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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.

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2 Sep, 2014

'Investigator' Comes to Walmart

The Screen Media faith-based title The Investigator is available on DVD exclusively at Walmart for $9.96. The film tells the story of a disgraced police sergeant who finds redemption after taking a teaching job at a Christian high school and takes on a student's challenge to investigate the existence of Jesus Christ.

Walmart also has exclusive availability of the DVD of Disney Mickey Mouse: Season 1, with 19 shorts and bonus material.

Best Buy is offering 100 Best Buy bonus points with $19.99 preorders for several upcoming Blu-rays, including Disney's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Paramount's Transformers: Age of Extinction, Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sony Pictures' 22 Jump Street, Warner's Godzilla and Universal's Neighbors.

Best Buy also will offer exclusive lenticular packaging for Warner's The Big Bang Theory: Season 7 and Arrow: Season 2, both also available for preorder.


1 Sep, 2014

New on Disc: 'Man Hunt' and more …

Man Hunt (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, George Sanders, John Carradine.
This significant hit in Fritz Lang’s career is a most entertaining suspense thriller with a dramatically tantalizing table-setter: How might the life of a sportsman/hunter played by Walter Pidgeon have changed in 1939 had he squeezed the trigger when he had Adolf Hitler in his rifle site?
Extras: The isolated music track, a Twilight Time staple, showcases Alfred Newman’s score, which makes some use of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.”
Read the Full Review

High School Confidential

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Russ Tamblyn, Jan Sterling, John Barrymore Jr., Diane Jergens.
This pot-inevitably-leads-to-heroin exposé howler often has enough going for it not to be one of those movies in which production trivia turns out to be far more interesting than what we see on screen.
Read the Full Review

29 Aug, 2014

Trouble Zones

The belly, booty and thighs are often named as trouble areas for women, especially as we get older. We want a flat tummy, a tight and lifted booty, and firm and sculpted thighs, right?

For those who choose yoga to get their sweat on, there are only a few yoga DVDs that target those trouble zones. And you have to pick just one among those zones. But Chrissy Carter has a new DVD that targets all three.

Gaiam releases her new Yoga for Belly, Butt, and Thighs Sept. 2 on DVD for $14.98. The program will also be available on iTunes.

The DVD features three practices — at about 20 minutes each — to target each area.

The Belly segment targets the abs, while the Butt segment helps sculpt the glutes as well as the hamstrings and hips, which help boost the gluteal muscles. The Thighs section help tone both the quads and hamstring muscles.

There’s also a 15-minute Complete Core practice that combines various poses from the three practices along with new poses to target the abs and lower back. After doing this practice just once, my tight, achy, sore back felt great for days.

Carter gives clear and easy to follow instruction. Her poses are not complex, but they’re still challenging and effective, and you can feel your muscles working while doing the exercises.

Gaiam worked with Carter to develop a series of practices that combine complex poses and deep breathing exercises with a workout to tone muscles, eliminate fat, build body awareness and awaken core muscles.

29 Aug, 2014

Fighting for a Piece of a 24-Hour Pie

Traditional entertainment has taken a hit recently. First-half numbers for home entertainment were down slightly. TV ad “upfronts” (prebooked ad buys) were down. The box office take year-to-date is down. About the only thing going up is Netflix’s stock price.

It’s not as if consumers have stopped craving entertainment. It’s that during that 24 hours in a day, in which they must fit work, sleep, etc., there is only so much time for entertainment — and there are ever more and cheaper ways to spend that time, including viewing streaming on Netflix and other sites, as well as the antics of web stars that garner more and more of the younger set’s attention (see my last column). In this kind of competitive environment, marketers must keep on their toes to attract consumers’ attention.

Home entertainment marketers, both at the studios and at retail, are rising to the occasion. One tactic is tying in discs with theatrical marketing. Studios and retailers are increasingly preselling titles on disc around their theatrical bow. And conversely, in a longstanding tactic, discs of previous installments in a series are including discounts on theatrical tickets to the sequels. It’s a way to maximize both theatrical and home entertainment marketing muscle for a bigger punch with the consumer.

One prominent studio marketer noted that these tactics are “tapping into the consumer awareness from the theatrical campaign and converting that awareness into early sales of the Blu-ray, DVD or digital HD.” Conversely, the tie-ins also help the theatrical marketing team build consumer awareness for theatrical releases at retail, she noted.

