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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.
Target shoppers looking over the Oct. 28 might have raised an eyebrow at seeing a sizable promotion for individual DVD season sets of the 1969-74 TV sitcom “The Brady Bunch,” on disc from CBS and Paramount.
The show was released on DVD in 2005 and 2006, before CBS took over the rights, but now Target is exclusively selling the re-release at $9.99 per season. This is an exclusive early window for the retailer, as the DVDs will be widely available Dec. 9.
Target also has early availability of Disney’s Phineas & Ferb: Star Wars, which won’t be widely available until Nov. 11.
Target also offered an exclusive bracelet with Shout! Factory’s My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks.
Walmart had a re-release of Fox’s Free Birds DVD with a plush toy
Best Buy offered some incentives on preorders, including 100 My Best Buy bonus points for each $19.99 preorder of such titles as Disney’s Maleficent, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2, Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Sony Pictures’ 22 Jump Street (with bonus content), Paramount’s Hercules (with bonus content) and Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with steelbook packaging).
Dick Cavett’s Watergate
PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014. Just about the only non-news show that would touch the subject of Watergate during the period was the one hosted by the only Johnny Carson rival who managed to carve out an equally vital late-night niche of his own. This pressure-packed remembrance is hosted by today’s version of Dick Cavett, assisted by star Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former White House counsel and eventual beans-spiller John Dean, former Nixon Library historian Timothy Naftali (this guy is the final word in historical context) and more.
Read the Full Review
Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend
Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, James Garner.
1957. Truth to tell, there’s really no shoot-out in this lukewarm but sporadically ticklish Randolph Scott Western, but you do get a punch-out or two once the baddies start to get theirs in piecemeal fashion in the later reels. James Garner and Angie Dickinson have major roles when they were very young.
Read the Full Review
By: Mike Clark
Target's transforming 'Age of Extinction' packaging
The promotional blitz surrounding Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction hit retail Sept. 30, with exclusives tied to the Blu-ray release at all the major retailers.
Amazon.com bundled the Blu-ray combo pack (non-3D edition) with a statue of Optimus Prime riding the Dinobot Grimlock, priced at $79.99.
Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack in limited-edition packaging that transforms into a facsimile of Optimus Prime. Some Targets still had a preorder bundle for Age of Extinction that included a 40-inch cloth poster and a voucher for the robot packaging Blu-ray. Target also offered a $10 savings with the purchase of the Blu-ray concurrently with a select "Transformers" toy, and its Age of Extinction Blu-rays touted $6 coupons for future purchases of Paramount movies on DVD or Blu-ray.
Walmart offered a number of exclusives tied to Age of Extinction. One was an online exclusive Blu-ray combo pack in packaging designed to resemble Bumblebee’s head, offered at Walmart.com for $24.96. In addition, Walmart offered a preorder incentive that let fans order the head on its own or with a deluxe Transformers action figure in a $44.92 bundle, a savings of $15.
For its physical stores, Walmart had a deluxe boxed set of the Blu-ray combo pack with a metal magnet and three exclusive figurines. In addition, Walmart offered a boxed set of all four "Transformers" films for $39.96.
Best Buy offered Age of Extinction in exclusive steelbook packaging. Best Buy also had exclusive cover art for Fox's 24: Live Another Day, in the form of a o-card sleeve.
Toys "R" Us also had an Age of Extinction exclusive, packaging the Blu-ray with Optimus Prime and Galvatron Kre-O figures for $29.99.
Warner's first slate of Diamond Luxe premium catalog Blu-rays were exclusive to Best Buy on Sept. 30. The lineup includes Forrest Gump, The Green Mile, Natural Born Killers, Gremlins and Ben-Hur.
Target offered Gone With the Wind in Diamond Luxe-style packaging, at $18.99.
Walmart had exclusive availability of Shout! Factory's animated Thunder and the House of Magic on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as CBS's Walker Texas Ranger: The Reunion. For Universal's Team Hot Wheels: The Origin of Awesome, Walmart offered the DVD with a pack-on toy car for $14.96. For Universal's Monster High: Freaky Fusion, Walmart offered the DVD packed with a flashlight pen for $14.96.
Target ran a Monster High: Freaky Fusion cross-promotion offering $5 off when the DVD or Blu-ray was purchased with a tie-in doll.
Walmart's 'Neighbors' with T-shirt
Universal's hit comedy Neighbors was the only major theatrical film arriving on disc Sept. 23, but that didn't stop retailers from attaching their own exclusive promotions to the title to lure consumers to their party.
Walmart offered a deluxe box of the Neighbors Blu-ray combo pack with a frat T-shirt. Target offered the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 30 minutes of exclusive bonus content. And Best Buy offered free mini red beer cups for free (available for $4.99 separately) with the title.
Target also offered the second-season DVD of "Nashville" with two downloadable music tracks.
Target also offers a $5 gift card with a Target.com preorder or Transformers: Age of Extinction, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Warner's disc release of the new Godzilla remake burst onto retail Sept. 16 with promotional exclusives at most of the major retailers.
Best Buy offered the Godzilla Blu-ray for $19.99, or $9.99 with the purchase of a TV title $14.99 or up. Best Buy also offered the prequel graphic novel Godzilla: Awakening for $2.99 with the purchase of the film.
Walmart offered a special single-disc Godzilla DVD, as opposed to the two-DVD special edition DVD available everywhere else. The $14.96 Walmart DVD offered only a couple of the bonus featurettes from the array of extras found on the other disc versions.
