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Target's 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' exclusive set
Any momentum films might have coming after the Oscars will be completely overshadowed by the Friday, March 7, arrival of Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The top-grossing film at the domestic box office from 2013 is receiving huge retail attention and arrives with a variety of exclusives from which consumers can choose.
Walmart is offering special DVD ($19.96) and Blu-ray ($24.96) double features containing Catching Fire with the first film, in addition to standalone copies of the sequel.
Helping to promote the Catching Fire home video release, several Walmarts will host stars from the film at fan events starting at 11 p.m. local time March 6. Actress Willow Shields (who plays Primrose Everdeen in the films) will at a Walmart in Orange, Calif.; Meta Golding (Enobaria) and Bruno Gunn (Brutus) will be at a Walmart in Elgin, Ill.; Stephanie Leigh Schlund (Cashmere) and Lynn Cohen (Mags) will appear at a Walmart in Secaucus, N.j.
Best Buy offers Catching Fire with a collectible Blu-ray steelbook case for $22.99, in addition to an en exclusive steelbook of the first film for $17.99. Cost is $27.99 for both when purchased together. The purchase of either steelbook includes $8 in Fandango cash for a ticket to the new film Divergent in theaters.
Target offers the Catching Fire Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 45 minutes of exclusive extras, as well as a collectible booklet for $22.99. The first film is available for $11 on DVD and $13 on Blu-ray.
Target is also gearing up for the upcoming theatrical release of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, with endcap displays of new “Captain America” toys in the toy aisle, complete with DVDs of the first film.
Criterion, Thriller, $39.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, Albert Basserman.
1940. Joel McCrea plays an ordinary guy typical of Alfred Hitchcock films getting tossed and turned by unexpected intrigue and a polished smoothie (Herbert Marshall) who’s perpetrating it. Plus, the film has a pre-WWII call-to-arms speech that’s a lot less subtle than the rest. Foreign Correspondent was among the classier American features to get an early TV release, but was frequently exhibited via worn prints. Criterion has given the movie a new 2K restoration, and it looks better than I’ve ever seen it.
Extras: One of the typically bountiful Criterion extras is an interview with writer and film historian Mark Harris about the ways in which Hollywood contributed to the wartime propaganda effort. The other main extra is a new piece on the film’s special effects. There’s also a written essay by film scholar James Naremore, a 1942 Life war-related photo essay by Hitchcock, a 1946 radio adaptation of this yarn with Joseph Cotten, and Hitchcock’s 1972 appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show.”
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Available via Warner Archive
HBO, Documentary, $17.95 DVD, NR.
2013. This HBO documentary is a two-pronged affair that deals first with Marty Glickman’s own success as an athlete — he was a brilliant runner who got shafted out of appearing in the Hitler-hosted 1936 Olympics in Berlin — with the Olympics experience as a climactic bitter pill, and then as the storied announcer (he coined the term “swish”) for the New York Knicks, New York Giants and New York Jets. Several household names appear in interviews to praise him.
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It must be gratifying to go out on top. Craig Kornblau’s sudden and unexpected departure from the presidency of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, after 16 years at the helm, was part of a bigger strategic move by the studio in which he was nothing more than collateral damage.
Universal, you see, was the last of the majors with separate domestic and international divisions, and with globalization being the mantra of corporations everywhere his higher-ups were faced with a pickle: They had to meld the two units into one, and yet each was headed by a top-notch executive — smart, savvy and shrewd — the company could ill afford to lose.
And yet one had to go, and one can only surmise that Eddie Cunningham, the international president, stayed on as head of the new worldwide home entertainment division because his learning curve was a lot lower: He had to learn the ropes of just one market, a market that despite its size is really quite simple, and one where Universal, thanks to the team that Kornblau put together over the past 16 years, was cresting on top. In a way, Kornblau was a victim of his own success: The former Universal Studios Home Entertainment was a smooth, well-oiled machine with some of the industry’s most respected executives, a clever marketing team, and an unparalleled supply chain apparatus. It was also coming off one of its best years in history, with the division laying claim to the top-selling DVD/Blu-ray Disc of the year (Despicable Me 2), the No. 1 EST title of all time (also Despicable Me 2), the No. 1 catalog title of the year (the original Despicable Me) and two of the top five rental titles (No. 1, Identity Thief, and No. 5, Ted). Identity Thief was also the No. 1 VOD title of the year.
