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Insights from home entertainment industry experts. Home Media blogs give you the inside scoop on entertainment news, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, and the happenings at key studios and entertainment retailers. “TK's Take” analyzes and comments on home entertainment news and trends, “Agent DVD Insider” talks fanboy entertainment, “IndieFile” delivers independent film news, “Steph Sums It Up” offers pithy opinions on the state of the industry, and “Mike’s Picks” offers bite-sized recommendations of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases.


Opinion
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26 May, 2015

Retailers Lacking Blu Focus

Where's the 'Sons of Liberty' Blu-ray at retail?
Where's the 'Sons of Liberty' Blu-ray at retail?

Slow weeks for new disc releases, such as May 26, give retailers a chance to step back and push older titles, though they also call attention to the short shrift given to new titles that aren't major hits or recipients of wide media coverage.

Other than Universal's Seventh Son, availability of some of the other new titles was spotty at the major retailers. Most of the new titles were available in some format or another, but among the brick-and-mortar stores only Best Buy offered the Blu-ray version for most of the new titles. In fact, Best Buy's weekly ad circular doesn't even list prices for new titles other than the Blu-ray version. The exception this week, strangely, was Lionsgate's Sons of Liberty, which received only a DVD mention in Best Buy's weekly ad.

Likewise, Target shelves had only the DVD version of Sons of Liberty.

Walmart, on the other hand, had only the DVD versions for most of its new releases on shelves, a disappointing trend for the top retailer of physical media. It certainly doesn't help grow the perception of Blu-ray beyond a niche, prestige format if half the potential shopping base is never exposed to the possibility of buying the Blu-ray version. There's a reason Blu-ray enthusiasts will generally steer clear of Walmart unless seeking out a specific exclusive.

Best Buy spent a lot of its ad space promoting preorders, this week focusing on Sony Pictures' Chappie with exclusive content and Paramount's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water with an exclusive beach ball.


25 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes' and more …


X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes

Kino Lorber, Sci-fi, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Don Rickles, Harold J. Stone.
1963.
Director Roger Corman was lucky to have an actor of Ray Milland’s caliber starring as a mad scientist whose experiments on himself give him the ability to see through things.
Extras: In addition to a Joe Dante intro, thee are a couple commentaries on this release: one by Corman and another by film historian Tim Lucas.
Read the Full Review

Kid Glove Killer

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman.
1942.
Fred Zinnemann’s modest debut feature turned out notably well on a ‘B’ budget, with the chief selling point being its subject matter about crime lab microscoping.
Read the Full Review
 


25 May, 2015

A Fair Exchange


The May 2 Showtime pay-per-view fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao may not have proved to be the most engaging live event ever, but it certainly made a bit of history in live Web broadcasting.

As the fight took place on pay-per-view, with many potential viewers fighting the rush in PPV traffic rather than watching a fight, Periscope members broadcast the event live from their cell phones. The Periscope service, which offers live streaming, shut down those “broadcasts” as soon as they were nabbed for piracy, according to Periscope executives. But the point — and the danger — was clear. Even live broadcasts, the last bastion of television, could be taken over by Internet video.

As observers in the home entertainment realm over the years, we’ve seen that access to content, other than that delivered by the studio at the theater or a broadcast service via the television, is desirable and profitable. Consumers crave control over what content they can access and when. That desire will never go away. But it’s up to content owners to extract a price for that access, for the fighters, players and actors, for the grips, for the directors, for the special effects team, for everybody who works to produce content.

Our annual Digital Drivers section attempts to outline and recognize some of those key players that are guiding that negotiation between content producers/owners and consumers. We are very proud of this piece, and hope it offers a bit of clarity in the murky digital future.


25 May, 2015

The Originals Game


Netflix appears to have an insatiable appetite for original content.

Speaking earlier this month at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos attributed much of Netflix’s 20% year-over-year subscriber engagement hike to the success of original shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black.”

