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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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20 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Lusty Men' and more …


The Lusty Men

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Susan Hayward, Arthur Kennedy, Arthur Hunnicutt.
1952.
Newly remastered, this solid rodeo drama from director Nicholas Ray stars Robert Mitchum as an aging rodeo star who comes across a married couple (Arthur Kennedy and Susan Hayward). The tone Ray maintains throughout is mostly perfect and consistent against a triangular dramatic set-up that seems almost foolproof.
Read the Full Review

Al Capone: Icon

PBS, Documentary, $24.99 DVD, NR.
2014.
This lukewarm bio makes some good points about Al Capone’s criminal career, a central thesis being that bootlegging so “made” Capone’s career that if Prohibition hadn’t existed, it’s likely that he’d never escaped the lower rungs of Chicago sociopathy.
Read the Full Review
 


15 Oct, 2014

Extending Love to the Amodei Family

Kate and Joe Amodei
Kate and Joe Amodei

Our hearts go out to our good friend Joe Amodei, head of Virgil Films, whose beloved daughter, Kate, 29, died early in the morning Monday, Oct. 13, in Philadelphia. God bless you and your family, Joe, and may your precious little girl rest in peace until you see her again.

Kate's funeral will be held Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, at Woodside Presbyterian Church, 1667 Edgewood Road, Yardley, Penn. 19067.

Calling hours — 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Funeral service — 11 a.m.

There will be a luncheon following the burial service.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Kate's honor to Philabundance. Condolences may be expressed at the Hoffmann Funeral Home Bensalem website: www.hoffmannfuneralhome.com.

In charge of special markets/operations at Virgil, Kate Amodei was a graduate of Temple University and a proud activist who loved to help those less fortunate. She was also an EMT.

Kate is survived by her grandfather, Joe Amodei; parents, Joe and Ginger Amodei; sister and brother-in-law, Kristina and Matt Ulmer; nieces, Aubrey and Elena Ulmer; best friend, Sarah Hughes; boyfriend, Matt Eby; cousin, Dana Amodei; and many other friends, coworkers and family members.

This is not how it's supposed to work. Our children are supposed to outlive us. The pain Joe and his wife, Ginger, must be experiencing is unimaginable. On behalf of the whole home video community where Joe has long been an integral player, we extend our sympathies — and our love.
 


14 Oct, 2014

Plenty of Retail Power for 'X-Men'

Best Buy's 'X-Men' gift set
Best Buy's 'X-Men' gift set

Fans had their pick among retail exclusive editions for Fox's Oct. 14 home video release of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Best Buy had a huge display of "X-Men" titles, including a special gift set for the 3D Blu-ray edition of Days of Future Past that including special mutant files. Target offered the 2D Blu-ray combo pack in special metalpak packaging.

Walmart had a couple of Days of Future Past exclusives, the most notable being copies of the 3D and 2D Blu-rays packed with special miniature editions of the two-part 1981 comic book storyline upon which the film is based. Walmart also had an exclusive bare-bones DVD edition of the film.

Amazon.com offered a gift set of the Days of Future Past 3D combo pack that included a replica Magneto helmet.

The week's other big title, DreamWorks Animation's Mr. Peabody & Sherman, also had exclusives at the three major retailers.

Walmart had the 2D Blu-ray of Mr. Peabody & Sherman packed with a plush Mr. Peabody doll. Walmart also offered a special bare-bones DVD edition.

Target offered the 2D Blu-ray packed with a bowtie and glasses, while Best Buy offered a lunch box for $4.99 with purchase of the film ($9.99 on its own).

Among other titles, Target had the first season of Paramount's "Penny Dreadful" with special Blu-ray box art, while Best Buy had exclusive availability of Universal's animated movie Dive Olly Dive and the Pirate Treasure.

Fox packaged copies of its Fargo: Season One Blu-ray set with a special knit beanie cap.


