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Thomas K. Arnold is considered one of the leading home entertainment journalists in the country. He is publisher and editorial director of Home Media Magazine, the home entertainment industry’s weekly trade publication. He also is home entertainment editor for The Hollywood Reporter and frequently writes about home entertainment and theatrical for USA Today. He has talked about home entertainment issues on CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight,” “Entertainment Tonight,” Starz, The Hollywood Reporter and the G4 network’s “Attack of the Show,” where he has been a frequent guest. Arnold also is the executive producer of The Home Entertainment Summit, a key annual gathering of studio executives and other industry leaders, and has given speeches and presentations at a variety of other events, including Home Media Expo and the Entertainment Supply Chain Academy.


TK's Take
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16 Jan, 2014

The Great Divide


The divide over giving the rental market access to new DVDs and Blu-ray Discs is becoming more and more perplexing, as the six major studios appear to be agreeing on so many other things these days — most significantly, giving digital downloads of movies a two-week window to encourage consumers to buy product electronically.

The packaged-media business remains healthy, but given their druthers studios would much rather sell their content over the Internet than continue to incur the huge costs and logistical challenges of manufacturing discs, shipping them out to retailers and then dealing with the headaches of returns, inventory replenishment and the like — challenges that simply don’t exist in the electronic world.

Of course, studios don’t want to do anything to damage the consumer purchase model, which is where they generate the bulk of their revenue — and their profits. That’s why the same studios that are pushing electronic sellthrough (EST) — which I guess I should start referring to by its fancy new name, Digital HD — are also propping up the packaged-media disc business as much as they can, mostly by continuing to provide consumers with the best-possible viewing experience in a neat, tidy, eye-appealing little package that fits neatly in bookcases and generally comes with gobs of cool extra content.

That’s why it baffles me that some studios are still not holding off on issuing newly released movies to rental outlets, particularly Redbox. The prospect of cannibalization appears clear as day — if you can rent a movie for a buck from a vending machine right outside Walmart, why venture inside and buy the same movie for $15 or $20, particularly if it’s a new release you simply want to watch once and not necessarily own?

The three studios that do withhold movies from key rental vendors for 28 days — 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. — all swear by their decision. And the rental folks don’t appear to be as put off by the delay as one might think. Heck, Identity Thief even ended up being Redbox’s No. 1 rental title of 2013, and coming from Universal it was subject to a 28-day delay.

As for the studios that give everyone equal access to new releases, they say holding back movies from one class of trade only deprives consumers of choice – and doing that is never a good thing. Of course, those studio are also handsomely rewarded for this.

Who’s right? I tend to side with the holdback crowd, but I’m just a journalist, not a marketing whiz. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, just as we did during previous divides, like Blu-ray Disc versus HD DVD and, going back a little further, Betamax versus VHS.

 


4 Jan, 2014

2014: A Predictably Unpredictable Year


What will the new year bring? This home entertainment business of ours is so fluid, so ever-changing, that it’s hard to predict what will happen with any degree of certainty. Indeed, take a look at some of the major developments over the last decade or so and there are myriad things we simply didn’t see coming, or expect would happen.

Who would have thought that in the midst of the digital evolution, movie vending machines would stage such a dramatic comeback that they’d account for nearly half of all physical video rentals?

Who would have thought that a key factor behind Blu-ray Disc’s apparent sustainable success is the Internet connectivity of the hardware, which lets users do all sorts of other things besides watch Blu-ray Discs?

Who would have thought that the spectacular rollout of DVD would be followed by the crushing realization that the disc wasn’t good enough for the emerging class of high-definition TVs, prompting yet another software format launch (a situation that with 4K on the horizon we may well find ourselves in yet again)?

My own record with predicting the future is spotty, at best. I thought Blu-ray Disc’s launch would be every bit as successful as DVD’s, I thought Blockbuster would go out of business long before it did, and I never thought we’d be watching movies on smartphones and tablets, given the increasingly good home theater systems we were installing in our family rooms.

But once again, I feel compelled to offer some predictions for the new year — five for 2014 — and if you read them and feel I’m playing it real safe, you are absolutely right.

1. At some point, Blu-ray Disc sales will slide again, as they did in the third quarter of the year. The industry will blame the decline on a poor crop of movies, while the mainstream press will take it as yet another sign that physical media is dead.