Kornblau also left on a personal high. Just five months earlier, Kornblau was given expanded duties at Universal, as his division assumed responsibility for all of NBCUniversal’s digital distribution and marketing, including VOD and EST. Kornblau also won industry kudos for working closely with NBCUniversal sister division Comcast Cable to launch a digital storefront to sell digital copies of its movies to 25 million subscribers, and for crafting a fulfillment contract with Paramount Home Media Distribution to capitalize on Universal’s supply-chain strengths.
He also finalized renewal of an agreement with Open Road Films to handle all marketing, sales and distribution services for Blu-ray Disc, DVD, EST and VOD platforms of Open Road Films' theatrical titles through 2017.
Kornblau leaves behind not just an extremely efficient, and successful, domestic home entertainment operation, but also a legacy of leadership and vision. The son of a retailer, Kornblau arrived at Universal Studios 16 years ago to take over the ship from Bruce Pfander, a former 20th Century Fox executive who briefly ran home entertainment after the ouster of longtime head Louis Feola.
He was not yet 40, and an alumnus of the legendary home entertainment empire at Walt Disney assembled by Bill Mechanic — and honed to what many consider perfection by his successor and former lieutenant, Ann Daly, now at DreamWorks. It was an empire built on the concept of selling movies directly to consumers rather than retailers. In an era dominated by the rental cassette, the revolutionary sellthrough model worked at Disney for two reasons: The studio is the only one with a genuine brand that means something to consumers, and its executives were smart enough to figure out a way to exploit it through such strategies as placing hot titles on moratorium after a specific period of time to build consumer excitement — and demand.
Kornblau was a key member of Team Disney, back in those days: As SVP of worldwide operations and logistics, he pioneered Direct Account Management, and served as the chief architect of this system, which set a new standard within the home entertainment industry, particularly after the advent of DVD and the explosive growth of sellthrough.
During his 16 years at Universal Studios, Kornblau quickly established himself as one of the home entertainment sector’s true thought leaders. He saw the threat to sellthrough posed by new rental models pioneered by Netflix and Redbox and led the industry charge in establishing unprecedented, critical windowing agreements to minimalize cannibalization. He clung to HD DVD during the next-generation format wars because he thought it made more sense to retool an existing product rather than introduce something completely new; when it became clear HD DVD was a lost cause he became one of rival Blu-ray Disc’s most enthusiastic supporters, although in hindsight he may have been right. The revolutionary nature of Blu-ray prompted a hiccup on the manufacturing as well as the retail end, and the format never quite rose to the heights of DVD.
More recently, Kornblau has been a key driver in industrywide initiatives to promote consumer and retail adoption of digital content, including the aggressive push to early electronic sellthrough (EST) windows and the standardization of Blu-ray combo packs. He also influenced the development and promotional rollout of the pioneering digital storage offering, UltraViolet.
To say Kornblau had a good run is a vast understatement. To twist an old saying, he may be out, but he’s certainly not down.
By: Thomas K. Arnold
Target's 'Thor: The Dark World' Loki Cover
Each of the major retail chains offered its own exclusive promotion for Disney’s Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray release.
Best Buy offered the 3D combo pack with a steelbook case. Target offered the 3D edition with an exclusive Loki slipcover, as well as a one-month free trial subscription to the Marvel Unlimited service, which offers access to more than 13,000 digital comic books. Walmart offered an exclusive Loki featurette watchable through its Vudu streaming service.
The Walmart promotion indicated it was available with the 3D combo pack, although the stickers touting it were on the regular single-disc Blu-rays (not that it mattered; the code to access the featurette was on the sticker, not inside the package).
Amazon offered exclusive Thor: The Dark World featurettes with its digital edition of the film.
The other big film released during the week, Warner’s Gravity, didn’t offer much in the way of exclusives, although Walmart had the DVD with special box art.
Walmart also had the first volume of Warner’s “Teen Titans Go!” on DVD a week before its March 4 street date, offered at $12.96.
Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Richard Johnson, Nigel Green.