The percentage of its total acquisition budget that Netflix spends on original programming keeps shooting upward; on an earnings call last month, chief financial officer David Wells said “it’s drifting up to 30% [and] could drift up to 40% … we are building out our … original content investment and that is cash intensive.” Accordingly, in his quarterly letter to shareholders last January, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings promised 320 hours of original programming this year, three times as much as in 2014.

Original content is not just the growth engine for Netflix here in the United States, but also abroad, where Netflix is aggressively expanding its reach. Sarandos noted that “House of Cards,” according to one report, is the most popular U.S. TV show in China.

And Netflix is more than happy to pay whatever it takes for exclusive rights — which is why some of the same studios that for years have griped about Netflix cannibalizing their sellthrough business are now creating original programming for the No. 1 streaming service.

Content, it appears, truly is king.

The more dependent Netflix gets on original content, the more it seeks global exclusivity of that content. Netflix no longer seeks blanket license agreements with studios for bulk programming. It picks and chooses specific programming.

To get control of that programming, Netflix is now dealing directly with creators and producers of TV shows and independent movies. When it licenses a show or movie, the rights are exclusive. That’s because binge-viewing, commercial-free, and on-demand access are key drivers of Netflix’s brand proposition.

“We’re either interested in the global rights or we’re not interested at all,” Sarandos said.

Netflix recently secured rights to African warlord drama “Beasts of No Nation,” starring Idris Elba. The streaming kingpin beat out independent distributors (such as Fox Searchlight) within the major studios — a win Sarandos attributed more to dealing directly with producers and granting immediate access than money.

It also secured exclusive rights to Fox TV’s “Gotham” and A&E Networks’ “The Returned” by dealing directly with the shows' producers, Warner Bros. Television (“Gotham”) and A&E Studios, respectively.

“For a dollar spent [on original programming] and an hour viewed, you get more hours of viewing per dollars spent on originals versus the licensed content,” Sarandos said.

At the same time, Netflix is still interested in bidding on sitcoms with major stars, such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike and Molly,” and “2 Broke Girls,” provided the market for the shows isn’t overheated, according to Sarandos.

“We’re not seeking a lot of [random viewing],” he said.

But for the most part, original programming is the way to go for Netflix — regardless of what it costs, where it comes from, and who they have to beat out at the negotiating table.


19 May, 2015

Retailers Aim 'Sniper' at Shoppers

Single-disc 'American Sniper' DVD at Walmart
Single-disc 'American Sniper' DVD at Walmart

Retailers offered a few modest exclusives to lure buyers of Warner's American Sniper on disc upon its release May 19.

Best Buy offered exclusive box art and the exclusive featurette "Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism," available via the CinemaNow digital streaming service.

Target offered an exclusive steelbook case of the Blu-ray combo pack, while Walmart offered a single-DVD edition with special box art and no bonus features, instead of the widely available two-disc DVD special edition, which Walmart has done before on Warner titles. Again, by not offering the widely available edition, some Walmart shoppers might be picking up the DVD without ever realizing there is another version available with bonus material they might want to see at a comparable price.

Walmart's website also included the wrong box art for its exclusive DVD edition.

Target offered Orange Is the New Black: Season Two with an exclusive “Glamour in the Slammer” featurette. Best Buy offered a $10 savings with the disc purchase of both seasons of "Orange Is the New Black."

Best Buy also offered $5 pizza coupons with the purchase of select TV DVD titles, and a buy-one-get-one deal on select Blu-rays offered at $9.99 each.