13 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'Dick Cavett's Watergate' and more …


Dick Cavett’s Watergate

Street 10/14
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


10 Oct, 2014

Why You Need to be in the Land Grab for Digital Video Buyers

Mark Kirstein
Mark Kirstein

“It’s the eco-system, stupid”... to misquote a phrase from political elections long gone by.

Approximately 12 million to 15 million consumers in the United States buy digital video to own, while more than 100 million consumers still regularly buy DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

But those scales are shifting.

According to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, consumer spending on discs dropped 8% in the first half of 2014 to $3.3 billion, compared with the first half of 2013.

While electronic sellthrough enjoyed a 37% jump in the period, growing to $671 million, this gain was far short of making up the declining physical dollars. Fortunately, subscription streaming revenue is growing too, albeit with lower margins.

As spending shifts from physical to digital, two things are clear. First, it’s vital that the overall video industry sustains purchase-to-own as a viable long-term behavior. If the video industry follows what happened in music, tens of millions of buyers will forever abandon their purchase behavior. While people still consume more music than ever, the number of actual buyers is a fraction of the past, and profitable revenue models remain elusive for most.

Second, digital service providers and retailers who want to capture and sustain these video buyers need to act now. Once a video consumer locks into a given digital ecosystem, such as Apple iTunes, Amazon or Vudu, it becomes increasingly difficult to lure them away. The more devices in a common ecosystem and the more titles owned in a digital library, the more committed the customer becomes. Of course, Apple has known this for some time, using their iTunes ecosystem as both a value-add to their devices, as well as a retention tool.

By measure of the massive advertising campaign Google has recently launched for their Google Play platform, it appears they are ready to go all in for these digital buyers as well. This battle is clearly not all about content. It’s about locking the customers into the device, content or service ecosystem.

Assuming many or even most of the 100 million physical video buyers will eventually become digitally active, there are still many millions of digital video buyers yet to be captured. But you need to capture these buyers before the competition does. This will take investment in marketing to increase awareness and communicate differentiation as well as in content discounts and free promotional content.

However, sitting on the sidelines putting short-term margins above the strategic imperatives will cede digital buyers perhaps forever. At a minimum, these buyers will be far more expensive to lure away later than to capture now.

Don’t miss the digital land grab. It’s on now.


10 Oct, 2014

4 Types of Digital Disruption


Digital changes are shaking the industry like earthquakes, and I see at least four major disruptions facing the home entertainment industry.

1. Breaking windows — After taking on appointment TV by offering original episodic programming all at once (“House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black”), Netflix is planning to offer digitally for streaming feature film product traditionally offered first at the cineplex. The Weinstein Co. inked a deal with the online service to release the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon prequel to Netflix streaming subscribers at the same time it hits theaters. Also, Adam Sandler, a longtime draw at the movie theater, signed a deal to bypass that venue and offer his uniquely crude humor on smaller screens via Netflix streaming.

2. Business model bustup — As has long been noted, the revenue model that has underpinned the entire Hollywood ecosystem is under assault. The theatrical business looks shaky. The summer box office disappointed, as consumers found other things to do (including watching digital content). Meanwhile, studios can no longer count on bigger and bigger, or even the same, bags of money coming from the sale of discs as consumers decide to stream rather than buy their content. Meanwhile, advertising upfronts are taking a hit in the TV business as time-shifting and social media disrupt the traditional advertising model.

3. Talent revolt — Those who create content are looking for a bigger piece of the revenue pie and greater creative freedom as the distribution model shifts. Sandler isn’t the only star looking to find a new partner in the digital world. Comedian Chelsea Handler broke up with E! and is looking to create the next form of talk show in the digital realm on Netflix. It’s happening in the music arena as well. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, at a recent industry event musician Jimmy Buffet asked the CEO of the music streaming service Spotify if he would pay talent more than the traditional labels.

