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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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24 Apr, 2017

Disrupting the Digital Disruptors


Are the disruptors being disrupted? That’s a good question to ask ourselves as we at Home Media Magazine present our seventh annual Digital Drivers feature, which we launched 2011 as a way to spotlight the executives behind the transition from physical media to digital distribution.

Back then, there were two views of digital distribution. One, held by the studios, was a transactional model in which consumers would buy digital copies of movies, TV shows and other filmed content over the Internet, effectively transitioning their purchase habit from physical media and providing studios with much better margins, with no manufacturing costs, minimal distribution expenses, and, best of all, no returns.

Rental, too, would migrate to the web, in the form of transactional streaming, or pay-per-view.

What studios hoped would be a smooth transition was already then being disrupted by Netflix, which had a whole other view of digital distribution: subscription streaming. Three years earlier, in 2008, Netflix jump-started its then-nascent subscription streaming service by leveraging a sub-contract with Starz that gave it access to Disney and other studio movies. That, in turn, led to the studios dealing directly with Netflix in licensing their back-catalog films and TV shows.

It was a decision Hollywood would soon come to regret, but, as they say, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. And so it is today that the digital distribution world is dominated by streaming, and streaming is dominated by Netflix, the biggest disruptor this industry has seen since DVD 20 years ago shifted home video from a rental model to a purchase model.

And yet while Netflix and the whole over-the-top (OTT) concept certainly dominate digital distribution, Netflix and the other streamers aren’t immune to disruption, either.

New research from Parks Associates reveals that 39% of U.S. broadband households visit a video sharing site like YouTube at least once a week — and 59% of broadband households visit an online video site on a regular basis. These findings sparked a session at the NAB show in Las Vegas called "OTT Video Services: Fighting to Capture and Retain Users," with Parks Associate senior analyst Glenn Hower, in a press release, maintaining that the growing popularity of user-generated content, particularly among young people, poses a growing treat to professionally produced content. "Consumers 18-24 go to a video sharing site 13 days per month on average,” he said. “They also use a video chat app like Snapchat an average of nearly 11 days in one month. The TV is still the most-used device for watching video content, but increased usage of secondary devices and video apps is making a significant impact on how users, especially younger viewers, consume and perceive content.”

Parks Associates research also shows 26% of households participate in live-streaming activities, such as streaming video from their own device or watching video over a live-streaming platform. "Emerging content platforms are changing the way content creators tell visual stories," Hower said. "Services like YouTube have given rise to video bloggers and sketch performers, who can interact with their audiences in a way that traditional media like film and television cannot allow. In addition, live streaming on platforms like Twitter's Periscope or Facebook Live is raw and impromptu, which can come across as more 'authentic' compared to a recorded video that has been edited and perfected."

The savviest digital drivers are those who realize that disruption is no longer something that happens from time to time, but, rather, is an ongoing thing.

It’s not enough to be platform agnostic. We now have to be content agnostic, as well.

The digital revolution is not over.


18 Apr, 2017

A Bigger Fatter Exclusive

Target 'Teen Titans: The Judas Contract' Steelbook Blu-ray
Target 'Teen Titans: The Judas Contract' Steelbook Blu-ray

Among the few exclusives offered for the April 18 new releases, Walmart had a deal for Universal's new Bigger Fatter Liar DVD.

The direct-to-video film is a follow-up to 2002's Big Fat Liar. Walmart offered a two-pack containing the DVDs of both films.

For Warner's new animated Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Target offered the regular Blu-ray with Steelbook packaging.

A gift set of Teen Titans containing a figurine was widely available, and curiously seems to have been the only Blu-ray version of the movie offered at Amazon.com upon its debut. The regular Blu-ray was relegated to second-hand Marketplace sellers. Marketplace sellers also had the Steelbook for about $40, almost three times the shelf cost at Target, where the Steelbook mostly sold out quickly.

Walmart had an early release window for Lionsgate's Isolation DVD, which is listed on Amazon as a June 20 wide release.