2. During the fourth quarter, one big title will bomb, sending the entire industry into a funk. This funk, however, will be lifted when another big summer theatrical title performs remarkably well, prompting everyone to cheer and the studio behind this success to issue a press release touting its triumph.

3. EST will continue to grow, as studios step up their efforts to wean consumers from packaged media by releasing more and more titles on Digital HD anywhere from one to four weeks ahead of the DVD or Blu-ray Disc.

4. During the Black Friday holiday weekend, we’re going to see recent Blu-ray Disc hits sell for as little as $1 or $2, the threshold we saw this year for DVD. No one’s going to complain about a “race to the bottom.” We’re already there, you see.

5. At some point, we’re going to see 4K resolution on a Blu-ray Disc. I won’t hazard a guess as to which studio will be first, or how prevalent the practice will become, but I’m quite certain it’s going to happen.

Happy new year, folks. Welcome to another predictably unpredictable year.
 


5 Dec, 2013

This Year's Top 10 Gift Sets

1. Dexter: The Complete Series Blu-ray Collection (Paramount/CBS): One of the hottest and most-talked-about TV series ended its run this fall after eight seasons, and Paramount has packaged the entire show in a cool wooden slide box inspired by the one Dexter himself uses to catalog his kills. The 25 discs come in individual one-sided jewel cases decorated with a huge blood spatter on the other side. The box is a bit pricey at $460 for the Blu-ray Disc version, but it’s readily available at retailers in the low $200s. And at that price it’s a deal. There’s also an Amazon exclusive gift set, packaged in a white human head, for a C-note more, but I’ll take the slide box anytime — less money and more compact for storage.

 


2. Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures): This is the other hugely popular TV series that ended its run this fall, and my hunch is there are very few people out there who wouldn’t appreciate finding the complete series — packaged in a “money barrel” — under their tree. Again, it’s quite pricey ($300), but could be had at a steep discount ($209 at BestBuy.com), although word on the street is it’s nearly sold out and may no longer be available by the time this story runs (Amazon already had it only through its secondary marketplace, where sellers were listing it for at least $500).

 


3. X-Men: The Adamantium Collection (20th Century Fox): At an average street price of $130, this one’s a real bargain: You get all six “X-Men” films on Blu-ray Disc, including the recently released The Wolverine, in a package topped with a replica of Wolverine’s claw. There’s also a bonus disc and an extra slot in the case for the seventh “X-Men” film, X-Men: Days of Future Past (scheduled to open theatrically in May 2014).

 

 


4. James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner): I love Warner’s stuff — the studio consistently outdoes itself with its premium “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” line, and this $99.98 SRP boxed set (around $70 in stores) commemorates the brief career of the fabled actor who has come to symbolize 1950s cool with Blu-ray Disc versions of his three films — East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant) — as well as a glorious 48-page photo book with lots of behind-the-scenes photos.


5. The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner):  Another of Warner’s new UCEs, this one packages all three films of Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot in a $99.97 SRP boxed set that also includes two new features and exclusive collectible memorabilia, including Mondo art prints, three toy vehicles (the Tumbler, the Batpod and the Bat) and a behind-the-scenes booklet.

 


6. JFK: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner): Yet another Warner UCE, this one centers on Oliver Stone’s controversial film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a conspiracy-laden thrillfest that makes you question everything you’ve ever heard about the notorious killing. The timing couldn’t be better (Kennedy was killed 50 years ago), the set sells for less than $50, and there are all sorts of cool collectibles, including reproductions of the late president’s inaugural address, a campaign poster and various photos and correspondence. There’s also a photo book and six postcards.

 


7. Anchorman Ultimate Blu-ray Fun Pack (Paramount): In a brilliant marketing ploy, the genuinely funny original has been repackaged into a Walmart-exclusive gift set on the eve of the theatrical debut of the sequel. The package costs less than $20 but includes not just the spruced-up “Rich Mahogany Edition” two-disc Blu-ray Disc edition, but also a T-shirt, a 16-page booklet and coupons for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s Anchorman Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream and a movie ticket to see the sequel in theaters (it opens Dec. 18).

 


8. Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga (Lionsgate):  A great compact gift set that includes the entire teen-vampire saga, spread out across 10 Blu-ray discs (or 12 DVDs) with ample bonus content, including a comprehensive multi-part documentary. If you’re a “Twilight” fan, I can’t think of a better gift — even if someone you know already owns all the movies, it’s worth the upgrade, given all the extras. And the price won’t bust your wallet: the DVD set is readily available at retail for less than $40.

