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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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22 Nov, 2016

Bringing Home the 'Dogs'

Target's 'War Dogs' Blu-ray Steelbook
Target's 'War Dogs' Blu-ray Steelbook

In the lead-up to Black Friday, retailers went light on exclusives despite a healthy slate of new discs Nov. 22.

Target offered a Steelbook edition of Warner's War Dogs Blu-ray.

Best Buy touted special promotions tied to pre-orders of two Universal titles, such as a free Max plush with The Secret Life of Pets 4K Blu-ray, and a Steelbook edition of the Jason Bourne 4K Blu-ray.

Target offered a free Finding Dory collecible figure with the purchase of the movie, which was released Nov. 15.

Best Buy promoted "Harry Potter" titles with $8 movie coupons for Fantastic Beasts theatrical tickets.

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21 Nov, 2016

Shaking Up Home Entertainment

The Martian VR Experience
The Martian VR Experience

The business of home entertainment has always been in flux. Since the very beginning of this magazine in 1979, visionary movers and shakers have been changing entertainment. We’ve seen different physical formats, from Betamax to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to 4K Blu-ray Disc with high dynamic range (HDR). We’ve absorbed the digital delivery revolution and incorporated it into our definition of home entertainment, bringing in Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, among other home entertainment newcomers.

With our November 2016 issue, we recognize some of the leaders of this business, the “Movers and Shakers,” who are forging the future of the home entertainment industry. We’ve got top studio executives alongside digital, retail and trade group executives who are helping to make, distribute and facilitate delivery of the home entertainment we all consume.

As we publish this list of influential executives, the industry is launching a new format, 4K Ultra HD with HDR, on Blu-ray Disc and, to some extent, on digital services — though those delivery mechanisms can be hampered by bandwidth. Several of our Movers and Shakers have been instrumental in getting this format — which promises yet another leap forward in home entertainment quality — off the ground.

In addition to physical disc and digital entertainment, the industry is embarking on newer forms of entertainment that employ virtual and augmented reality, offering another potential stream of income to the industry. The Fox Innovation Lab, under the capable direction of executives on our list, this month released its first commercial virtual reality endeavor, The Martian VR Experience, at $19.99 for PlayStation VR for the PlayStation 4 system and HTC Vive on Steam. Several of our Movers and Shakers are involved in this shakeup of the very definition of home entertainment, a new frontier that allows the audience to become immersed in a story in ways that our industry is just beginning to explore.

We congratulate the Top 50 Movers and Shakers, as well as the Up and Comers who are some of the leaders of the future. They are forging the path of home entertainment. It can be a rocky path, and those that navigate its changes must be ready to meet the unexpected.

We salute them, and look forward to their future accomplishments.
 

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21 Nov, 2016

The Exciting Immersive Potential of Virtual Reality


As we were working on this year’s Movers and Shakers, a listing of the home entertainment industry’s key leaders, motivators and innovators, virtual reality came into my life in a big way, with the arrival of the Sony PlayStation VR.

The moment I put on the headset while my youngest, Hunter, slipped the demo disk into the PlayStation 4, I realized this was not just another quirky fad like 3D. I also realized we are in the very early stages of VR, with so many promises, so much potential, floating in the air above us that try as we might we simply can’t grasp — yet.

Indeed, in one of the virtual worlds on the demo disk I was in a real-life horror show with a demented carny barker I wanted badly to punch in the face — but I couldn’t reach out and do that, even with the Move motion controllers in my hands.

For now, there are still plenty of limitations, but as you roam through the virtual world and look around you, your eyes begin to open to not just the remarkably life-like surroundings but also to the vast store of possibilities that inevitably will come in the future, brought to us, no doubt, under the watch of many of the movers and shakers profiled in the November issue of Home Media Magazine.

For now, VR is the next step in gaming, an interactive, immersive experience that puts you inside a video game. Playing Batman Arkham will never be the same — in the VR version, I am not manipulating Batman, I am Batman, and the horrific opening scene in which young Bruce Wayne’s parents are brutally murdered in a dark alleyway becomes a truly nightmarish experience. (I did, in fact, dream about it the following night; I don’t remember much but it was enough to give me a nocturnal jolt in which I awakened in a sweat.)

Down the road, the possibilities for filmmakers are as daunting as they are appealing — and potentially lucrative. With set storylines, the immersive VR experience will never be quite as, well, immersive as it is in gaming, where you control the action.

But consider a movie where you actually wander into the action — sort of like the creepy girl in The Ring crawling out of the TV screen, only in reverse — and you can look around and see what the characters see. In The Sound of Music, the hills really would come alive, as you look around and take in the breathtaking scenery of the Alps, 360. And in Star Wars, wow — that’s all I need to say.

I can also see movies one day shot in such a way that we can not only enter the action, but also see things from a certain character’s perspective — and through this immersion begin to actually feel what the character is feeling. Imagine the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan — the impact could be immense and filmmaking could be forever changed.