Anything studio and retail executives can do to build a bigger bullhorn for traditional entertainment is welcome. Exploiting and promoting partnerships with retailers and other studio divisions must grow if content owners want to take a piece of consumers’ limited leisure time. There is an exploding list of hungry competitors looking to take a bite of that 24-hour pie.

29 Aug, 2014

Best Buy's Final Destination

Best Buy’s amazing slide to a 45% drop in income in the second quarter of this year, and ominous warnings of further drops to come in quarters three and four, can’t be attributed solely to the lack of new smartphones and the continued migration of shoppers online.

The electronics chain’s makeover, putting discs, CDs and other software in a corner in the back and reserving its prime floor space for tablets and smartphones, has destroyed its character and made it a lot less fun to shop there. You’d think management would have learned a lesson from Radio Shack, whose death march began when it brought in the iPhone. Sales initially surged, but margins plummeted — and before long everyone was carrying the iPhone and Radio Shack had painted itself into a corner.

Best Buy not only followed the same strategy, but also mangled a great idea last fall through its “showrooming” counterattack. Stung by consumers checking out products at Best Buy but then buying online, the company commissioned a series of 11 ads under the "Your Ultimate Holiday Showroom" theme, touting its low-price guarantee and the ability to order online and pick up in store.

The trouble was, the campaign focused more on outdoing Amazon than it did on highlighting the benefits of shopping in-store at Best Buy — although, in retrospect, maybe that’s because those benefits simply aren’t all that pronounced.

It all goes back to how fun it used to be to shop at Best Buy, before the chain transformed itself into a physical portal for tablets and smartphones. And there’s the essence of what Best Buy needs to do if it is to survive, much less thrive, in this increasingly challenging environment.

The stores need to become destinations again. I agree with Jehan Hamedi, global market development manager at Crimson Hexagon, a social-media analytics company that analyzed Twitter and Facebook dialog on Best Buy’s ad campaign. He told Ad Age Best Buy should make the stores more of a "playground" destination with fun in-store events, group discounts and refer-a-friend programs. "There's such a huge opportunity for them to link their product showroom appeal with a social experience," he told Ad Age. “We found that the largest, the prime [consumer] expectations, had nothing to do with what I might expect, like touching or sampling the product. It's more about social gratification — having fun. You go with your friends and they are your pre-purchasing sounding boards. It's a destination.”

My last visit to Best Buy was not a fun experience. The local store is situated in a large strip mall, right next to Walmart. I got there at a quarter to 10 on Sunday, wanting to pick up some discs as a gift for a birthday party my youngest son was going to, but Best Buy didn’t open until 10 and even though there were more than a dozen people outside waiting to get in those doors didn’t open until exactly 10, on the minute. I went to Walmart instead, and that was a lost sale Best Buy could have had if there was some flexibility and awareness of the store’s retail surroundings.
After my purchase at Walmart, I went to Best Buy to check into getting a protective screen around my middle son’s new school-issued iPad. It took me 10 minutes to find an available clerk, and I found the screen protector before he did. It was also I who suggested the Geek Squad put it on, not him.

As I was walking out, I saw a refrigerator I had purchased on sale on the Fourth of July holiday for $1,799 was back up to $3,265 — “10% off the regular price, just in time for Labor Day.” I understand price fluctuations, but come on! It’s episodes such as this that build consumer distrust — and at this point that’s the last thing Best Buy needs.

27 Aug, 2014

Home Entertainment’s 'Blu' Summer

At a time when subscription streaming and over-the-top video dominate the narrative in home entertainment, Blu-ray Disc remains an enduring format — despite media companies’ misguided efforts to embrace SVOD’s Trojan Horse.

Trans World Entertainment, which operates the 328-store f.y.e. retail chain nationwide, said double-digit sales increases of Blu-ray titles helped keep same-store sales declines to 1% in its most-recent fiscal quarter.

Hastings Entertainment, which operates 126 stores throughout the Southwest, saw revenue from new Blu-ray and DVD title sales increase 2% to 23% ($100 million) of total sales in 2013 from the same period in 2011, according to an April regulatory filing.

Industry wide, through the first half of the year, Blu-ray sales rose 10% in the second quarter alone, suggesting continued viability in a disc business many in the mainstream media have given up for dead. In fact, electronic sales of new releases — the format “du jour” — were less than 20% of total packaged-media sales in the quarter, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Alas, the DVD death spiral perception — perpetuated for years by the media — has now been embraced by media executives, many of whom openly gloat about the incremental revenue generated licensing content to SVOD stalwarts such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus.

