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July 31, 2017

New on Disc: 'Running on Empty' and more …

Running on Empty (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Christine Lahti, River Phoenix, Judd Hirsch, Martha Plimpton.
1988. Running on Empty was one of the the last Sidney Lumet films that generally pleased everybody with unqualified success, dealing with ’60s political radicals on the run whose past catches up to their teenaged son, played by River Phoenix. who got his only Oscar nomination for playing this shy brooder.
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Road to Rio & Road to Bali

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $14.95 DVD each, $24.95 Blu-ray each, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour.
1947/1952. By the time the “Road” pictures’ two superstar leads and their writers got to the later series entries, the fourth wall and all other pretenses of conventional storytelling hadn’t merely been shattered but blown to smithereens by a nuclear device. Even though it’s in black-and-white against relatively drab settings, Road to Rio is quite funny for maybe 75% of the time and offers some of the series’ most ticklish guest shots. Road to Bali, the only “Road” pic shot in color, is lovely to look at while also boasting some funny walk-ons of its own.
Extras: Commentary with Michael Schlesinger and Mark Evanier.
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July 28, 2017

Industry Gatherings Vital to Keep Ideas Flowing

The sixth annual Los Angeles Entertainment Summit underscored the importance of our home entertainment industry leaders getting together in person every once in a while for face-to-face meetings.

And what made LAES so special was its inclusiveness. Not since the demise of the annual Entertainment Merchants Association’s annual convention and trade show in Las Vegas nearly a decade ago has there been a single event that draws participants from the entire food chain, if you will — studios, distributors, technologists, marketers, retailers and, yes, members of the press.

Every one of those groups plays a key role in moving this business forward, and while we can do all right flying solo in our silos and occasionally attending carefully curated conferences, big industry-wide events certainly still have a compelling draw.

And my hat goes off to Mark Fisher, head of the Entertainment Merchants Association, and Mark Horak, the former Warner Home Video and Redbox executive who is now focused on the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (two of his three daughters have the disease). Through their hard work, perseverance and tenacity, they have grown the event into a respectable and viable successor to the fabled old VSDA convention, with the good sense of always having it take place in Los Angeles, the epicenter of our business.

The exchange of ideas spilled out far beyond the curated meetings between home entertainment and video game content producers and retailers that most consider the heart of the two-day event.

Intense conversations permeated the opening night cocktail party at the Loews Hollywood Hotel and the following night’s “Classic Hollywood Soirée” at the NeueHouse Hollywood, located in the landmark CBS Radio Building where the first live “I Love Lucy” telecasts were filmed.

Executives bonded at the golf tournament and chatted informally about their kids, their latest home remodels, and their vacations in the lobby bar.

And the Knowledge Exchange and Digital EMA Forum provided valuable industry insights — much like, say, Digital Hollywood, but with a broader and yet much more targeted audience.

It was, once again, a good event — and, for many studio executives in attendance, a warm-up of sorts for Comic-Con International, held later the same week in San Diego.

I went to both events and saw many of the same faces. But at Comic-Con, the focus is on sizzle and glitz — bringing out the stars to dazzle consumers, constructing elaborate show-floor booths and, of course, throwing elaborate parties like the wonderful Omnia bash organized by our friends at Fandango, and featuring a stellar performance by singer Elle King, one of my personal favorites (yeah, I was the old guy hanging out in front of stage during the whole show, taking pictures).

At LAES, on the other hand, the focus was on us, and on our business — and what we can do to make it better.

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July 25, 2017

'Boss Baby' Brings Goodies

Fox's July 25 home video release of DreamWorks' The Boss Baby was accompanied by several retailer exclusives.

Walmart offered exclusive box art with the Blu-ray combo pack and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack versions, and offered 20 minutes of extras via the Vudu streaming service.

Target offered a gift set that included the Blu-ray combo pack with an exclusive talking keychain that says six movie quotes.

Best Buy offered a Boss Baby lunchbox for $4.99 with the purchase of the film or another qualifying title.

Paramount's Ghost in the Shell also came with some exclusives. Target offered exclusive Blu-ray box art and 30 minutes of exclusive extras. Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging with the Blu-ray and UHD versions.

Again, some DVD versions of new releases were hard to come by at brick-and-mortar stores, With Warner's Unforgettable and Fox's Gifted being Blu-ray only at Best Buy locations. Amazon's DVD of Unforgettable was available only through third-party Marketplace sellers upon its debut.

