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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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6 Nov, 2017

New on Disc: 'Take a Good Look' and more …


Take a Good Look: The Definitive Collection

Shout! Factory, Game Show, $69.97 DVD, NR.
Stars Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams, Cesar Romero, Hans Conried.
1959-60. It was almost a dead certainty that a game show that further took advantage of Ernie Kovacs’ additional standing as a video pioneer would end up being largely performance art.
Read the Full Review  

The Sea Wolf

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Adventure, $17.99 DVD, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Alexander Knox, Gene Lockhart, Barry Fitzgerald.
1941. This best and best-known of many preceding and subsequent screen versions of Jack London’s popular novel suffered the kind of ignominy that certain other Warner hits did when they proved popular enough to re-issue — severe cutting for double features. The footage was lost until this notably seamless Blu-ray restoration, taken from an unearthed 35mm source.
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31 Oct, 2017

Best Buy Offers 'Dark Tower' Steelbook

Best Buy's 'Dark Tower' Steelbook
Best Buy's 'Dark Tower' Steelbook

Halloween was relatively light on new releases, and thus retailer promotions on home video, for the week.

Among the only notable retail exclusives was at Best Buy, which offered a Steelbook edition of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack of Sony Pictures' The Dark Tower.

Best Buy is also taking preorders for its exclusive Steelbook Blu-ray of Disney's Cars 3, due Nov. 7.


30 Oct, 2017

Digital Marketplace Gets Even More Dynamic


This past month, the digital marketplace shifted on both the transactional and subscription VOD fronts.

On the transactional side, five of six major Hollywood studios joined forces for digital locker 2.0, Movies Anywhere, in a renewed attempt to make digital movie collecting easy. Movies Anywhere, a free app and website, launched Oct. 11, backed by four top digital retailers and content from Walt Disney (including Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment. After the stalled digital locker effort of UltraViolet, content owners are no doubt hoping the second time’s a charm, and having used the service in the past few weeks, I’m impressed. Family members away at college or during a break at school or work have been able to watch movies via the new service, something they rarely did in the many years we utilized UltraViolet. Kudos to these companies for continuing to improve the collecting experience for consumers, and here’s hoping Paramount and Lionsgate give it a shot, as well as digital retailers other than launch partners Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Walmart’s Vudu. I expect expansion of Movies Anywhere participants soon.

The SVOD marketplace saw pricing moves, both up and down. Netflix raised prices, overcoming any cold feet after a disastrous price increase attempt years ago. Despite its loss of Disney content and the threat of rebellion from cost-conscious consumers, Netflix got a thumbs up from the financial markets. On the other hand, Hulu took the opposite tack, lowering the introductory price for its ad-supported service, among other moves for price-conscious viewers.

Meanwhile, kiosk company Redbox, a physical rental stalwart, also made some digital moves, hiring new executives and selling Digital HD codes. More on that front is sure to come.

Content owners and services are aggressively chasing the digital future, refining the pricing and consumer experience in an attempt to find a winning mix. Dr. Nelson Granados, Forbes contributor and professor of digital innovation and information, addressed this dynamic change at the EMA’s recent Digital Media Pipeline conference. He noted that “channel conflict” is inevitable and that content owners have “got to strike a balance,” he said. It looks as if the shifts to find that balance are accelerating.

 

 


30 Oct, 2017

Movies Anywhere Is a Locker I Can Get Into


I have a new morning ritual. While sipping my first cup of coffee (of two) and catching up on my email and the latest news, all on my iPhone, I now also invariably finish the movie I fell asleep watching the night before.

Yes, I am at that age where I begin to nod off well before the closing credits. And until just recently I would finish watching a movie the next night, before starting a new one. But thanks to my new ritual, I now start a movie every night, which by my estimation has increased the number of movies I watch by at least 30%.

What changed? The mid-October launch of Movies Anywhere, a remarkably simple and easy to use digital storage locker that lets me watch any film in my library with a couple of clicks on my iPhone button. All the major studios, except for Paramount, are participating, and the beauty of Movies Anywhere is that even for people like me who still buy Blu-ray Discs, entering the redemption code so I gain access to a digital copy takes just seconds — and then the movie is available on my iPhone, my TV, and anywhere else I have the app. (In fact, while writing this paragraph I just entered the code for Annabelle: Creation and watched it instantly appear on my iPhone. I will start watching it tonight — probably on disc, just out of habit — and then whatever I missed will be viewed in the early morning, with a Keurig cup of bold Sumatra, after the obligatory cleansing of emails and quick look at the news headlines.)