 


9. Futurama: The Complete Series (20th Century Fox): One of the greatest animated series of all time is presented here in its entirety — all 124 episodes, plus four feature-length epic adventures, for more than 50 hours of whacked-out hilarity from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening. And while I liked the robot head packaging that came out in 2009, this neat rectangular box is so much easier to stash away in the movie closet. It’s priced below $200, but for diehard Futurama fans — my three sons included — price really doesn’t matter (especially when dad’s paying for it).

 

 


10. Beverly Hills, 90210: The Complete Series (Paramount/CBS): I was addicted to this show — essentially a soap opera about high schoolers growing up in ritzy BH — until my own kids started being born and I had to wean myself away from primetime TV, and honestly have been waiting for a complete-series set for years. It finally arrived last month, a dozen years after the original series went off the air, in an elegant white-and-fuchsia boxed set filled with 72 discs and 215 hours of drama. The list is $350, but I’ve seen it go for about $150 on Amazon and elsewhere.
 


4 Dec, 2013

Random Thoughts on Black Friday


Another Black Friday has come and gone, and as I joined the madding crowd both the day before, after a hearty Thanksgiving Day dinner, and in the early morning hours of BF itself I made a mental note of various thoughts, observations and comments I’d like to share with you in this space.

For starters, the big news was that while consumer transactions were up, consumer spending was down. Welcome to our world, I thought. This is something we’ve seen time and time again, as the actual selling price of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs has gotten lower and lower.

This Black Friday, we must have hit bottom. I honestly don’t see how we can go any lower, with high-profile blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises and various “Harry Potter” movies selling for $1.96 on DVD and $4 on Blu-ray Disc and hundreds of more recent hits, such as The Great Gatsby, World War Z and Pacific Rim, priced in the same neighborhood. Even top-rated TV series such as “Dexter” and “Family Guy” were readily available for less than 10 bucks for a complete season.

Years ago, we’d talk and write about the “race to the bottom” and devaluing our precious product. No one’s talking about devaluation any more. As for the race to the bottom, we’re there, baby. It’s gotten to the point where at least on Black Friday, it’s oftentimes cheaper to buy a disc than it is to stream the same film over the Internet. Packaged media can’t help but survive under those circumstances.

I also noted quite a bit of rumbling about Walmart, in particular, opening on Thanksgiving Day. Lots of people complained it wasn’t fair to Walmart’s employees, and that we should boycott Walmart for not letting their workers stay home on the holiday with their families. Heck, I even heard talk of legislation to prevent retailers from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Whoa. The same people who complained about Walmart opening Thanksgiving night — long after most holiday meals, I might add — probably went to the gym in the morning and stopped by the supermarket on the way home to pick up some extra gravy or cranberry sauce on their way to the family meal. No worries about poor exploited gym workers or supermarket checkers, I guess. Walmart has become something of a piñata, and if I can get up on my soapbox for a minute let me opine this is because Walmart, unlike many grocery chains, is a non-union shop — a singling out I find monstrously unfair.

If you don’t want to shop on Thanksgiving, then don’t. If enough people stay away, Walmart and the other big-box stores may rethink their decision. That’s the beauty of the free market, of supply and demand. But talk of boycotts and legislation is simply ridiculous. That’s just not how America works.  


25 Nov, 2013

Digital Divas


Reading the bios of our 2013 Women of Home Entertainment, I was struck by how involved our industry’s women executives are in the digital evolution/revolution that’s transforming our business.

Kelley Avery of DreamWorks played an instrumental role in crafting a groundbreaking deal with Netflix to bring DreamWorks Animation titles to the streaming service.

Janice Marinelli, the new president of Disney Studio Global In-Home and Digital Distribution and Disney-ABC North American Content Distribution, has an enviable track record on the digital side. It was under her leadership that Disney a year ago struck a licensing deal that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription TV service for the studio’s first-run films in the pay window, beginning with 2016 theatrical releases.

Over at Sony Pictures, senior EVP of worldwide marketing Lexine Wong gets much of the credit for making the studio a pioneer, and leader, in such digital initiatives as UltraViolet and early electronic sellthrough.

And 20th Century Fox’s chief marketing officer and president of worldwide marketing, Mary Daily, has played a key role in expanding the studio’s product portfolio to include Digital HD.