1966. Even within the context of a not particularly distinguished movie year from half a century ago, this movie seemed like an unlikely commercial bet at least in the United States, where moviegoing minds at the time were concerned far less with the Middle East. Of course, this has all changed for modern audiences, a reality that adds at least a little charge to the struggle seen here between Brit Gen. Charles George “Chinese” Gordon (Charlton Heston) and Muhammad Ahmad (Laurence Olivier) — two bigger-than-life characters who never actually had a one-on-one in real life but do so (twice) on screen for what are in fact, the resulting movie’s two high points. This is the conflict that gives a talky epic at least a little juice, especially since Heston gives one of his better-to-best performances (matching his esteemed co-star, in fact) during what was a pretty solid mid-decade run for him.
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The April Fools
Paramount, Comedy, $19.99 DVD, ‘PG.’
Stars Jack Lemmon, Catherine
Deneuve, Peter Lawford, Myrna Loy, Charles Boyer.
1969. Excessively full of itself both in terms of whimsical overkill and employment of peripatetic zoom-lensing, this sweet-natured farce has nonetheless always grabbed me up to a point, though never when it’s televised or on VHS because pan-and-scan tinkering destroys its framing and star power. This is possibly one of the few times Fools has been seen the correct way since it opened on the Memorial Day weekend of what would prove to be a memorable summer.
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The home entertainment market has always reaped the benefit of awards season. By the time films are nominated or win Academy Awards, Golden Globes or any of the other plaudits dotting the season, many of the films are on the way to or are already out on disc or digital.
This year sports a bumper crop of great films getting the critical nod, both on film and television, and studios, retailers and digital platforms are poised for the home media harvest. It’s a time to bring out past winners as well as celebrate current hits. It’s also a time to put the spotlight on catalog titles that showcase the talent — both in front of and behind the camera — spotlighted by awards season.
In years past, studios’ DVD campaigns were an integral part of awards season. The launch of Universal’s Seabiscuit during that film’s 2004 awards run comes to mind as one of the particularly celebratory disc events. While the hoopla helped launch the DVD, it didn’t hurt that it boosted awareness for the title during Oscar season.
Even prior to the advent of DVD, numerous rental outlets sported special stickers and signage for lauded titles on tape. Rentailers would often host Oscar parties or design special sections, bringing some of that Hollywood glamor to the local video store.
Even the mighty Netflix sought to bask in Oscar’s shine. The online subscription service in 2012 scored a coop by picking up the Weinstein Co.’s Academy Award-winning hit The Artist for its streaming subscribers in the window with disc and VOD.
Early Digital HD could benefit from the Academy Awards this year. For instance, Fox’s 12 Years a Slave, which has picked up nine noms at this year’s Academy Awards (among other plaudits), appears on Digital HD before the March 2 ceremony, with the disc coming out the Tuesday immediately following, offering home viewers a one-two punch of home access before and after the awards.
Times and formats have changed, but the part home viewing plays during awards season has remained much the same. The promotion and distribution of lauded titles now happens online and via VOD as well as in store, but consumers still have a desire to view the acclaimed films they hear so much about during awards season on home media.
By: Stephanie Prange
Best Buy's 'Game of Thrones' covers
A light week of new releases Feb. 18 offered almost no new theatricals on disc, with the biggest title being HBO’s third-season Blu-ray and DVD of “Game of Thrones.”
Target offered the Blu-ray with a bonus disc containing 90 minutes of exclusive content, including interviews with cast members and author George R. R. Martin, who wrote the books upon which the series is based. Target also touted paperbacks of Martin’s “Thrones’ books.
Best Buy offered a choice of three exclusive Blu-ray covers, each bearing the sigil of one of the families fighting for power on the show. Best Buy also offered a $50 savings off an HTC One with two-year activation, with the purchase of the third-season of “Game of Thrones.”
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Blu-ray)
Criterion, Comedy, $49.95 Blu-ray/DVD combo, NR.
Stars Spencer Tracy, Jonathan Winters, Ethel Merman, Milton Berle, Dorothy Provine, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Mickey Rooney, Buddy Hackett, Terry-Thomas, Edie Adams, Dick Shawn, Jim Backus, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, Buster Keaton.
1963. Criterion’s release is the second attempt to piece together what remains of scrapped footage into something resembling the original road-show cut. Overall, I prefer the more-common shorter version (which also is included), but it’s still a treat to see what was cut.
