards and a photo book from Batman himself, Adam West. Warner will be reissuing the Blu-ray set as a slimmed-down version without any of the collectibles.
2. The Wonder Years: The Complete Series
StarVista; $249.95 DVD; Available via TimeLife.com
The only other TV show possibly as coveted on home video as “Batman” was probably “The Wonder Years,” and fans got that one too in 2014. The direct-mail Time Life collector’s edition includes all 115 episodes on 26 discs, packaged in yearbook replicas stored in a miniature school locker with decorative magnets. Plus, the cast of the 1988-93 series has reunited for 23 hours of bonus features. Hardcore fans can get “The Experience” for $299.95, a bundle of the boxed set with a Kennedy Jr. High gym bag, Wildcats gear and a newly produced CD.
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction Gift Set (Amazon exclusive)
Paramount; $119.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo
This is a must-have for “Transformers” fans. The film itself might leave a lot to be desired, but the chief selling point here is the exquisitely sculpted statue depicting the scene of Autobot leader Optimus Prime riding into battle atop the Dinobot Grimlock. The only downside is the included Blu-ray combo pack is not the 3D version.
4. Planet of the Apes: Caesar’s Warrior Collection
Fox; $129.99 Blu-ray
The two reboot films of the classic “Planet of the Apes” franchise have been an undeniable success, and collectors can pick them both up in this deluxe set packaged in a replica of ape leader Caesar’s head. The set includes 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, its sequel, the recently released Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a 32-page booklet and four character cards. Pair it with the Legacy Collection boxed set of the original five films, or, better yet, with the Ultimate DVD Collection ape head that included all the original movies as well as TV shows based on them.
5. The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension
RLJ/Image; $349.98 DVD
This 41-DVD end-all-be-all release of the famed anthology franchise includes not only all 156 episodes from Rod Serling’s legendary 1959-64 series, but also the 110 installments from the 1985-89 revival version, packaged in a tidy numbered cube, paneled with lenticular photos and limited to a run of 7,500 copies. Exclusive extras include new documentaries, interviews with the original cast and crew, a collectible comic book and more.
6. The Sopranos: The Complete Series Blu-ray
HBO; $279.98 Blu-ray
HBO has released complete collections of “The Sopranos” several times before on DVD, but this is the first time the whole show is available on disc in high-definition (previously only the sixth season had been released on Blu-ray). The 86 episodes of the critically acclaimed gangster drama have never looked better.
7. Halloween: The Complete Collection
Anchor Bay/Shout! Factory; $169.99 Blu-ray
Prepare to spend a weekend with Michael Myers. Horror fans can rejoice that all 10 films of the “Halloween” franchise are finally available in a single 15-disc set. This includes the eight films of the original franchise, the two Rob Zombie remakes and the previously unreleased producer’s cut of Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, but also tons of bonus materials, including new interviews with cast members and filmmakers, commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries.
8. Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series
Shout! Factory; $149.99 Blu-ray
Pull up a Chairry and get ready to bask in the zany, colorful world of a quintessential 1980s kids show, remastered for an amazing high-definition picture. All 45 episodes, including the Christmas special, have been carefully reconstructed in HD from the original film elements. Paul Reubens leads the cast as the iconic Pee-wee Herman, with guest stars including Laurence Fishburne, S. Epatha Merkerson and the late Phil Hartman, among others. The eight-disc set also includes more than four hours of new interviews and featurettes about the show.
9. ESPN 30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection
ESPN; $249.95 DVD, $199.95 Blu-ray
Sports fans have plenty to be thankful for in ESPN’s “30 for 30” series of unique, eye-opening sports documentaries, and now every program is available in one handsome collector’s set. The 100-title set includes not only the “30 for 30” episodes, but also all films in the “30 for 30 Soccer Stories” and “Nine for IX” series (a tribute to women’s sports spurred by Title IX), as well as selections from “30 for 30 Shorts” and additional films The Fab Five, Catching Hell and The Announcement. A 32-DVD set exclusive to Groupon comes in a metal sports locker with a shirt, hat, limited-edition book and poster. The Blu-ray set comes in a custom ticket box.
10. Sherlock: The Complete Seasons 1-3 Limited-Edition Gift Set
BBC; $197.50 Blu-ray/DVD combo
This modern twist on “Sherlock Holmes” has generated a huge fan following and made international stars of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. This 14-disc collector’s set includes all nine TV movies in the series, plus new commentaries, never-before-seen outtakes, art cards and busts of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Picking this one up is elementary.
Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection (Warner, $199.99 Blu-ray)
Spartacus: The Complete Series Limited Edition (Anchor Bay, $199.99 Blu-ray)
The Walking Dead: Season 4 Limited Edition (Anchor Bay, $129.99 Blu-ray)
How I Met Your Mother: The Complete Series (Fox, $179.98 DVD)
WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series (Shout! Factory, $139.99 DVD)
Mork & Mindy: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS, $129.99 DVD)
Walmart's 'Planet of the Apes' Blu-ray 2-Pack
The Dec. 2 disc release of Fox's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the latest high-profile title to secure exclusive deals at the big retail chains.
Walmart probably had the most substantial exclusive, offering a special Blu-ray double feature of Dawn with its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (in lieu of the regular Blu-ray edition at some stores, where the 3D version wasn't offered at all).
Best Buy had the 3D version of Dawn packaged in an exclusive metalpak case.
Among other titles, Walmart had an exclusive edition of the Jingle All the Way 2 DVD packed with a toy bear, and Target had the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Showdown in Dimension X DVD from Nickelodeon with a sneak peek at Paramount's upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action film Blu-ray (due Dec. 16) and coupons for $2 off the movie and Pop Secret popcorn.
Speaking of Paramount, some of the studio's distributed titles appear to be delayed to some Best Buy stores. The chain's weekly circluar touted availablility of the Blu-rays for Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season Seven, Star Trek: The Next Generation — All Good Things and The Legend of Korra: Book Three — Change, but the store in Costa Mesa, Calif., didn't have any copies on shelves when the store opened the morning of Dec. 2 (the aforementioned "TMNT" Dimension X DVD also was missing). A clerk said the shipment hadn't come in but expected it within the hour. By afternoon, the titles still weren't available, nor were they stocked at a Tustin, Calif., location, and were listed online as unavailable for store pickup at many Southern California locations.
Most retailers focused less on the new releases of Nov. 25 and more on kickstarting this year's Black Friday deals.
Target, for example, used its weekly circular to tout $5 holiday movie DVDs, and some stores had many DVD displays set up throughout the venue, not just in the electronics section, with $5, $6, $7, $8 and $13 titles.
For new or upcoming home videos, Target offered a $5 gift card and mail-order delivery of the eventual The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 Blu-ray with preorders at Target.com/mockingjay. The film hit theaters the weekend before.
Best Buy promoted up to 45% savings on select gift sets, and buy-one-get-one $9.99 Blu-rays.
Walmart offered exclusive availability of Hallmark Christmas movies A Royal Christmas and Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas for $9.96 each, from Cinedigm.
'22 Jump Street' and 'Sin City: A Dame to Kill For' steelbook covers
Two sequels generated the bulk of retail promotional interest among the Nov. 18 new releases: Sony Pictures’ 22 Jump Street and Anchor Bay’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.
For 22 Jump Street, Target offered the title in exclusive steelbook packaging, while Best Buy offered a bonus disc with 25 minutes of exclusive bonus content — a behind-the-scenes featurette with Ice Cube and a look at the action and stunts. Walmart offered the DVD of the film packed with the DVD of its predecessor, 21 Jump Street.
For Sin City, Best Buy offered the steelbook packaging, while Target offered the exclusive bonus content on a bonus disc. Walmart offered the Blu-ray combo pack with a copy of the first Sin City.
Target also has an exclusive Blu-ray edition of the 1982 film Annie, timed with the Dec. 19 theatrical release of Sony Pictures’ remake. The Blu-ray comes with an $8 movie ticket voucher and a bracelet.
Shoppers could get a free copy of Disney’s new Frozen: Sing-Along Edition DVD at Target with the purchase of at least $50 of Frozen products.
The rise of Marvel Studios is starting to have a profound effect on the entertainment industry, and not just for what it means at the box office.
Paramount Pictures, which had a distribution deal with Marvel before Disney bought the comic book company, recently reported a significant drop on annual profits without its Marvel deal in the mix. Now that it’s firmly entrenched in the House of Mouse, Marvel has plotted out its theatrical strategies into the next decade, part of a cinema cold war of sorts with DC Comics, which has its own line-up of films slated by Warner Bros.
Given Warner’s inconsistent attempts to adapt its DC properties to the big screen (aside from Batman and Superman), it’s easy enough to assume Marvel has a better chance of making good on its proposed film slate at this point, having already released 10 films as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and seemingly printing more money with each one.
In 2016, Marvel has Captain America: Civil War, an adaptation of a comic book storyline that saw various factions of superheroes turn against each other over political disagreements. Interestingly, the ascendency of Marvel Studios has sparked something of a civil war within the various Marvel comics properties relating to film rights.
Before Marvel Studios was a glint in anyone’s eyes, Marvel Comics licensed the film rights to some of its biggest characters, with the Hulk at Universal, the X-Men and Fantastic Four going to Fox, Spider-Man ending up at Sony, etc. So when Marvel Studios started up, they only had the rights to what were considered second-tier characters at the time, such as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. However, the fact that the characters they still had formed the core of the Avengers sparked the idea of building a shared cinematic universe to play in.