This marks the sixth consecutive year in which Home Media Magazine is saluting the women of home entertainment — but what began as a way for us to honor the industry’s top women executives now reads almost like a who’s who of cutting-edge and visionary leaders who are forever changing the way studios deliver, and the general public consumes, entertainment.

Home Media’s Women of Home Entertainment, class of 2013, is smart, determined, tenacious and sensible. They’re taking our industry into uncharted territory with confidence, competence and zest.

We’re in good hands, the best hands.

I’d also like to again give a nod to the Home Media group’s own women of home entertainment: Stephanie Prange, Angelique Flores, Julie Savant and Ashley Ratcliff. I couldn’t ask for a better team.


6 Nov, 2013

Death of Blockbuster Was Only a Matter of Time


So this is it.

Just like that, it's over.

With Dish finally making the announcement all of us knew was coming, even though we might not have wanted to believe it, the Blockbuster era is officially over.

Another pop cultural icon, dead and soon to be buried — another nail, critics will say, in the coffin of the packaged home entertainment industry.

Granted, the fewer than 300 Blockbuster stores that remained of the once-mighty video rental chain amounted to a mere skeleton of the Blockbuster of the pre-DVD, pre-sellthrough era. During those heady days for the company, Blockbuster’s clout was such that we in the home video trade appropriated the “Big Blue” nickname that for years had been proudly worn by IBM and applied it to the unstoppable video power chain from Dallas, which within a decade of its 1986 launch had become the dominant player in the video retail trade.

No sooner had the first Blockbuster store been opened — by a fellow named David Cook — than its feeding frenzy began. Blockbuster began gobbling up mom-and-pops, then regional chains, then national rivals such as Erol’s (in 1990, for $40 million). By then, Blockbuster had been sold to Wayne Huizenga, the celebrated waste-management king, who had an even bigger vision for, well, “Big Blue.”

In 1993, Blockbuster acquired a controlling interest in Spelling Entertainment Group; a year later, Viacom acquired the company for a breathtaking $8.4 billion. By the time Blockbuster’s 10-year marriage to Viacom ended, in 2004, the company had 60,000 employees and upwards of 9,000 stores.

The relatively swift decline and fall of the Blockbuster empire has been well chronicled, by this publication and others. The upshot is that the home video business changed, but Blockbuster refused to change with it, clinging to its physical video rental model even after DVD sent the business spiraling toward sellthrough, even after consumer discontent with late fees and return trips paved the way for Netflix and Redbox.

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in September 2010; seven months later, the chain and its tattered fleet of about 1,700 remaining stores was bought at auction by Dish Network, ostensibly for the value of the brand name, for $233 million and the assumption of $87 in debt.

I can only imagine what Dish executives were thinking in the days and weeks after their purchase. Talk about buyer’s remorse — things went from bad to ugly to “My God, what have we done?” Stores fell like dominos: 200 in July 2011, 500 more in 2012, and another 300 earlier this year.

Now, as noted previously, it’s all over. All remaining Blockbuster stores, as well as the company’s once-promising by-mail DVD distribution operations, will be closed by January 2014.

In a press release, Dish chief Joseph Clayton said, “This is not an easy decision.”

Come on, Joe. At this point, I’m afraid it was the only decision.


30 Oct, 2013

Digital Push Pays Off


It’s good to see the studios are becoming increasingly aggressive in pushing the digital sale, rather than streaming, of movies.

Several of the majors are giving big movies an early digital release in the hopes of spurring sales, which for years were stagnant and dominated by iTunes sales. That’s because there was no real incentive for people to buy a digital movie, and my hunch is they were put off by the relatively steep price, compared to streaming.

Consumers took to buying music over the Internet because they could easily purchase their favorite songs at 99 cents a pop. Studios came into the game with a decided disadvantage: While music is sold by the song rather than by the album, with movies you have to buy the whole thing, not a scene or two. And finding the right price for a download — which lacks a physical, touch-and-feel presence — has been quite difficult, with the electronic sellthrough, or EST, needle remaining stuck in the “anemic” range even when the price of a new movie dropped to about $10.

An early window for a digital release just might be the game changer everyone’s been hoping for. Studios, after all, cling to the physical disc simply because it’s tried-and-true and we haven’t seen a precipitous sales falloff as we did with the CD (a fact that, again, can be explained through consumer purchase habits: music by the song, movies by the whole movie).

