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September 25, 2017

New on Disc: 'Festival' and more …

Festival

Criterion, Documentary, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
1967. An impressionistic chronicle of the Newport Folk Festivals from the early ’60s golden days, this documentary features a mix of performers who were hot at the time.
Extras: The accompanying Criterion essay by music critic Amanda Petrusich does a smooth job of establishing historical context, which isn’t easy because even though the performers were unified in purpose, there were a lot of them from contrasting backgrounds and eras.
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The Big Knife (Blu-ray)

MVD/Arrow, Drama, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Wendell Corey, Shelley Winters.
1955. Director Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of a Clifford Odets play isn’t a great or even totally successful film, but on a fascination/entertainment level, it takes a fairly substantial place in a good movie year.
Extras: Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton provide the most enjoyable voiceover commentary I’ve heard in a while.
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September 25, 2017

New Format Off to a Great Start, But Still Needs Marketing

In our September issue, we examine the status of 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), a new format that — despite being quite a mouthful — seems to be taking off.

Consumers may not understand unwieldy acronyms, but they understand better quality, especially when they see it. Still, if 4K UHD with HDR is to attract the mainstream consumer, the industry it seems will need to make a concerted effort to demonstrate its virtues. The Blu-ray Disc Association has cited data from Futuresource that shows consumers in the United States are familiar with UHD TVs (75%) but that less than half (44%) are aware of high dynamic range (HDR) TVs. That lower percentage familiar with HDR holds true internationally as well. Since HDR, most industry observers hold, is the key to a higher-quality picture, providing greater contrast and deeper, more lifelike colors, it seems further marketing is in order.

Most consumers who upgrade their TVs will adopt 4K UHD (most with HDR) by osmosis, as the newer models will feature the updated format. To get consumers to spend money on content for the new format will require marketing and demonstrations.

“With 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, seeing is believing,” noted Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “Educating consumers around the format’s stunning resolution, color brilliance and multi-dimensional sound is of the utmost priority across the industry.”

“Warner Bros. works very closely with our consumer electronics colleagues to incorporate 4K HDR clips and images from our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases whenever possible,” said Jessica Schell, EVP and GM for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “This is an ideal way to ensure that the consumer understands the quality of content available to watch in 4K HDR on these new 4K HDR TVs.”

I know organizations such as the BDA and the UHD Alliance, along with the studios, are working on programs to help boost the format at retail and among consumers. As the industry embarks on the holiday season, when numerous shoppers will be out sampling the latest TVs, the home entertainment industry should take advantage of this great opportunity to showcase 4K UHD with HDR content. 

 

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September 22, 2017

Putting Perceptions in Perspective

When it comes to home entertainment sales, victories are not what they once were, but that shouldn’t diminish a win. That’s why it is so important that we temper our perceptions with perspective.

The sales business, both digital and physical, is competing with an almost unbeatable proposition, from a consumer standpoint: gobs of movies, TV shows and original content for about $10 a month. First-run movies may be conspicuously absent from Netflix’s all-you-can-eat entertainment buffet, but consumers don’t seem to mind, particularly now that Netflix has ramped up its game with compelling original content that is so addicting that “binge watching,” with apologies to baseball, appears to be America’s new greatest national pastime.

I’m saying this as an introduction of sorts to our annual report on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, which all the studios are now supporting. Walt Disney Studios made the circle complete with its July announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would be its first release in the better-than-high-def format. But for those who are wondering why sales of Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs, 18 months after the format officially launched, still represent a tiny fraction of overall disc sales — the first-week record for a theatrical new release is 14%, set by Fox’s Alien: Covenant in August — let’s put things in perspective.

