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.
Over the past month or so I’ve attended and reported on events that highlight the enormous change and legacy of our industry.
I interviewed longtime video veteran Mark Vrieling about the closing of his last rental store after nearly three decades in the business. He said he held out as the great majority of video stores closed by offering a deep catalog — which I think is something the industry should heed as we go digital.
Jodie LeVitus Francisco May 8 organized a video industry reunion in Calabasas, Calif., to bring together many of the executives that have passed through this business over the years. Our coverage of the event was heavily viewed and liked online. It was nice to see those I still work with and those who have moved on or retired, but still have a soft spot for the video industry.
“Video stores may end up as just a footnote in the history of the movie business, but I think the footnote will be a high point in the history,” Vrieling told me. “It was a time when pretty much any movie ever made was within reach of anybody. Even small towns and suburbs like mine had tens of thousands of titles available to customers.”
It also helped spawn digital goliaths such as Netflix. Many outside of this industry don’t know or remember that Netflix’s Ted Sarandos got his start in the entertainment business at a video store. The business also pushed Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to offer discs by mail after suffering a video store late fee. Even the famous video clerk recommendations immortalized by the sitcom “Seinfeld” have transitioned to the digital world with the recommendation engines at Netflix, Amazon and other online retailers. Marketing tie-ins long practiced by this industry are mirrored in practices at digital retailers such as Fandango, which offers licensed merchandise and videos of franchise predecessors to moviegoers who purchase tickets for the latest blockbuster in the theater.
Fandango president Paul Yanover, in receiving an award for leadership in the industry from the Entertainment Merchants Association May 19, professed optimism about home entertainment. His company has created an integrated digital network that serves consumers throughout the movie lifecycle, from theatrical tickets to premium on-demand video service FandangoNOW.
Yanover noted Fandango is “a newbie” in home entertainment, but added, “We truly believe there’s a massive opportunity.”
While certain iterations of the industry may wane, their legacy lives on in the digital realm and in a business that continues to bring an enormous amount of content, on demand, to the consumer.
By: Stephanie Prange
Our annual salute to the nation’s top home entertainment retailers is still a month away. But in my regular perusals of quarterly earnings reports, and earnings call transcripts, I’ve noticed that perhaps the most overused term in retail circles is “omni-channel,” an attempt by brick-and-mortar retailers to remain relevant — and stay in business — in a world increasingly dominated by Amazon, iTunes and other Web-only sellers.
What I’ve noticed is that while retail executives liberally toss around the “omni-channel” term and pat themselves on the backs for their efforts to bring the physical and virtual worlds together, only a few are getting it right. Among them is U.K. fashion retailer Oasis, which arms its clerks with iPads so if an item isn’t in stock, the customer can either order it on the spot or be directed to a nearby store that does have the item in stock. Another is Carrefour, a Belgian supermarket chain that lets customers scan items they want into an online shopping list and, when done, submit the order for pickup or delivery. And I absolutely love Apple’s approach, to let customers make appointments online to the “Genius Bar” in Apple stores, for quick, one-on-one customer service.
One of the silliest trends I’ve seen is the “ship to store” option, in which customers can order something online, through the retailer’s website, and then pick it up at the store. That defeats the whole purpose of online ordering — the primary reason we buy something from Amazon is because we don’t have time to go to the store, and want the merchandise delivered to our home or office. Why would I order a PlayStation 4 or a batch of Blu-ray Discs from Best Buy and then schlep on down to the store to pick the stuff up? Yes, I know, the lure is free shipping, but guess what? Amazon already offers that, and in fact shipping charges are fast disappearing in the online world. I know why retailers like the “ship to store” option: It brings customers into their stores, where hopefully they will buy something else. But that’s not thinking like a customer, is it?
Retailers also need to realize that speed is critical — and thanks to Amazon Prime we’re used to getting pretty much everything we could ever want within 48 hours. Our youngest son, Hunter, came home from ninth grade the other day and said he needed a copy of a certain book and movie ASAP. My wife drove down to the nearest Barnes & Noble to see what they had; neither book nor Blu-ray Disc was in stock. A cheerful clerk offered to order both and smiling said they’d arrive at the store in about a week. As she was relating this story to me on the phone, I was already on my Amazon app and by the time we hung up had purchased both online, with free two-day shipping. “Bad customer service,” I told Diana when she got back home. “The clerk should have said it will be there in two days and, if necessary, done the same thing I did, order it off Amazon,” I noted. Instead, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth — and for our next school-required book or movie purchase we’re not even going to give Barnes & Noble a chance.