So, yes, I am a big believer in the promise of VR. And thanks so much to the movers and shakers who will play a part in delivering on that promise.

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15 Nov, 2016

Finding 'Dory' Among the 'Thrones'

Best Buy's 'Game of Thrones: Season 6' and Target's 'Finding Dory' Steelbooks
Best Buy's 'Game of Thrones: Season 6' and Target's 'Finding Dory' Steelbooks

Retailers showed some big support for Disney's Finding Dory and HBO's Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season upon their disc releases Nov. 15.

Target offered Finding Dory as a deluxe Blu-ray Steelbook combo pack with four collectible lithograph cards. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray combo pack as a deluxe activity book.

Best Buy also offered an exclusive steelbooks for the fifth and sixth seasons of "Game oF Thrones," with sigil magnets in the style of the Steelbook releases of the first four seasons. Target offered the sixth season of the show with exclusive bonus behind-the-scenes content with the Blu-ray. Walmart's season six Blu-ray had an exclusive bonus disc with a visual effects featurette.

Walmart offered a special $22.99 Blu-ray edition of Warner's Batman: Assault on Arkham with a download code for the newly released Digital HD of Suicide Squad redeemable through the Vudu streaming service.

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14 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte' and more …


Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Blu-ray)

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
1964.
Taken as a kind of spiritual sequel to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, director Robert Aldrich’s pandemonium-packed melodrama (both on and behind the camera) holds up better than I expected. Even without the wall-to-wall bonus extras here, this disc would be worth it for fans because visually, it improves on the DVD beyond compare.
Extras: The infamous offscreen tension between Bette Davis Joan Crawford, which may have led to Crawford’s being replaced on the film by Olivia de Havilland, is one reason why there’s enough material to support two voice-over commentaries, as well as a making-of featurette titled “Hush … Hush, Sweet Joan.” Film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros offer a lively new commentary that complements a carried-over 2007 one from “DVD Savant” Glenn Erickson.
Read the Full Review

One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich and the Lost American Film

Available via Warner Archive       
Warner, Documentary, $21.99 DVD, NR.
2015.
An inside-baseball examination of the fallout from an almost unspeakable personal tragedy, One Day Since Yesterday’s primary focus is on how director Peter Bogdanovich and his friends and family were affected by the experience of making 1981’s still relatively unseen They All Laughed, the movie he had just filmed when the featured player who was also the love of his life (Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten) was brutally murdered.
Read the Full Review
 

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8 Nov, 2016

Retailers Hold a 'Sausage Party'

Target's 'Sausage Party' Steelbook Blu-ray
Target's 'Sausage Party' Steelbook Blu-ray

Sony Pictures' Sausage Party presented a few options for retail exclusives Nov. 8.

Target offered the Blu-ray version of the 'R'-rated animated comedy in a Steelbook edition.Best Buy offered a free T-shirt with the Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray; the shirt was available separately for $9.99.

Target also had exclusive packaging with Paramount's release of Showtime's Billions: Season One DVD.

Target also offered 10% off a title from the week before, Paramount's Star Trek Beyond, via the chain's Cartwheel app.

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7 Nov, 2016

New on Disc: 'Under the Cherry Moon' and more …


Under the Cherry Moon (Blu-ray)

Warner, Romantic Comedy, $14.97 Blu-ray, ‘PG-13.’
Stars Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, Morris Day, Steven Berkoff.
1986.
In his flop follow-up second feature to Purple Rain, Prince plays a piano-playing gigolo whose relationship with a rambunctious rich-girl (played by Kristin Scott Thomas in her feature debut) runs afoul of her father. Prince, in a truly terrible performance, goes full-throttle lounge lizard here in a story with a French Riviera setting in next-to-unheard-of ’80s black-and-white. It helps — along with the visual cosmetics, some of the supporting casting and overall affability — that not a whole lot of time passes until there’s another musical number.
Read the Full Review

Strategic Air Command

Olive, Drama, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, June Allyson, Frank Lovejoy, Barry Sullivan.
1955. The equally gorgeous and lumbering Strategic Air Command must be the only Air Force movie whose opening scenes are set against the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training, with Jimmy Stewart as a baseball player called back into military service.
Read the Full Review
 

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1 Nov, 2016

Retailers Go Beyond 'Star Trek' Exclusives

'Star Trek Beyond' exclusive box art at Target and Best Buy
'Star Trek Beyond' exclusive box art at Target and Best Buy

Retailers were awash in exclusive content for the Nov. 1 home videos, especially Target, which had special promotions for most of the new releases.

The biggest title of the week was Paramount's Star Trek Beyond, which had exclusive editions at each of the three major brick-and-mortar national retail chains. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray combo pack in Steelbook packaging. Target offered character cards with the Blu-ray combo pack and an exclusive Blu-ray bonus disc with 45 minutes of additional featurettes, including a look behind-the-scenes at the visual effects, costumes and props. Walmart had the BD combo pack as part of a gift set containing three toy models of spaceships from the film. And Amazon.com had a deluxe gift set containing the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, a 3D Blu-ray disc and a model of the U.S.S. Franklin.