Target presented the Godzilla Blu-ray with the exclusive 30-minute featurette Godzilla: Rebirth of an Icon.
Target also had exclusive content with Fox's Sleepy Hollow: Season One, as well as a digibook of artwork based on the show.
In addition, Target offered a free mini doll with the purchase of Universal's Barbie and the Secret Door. For Fox's The Fault in Our Stars, Fox offered a $5 savings with the purchase of the film with its CD soundtrack or the original book.
Other extras at Walmart included the exclusive titles The Perfect Wave on DVD ($12.96) or Blu-ray ($17.96) from Anchor Bay, and Lionsgate's animated Jungle Master ($12.96). For The Fault in Our Stars, Walmart offered two bonus song downloads, and for Sony Pictures' Think Like a Man Too, Walmart offered the DVD packed wih the first film for $19.96. In addition, Walmart offered the Barbie and the Secret Door DVD packed wih a Sing-along With Barbie DVD ($14.96). Walmart also had a $14.96 two-pack of Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave — The Movie available through Vudu with the five-episode Thomas & Friends: Engines to the Rescue DVD.
Best Buy had a special lenticular cover for the Blu-ray of the seventh season of "The Big Bang Theory."
Display touting Walmart's 'Captain America' character disc covers
The Sept 9 retail release of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, distributed by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, was accompanied by a few retailers offering exclusive covers for the hit action title.
Walmart went all out with five variable character-based covers for the 3D Blu-ray combo pack. Consumers could choose from box art containing Captain America, Black Widow, Winter Soldier, Falcon or Nick Fury.
Best Buy offered the 3D Blu-ray of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with exclusive steelbook packaging.
Apple's iTunes offered the movie with an exclusive four-minute featurette about the film's elevator fight. This is available not only to people who buy the film at iTunes, but also those who redeem their Disney Movies Anywhere digital copy code included with the disc.
Target promoted an exclusive six-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with the 3D Blu-ray, redeemable through its Target Ticket digital streaming service. However, the site wasn’t configured to redeem the digital copy code for the version of the film with the extras, leaving many consumers frustrated and complaining on message boards that the content they wanted wasn’t available on the release date (Sept. 9). TargetTicket.com did credit some accounts that already burned the code on the non-extras version to let them directly buy the correct version of the digital copy containing the exclusive featurette, or added the extras to those who already redeemed the code. The redemption problems were resolved by the next day when Target made the extras version the only one available at TargetTicket.com.
Target also offered exclusive bonus content with discs of the fifth season of “The Vampire Diaries” and the first season of Sony Pictures’ “The Goldbergs.”
Target has also been promoting Target Ticket with stickers on select Blu-ray and DVD packages offering a $5 credit with a new digital purchase at the site.
Walmart's 'Walking Dead: Season Four' with prison key
Anchor Bay’s Aug. 26 disc release of The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season unsurprisingly received the significant amount of retail attention a monster-hit show of its stature deserves.
Walmart had the biggest exclusives, offering at least four different versions of the title on shelves. All of them came with a bonus Songs of Survival Vol. 2 CD.
In addition to standard DVD and Blu-ray editions, Walmart offered special DVD and Blu-ray boxed sets of the show containing a collectible prison key. This is a variation of the exclusive that was sold as a preorder from the Anchor Bay booth at this year's San Diego Comic-Con International.
Target offered the Blu-ray with steelbook packaging, while Best Buy offered it with lenticular cover art.
For Fox’s Sons of Anarchy: Season Six, Walmart offered the DVD and Blu-ray sets with a pack-in knit cap, while Best Buy offered access to six issues of a digital comic book based on the series.
Walmart also had exclusive availability of an animated film called The Jungle Bunch 2: The Great Treasure Quest, from Universal, offered at $9.96.
For the second week of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray ($24.99), Target offered an instant $10 savings when the title was purchased at the same time as a triple attack electronic Spidey action figure, priced at $15.
Amazon's 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Electro Head
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment pulled out all the stops to promote the Blu-ray and DVD release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Aug. 19, with promotional exclusives available at every major retailer.
The biggest one came via Amazon.com, which offered an exclusive gift set of the 3D Blu-ray combo pack of the film with packaging in the form of a bust of the villain Electro. The set is listed at $149.99 but Amazon had it for as low as $74.99.
Target offered Blu-ray copies with a bonus disc containing the featurette "Something Sinister This Way Comes: A Look at Spider-Man’s Most Fearsome Foes.” In addition, Target’s exclusive sets had a coupon for free popcorn and soda at the Target Café.
Best Buy offered the Amazing Spider-Man 2 Blu-ray with a collectible Magno case and comic book. In addition, Best Buy offered $10 off ASM2 with the purchase of a TV title $14.99 or higher.
Walmart offered a Blu-ray two-pack of the new film with its 2012 predecessor.
Walmart's 'Divergent' Deluxe Edition
The Aug. 5 release of Lionsgate's Divergent prompted the major retailers to line up their own exclusives to try to attract buyers.
Walmart offered the most substantial edition of Divergent, loading a deluxe version of the Blu-ray combo pack with a 32-page collector's book, four additional featurettes, an excerpt from the new Four book, photo spreads and more.
Target offered the Divergent Blu-ray combo pack with exclusive box art, temporary tattoos and a bonus disc with 45 minutes of additional featurettes.
Best Buy offered the Divergent Blu-ray with steelbook packaging.
Other exclusives at Walmart included a $14.96 DVD of a new live-action Tarzan movie, from Lionsgate, and a DVD of Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Pulverizer Power ($5).