It’s a brutal world out there, folks. Brick-and-mortar retailers need to sharpen their survival instincts and get aggressive. And the whole concept of “omni-channel” is not so much integrating the physical and virtual retail worlds as it is streamlining the shopping process and enhancing the customer experience.
By: Thomas K. Arnold
'Logan' Blu-ray exclusives at Target, Walmart and Best Buy
Each of the big three retail chains had its own exclusive Blu-ray edition of Fox's Logan to mark Hugh Jackman's supposedly final bow as Wolverine.
Target offered the Blu-ray with a 36-page "WPONX" photo book for its packaging.
Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging for both the Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray combo packs.
Walmart offered the Blu-ray and UHD editions with nine movie picture cards (one for each film in which Jackman appeared as Wolverine), with the backs of the cards forming part of a larger Logan poster.
The Rounders (Blu-ray)
Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, Chill Wills, Edgar Buchanan, Sue Ane Langdon.
1965. Given that The Rounders has always been an affably outdoor Panavision mix of hooch-loving horses, out-of-work strippers and, above all, easygoing casting synergy, it’s a not-bad way to salvage 84 minutes.
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You’ll Never Get Rich (Blu-ray)
Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Musical, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Frieda Inescort.
1941. There aren’t many Fred Astaire movies this side of Yolanda and the Thief that one might rightfully term as strange, but the first and lesser of two Astaire pairings with Rita Hayworth isn’t far off that mark.
Extras: Julie Kirgo in her liner notes makes a case for Rich being the first World War II musical.
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A so-called James Bond fan has apparently decided to test the patience of the legal system by claiming a boxed set of Bond films was advertised as complete when it really wasn’t.
Plaintiff Mary Johnson filed suit against MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in the state of Washington in April claiming that two DVD/Blu-ray boxed sets — a 50th anniversary collection of 22 films released in 2012 and a 23-film set from 2015 — falsely claimed to include “'All of the Bond films gathered for the first time in this one-of-a-kind box set — every gorgeous girl, nefarious villain and charismatic star from Sean Connery, the legendary actor who started it all.”
That matter now finds itself in the court of U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez, where MGM is seeking a dismissal.
Johnson’s beef apparently is that the boxed sets in question included only the James Bond adaptations produced by EON Productions, the creators of the official Bond films since they debuted with Dr. No in 1962 with Sean Connery as author Ian Fleming’s suave superspy.
Spectre, the 24th EON adventure, was released in 2015 and starred Daniel Craig.
Over the years, various attempts by other producers to cash in on the James Bond phenomenon have popped up. A Bond parody loosely based on Casino Royale was released in 1967, and only because the producers happened to get their hands on the rights to Fleming’s first Bond book before the EON producers came along. A remake of 1965’s Thunderball called Never Say Never Again was released in 1983, and while it was touted as Connery’s return to the role of Bond, EON had nothing to do with it; the producer only had the rights to the story because he had worked with Fleming on a Bond movie project before EON came along, and when that fell through he was subsequently granted the legal right to the elements of that story, which he shopped around hoping to kick-start his own Bond franchise, to no avail.
Neither of these two films was included with the boxed set, to the surprise of no one who would consider themselves a true Bond fan. Various consolidations and legal maneuvers over the years have put these films into the MGM library and EON can basically do what they want with them, but they chose not to include them in the mega-set of Bond films. Understandable, for sure, given their rival status, though it would have been cool for the set to include them, given that those two tend to fall out of print easily and copies can get pricey on the secondary market.
Johnson’s attorney, Alexander Kleinberg, would have the case turn on the definitions of “all” or “every.” But really, let’s look at the heart of the advertising in question — what constitutes a “Bond Film.”