But given their druthers, every studio executive worth his or her marketing degree would like to replace that disc-based revenue stream with a digital model, with nothing to manufacture, nothing to package, nothing to ship and nothing for retailers to return.

The problem is, getting people to fork over even $10 for a download has been incredibly challenging, because the concept of ownership, at least at this point, still mandates something physical. It’s more about the product than it is about the experience.

But making a hot new movie available only as a download two, three or four weeks before its release on disc is a whole other story. The consumer who doesn’t see value in buying a download for $15 when he can buy a beautifully packaged DVD or Blu-ray Disc for roughly the same amount now has a whole new reason to do so: He’s not paying for the ownership so much as he is paying for the privilege of having something before anyone else does. Call it pride, call it vanity — it’s human nature, and clearly it’s working.

As reported in our magazine, DreamWorks Animation’s Ann Daly on a conference call Oct. 29 said the early Digital HD (now the standard name for all digital versions of a movie) release last month of The Croods generated 15% more sellthrough revenue than any other DreamWorks film.

Daly applauds 20th Century Fox, which distributes DreamWorks Animation titles into the home entertainment channel, for being “aggressive in promoting and developing the electronic sellthrough portion of their business,” and maintains, “It is having a positive effect on our overall business.”

Keep it up, guys. Clearly, it’s working.
 


15 Oct, 2013

Think Digital Content Creation, Not Just Distribution


Invariably, whenever we in the home entertainment industry talk about “digital” this or “digital” that, we are talking about distribution. “Windowing” is the buzzword of the year, and studio strategists are focused on maximizing the revenue potential of studio properties — movies or TV shows — at every stage of the distribution game, both physical and digital.

This may be smart in the short-term, but in the long term we need something more. We need to look beyond digital distribution, which is centered around consumers' viewing habits, and pay more attention to digital content creation — in other words, consumers’ viewing choices.

Now, we all know that in today’s home entertainment arena, the major studio movies and TV shows are still the big enchilada. Sure, consumer eyeballs are increasingly diverted — or distracted, depending on one’s perspective — by Facebook and YouTube, but the big buzz a few years back about user-generated content has largely dissipated as though it was a mere flash in the pan. You can only watch the YouTube clip of the fat cat burping and farting at the same time so many times, we tell ourselves, before you go back to Iron Man 3 or Wrong Turn 5.

Every studio has dabbled in Web-only content, but I believe in the future Hollywood needs to pay more attention to the digital world as not just another place to distribute existing filmed content, but as a fertile breeding ground for new content. Maybe consumers won’t tire of the burping-and-farting cat as quickly as we had expected — and when they do, maybe they’ll turn to other YouTube videos to fill up an evening instead of watching a movie or a TV show.

A new report from the Pew Research Center should be required reading for every studio executive. The report says that in just four years, the number of Americans who are uploading and posting videos has more than doubled. More than a quarter of Internet users are sharing videos online, particularly the younger ones — while the percentage of adults who watch or download video content is up to 78%.

There’s an opportunity here, folks — for quality, original studio programming, served up in bits and pieces, on YouTube and Facebook. Social networking sites should be chock full of studio series and shorts, webisodes and one-off sketches; instead, the bulk of the content is still user-generated, leading to the creation of genuine independent Internet superstars like Smosh, one of whose videos has an amazing 99 MILLION views on YouTube.

By the way, even the cat video has more than 3.5 million views – and counting.

Food for thought, my friends, food for thought.


2 Oct, 2013

Follow the Consumer


The PricewaterhouseCoopers study we wrote about here is extremely interesting and provocative on many levels, but the underlying message is simple, clear and one we’ve heard myriad times before: Given their druthers, consumers prefer their entertainment cheap (ideally, free) and easy.

That’s why they are drawn to Netflix, which is the hands-down winner on both fronts.

Two findings stand out and should be of keen interest to anyone in the home entertainment business. One is that 57% of respondents, a clear majority, prefer on-demand viewing versus live broadcast. Our need for instant gratification, I believe, is what’s kept our business alive for so long — and while a good chunk of this “I want it now!” crowd will turn to streaming, there’s still a big segment of the population out there that 1) doesn’t have a web-connected TV and 2) wants to watch movies on the widescreen, not on their computer. This explains why cable and satellite delivery remain the primary sources of video consumption — and at the same time gives the physical media crowd something to exploit.