17 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'World Without End' and more …


World Without End (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive        
Warner, Sci-Fi, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Rod Taylor.
1956.
World Without End tells the story of astronauts time-warped to an Earth filled with cave-dwelling creatures that attack Hugh Marlowe and crew in a futuristic society full of mutants in a story that shares many similarities with H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and the result is all rather charming unless your eyes get stuck rolling back into their sockets.
Read the Full Review

Night Passage (Blu-ray)

All-Region French Import (billed as Le survivant des monts lointains)
Elephant/Universal, Western, $34.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Brandon de Wilde, Dianne Foster.
1957.
Sometimes an unexpectedly great-looking disc is its own justification if it catches you in a receptively generous mood. And Passage, whose lack of any substantial dramatic sand may have been a contributor to its unfortunate footnote in Western history, gets a lot of “demonstration” visual utmost out of its source Technirama roots.
Read the Full Review

 


11 Apr, 2017

'Rogue One' Hangover Leaves Retailers Prepping for Easter

'Hidden Figures' display at Target
'Hidden Figures' display at Target

A week after the mega home video release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, retailers took a step back for the April 11 new releases. While more notable titles were available during the week, overt retailer exclusives were kept at a minimum. About the only spotlight for the new titles was a front-of-store corrugated display for Fox's Hidden Figures at Target.

A week earlier, all the big retailers had exclusive editions of Rogue One. The 3D exclusive editions offered by Target and Best Buy apparently sold out quickly, and a week later only the Walmart exclusive-packaging version of the Disney film was observed still being on shelves in a store check of some Southern California locations.

For Hidden Figures, Fox actually released two configurations of the Blu-ray combo pack. One was a simple Blu-ray case with a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD code. The other came with a cardboard fold-out slipcover and The History and Inspiration movie companion booklet. According to Internet reports, Amazon shipped the simpler version without the booklet.

In addition, Best Buy offered he slipcover version with an exclusive e-book of the original Hidden Figures book upon which the film is based.

Retailers were more interested in running promotions for Easter tie-ins in the week leading up to the Sunday holiday. Target touted several sales, including big brands such as Disney films and Warner's "Harry Potter." The chain also had family DVDs and Blu-rays priced at $4, $10 and $13 levels

Best Buy didn't offer a weekly ad circular; some weeks it doesn't publish one. The chain did offer a $5 gift card with the purchase of $25 or more on select movies from its family and Easter displays.

Notably, a couple of high-profile HBO shows were released on disc April 11 but weren't seen at most stores. Neither Veep: Season 5 or Silicon Valley: Season 3 were seen at Target or Walmart on DVD or Blu-ray, with the websites for both chains listing the titles as unavailable in stores. A Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif., just had the Blu-ray of "Veep," while the Blu-ray for "Silicon Valley" was available only in select stores, according to the Best Buy website.


10 Apr, 2017

New on Disc: 'S.O.B.' and more …


S.O.B. (Blu-ray)

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’
Stars Julie Andrews, William Holden, Robert Preston, Richard Mulligan, Robert Vaughn, Shelley Winters.
1981.
The main claim to fame of this admittedly overlong outing with huge visual compensations is probably as the vehicle in which top-billed Julie Andrews bared her breasts, but more importantly as the source of William Holden’s final screen appearance.
Read the Full Review

Peyton Place (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lana Turner, Diane Varsi, Lee Phillips, Hope Lange, Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn.
1957.
Producer Jerry Wald did a bang-up getting Peyton Place to the screen so relatively soon after the best-selling 1956 publication of Grace Metalious’s New England scandalmonger. This has to be one of the most handsome Blu-rays that Twilight Time has ever released.
Extras: Both voiceover commentaries here are worth it and the first fabulously so. It’s by filmmaker/historian Willard Carroll, whose bonus then-and-now video of the Maine locales is a treat I didn’t expect. There’s also a spotty but valuable track, carried over from the 2004 Fox Studio Classics DVD, by Russ Tamblyn and supporting player Terry Moore in which Tamblyn comes off as one of the great guys ever, at least if we’re talking actors.
Read the Full Review
 


4 Apr, 2017

'Star Wars' Retail Blitz Centers on 'Rogue One'

(L-R): 'Rogue One' Blu-ray covers at Walmart, Target and Best Buy
(L-R): 'Rogue One' Blu-ray covers at Walmart, Target and Best Buy

Disney's home video release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dominated retail channels April 4, with exclusive versions offered at most of the major chains.