We’re in a different world than we were 20 years ago, when DVD first hit the market. Even then, DVD didn’t really gather traction until two years after its launch — and we need to keep in mind that DVD was the first format to make movie and TV show ownership both feasible and affordable. The novelty of being able to buy a movie for less than $20 just three months after it bowed on the big screen was a revolutionary thing; by the time Blu-ray Disc came around in 2006 the novelty of movie ownership, and collecting, had worn off, and even then-Disney home entertainment chief Bob Chapek opined that Blu-ray was evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Since then, we’ve seen the rise of streaming and the emergence of digital ownership. In their first few months, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales may have exceeded Blu-ray Disc sales, in the comparable period, but that simply isn’t sustainable. There are too many other entertainment options, most of them tied to the Internet, for disc sales to ever approach the magnitude of what they were in DVD’s heyday. The decline in overall disc sales over the past decade is somewhat misleading — in most quarters, Blu-ray Disc sales have held steady or even gained — but the total amount of money consumers are allocating to buying physical home entertainment continues to decline, and that’s a trend that will not only continue, but also accelerate.

Similarly, digital sales are making impressive gains, percentage-wise, but it is unlikely they will ever surpass, or even come close, to the money consumers spend on streaming, chiefly through Netflix. Subscription streaming plays into those two hallowed temples of consumer wants: simple and cheap.

But that’s OK. As an industry, we need to temper our expectations and celebrate our victories, no matter how small. When digital sales go up 10% in a quarter, we should be happy — and not moan and groan because the actual dollars are a fraction of what consumers spend that quarter on Netflix. Similarly, when the DEG releases its quarterly sales estimates, we don’t have to sulk because disc sales went down another 12%. Break those numbers apart and you’ll most likely see Blu-ray Disc sales numbers holding steady and Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc numbers soaring, compared to prior quarters.

For those of us who grew up with VHS rentals and then DVD sales, there’s no question that we’re living in a strange world, a changed world. We just have to adapt, both with our business models and with our perceptions.

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September 19, 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.

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September 18, 2017

New on Disc: 'Love With the Proper Stranger' and more …

Love With the Proper Stranger

Street 9/19/17
Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Natalie Wood, Steve McQueen, Edie Adams, Herschel Bernardi, Tom Bosley
1963. This irresistible primer in megawatt star-power chemistry is one of the most pleasurable movies to operate from a ridiculous premise: that a guy would have sex with Natalie Wood and not particularly recall it.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan from Diabolique magazine.
Read the Full Review

Night Moves (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Gene Hackman, Susan Clark Jennifer Warren, Edward Binns, Melanie Griffith.
1975. Full of dialogue that still crackles, Night Moves is buoyed by screenwriter Alan Sharp’s rejoinders and a Gene Hackman performance that now seems to be among his most definitive.
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September 12, 2017

Unwrapping Exclusives for 'The Mummy'

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.

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September 11, 2017

New on Disc: 'Son of Paleface' and more …

Son of Paleface

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $14.95 DVD, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Roy Rogers, Bill Williams.
1952.
This sequel to The Paleface is much more imaginatively strung together if not necessarily funnier, put over by the commercially brilliant vesting coup of getting Roy Rogers himself to play Bob Hope’s foil.
Extras: Includes a commentary by animation expert Greg Ford.
Read the Full Review

The Long, Hot Summer (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Orson Welles, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury.
1958. The Long, Hot Summer stands out in the relatively small pool of decent William Faulkner screen adaptations as an example of what star-power chemistry used to be.
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September 05, 2017

Best Buy Offers 'Flash' Steelbook

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.

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September 04, 2017

New on Disc: 'Beggars of Life' and more …

Beggars of Life

Kino Lorber, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Wallace Beery, Richard Arlen, Louise Brooks.
1928.
Director William A. Wellman’s story of a woman (Louise Brooks) taken in by the hobo lifestyle after killing a farmer who abused her is not a story of the Depression, but of a pre-Crash period when there were still a lot of hoboes to go around.
Extras: The Blu-ray includes an accompanying essay by Nick Pinkerton, plus two commentaries — one by William Wellman Jr. and another by Thomas Gladysz, founding director of the Louise Brooks Society.
Read the Full Review

Kid Galahad (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Elvis Presley, Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman, Charles Bronson.

1962. Elvis Presley’s turn as a boxer is quintessential drive-in fare for the era: a few songs (the score is definitely beyond decent), a few hoodlums, a few punches, and Gig Young looking (as ever) half-swacked.
Extras: Julie Kirgo’s liner notes do a good job of explaining why Kid is a pleasantly inoffensive time killer and why we’d all like to be able to cure our problems just by singing a song.
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August 29, 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.

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