4. Entertainment in new forms — And there’s the possibility that the entertainment of the future won’t resemble the feature film and episodic TV model of the past. What makes 30-minute or hour-long episodic TV or a roughly two hour film the most popular models for visual entertainment? Until now, that kind of entertainment has been shaped by the distribution model, i.e. how long folks can stand to sit in a theater seat, etc. On the web, small-bite entertainment may play a bigger part. Witness the success of sketch comedy online. Also part of the new entertainment model: watching folks play and comment on video games. Witness the outlandish success of Twitch, worth nearly a billion dollars to buyer Amazon.

Yes, the entertainment ground is shifting.


9 Oct, 2014

Friday Street Date? Shelve It


Recently some in the music industry have started talking about a uniform worldwide Friday street date for all album and singles releases. To get out in front of this issue, now’s the time to say that a standard Friday street date would be bad for home video and video games, and any consideration should be shelved straight away.

In the United States, street dates for music are usually on Tuesdays, just as they are for home video and for a number of video game titles. Music is released on different days of the week in other countries —Mondays in the United Kingdom and Fridays in Germany, for example.

According to the International Federal of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the international music industry organization, a uniform worldwide street date of Friday would benefit the music industry by allowing coordinated global promotional campaigns for new releases. It would be good for consumers, in IFPI’s view, by letting them know that wherever they are in the world the week’s new releases will be available just after midnight local time on Friday.

There may indeed be benefits to a uniform worldwide street date — and the Entertainment Merchants Association would be happy to have a dialogue about that — but Friday is a terrible choice for the day of the week.

“Why?” you might ask. “Movies release theatrically on Fridays quite successfully, and wouldn’t it make sense to have other entertainment products released just as the weekend is starting to attract consumer dollars to our industries?”

There are plenty of reasons:

• A Tuesday street date is operationally efficient and promotes a better in-stock position of new releases during the high-demand weekend, therefore maximizing both sales and profits. Retailers, distributors and content providers gauge consumer demand in the first couple days of release and have time to then ensure that retail stores are properly stocked for weekend sales. A Friday street date would mean that restocks would occur, if possible, during the weekend, incurring warehouse overtime, overnight shipments, and weekend shipping costs.

• A Friday street date doesn’t leave room for logistical errors. Digitally released titles are at risk of late onboarding and QC issues that can now be corrected before the peak weekend demand. In addition, making titles available well in advance of the weekend helps ensure that Internet capacity and capability aren’t taxed with consumers all downloading or streaming on Friday.

• Most of the largest retailers of home video and game products enjoy additional store traffic from the midweek street date and profit from sales of other non-video products purchased during store visits.

• Many independent specialist retailers also realize a surge of mid-week business, balancing their operational and labor costs through the week.

• A Friday street date would mean that the popular Sunday circulars would support only the following Friday and Saturday sales (that is, if the consumer keeps the ads around that long). And many mid-to-lower tier titles would never be promoted in weekly retail ads if that were to be the case and would, as a result, not warrant shelf space. The home video and video game industries cannot afford lower category productivity, which will ultimately lead to reduced shelf space and spiral sales further downward.

• If the music industry adopts Friday as a common street date, it is highly unlikely the home video and video game industries will follow. This will result in further inefficiencies in shipping — as movies, music and games often are shipped in the same cartons — and in increased costs in all three industries.

• Consumer confusion would likely result due to the many years of branding Tuesday as the new release day for all packaged media.

The Tuesday street date for music, home video and (to a lesser extent) video games has been the standard for years because it works. While the past has a vote, and not a veto, we should not abandon a successful practice unless the alternative is found analytically to be superior. A Friday street date is clearly not and should be summarily rejected.

 


7 Oct, 2014

Redbox Instant Was Doomed from the Start


There’s only one thing that surprised me about Redbox pulling the plug on its streaming video joint venture with Verizon Communications, Redbox Instant by Verizon: Why did it take so long?

Back when I attended the big press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January 2012, announcing the JV (it didn’t actually launch until March 2013), I had trouble understanding the business model.

Generally, if you take aim at a competitor — in this case, Netflix — you build a better mousetrap, as they say. Apple entered the cell phone market with the iPhone; Sony jumped into the video game business with the PlayStation.