I have a confession to make. While I consider myself an early adopter, both because of my role in the industry and my natural curiosity and yen to be on the cutting edge of new and cool stuff, my digital movie experience has been limited to Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I have never bought a movie online; I set up an UltraViolet account years ago but never used it, not even once. I keep writing that consumers value convenience, simplicity and ease of use, above all else, and I might as well have been writing about myself. I rarely make myself a salad, preferring the salad-in-a-bag approach. I vastly prefer Uber to taxis, and order most of my stuff online — even my Keurig coffee cups — because I hate waiting in line.

The problem was, prior to Movies Anywhere, watching digital copies of movies I acquired was too much of a hassle. There were too many sites to visit, too many passwords to enter, too many steps to take.

Movies Anywhere is as easy as watching Netflix. And that’s why I believe our studio friends have gotten it right this time. Sure, there are still hurdles to overcome — chiefly the other main driver of consumer behavior, the desire to get things for free or, at the very least, for as little as possible. It’s still going to be a challenge to convince consumers who are used to spending around $10 a month for unlimited Netflix content to fork over more than that for a single movie, regardless of how new that movie is, or how much hype it has generated.

Still, everything else is in place. The stage has been set for digital ownership to really take off, once consumers realize the value proposition of instant access — and immediate (or, in my case, morning-after) satisfaction.


24 Oct, 2017

Retail Fun With 'The Emoji Movie'

Walmart's 'Emoji Movie' with character plush
Walmart's 'Emoji Movie' with character plush

A couple of retailers offered exclusive pack-on goodies with the Blu-ray of Sony Pictures' The Emoji Movie.

Walmart offered the animated movie in a gift set containing the Blu-ray and a character plush backpack clip.

Target offered the Blu-ray with a pack-on movie-branded PopSocket mobile-device grip.

Among other titles, Target didn't have any copies of Fox's Teen Wolf: Season 6 Part 2 on shelves, and the title didn't come up on a search through Target.com. The title is listed at Target.com (where it comes up after a Google search), where is it listed as out of stock online.


19 Oct, 2017

Movies Anywhere a Good Next Step, But Some Digital Ownership Holes Remain


The introduction of Movies Anywhere, an expansion of the Disney Movies Anywhere platform to include four more studios, is the most significant advancement of the promotion of digital ownership since the launch of UltraViolet.

The concept behind UltraViolet was to give consumers more choices in playing back their digital content by linking several digital retailers. After it launched in 2011, UltraViolet became primarily associated with the code included with Blu-rays and DVDs that allowed consumers to have a free digital copy of a movie or TV show with the purchase of the physical disc. The content itself would be stored in the cloud, and UltraViolet accounts would give consumers the rights to access the content whenever they wished from affiliated websites and apps such as Flixster, CinemaNow or Vudu.

But, there were significant gaps in the service. Apples’ iTunes, one of the biggest retailers of digital content, did not sign up. Neither did Disney, which launched its own, proprietary Disney Movies Anywhere service, which was compatible with iTunes.

In essence, while you could buy almost any content from any retailer, you could only watch it across platforms depending on the interconnectivity deals they had in place. This could lead to some eclectic digital collections, as some studios began offering digital copy only through UltraViolet. So you could have some movies on iTunes and some on Flixster and no means to visit one site to gauge your entire library. In many cases, especially for families, this could lead to inadvertently buying the same content again without realizing you had it on a different service. (Some studios, such as Paramount and Universal, allowed the same code to redeem a digital copy on both iTunes and UltraViolet, which opened up options but was still essentially owning the movie twice in two different spots, even if it were free).

One key difference between digital and physical ownership, of course, is the nature of the playback device. With a disc, you put it in a Blu-ray or DVD player and watch it as many times as you want, and the brand or location of the player shouldn’t matter. With streaming, however, the retailer where you bought (or redeemed the code for) the movie also provides the playback device, via the retailer’s app or a video plug-in at their website.

Thus, the key for consumers looking for the best option to see as much of their collection as possible in one spot would be finding a retailer that used as many of the available rights lockers. With its deal with Disney Movies Anywhere, Walmart’s Vudu soon became the only digital retailer where consumers could see their cloud-based collections of movies and TV shows from all six major studios and participating mini-majors such as Lionsgate.

But, it’s not as if these facts where widely marketed or known to mainstream consumers, many of whom erroneously expect everything ever made to show up eventually on Netflix. For digital ownership to remain viable, the ability to access content couldn’t be so annoying as to drive more viewers to subscription streaming.

Another problem facing UltraViolet was the decline in compatible retailers, particularly big names such as Flixter and CinemaNow.

So, unless studios wanted to incur the wrath of other retail partners to exclusively promote Vudu as the digital solution, they needed to facilitate a way to expand how their movies interacted with a variety of digital retailers.