Amazon also seems to have shut down preorders on several Disney titles, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Rebels: The Complete Season Three.

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July 18, 2017

'Kong' Is King of Exclusives

Retailers weren't shy with exclusives tailored to Warner's Kong: Skull Island July 18.

Walmart actually had two disc exclusives for the new adventure film. The first was a single-disc DVD edition in which the only extra is a director's commentary; the widely available DVD is a two-disc set with a bonus disc containing featurettes and deleted scenes.

The other Walmart exclusive was a Blu-ray two-pack containing Kong: Skull Island and 2014's Godzilla, the film for which the "Kong" reboot is something of a prequel, in that both films are set in the same fictional world and the central monsters of both are destined to fight on film in 2020. In addition, the version of the Kong Blu-ray combo pack included with this set features unique box art.

Best Buy offered a Steelbook edition of the Kong: Skull Island Ultra HD Blu-ray edition.

Target offered a special Kong Blu-ray combo pack with lenticular box art and 12 minutes of exclusive bonus content labeled as "A Terrifying Paradise: Creating Skull Island."

At Amazon, on the other hand, the DVD edition wasn't even being sold on its debut day; fans looking to buy the DVD version from the online retailer had to find a copy from a third-party Marketplace affiliate. To compound the issue, the version of the DVD linked to the title was the Spanish Region 2 version; the proper Region 1 edition was listed separately.

Not that the version availability issues are isolated to Amazon, as several of the big retailers only stocked either the DVD or Blu-ray version of the bigger titles of the week. Target just had the DVD version of Universal's The Promise, while Best Buy stores offered just the Blu-ray version of The Promise and Lionsgate's Free Fire. At Target and Best Buy, the missing version was available online.

Also notable at Target, Sony Pictures' new animated Resident Evil: Vendetta was available only in the Blu-ray version, not DVD or UHD, which were readily available at the other retailers.

Otherwise, Target's weekly ad devoted a lot of space to tout preorders of the Aug. 22 Blu-ray release of Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, for which Target is offering a free $5 gift card with preorders. Target's Blu-ray also includes exclusive digital bonus content.

Best Buy will have the exclusive 4K/3D Blu-ray combo pack for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

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July 17, 2017

New on Disc: 'Joe Versus the Volcano' and more …

Joe Versus the Volcano (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Ossie Davis.
1990.
Despite a loopy affability that occasionally comes off as strained though rarely to deal-breaking extremes, Joe Versus the Volcano is liable to leave viewers sporting a mild smile for a hundred minutes.
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The Savage Innocents (Blu-ray)

Olive, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Anthony Quinn, Yoko Tani, Peter O’Toole.
1960.
This cult hit from director Nicholas Ray gets off to something of a rocky start, which it then rebounds from to not insignificant extent by treating Anthony Quinn’s “Baby Huey of an Inuit” character and customs with sympathy and something like respect.
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July 11, 2017

Furious Smurfing

Retailers offered a number of exclusives for Universal's The Fate of the Furious and Sony Pictures' Smurfs: The Lost Village.

For the eighth 'Fast & Furious' movie, Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging for both the Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray versions. Target offered the Blu-ray as a "Limited Deluxe Edition" with a cinch sack. And Walmart offered the Blu-ray versions with exclusive bonus content.

Walmart also offered a gift set of the eight-movie Blu-ray collection with a T-shirt for $69.96.

Target offered previous "Fast & Furious" movies on Blu-ray for $7.99 each. BestBuy.com had a deal to get the previous movies for $5 each with the purchase of Fate of the Furious.

For the "Smurfs" reboot, Target offered a Blu-ray "Summer Vacation Edition" with an exclusive bonus disc offering "Smurf Scout Camp." Walmart offered the Blu-ray with a lunchbox.