Target even took the opportunity to promote all its "Star Wars" products, devoting a whole page to the franchise in its weekly ad circular. The chain offered coupons for $10 off any "Star Wars" purchase of $50 or more, and $25 off any "Star Wars" purchase of $100 or more. Among the products offered was an exclusive six-inch AT-ACT driver action figure.

Target's exclusive Blu-ray edition of Rogue One included the 3D version of the movie in addition to the Blu-ray combo pack, which included the 2D movie on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. The exclusive packaging came with five interchangeable character covers and a bonus disc containing 10 minutes of exclusive featurettes: "Inside the Creature Shop" and "Digital Storytelling." Fans who preordered this version at Target.com also received a $5 digital gift card.

Best Buy's exclusive edition also included the 3D version as part of a Blu-ray combo pack in a Steelbook case. A Best Buy in Costa Mesa, Calif. was raffling off its Rogue One cardboard display to customers.

Walmart's exclusive Blu-ray had pop-out cover art featuring K-2SO and two Galactic Connexions trading discs.

The Disney store offered exclusive lithographs with preorders of the Rogue One Blu-ray.

Curiously, Amazon took down preorders for Rogue One weeks ago and listed the film as out of stock on its debut day. Availability of other Disney titles, such as Moana, was listed as out of stock or available only through third-party Marketplace sellers, leading to some speculation of a dispute between Disney and Amazon.

Rogue One home video display at Target

 

Rogue One display at Best Buy

 


28 Mar, 2017

'Fantastic' Retail Exclusives

Amazon's 'Fantastic Beasts' Blu-ray with statue
Amazon's 'Fantastic Beasts' Blu-ray with statue

Plenty of retailers offered exclusive editions of Warner's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Best Buy offered the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Fantastic Beasts in a Steelbook case for $5 more than the widely available 4K version.

Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack in exclusive fold-out packaging designed to emulate Newt Scamander's case in the film.

Walmart offered a special edition of the Blu-ray with a pack-in coloring book, for $5 more than the regular Blu-ray.

Amazon offered a Blu-ray gift set with a Niffler statue.

Among other titles, Walmart offered a gift set of the Monster High: Electrified Blu-ray packed with a DVD of Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action for $18.96.


27 Mar, 2017

Looking to the Past and the Future


This magazine in its nearly 40 years has seen formats come and go, navigating changes along with the industry. This month, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the optical disc (DVD launched in America in 1997) and its continued vibrancy. We also investigate virtual reality, a new format that the studios are just starting to explore. Meanwhile, we continue to report on the growth of white-hot digital delivery services and the increasingly award-winning and popular original content of such outfits as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

This industry has of necessity had to shift with the formats. Director Ivan Reitman, who worked on the Ghostbusters VR experience, likened making the 360-degree product to the early days of silent film, when directors were figuring out if audiences would understand and react well to a close-up. If viewers have the agency to look wherever they want in VR, how does a director tell a story? That’s just one of the questions facing the new format. Sony’s Jake Zim said the business plan for VR products also is in the embryonic stages — what to charge, what activities viewers will enjoy, what environments will be most conducive to VR are all under review as the studio dips its toe into this new medium.

As DVD launched 20 years ago, it faced uncertainty as well. Would the collector embrace the sellthrough-priced format and buy movies and TV shows to put on the shelf like books? It turned out to be an enormous success, and two decades later DVD and its successors are still spinning revenue for the studios. With the advent of Blu-ray Disc, it has adapted to high-definition and 3D and 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range to deliver ever-better quality picture and sound. It’s been such a flexible format that today it still accounts for the lion’s share of U.S. home entertainment revenue. The arrival of TV DVD even helped create the binge-watching consumer that now ravenously watches episode after episode on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Before streaming, consumers learned to binge on disc series sets. The disc also created a whole new way to appreciate the content, spawning director’s commentaries, making-of documentaries and other extras that brought viewers into the process of making entertainment.