18 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'The River' and more …


The River

Criterion, Drama, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Arthur Shields, Suprova Mukerjee, Radha Burnier.
1951.
Set in what feels like a timeless era that has nothing directly to do with the postwar Gandhi-propelled political upheavals, this remembrance directed by Jean Renoir and based on a novel by British but India-bred Rumer Godden is certainly an alternative to Kipling in its treatment of race relations and choice of central characters.
Extras: A lot of the bonus extras (mostly carried over from the old Criterion DVD) deal with Renoir’s good fortune in finding a financial angel: Kenneth McEldowney, who was a successful L.A. florist. Other supplements here include Ian Christie notes, a new video essay by filmmaker Paul Ryan, an audio interview with McEldowney (who died in 2004); and a 2008 documentary on the movie’s making, which runs an hour.
Read the Full Review

April Love (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Comedy, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Pat Boone, Shirley Jones, Dolores Michaels, Arthur O’Connell.
1957.
If late-1950s Hollywood just had to make Pat Boone vehicles, April Love was probably the way to go about it.
Read the Full Review
 


12 May, 2015

Retailers Stimulate 'Grey' Matter

Target's 'Fifty Shades of Grey' gift set
Target's 'Fifty Shades of Grey' gift set

As Universal's Fifty Shades of Grey entered its first full week, retailers continued to make it their top promotional focus even among the May 12 new releases.

Best Buy offered a steelbook case with the Fifty Shades Blu-ray combo pack, while Target presented a deluxe-edition Blu-ray gift set with 30 minutes of additional bonus content and a journal and pen set. Target also had a Blu-ray combo pack with just the 30-minutes of exclusive extras without the journal.

Walmart had the Fifty Shades combo pack with an exclusive photo book and box art.


11 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'Mr. Turner' and more …


Mr. Turner

Sony Pictures, Drama, $30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for some sexual content.
Stars Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson.
2014.
Director Mike Leigh’s portrait of the now revered 19th-century artist J.M.W. Turner really has it all: full-blooded characters, the grunt work of artistry, social life among the upper classes, peer rivalries and political considerations.
Extras: One of the delights of Leigh’s hugely informative feature-length commentary is hearing him talk about his abundant stock company stretching many movies back.
Read the Full Review

42nd Street (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell.
1933.
The movie that established Busby Berkeley as a major force is just what one would hope a pioneer Depression-grounded movie would look like in the modern home viewing era.
Extras: Includes a “Merrie Melodie” spoof carried over from the DVD and a newly produced featurette that traces the film’s origins and production.
Read the Full Review
 


5 May, 2015

'Selma' in Shadow of 'Shades'

Walmart's exclusive 'Selma' Blu-ray
Walmart's exclusive 'Selma' Blu-ray

Walmart had a special deluxe Blu-ray edition of Paramount’s Selma containing an AFI Q&A on a bonus disc. Walmart also offered a Selma standalone Blu-ray (without the DVD that makes it a combo pack elsewhere).

The stores also promoted deals for Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey in anticipation of the Friday, May 8, release. Best Buy offered a steelbook case with the Blu-ray combo pack, while Target presented a deluxe-edition Blu-ray with 30 minutes of additional bonus content and a journal and pen set.

Walmart has the Fifty Shades combo pack with an exclusive book and box art, though a banner on its Fifty Shades Web page touts the disc release as May 15, one week late (the individual product entries list the correct May 8 release).


4 May, 2015

New on Disc: 'Sullivan's Travels' and more …


Sullivan’s Travels

Criterion, Comedy, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest.
1941.
Sullivan’s Travels is a strange movie of contradictions, just as director Preston Sturges was himself. The movie has at least two distinct moods, which is what throws some people – yet this is also what makes it worth so many viewings.
Extras: A sharp essay by The Nation’s Stuart Klawans rounds out a lot of good material in the bonus section, which includes Kenneth Bowser’s first-rate “American Masters” documentary Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer, an interview with widow Sandy Sturges and a new David Cairns video essay. Another treat carried over from the earlier DVD is a commentary by documentarian Bowser, filmmaker Noah Baumbach, plus Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.  
Read the Full Review

Blue Sky

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, Blu-ray $29.95, Rated ‘PG-13’
Stars Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe, Chris O’Donnell.
1994.
Here’s another of Olive’s barebones transfers, though one certainly better than the old DVD; more vivid color intensity does make something of a difference in how the garb that Oscar winner Jessica Lange wears has an emotional effect on the viewer.
Read the Full Review