Capitulation to streaming reached its zenith earlier this month when Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes — a perennial critic of SVOD — unabashedly lauded digital distribution.

“We're going to be up solid double-digits [this year]. And by that I don't mean 10% to 20%, I mean more,” Bewkes said.

Warner Bros. said it could expect to see a significant increase in the $400 million it generated in 2013 from licensing content to subscription streaming services. Nevermind that incremental revenue is dwarfed by the more than $1.1 billion the studio generated through June 30 this year selling movies and TV shows on disc, and to a lesser extent, digital platforms.

In the United Kingdom, a durable packaged-media market slowly but surely undermined by SVOD, Netflix now has more than 3 million subs. I have friends in Germany — a country with a strong economy that continues to support disc sales — who routinely ask about the latest American TV shows to buy on disc. Recent recommendation “Breaking Bad” was big hit. Now, its “Homeland.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them Netflix will open for business there next month.

To be sure, SVOD is a win for consumers, but it’s a loss to content holders and the home entertainment industry. Who makes a profit selling unlimited access for $9 a month? Just Netflix. Which is why its stock is in the stratosphere — valued nine times more than Microsoft; five times more than Walmart and Time Warner.

Lost among Wall Street’s brazen Netflix lovefest is the reality the service ended its most-recent fiscal period with $7.7 billion (!) in content liabilities, which some industry observers believe the SVOD service may outrun if it keeps adding subscribers.

Ever wonder why Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has that sheepish smile in photos? He’s laughing all the way to the bank.

26 Aug, 2014

'Walking' for Exclusives

Walmart's 'Walking Dead: Season Four' with prison key
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.

25 Aug, 2014

New on Disc: 'Out of the Past' and more …

Out of the Past (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Mystery, $21.99 Blu-ray.
Stars Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming.
This is just about everything a noir screen experience should be, even down to a title that really plays on the imagination (and the Blu-ray part of the experience really helps).
Extras: James Ursini, a name synonymous with noir reportage, does a commentary.
Read the Full Review

The Buddy Holly Story (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘PG.’
Stars Gary Busey, Charles Martin Smith, Don Stroud, Maria Richwine.
Before his 1959 death in a plane crash, Buddy Holly was a kid with a burning-lava kind of drive, which is exactly what an impossibly slimmed-down Gary Busey conveys in a powerhouse lead performance that got him an Oscar nomination.
Extras: Director Steve Rash joins Busey on a commentary track from 1998.
Read the Full Review

21 Aug, 2014

Sí Se Puede

One of the biggest movies this year for Mexican-Americans was Cesar Chavez.

Starring Michael Peña, America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson, the film tells the story of civil rights activist and American farm worker Cesar Chavez and his rise as a labor leader. The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate for about $20.

I won’t deny that the film failed to accurately portray many elements of the complex history of the United Farm Workers movement. I also won’t disagree all that much with the less-than-stellar reviews from critics and audiences alike.

However, I think it’s important to point out that Cesar Chavez is still a solid movie with a great message for filmmakers to make in highlighting an important Mexican-American leader AND portraying him by a talented Mexican-American actor. As with many biopics or historical movies, I hope that the movie encourages audiences to go out and research the real people and the real stories. In this Google age, a lot of information is easily accessible with a few keyboard strokes.

Of course, it would have been even easier if the home video releases included some sort of documentary or even a few featurettes about the real Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

But I do have to commend distributors Lionsgate and Pantelion and production house Participant Media for the socially conscious efforts to support Chavez’s cause, which sadly is still a struggle for farm workers.

As reported earlier in an article by my colleague Chris Tribbey, Participant Media and the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) launched a new food label trust-mark that certifies produce is “responsibly grown and farmworker assured.” This will help shoppers identify, and hopefully purchase, equitably sourced food.

During the film’s theatrical run, Participant also gathered more than 30,000 signatures on TakePart.com in support of EFI’s efforts to provide training and fair wages to farmworkers and implement safe food practices. And among the trailers on the DVD is a PSA for farm worker safety standards and supporting the cause at Takepart.com/chavez. The TakePart petition is now at 34,016 of its 60,000 goal. I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about how you can take action and learn about the Chavez’s work, which is still being carried on today.

19 Aug, 2014

Amazing 'Spider-Man' Deals

Amazon's 'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Electro Head
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.