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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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21 Nov, 2017

'Hitman's Bodyguard,' 'Valerian' Steelbooks at Best Buy

Best Buy's 'Hitman's Bodyguard' and 'Valerian' Steelbooks
Best Buy's 'Hitman's Bodyguard' and 'Valerian' Steelbooks

Best Buy offered exclusive Steelbook editions of Lionsgate's The Hitman's Bodyguard and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Walmart offered a mini "The Art of the Film" book with the Valerian Blu-ray.

Most stores were otherwise preparing for Black Friday sales.

Target offered holiday-movie DVDs priced at $4 and $6, and had select recent DVDs for $9 each.

Best Buy offered DVDs and Blu-rays at $3.99, $4.99 and $6.99 price points, plus $K Ultra HD Blu-rays at $9.99 each, and gift sets starting at $24.99.


20 Nov, 2017

New on Disc: 'Lost Horizon' and more …


Lost Horizon: 80th Anniversary Edition

Sony Pictures, Romantic Fantasy Adventure Drama, $19.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Everett Horton, John Howard.
1937. The appeal of the story of this Frank Capra gamble of love is one of emotion over mind, as a British diplomat and an eclectic group of fellow passengers crash-land in reachable distance from a living paradise whose name the movie and James Hilton’s source novel put into the language: Shangri-La.
Extras: Includes a commentary from the 1999 DVD edition.
Read the Full Review

Hell on Frisco Bay

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.99 DVD, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Alan Ladd, Edward G. Robinson, Joanne Dru, Paul Stewart, William Demarest.
1956. Warner Archive’s new Hell on Frisco Bay Blu-ray has two things going for it beyond a decent dose of cosmetic handsomeness and a robust mono soundtrack: its recent rareness and a terrific Edward G. Robinson gangster performance.
Read the Full Review

 


20 Nov, 2017

Industry Should Simplify UHD Awareness by Focusing on 4K Disc


As we get ready to shift gears from 2017 into 2018, we’re keeping one eye on digital sales and the other on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales, both growth industries with lots of potential.

Movies Anywhere — to which I am hopelessly addicted, by the way — could be just what the doctor ordered to finally boost digital sales beyond niche-business status.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, meanwhile, should be an easy sell to the legions of new 4K TV owners. 4K TV sales are soaring, and yet there’s a conspicuous lack of available content, particularly on the ownership side. New data from Futuresource Consulting projects 35% of global TV sales in 2017 will be 4K UHD … [but a] lack of 4K-compatible broadcasts and network programming is limiting 4K content distribution to subscription streaming video services such as Netflix, Apple, Google and Amazon Prime Video.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m still having trouble streaming regular HD. Ultra HD? Forget about it.

Compounding this inability to get UHD content is the fact that digital UHD movie sales can be a challenge, as well, with iTunes, still the biggest online seller of music and movies (with Amazon and Comcast nipping at its heels), apparently riding this one out.

According to the MacRumors website, “Apple has updated its iTunes Store on iOS devices and the Apple TV with plenty of 4K movies ahead of the launch of the Apple TV 4K, but has made clear in a recent support document that 4K content from Apple can be streamed, but not downloaded directly on a device. According to Apple, customers can download a local copy of an HD movie … but 4K movies are not available for download and thus can't be watched without an Internet connection. … That means customers who have had their previously purchased iTunes movies upgraded from HD to 4K at no cost can stream those movies in 4K, but can only download HD versions. Newly purchased content is also restricted from download.”

An Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, and a stack of discs, seems the perfect solution to this dilemma.

And yet Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc sales face their own set of challenges. According to the Futuresource report, high dynamic range (HDR), the enhanced visual technology that is one of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc’s key selling points, “remains largely lost on consumers.”