Criterion has gone all out with this one: three standard DVDs for both versions of the film and copious extras plus two Blu-rays that replicate the same material.
To go along with its A-team cast, Criterion has assembled a gang of bonus-section backgrounder personnel. Lou Lumenick nails it when he says that “part of the genius” of the movie “is that while each of the main stars is given plenty of room to do his or her own thing, they also come together brilliantly as a team.”
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Sony Pictures, Drama, B.O. $1.35 million, $40.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo, ‘PG’ for thematic elements, brief mild language and smoking.
In Arabic with English subtitles.
Stars Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah.
2013. The irrepressible 10-year-old Saudi Arabian sass-giver here longs to own a bicycle. So she rebels against everyone who says that bikes are only for boys — something akin, perhaps, to what writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour must have done as well because this is the first feature film made by a Saudi female. This is another of those releases where the production’s backstory rivals what’s on screen.
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The proposed merger between cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable — actually an acquisition in which Comcast would buy Time Warner in a deal valued at $45.2 billion — has some interesting ramifications for the home entertainment business.
One of the most significant developments in Hollywood’s push for bigger movie download sales was the decision by Comcast last November to start offering movies for sale through its Xfinity TV store. Subscribers are able to buy select movies several weeks ahead of their release on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, just as they can on iTunes, Amazon.com and Walmart’s Vudu, among other services.
In a recent conference call with analysts, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer noted that less than three months after Comcast began selling movies, it already controls 15% of the electronic sellthrough/Digital HD market — a testament to Comcast’s aggressiveness and willingness to try new things.
“Comcast’s recent entry into the EST business is already proving to be a catalyst for accelerated [digital] growth,” Feltheimer said. “We expect additional growth as other MSOs follow suit.”
Indeed — grabbing a 15% share of the market after just three months in is a tremendous achievement, particularly if that market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years as consumers become more comfortable with the concept of digital movie ownership.
And while the merger is by no means done — expectations are it could take until the end of this year for the deal to clear all the necessary regulatory and other hurdles — a combined Comcast/Time Warner, with aggressive, innovative Comcast in the driver’s seat, could really ignite the EST/Digital HD business.
Under Apple’s iTunes thumb, EST grew slowly. And as recently as 2011, iTunes still commanded about 65% of the EST business.
But with the entry of Comcast into the market last November, it was, as they say, a whole new ballgame — centered on a box of the kind Apple can only wish it had. As the Motley Fool noted, “Comcast — unlike Time Warner Cable — has invested heavily in its own set-top box technology. Gone are the days of sluggish, buggy cable boxes: the new X1 and X2 platforms offer Comcast subscribers a highly advanced, cloud-based set-top box complete with voice commands and personalized recommendations. … Not only do Comcast's X1 and X2 differentiate it from its satellite-based competition, but they also serve as gateways to Comcast's pay-per-view services.”
Comcast’s new Xfinity TV store competes directly with Apple’s iTunes, and given Comcast’s massive footprint and the nature of competition, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that we’re going to see significant growth in online movies sales — and in Comcast’s market share.
Throw Time Warner into the mix and Comcast’s already formidable clout in the marketplace becomes even stronger — positioning online movie sales for even further growth.
The studios desperately want the ability to sell their movies without the hassles of a physical product. They’ve long had the will, and thanks to Comcast the way is suddenly becoming very clear.
By: Thomas K. Arnold
Walmart's 'Jungle Book' with lunch bag
Retailers trotted out the goodies to encourage shoppers to come to their stores to pick up the new “Diamond Edition” of Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Best Buy offered a free Jungle Book twist-drum toy, valued at $5, with purchase of the film. Walmart offered the Blu-ray combo pack of The Jungle Book with a lunch bag. And Target offered the Blu-ray of the Disney classic packed with a storybook and CD.
Target also had an endcap display of Lionsgate DVDs such as The Hunger Games and the “Twilight” movies with $8 Fandango coupons for a theatrical ticket to Divergent.
In Walmart’s new-release section, one slot was devoted to cards for a Vudu purchase of Thor: The Dark World, touting immediate digital availability of the film (as opposed to the Feb. 25 Blu-ray and DVD release). Walmart also had the Beware the Batman Vol. 1 DVD a week early.
Best Buy offered a collectible Blu-ray steelbook case and a free LED keychain with preorders of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, due March 7.