For Warner's Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Target offered the Blu-ray combo pack with a Steelbook case. Best Buy offered the Blu-ray with a pack-in graphic novel movie tie-in.

For Universal's Bad Moms, Target offered the Blu-ray with a $5 Target e-gift card.

Target's Blu-ray of Sony Pictures' Outlander: Season Two came with a coloring set. Best Buy offered discs of the show with $10 in My Best Buy rewards points. Amazon offered a deluxe edition with a booklet.

Walmart had free pack-in toys with the Nickelodeon DVDs of Blaze and the Monster Machines: Fired Up and Shimmer and Shine: Welcome to Zahramay Falls.

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31 Oct, 2016

Talent Talking High Dynamic Range


Many home entertainment industry executive heavyweights have espoused the virtues of 4K Ultra HD with high dynamic range (HDR), which offers greater contrast and deeper, more life-like colors, and produces brilliant highlights and deeper blacks. But that’s perhaps what one would expect from executives trying to sell the latest software or hardware format. However, when you talk to the filmmaking talent — cinematographers, directors, etc. — they too see it as a leap forward.

“I truly thought it was the best-looking version of the movie by far,” Deadpool director Tim Miller said at a presentation about the UHD HDR release of his film on the Fox lot in May, noting its “amazing level of detail.”

“The amount of detail that you get in the flames, you see so much more,” added colorist Tim Stipan. “It all of a sudden has more dimension to it. It almost becomes more 3D.”

“It’s like suddenly the sky was not a white mass the way it had been in all the other formats, but had this beautiful detail,” Miller added.

“I think this is the wave of the future because you’re seeing more of what the camera captured,” he added, noting “a lot of the shots had this almost painterly quality.”

“I truly thought it was the best-looking version of the movie by far,” Miller said.

In October, talent talked about the upgrade for both Fox’s 20-year-old Independence Day and its sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, released Oct. 18 on Blu-ray Disc in 4K Ultra HD with HDR.

HDR “allows us so much more range than what’s available in standard theatrical and standard home theater viewing environments,” said colorist David Cole.

“[Director Roland Emmerich] wanted to update a 20-year-old film,” cinematographer Markus Forderer said. “He wanted to be true to the original but also show an updated version, show the film in its best quality. And I think it looks better than what you saw 20 years ago in the theater because now with HDR you see much more detail in the blacks and the highlights.”

When artists are praising a format, I listen. I don’t think there could be better advocates for a leap forward in viewing quality.
 

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31 Oct, 2016

Is Content Still King?


I read an interesting article the other day on the Bloomberg website, from a columnist who argues that content is no longer king.

Shira Ovide, a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist who used to write for The Wall Street Journal, argues that with distributors buying content owners — first Comcast buying NBCUniversal and now AT&T proposing to buy Time Warner — and not the other way around, distribution is now king.

“We’re awash in content,” writes Ovide. “Sure, most of it is garbage, but this ubiquity splits people’s time and money into a zillion pieces. What is scarce is any company that has the attention or money of hundreds of millions or billions of people. Today, those giant human aggregators are distributors … that are the gatekeepers to digital information, communication and entertainment. Own the distribution, and you decide what content matters.”

I’m normally a big fan of Ovide, but in this case I think she’s wrong. I can point to her own argument: Yes, distributors are buying content owners, but doesn’t that underscore the importance of content? It certainly does not diminish it. Distributors know they need content more than anything; no matter how many pipes you have, if they’re empty, they are useless.

AT&T is ready to spend $85 billion to buy Time Warner because it’s the biggest content empire around — and AT&T is out to build the biggest distribution empire.

Ovide maintains that without distribution, content isn’t nearly the draw it once was, thanks to the proliferation of cheap, user-generated content like farting cat or Russian dash-cam videos on YouTube or your neighbor’s rant about traffic on Facebook. “Time Warner’s epic ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO isn’t a hit unless it reaches people,” Ovide writes. “Today that’s mostly over TV pipes controlled by the likes of Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV; tomorrow that may be over internet and mobile pipes controlled by the likes of … Comcast and AT&T.”

She certainly has a point. But at the same time, it could be argued that good content will always find its audience — and that audience will use whatever distribution channels it needs to in order to consume that content.

The history of entertainment has been driven by content and consumers’ quest to get it. The more content that became available, the more content we wanted to consume — and in an easier, faster, and better way. In music, we went from records to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs and then downloads — the latter, a key factor in Apple iTunes’ success. On the filmed-entertainment front, we went from broadcast-TV to pay-TV and now direct-to-consumer streaming — the latter, driving ongoing media consolidation.

Without content, AT&T and Verizon would be content to remain phone companies.

And if content is no longer king, then why are Netflix and Amazon making so much of it?

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