According to Futuresource, the HDR concept is more difficult to relay to consumers than the more straightforward resolution improvements offered by simple 4K, even as those familiar with the technologies peg HDR as the main advantage that 4K has in elevating image quality above conventional high-definition. Without a universally accepted standard, the industry risks devaluing the HDR brand, as there are many poor representations of HDR that fail to demonstrate its effectiveness by offering little to no discernible improvement in image quality.

So what’s the solution? Promote and market the hell out of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc! Minimize the technical jargon and adopt something that’s easier and simpler for the average Joe to comprehend. Stop trying to explain HDR and instead play up how much closer Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc brings us to the theatrical experience: “You’ll think you’re at the movies, except there’s no annoying guy two rows back who’s constantly yelling at the screen.”

As consumers move more and more into the digital space, the physical disc will continue to serve as a bridge, which is why the combo pack concept works well — especially if you can give consumers a trilogy of value: an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, a regular Blu-ray Disc and a digital code.

But just as importantly, the disc remains the optimum viewing platform, with a far better picture than even the best streamed UHD movie — if your system can even handle it.

All we, as an industry, have to do now is figure out how to get this point across to the consumer.

 


17 Nov, 2017

DEG Honors Innovative Women


In a month that saw such depressing news about women’s plight in Hollywood (and indeed in many other arenas), it was gratifying to attend an event inspired by one of the most brilliant women to ever grace the screen. Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr not only starred in such film classics as Samson and Delilah, The Strange Woman and Tortilla Flat, but she was also a lifelong inventor who pioneered “frequency hopping,” which became the foundation for technology utilized by the cell phones we carry daily, among other things.

To honor her, DEG: The Digital Entertainment group created an award to recognize and commemorate female industry leaders, and Nov. 15 in Santa Monica, Calif., the group presented the inaugural Hedy Lamarr Award for Innovation in Entertainment Technology to Geena Davis. Davis is the founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which works to dramatically increase the percentage of female characters and reduce gender stereotyping in media targeting children 11 and under.

“She was just so extraordinary and so incredible that I can hardly even begin to fill her shoes, so I am extremely humbled and grateful for this award. What an honor!” Davis said of Lamarr. “She was a pioneer and a patriot and a heroine.”

She noted that “technology has become a huge part of my institute’s success.”

The institute is using data analysis developed at the University of Southern California and funded by Google to quantify the disparity in treatment of females and males in children’s entertainment.

“I am very confident in predicting that the percentage of female characters in TV and movies made for kids will dramatically improve within just a few years,” she said.

The DEG also recognized three scholarship recipients with the Hedy Lamarr Achievement Award for Emerging Leaders in Entertainment Technology: Johanna Baumann of the University of Michigan; Carolyn DiLoreto of USC and Cherylynn Lima of Smith College.

Nominations are now open for the 2018 awards.


14 Nov, 2017

'Atomic' Exclusives

'Atomic Blonde' Best Buy Steelbook and Target artwork
'Atomic Blonde' Best Buy Steelbook and Target artwork

A few retailers offered exclusive packaging for Universal's Atomic Blonde upon its home video release Nov. 14.

Best Buy had Steelbook packaging for both the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray editions.

Target had special box art with its Blu-ray slipcover, plus collectible Atomic Blonde art cards.

Among other titles, Walmart offered a DVD two-pack of The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature with a DVD of the first The Nut Job.


7 Nov, 2017

'Cars 3,' 'Westworld' Get Steelbook Treatment

Best Buy's 'Westworld' and 'Cars 3' Steelbook Blu-rays
Best Buy's 'Westworld' and 'Cars 3' Steelbook Blu-rays

Best Buy Nov. 7 offered Steelbook editions for the Blu-rays of Disney's Cars 3 and Warner's Westworld: Season 1.

Other Cars 3 retailer exclusives included Target's Blu-ray with storybook packaging, and Walmart's Blu-ray with three bonus Mater short cartoons.

Sony Pictures offered a deluxe gift set of the Blu-ray of The Crown: Season 1, but Amazon was the only retailer where it was readily available.


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.
Read the Full Review  

 


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.