Aside from a few early technical snafus, creating a Movies Anywhere account and linking all a consumers’ retail accounts is a relatively seamless process. Plus, as a reboot of DMA, the new Movies Anywhere offers something that UltraViolet never did — a playback app. You still have to visit a participating retailer to buy the movie, but you can watch it through the MA app in addition to that retailer if you want.

Now, the Movies Anywhere app and website just allow you to see which movies you own that are connected to the Movies Anywhere platform (not unlike how the UV site lets you see which UV-linked movies you own). So you can’t watch your content from holdouts such as Paramount and Lionsgate there. And because those studios haven’t signed up yet, their movies won’t automatically cross-populate between participating retailers Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Video and Google Play the way the rest of your collection will (with some exceptions).

Also, the biggest drawback to Movies Anywhere thus far is that it doesn’t include TV shows. All the major retailers connected to Movies Anywhere also sell TV episodes and seasons, and many TV DVDs and Blu-rays include UltraViolet codes for the content. Thus, you can’t watch TV shows on the Movies Anywhere app or website, and if you own TV content on iTunes it won’t show up in Vudu, or vice versa.

That, and the lack of Paramount and Lionsgate content, means consumers may still have to jump between retailers to see all their content.

But, if those issues can be worked out, and soon, then Movies Anywhere represents a good step toward the one-stop option for digital content studios are looking to achieve.


17 Oct, 2017

Retailers Offer a Web of 'Spider-Man' Exclusives

Target and Best Buy exclusive 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Blu-rays
Target and Best Buy exclusive 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' Blu-rays

Retailers offered several exclusives for Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Homecoming Oct. 17.

Target touted a "triple exclusive" with a comic book, special packaging and artwork, and an exclusive bonus disc. Target also offered $5 with the purchase of both the movie and a $9.99 Spider-Man flip mask.

Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging with the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of the movie.

Walmart offered a gift set with two Mashems figures, one Spidey and the other a mystery figure.

Amazon had the Spider-Man: Homecoming UHD Blu-ray with a collectible mask case.

Among other titles, Target offered Universal's Girls Trip with an exclusive one-year subscription to Essence.

For Warner's animated Batman vs. Two-Face, Best Buy offered the Blu-ray with Steelbook packaging, while Target offered lenticular box art.

One of the bigger Target exclusives during the week was a $24.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo set of Netflix's Stranger Things: Season 1 in retro packaging styled like a VHS tape with a collectible mini-poster.


16 Oct, 2017

New on Disc: 'Portrait of Jennie' and more …


Portrait of Jennie

Street 10/24/17
Kino Lorber, Fantasy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Ethel Barrymore, Cecil Kellaway, Lillian Gish.
1948. David O. Selznick’s coffers-busting Portrait of Jennie is a favorite of many despite more lumpy moments that you’d expect from a good movie that runs just 86 minutes. It’s an ethereal, supernatural romance that wouldn’t take too many stretches to qualify for inclusion in the time-travel genre.
Extras: Film historian Troy Howarth provides a stacked bonus commentary.
Read the Full Review

Crime of Passion

ClassicFlix, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr, Royal Dano, Fay Wray.
1957. With a new true 1.85:1 rendering that has more going for director Gerd Oswald’s sometimes detail-packed framing than the old DVD, Passion on Blu-ray is still a hit-and-miss affair that wavers through a good set-up, some boilerplate courtship material and then some nasty stuff that half-compels — though in sometimes rush-job fashion that gives the impression that maybe the filmmakers aren’t getting all that’s to be had out of the material.
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11 Oct, 2017

Best Buy Offers 'Baby Driver' Steelbook


In a sparse week for retailer exclusives, Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging for Sony Pictures' Baby Driver 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Target offered an exclusive bonus DVD with Paramount's new Dreamgirls: Director's Extended Edition Blu-ray with more than two-and-a-half hours of content.

Best Buy is offering $10 in rewards for My Best Buy Members with preorders and purchase of select digital and physical video games.


9 Oct, 2017

New on Disc: 'Funny Bones' and more …


Funny Bones

Kino Lorber, Drama, $14.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, ‘R.’
Stars Oliver Platt, Jerry Lewis, Lee Evans, Leslie Caron, Oliver Reed.
1995. A good drama, despite laughs, about professional comedy that also deals with strained relationships involving progeny that goes into some very dark byways, which audiences should be allowed to sample for themselves.
Extras: Includes a very animated commentary by writer/co-director Peter Chelsom and simpatico interviewer Elijah Drenner.
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Gun Fury (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Western, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Phil Carey, Lee Marvin, Leo Gordon.
1953. This Raoul Walsh Western is not much of a movie, only occasionally wallows in the 3D form and is of primary interest due when you’re “outside the picture” and simply concentrating on what was going on with careers at the time.
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