Cable and satellite remains popular largely because everyone’s familiar with it, and it’s a relatively simple process. But both advantages are shared by DVD and Blu-ray Disc. We’re all very, very familiar with discs, and while on-demand viewing gives us essentially the same control over what we watch, discs provide us with far better picture and sound — something I think we as an industry still need to more aggressively promote.

Another finding I found interesting is the fact that social-media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, an integral part of so many lives these days, aren’t being deployed to finding online video anywhere near as much as one might think. From our story: “Just 4% of respondents said they use social media for suggestions of online video programming — only slightly better than Netflix and Hulu at 5%. This compares to 59% of respondents who rely on a family member or friend for programming ideas.”

To me, that underscores the No. 1 challenge of digital distribution: discovery. And to our friends at the studios who are involved in digital distribution, this should be a call to arms: We need to devote more resources, both brainpower and dollars, toward finding a better mechanism for consumers to find what they want to watch — with the underlying premise being that quite often consumers don’t quite know what they want to watch. We need to come up with a way that lets viewers search movies not by title, actor or category, but by, say, spectacular crash scenes, intense kisses, compelling soliloquies (anyone for Dennis Hopper in True Romance?), or epic battles.

Elsewhere in the study, the fact that just 10% of respondents like “binge viewing” of TV series is a bit surprising. I would have thought more people watch entire seasons, or even series, of TV shows from start to finish, but what’s not clear from the study is what exactly constitutes binge viewing. I can’t see myself spending an entire weekend watched nothing but “Dexter,” 16 hours a day — but watching the entire series over the space of three or four months, an episode a night, with periodic breaks to get in a movie or two, that’s more like it.

The strong yen for original programming is interesting as well, and coincides with the growth of YouTube, the accolades for Netflix shows, and other indicators that consumers — particularly the young’uns — are watching more and more programming that’s generated outside the Hollywood system.

If there’s a lesson here for studio executives, it’s this: When discussing the intersection of entertainment and technology, we’re focusing far too much on distribution and not enough on content creation. We need to look at technology as a lot more than simply new and better ways to get our traditional content into consumer homes (or smartphones, or tablets). We need to look at technology as a way to create new and different content that doesn’t begin at the movie theater or on the TV screen, content expressly created for these new distribution mechanisms.

Our YouTube channels should go beyond promoting our films and TV shows — they should be used to create an entirely new and, hopefully, additive entertainment experience.


19 Sep, 2013

Q4 Off to a Strong Start

'World War Z'
'World War Z'

It’s still September, and yet for home entertainment marketers the fourth-quarter selling season is already well under way.

Lionsgate scored remarkably well with Now You See Me, which was released Sept. 3. A week later came the first of the big tentpoles, Paramount’s Star Trek Into Darkness, which was seen as something of a harbinger for how the rest of the quarter would go.

All eyes were on that title, and by the time the week was over, I honestly couldn’t tell who was more excited: the folks at Paramount or everyone else. The consensus is that Star Trek Into Darkness has been a runaway hit — and like the groundhog who pops his head out of the ground in February and doesn’t see his shadow, studio executives are almost giddy at the prospect of an imminent warming trend in the disc business.

Taking a look at what happened this summer in theaters, it’s easy to see why. The summer was front-loaded with hits, and while the second half of the summer was a disappointment to our friends over in theatrical distribution, the first half was strong enough for Hollywood to chalk up yet another record year at the box office — and those early hits bring good tidings to the home entertainment crew because their theatrical runs are decidedly over and they’re all primed for home video release.

What the Hollywood Reporter aptly called “a schizophrenic summer at the U.S. box office” ended with ticket sales of $4.75 billion — a new record and tidy 7% more than the previous summer record of $4.4 billion, set in 2011. And, according to the Reporter, admissions reached about 560 million, “the best in four summers.”

This all bodes well for home video. The tentpoles came early: Iron Man 3, released in May, topped the domestic summer chart with $409 million (and $1.2 billion worldwide). Man of Steel (June) brought in a cool  $291 million ($657.3 million, worldwide) for Warner, while Paramount's clever zombie hit World War Z (another June release) fared much better than most anyone expected, grossing more than $200 million ($530 million worldwide). And then there’s Star Trek Into Darkness, a May theatrical release, which turned its $229 million domestic showing into what by all accounts was a bang-up start to the video-selling season.

Add to that what the Hollywood Reporter calls “a healthy crop of midrange and smaller films,” like Now You See Me, and you’ve got all the makings of a strong fourth quarter for our business.

Let’s just hope the momentum continues.