The 1967 Casino Royale, as stated earlier, is a spoof. So what’s its status as a “Bond Film”? Well, the plot involves an older spy named James Bond, played by David Niven, returning to duty only to find that a younger sex maniac (a clear reference to the Connery version of the character) is running around soiling his good name. To foil an evil plot, Niven is given control over the secret service and gives every agent the code name “James Bond” to confuse his enemies. So here, we basically have an admission within the film itself that it’s not a Bond film, as it acknowledges that Niven or anyone else in the film is not meant to be the same character as Connery’s Bond, who is the focus of the “Bond Films.”
So, where does that leave Never Say Never Again, which is more serious in tone and has Connery back as 007? While Connery’s involvement leads many fans to accept the film into their canon, it’s really as much of an anomaly to the franchise as the Casino Royale farce. Again, if we consider that the “Bond Films” are meant to be a portrayal of one character’s timeline, then Never Say Never Again fails to meet that standard. The Bond Connery played is the same person George Lazenby played when Bond got married, and the same character Roger Moore played when he visited Bond’s wife’s grave, and the same person Timothy Dalton played when he referenced his marriage as a pain in his past, etc. Connery’s Never Say Never Again Bond lacks this specific backstory. So Never Say Never Again isn’t so much a “Bond Film” as it is an action movie with a character named James Bond.
Certainly, the Daniel Craig Bond is a reboot of the character, and thus also doesn’t share the backstory of his predecessors. But by then the character rights had unified under EON, who pretty much earned the right to determine what counts as a “Bond Film” and what doesn’t. And obviously, any movie they didn’t make wasn’t going to count.
One of the arguments made by Kleinberg was that the packaging required the purchaser to be a Bond expert to know the two non-EON movies weren’t going to be included. How such a non-Bond fan would similarly even notice the movies not being in the set is anybody’s guess, but I suppose such silly strains on logic are the realm for lawyerly endeavors.
For her part, Johnson is seeking class-action status on the case on behalf of anyone who bought the boxed sets thinking the other two films would be included. She claims that were it not for her belief those two movies would be included based on the labeling, she wouldn’t have paid $106.44 to Amazon.com for the set. Her suit cites legalese about false advertising having cause an “injury” to the plaintiff’s business or property. I suppose they mean she’s out the hundred bucks, although Amazon’s return policies are pretty lenient, so I’m sure she could have just sent the set back for a full refend. Of course, they'd still argue the inconvenience was the injury.
What’s really amusing is how the lawsuit cites both of the boxed sets, as if she bought the first one, didn’t like that it was missing the movies she wanted, and then three years later bought the re-released version with the additional film and still couldn’t figure out what was actually being sold, as if MGM fooled her twice.
Yes, I get she was probably fully aware of what MGM was doing with the sets to begin with and she thinks she’s “standing up for the little guy” against "the big bad corporate studios” and she envisions herself as a hero for all those who fell for MGM’s insidious trap. But come on, this is beyond ridiculous.
The whole argument is based on what a “reasonable” person would think is in those boxed sets, which MGM’s lawyers pointed out listed the actual included films on the box. In a motion to dismiss MGM argued that “no reasonable purchaser would expect that a box set would contain films that are not included on the list of titles clearly printed on its packaging."
Kleinberg’s arguments against dismissal were filed May 15. The studio's attorney, John Devlin, has also asked the judge to at least deny the case’s class-action status on the grounds that the class definition, which would include anyone who purchased the discs, is "impermissibly overbroad." Naturally, Kleinberg disagreed, wanting the preserve the ability to achieve class certification in a wide variety of false advertising cases.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is slated for May 26.
The full filing can be found in The Hollywood Reporter’s recounting of the story here.
Best Buy's 'xXx: Return of Xander Cage' Steelbook cover art
Several retailer exclusives popped up May 16, including for the week's top new title, Paramount's xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack of the sequel with an exclusive bonus disc containing 30 minutes of additional content.
Best Buy offered Steelbook packaging with both the Blu-ray combo pack and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
A 3D Blu-ray version of Xander Cage was offered through several retailers' online stores, though that version, which Paramount didn't really announce or promote, wasn't available on physical shelves.