The rights to some characters, such as the Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider and Punisher, have since returned to Marvel, allowing for their incorporation into the MCU. And certainly Marvel would like to get the rights Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men back, which they won’t be able to as long as Sony and Fox continue to make movies with those characters.
Fox seems particularly entrenched to keep Marvel from getting some if its characters back, especially after moving forward with a reboot of the Fantastic Four that has many fans scratching their heads. Marvel’s response seems to be a passive-aggressive war of attrition, as the comics division has canceled the Fantastic Four book, meaning it won’t be around to cross-promote the new film. Also, apparently Disney has blocked any merchandising for new “X-Men” products such as action figures, and Marvel has barred its comics writers from creating any new characters for the “X-Men” books, so Fox won’t have any new material to adapt into films.
Oh, and Marvel also decided to kill off Wolverine, the most popular X-Men character in the film series and the only one to appear in all seven movies.
This would seem to be a strategy meant to devalue the properties from within, diminishing Fox’s financial incentive to continue producing films. (It might also appear to be Marvel shooting itself in the foot on the comics side, but they probably feel the popularity of the comics is elastic enough to bounce back after the house studio recovers the necessary rights.)
One result of this animosity is that Fox has banned Marvel from using the term “mutant” in its movies to explain how any of their superheroes have powers. As fans of the comics are well aware, the mutant concept was introduced with the “X-Men” in the 1960s as a way to explain characters born with superpowers via genetic mutation, a plot point played up in the “X-Men” movies through its motif of the evolution of mankind.
Generally, Fox has exclusive rights to all of the Marvel Comics mutant characters, with a few exceptions, most notably Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who are members of the Avengers but also the mutant children of No. 1 X-Men baddie Magneto. The murkiness of these rights issues is playing out in the form of dueling Quicksilvers, with different versions of the character appearing in both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Using these two mutant characters, however, does raise a story issue of how they obtained their powers within the context of the MCU. That might be one reason that the Marvel is devoting a lot of attention to its “Inhumans” brand. The Inhumans are essentially a race of superpowered descendants of humans who were genetically manipulated by aliens millions of years earlier.
Fundamentally, they differ from mutants in that their genetic distinctions are a result of engineering rather than evolution, but functionally they serve the same purpose. MCU can simply dub its superpowered characters Inhumans instead of mutants and carry on without any concern at all. In fact, the MCU properties are already carefully laying the foundation for these story points, with the means of obtaining superpowers being a central focus of the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show, which is deep into a story arc that involves alien artifacts and DNA unlocking mysterious abilities. The MCU has already trotted out the terms “gifted” and “age of miracles” to explain non-mutant superpowered humans, but Inhumans would accomplish the goal in a much more elegant way.
Certainly, MCU’s adaptation of the Inhumans may differ from the comics presentation to fit its needs, but the fact that an Inhumans movie is slated for 2018 definitely shows they already have some role to play in the MCU.
On the flip side, a rift in character rights doesn’t have to lead to a rift between the studios involved. Contrast the Fox/Marvel rift with the relatively cozy relationship between Marvel and Sony, which are rumored to be in talks to connect the Sony’s Spideyverse to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This isn’t the first time such an idea has been floated. In 2012, the Oscorp building from The Amazing Spider-Man was reportedly approved by Sony to appear in The Avengers but the visual effects couldn’t be finished in time.
It’s unclear if the MCU Spidey would continue with the ASM storylines or reboot the franchise yet again, but obviously an alliance between Marvel and Sony over Spider-Man would be a huge deal for future MCU and Spider-Man films.
It would also shield Sony from the criticism that, following the poor reception of Amazing Spider-Man 2, that it’s only trying to pump out Spidey movies to maintain the rights, without regard to quality. Marvel Studios has clearly demonstrated that it has a firm grasp on how to adapt its characters into popular, well-received blockbuster films, and there’s no reason to think they couldn’t do the same with Spider-Man.
As far as Fox is concerned, it’s not like they don’t work with other studios either. Fox recently reached an agreement with Warner Bros. that paved the way for the long-awaited home video release of the 1960s “Batman” TV series, which is being handled by Warner.
But the impacts of its dispute with Marvel could be felt well beyond just the Marvel properties. For instance, could the feud spill over into Disney-owned Lucasfilm’s efforts to promote the next “Star Wars” movie? After all, Fox still controls distribution of the earlier films for a few more years, and owns the distribution rights to Episode IV in perpetuity, so any plans Lucasfilm has for new boxed sets of the earlier films will require Fox’s cooperation. This is especially the case if the rumors are true that Disney is hoping to release Blu-rays of the unaltered original trilogy, something “Star Wars” fans have been demanding for years.
It’s a mess to be sure, but if anything is certain in Hollywood, it’s that money will always win out in the end.