But from the very start, Redbox Instant appeared to be a poorly conceived venture that consistently failed to take advantage of Netflix’s chief weakness: a limited selection of content, particularly on the movie side, which despite its grand success remains a depository for studio castoffs.

Of course, if Netflix couldn’t strike a deal with Hollywood for better product, what would make anyone think Redbox could do it? But even if the two services had similar (weak) content offerings, why has Netflix exploded while Redbox, well, appears to have imploded?

One factor was that Netflix already had an established base of customers accustomed to the subscription model, through its hugely successful disc-by-mail rental service. All Netflix had to do was migrate those customers over to streaming by making the viewing experience even easier and simpler, which it was able to do by eliminating the hassle of having to send back a disc.

The other advantage Netflix had was in brand awareness. When Netflix launched its streaming service, it was already known for sending movies and other content directly to consumer homes, albeit in physical form. Redbox, on the other hand, was known for its vending machines, a model in which consumers had to go somewhere to get their entertainment.

Netflix also marketed the hell out of its streaming service, to the point where Netflix became as iconic a name in home entertainment as Blockbuster had once been. Redbox hooked up with a cell phone company known for smartphones and data plans, not movies.

Redbox’s unique selling proposition was this: Subscribers didn’t just get unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows, they also got four DVD rentals a month from Redbox’s network of kiosks.

Big whoop. If you’re trying to sell someone a new car, you don’t throw in free horse-and-buggy rides.

In the official notice on its website announcing the demise of Redbox Instant by Verizon, the company said, “The service is shutting down because it was not as successful as we hoped it would be.”

That, my friends, is an understatement — and, in retrospect, Redbox has only itself to blame.


7 Oct, 2014

'Beauty' on the 'Edge' in the 'West'

Walmart's 'A Million Ways to Die in the West' with T-shirt
Walmart's 'A Million Ways to Die in the West' with T-shirt

Several of the Oct. 7 new releases garnered exclusive promotions from the major retailers upon their debut.

Best Buy offered the Blu-ray combo pack of Warner's sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow with more than 25 minutes of additional bonus material, while Target offered the title in a steelbook case.

Disney's Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition drew the special packaging at Best Buy, which offered the Blu-ray with lenticular box art. Target packaged the Blu-ray with a 32-page read-along storybook, while Walmart offered it as a gift set with a Disneybound: Sleeping Beauty Style bonus DVD.

For Universal's A Million Ways to Die in the West, Walmart offered the Blu-ray with a packed-on "Moustachery" T-shirt, while Target offered it with 30 minutes of additional featurettes. At Best Buy, shoppers could buy it in a $29.99 bundle with another Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy, Ted.

Among other new titles, Best Buy offered the original Sharknado Blu-ray for $4.99 with the purchase of the second movie.

Walmart offered Fox's American Horror Story: Coven Blu-ray with an exclusive bonus DVD with a cast Q&A panel discussion from Paleyfest 2014. Walmart also had Lionsgate's Duck Dynasty: Season 6 as a "Duck-Luxe" edition with 35 minutes of exclusive bonus material.

Oct. 3 Walmart offered Disney's Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion on DVD the day the first episode of the new animated series debuted on the Disney Channel.

 


6 Oct, 2014

New on Disc: 'The Killer Elite/Noon Wine' and more …


The Killer Elite/Noon Wine

Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Caan, Robert Duvall, Olivia de Havilland, Jason Robards.
1975/1966.
Sam Peckinpah’s stirring 48-minute telepic of Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel Noon Wine has been the Holy Grail of his career since it aired on TV once in 1966.
Read the Full Review

The Desert Song

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Musical, $21.99 DVD, NR.
Stars Dennis Morgan, Irene Manning, Bruce Cabot, Lynne Overman.
1943.
This isn’t a movie that emboldens one to go to the mat even in a fixed wrestling match, but it is a great deal more entertaining than anyone expects from an operetta with Nazis.
Read the Full Review