So here’s a toast to the past and to the future. May the legacy disc format continue to impress as it adapts to 4K UHD with HDR, and may new formats continue to entertain as well as the disc has for two decades.


24 Mar, 2017

Long Live the Disc!


The DVD, the most successful consumer electronics product launch in history, turns 20 this spring.

It was the last week in March 1997 when I received that first black box of DVDs from Warner Home Video, whose president at the time, Warren Lieberfarb, is widely considered the “father” of the format. It was Lieberfarb’s vision that saw the potential of the consumer purchase (rather than rental) model; it was Lieberfarb who got the Japanese CE guys on board and who convinced his studio counterparts to come along, with support from Sony Pictures’ Ben Feingold.

We all knew at the time our industry was on to something big, but no one at the time could have predicted how big: A sweeping transition from renting videocassettes to buying discs led to double-digit gains in consumer spending for a good eight years, and at long last gave home entertainment executives a say in greenlighting movies after that fateful moment (I believe it was in 2001) when spending on discs outpaced spending on movie tickets.

Money breeds respect, and our little industry minted tons of both.

DVD’s legacy is just as impressive. Technological advancements in the five-inch disc led to the Blu-ray Disc and, most recently, the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc. Today, most discs are packaged in “combo packs” that transcend physical media by also including a “digital copy” consumers can watch from their hard drives or the cloud.  And with Netflix eating Hollywood’s lunch, the disc’s viability — both as a standalone product and as a means to promote the concept of digital ownership — is something to be both lauded and perpetuated.

It’s funny — back in mid-1996, when I heard DVDs were finally going to come on the market, all I remember thinking was, “What took them so long?” It was, after all, 15 years after another shiny little five-inch disc, the CD, revolutionized the music industry. I was big into music at the time. Audio purists swore by the LP, but for me — and hundreds of millions of other consumers the world over — convenience trumped any audio superiority analog might have over digital. And besides, records wore down with use and, invariably, developed snaps, crackles and pops. I was more than willing to sacrifice a little audio quality if I could listen to Springsteen’s “The River” without a nasty skip right when he was reminiscing about Mary’s body “tanned and wet down by the reservoir.”

The clunky videocassette, in my view, was just as flawed, and I still recall in the early days of CD looking with disdain at my VHS library and wishing I could get movies on disc, as well.

In the early 1990s, there was briefly a product called CD-I, mostly for interactive video discs. A few movies came out on CD-I, and I was ecstatic. No matter that you had to change discs at least once, and that the color black just didn’t look right — CD-I was it. When the format crashed and burned, I mourned — but then came my first meeting with Warren Lieberfarb and I was giddy with anticipation.

I still have that first box of DVDs from Warner — and damn if those DVDs don’t still look good, even on the pricey new Ultra HD TV with HDR in our bedroom.

Long live disc!


21 Mar, 2017

An 'Assassin' Made to 'Sing'

Best Buy's 'Sing' and 'Assassin's Creed' Steelbook 4K Blu-rays
Best Buy's 'Sing' and 'Assassin's Creed' Steelbook 4K Blu-rays

Retailers brought out exclusives for Universal's Sing and Fox's Assassin's Creed.

Walmart offered the Sing Blu-ray as part of a gift set with collectible character cards and exclusive bonus content.

Target offered a Gunter plush for $1.99 (regularly $10) with the purchase of the Sing Blu-ray.

For Assassin's Creed, Walmart had a gift set of the Blu-ray with a T-shirt.

Target offered a pack-in hidden dagger arm sleeve in select Blu-rays of Assassin's Creed.

Best Buy offered special Steelbook cases for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays of both films.