Best Buy is taking preorders for an exclusive Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of Warner's Kong: Skull Island, due July 18. Best Buy is also offering $5 in My Best Buy Rewards for members who buy select titles, such as the exclusive Steelbook edition of Sony Pictures' Fifth Element 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

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July 10, 2017

New on Disc: 'They Live by Night' and more …

They Live by Night

Criterion, Romance, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Farley Granger, Cathy O’Donnell, Howard Da Silva, Jay C. Flippen.
1949.
Though it deviates from Edward Anderson’s 1937 source novel in key respects, director Nicholas Ray’s screen debut is second only to Citizen Kane as the Hollywood directorial debut of the 1940s.
Extras: Premier noir expert Eddie Muller’s commentary is carried over from the old Warner DVD). Film critic Imogen Sara Smith appears on camera to place the film in the intriguing canon of non-metropolitan “on the road” noirs. Also, the essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz does a similar job of pressing the right buttons when it comes to explaining why I love the movie so much.
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Hell and High Water (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell, Gene Evans.
1954.
Director Samuel Fuller was far more of a Cold War than parsnip kind of guy, which pretty much mandates that his early CinemaScope political potboiler Hell and High Water would involve Commies, submarines, The Bomb and, yes, a femme scientist from the Vogue blueprint brought along to assist an elderly mentor with his professorial calculations.
Extras: Includes an essay from Julie Kirgo.
Read the Full Review

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July 04, 2017

Titles Scarce, But Stores Open for 2017 Independence Day

New releases for the week were somewhat limited thanks to the typical Tuesday new-release date falling on the July 4 holiday in 2017.

The only new title available at all locations was Universal's The Zookeeper's Wife, a drama with Jessica Chastain that earned $17 million at the domestic box office.

Another title with a notable cast and director was otherwise nowhere to be found — Broad Green's Song to Song. The Terrence Malick-directed film, which stars Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Natalie Portman, earned just $443,684 at the domestic box office and was available only online at the big chains. In fact, Amazon had the title listed as out of stock on its first day of release, available only through third-party Marketplace sellers.

What's more, a search for the film's title at Walmart.com automatically changes the parameter to "song to sing," which could be someone of a burden for people actually looking for the film.

Otherwise, the week was marked by a handful of sales and other promotions. Target and Best Buy kept displays promising an $8 Despicable Me 3 movie coupon with the purchase of other Illumination animated films, such as The Secret Life of Pets, Sing and, of course, the previous "Despicable Me" movies.

Stores also restocked DVDs and Blu-rays of previous seasons of "Game of Thrones" in time for the new season on HBO.

Best Buy offered a free $5 gift card with the puchase of select Blu-rays. Another deal offered two Blu-rays for $15 from a selection.

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June 27, 2017

Plenty of Options for 'Power Rangers'

The big retailers brought out exclusive editions for the June 27 Blu-ray Disc release of Lionsgate's Power Rangers.

Best Buy offered a collector's set of the Blu-ray containing special packaging and art cards.

Target offered the Power Rangers Blu-ray in Steelbook packaging with a graphic novel.

Walmart offered the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing a "Ranger Recon" featurette that goes on set wiht the director and cast, and a featurette about the visual effects.

Best Buy had a special $59.99 collector's set called Spider-Man: Legacy Collection containing the five films from the previous "Spider-Man" franchises in two different Steelbook cases: one for the Sam Raimi series, including Spider-Man 3: The Editor's Cut, and another for the two "The Amazing Spider-Man" films. The set also came with a $7.50 coupon to see Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters.

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June 26, 2017

Ode to the Retailer

This week, we honor the top 10 retailers in the business as chosen by Home Media Magazine research. We also recognize five other retailers to watch for their innovation and commitment to the industry.

Much of the year, we concentrate on content and how it is being delivered. We highlight the companies that deliver it in ever-varying forms, from physical to digital, from standard to high-def to Ultra HD with high dynamic range. These companies are contacting and engaging with consumers, who after all determine the size, shape and future of our business.

Content may be king, as evidenced by digital services such as Netflix, Amazon and many others creating their own content. But ultimately, it’s the retailer that attracts and engages the consumer in discovery of content. When a typical family decides to look for something to watch on a free night, it’s the retailer that helps them locate the content that will excite them.

“Since its beginning, the delivery of home entertainment to the consumer has been about convenience and value,” noted Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association, in our special section. “While what constitutes ‘convenience’ and ‘value’ has changed over time, that essential fact remains. Each of these retailers is successfully serving a segment — in some cases several segments — of the home entertainment market by providing their particular formulation of convenience and value to consumers.”

While delivery of home entertainment in all its forms is more diverse than ever, the job of contacting the consumer and offering convenience and value has become complicated as well. So we salute the retailers, both digital and physical, that are serving the tastes of various consumers, wherever, whenever and however they choose to get their entertainment.

“Bold retail innovation among our physical and digital partners this past year has served to significantly elevate our category,” said Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The industry’s retail partners are stepping up to push the business forward, with better delivery and marketing, meeting the challenge of a choosy consumer.

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