Also drawing some exclusives attention was Warner's re-release of the 2009 direct-to-video animated Wonder Woman to tie into the upcoming live-action theatrical film. Target offered the Blu-ray with Steelbook packaging and Best Buy offered it with character art cards.
Walmart has an exclusive early window on the final season of "Duck Dynasty" on DVD, which won't be widely available until July 25.
'Fifty Shades Darker' exclusives from (L-R) Best Buy, Target and Walmart
Retailers enticed consumers with several options for exclusive editions of Universal's Fifty Shades Darker upon its May 9 home video release.
Target offered the steamy sequel as an "Ultimate Deluxe Edition" Blu-ray, which included wine charms, a wine stopper and napkins, plus 30 minutes of exclusive bonus content. Target also offered the regular Blu-ray with the half-hour of exclusive bonus content. Target set up a 'Fifty Shades' display at the front of stores in a corrugated stand that also touted movies appropriate for Mother's Day.
Walmart's special Blu-ray edition of Fifty Shades Darker came with special packaging containing a photo book.
Best Buy offered the Blu-ray with a Steelbook case.
Ride the High Country (Blu-ray)
Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Western, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr, James Drury, Warren Oates.
1962. In a wonderful burst of unexpected late glory, Randolph Scott (his final film) and Joel McCrea (his final one of note) play long-ago lawmen put out to pasture by changing times in director Sam Peckinpah’s career-maker and a movie not a few still think is the best he ever made. The spiffed-up print here looks the best of those I’ve seen: great more often than not and easily acceptable in the frequent autumnal fading foliage scenes
Extras: Includes a commentary with savvy Sam scholars Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle.
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Don’t Give Up the Ship
Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jerry Lewis, Dina Merrill, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy.
1959. Jerry Lewis plays a World War II vet and seaman officer in Don’t Give Up the Ship, a Paramount black-and-whiter that some might regard as a semi-outlier in his career.
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In a week with few exclusives tied to new releases, Target linked a recent Blu-ray with a new video game. Perhaps it's a sign of the times, or just an indication of the level of retail interest in the May 2 new releases, but Target didn't have any home video section in its weekly ad circular. The only mention of a DVD or Blu-ray was a promotion with a new video game. Target offered a free Blu-ray of Sony Pictures' Passengers with the purchase of the game Prey at $59.99 for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
Best Buy's circular did tout some new and recent DVDs and Blu-rays, but the only promotion was for preorders for Disney's Beauty and the Beast, for which Best Buy is offering the Blu-ray in exclusive Steelbook packaging.
Best Buy also put up a corrugated display of $2.99 family film DVDs.
Walmart had some exclusives tied to catalog titles. Walmart had a version of Sony Pictures' A League of Their Own: 25th Anniversary Edition that included the film on Blu-ray, DVD and Walmart's Vudu streaming service, plus three baseball cards of some of the main characters, stickers, a collectible patch and a luggage tag for $19.96. The widely available re-release is just the film on Blu-ray with an UltraViolet digital copy.
Walmart also had an exclusive 40th anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo pack of Universal's Smokey and the Bandit, which includes the CMT documentary The Bandit, for $14.96.
Amazon seemed to have some trouble with Warner titles during the week, as many of the studio's future releases were pulled from preorder and availability of new titles has been spotty. Something similar happened with Disney titles the past few weeks as well, which observers contend is due to distribution disagreements between the retailer and the studios.
The Young Girls of Rochefort
Criterion, Musical, $29.95 DVD, $39.95 Blu-ray, ‘G.’
Stars Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris, Danielle Darrieux, Michel Piccoli.
1967. Spirited and sumptuous, yet with an overriding sense of melancholy due in great part to the real-life tragedy that still follows it around, Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort offers fairly persuasive gut evidence that it (as opposed to the prime MGM Hollywood musicals) must have been the primary influence on La La Land.
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Sunset in the West
Kino Lorber, Western, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Roy Rogers, Estelita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones.
1950. Sunset’s bad guys are running a gun-smuggling ring, and you’ll recognize the heavies from a lot of other ‘B’-Westerns.
Extras: Includes a commentary track with Roy Rogers buff Toby Roan.
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