Good morning, and greetings from Santa Barbara, Calif., where I am taking a brief vacation with my family while my boys are off school for spring break. I’d like to share with you two bits of good news for our business, amid shaky rumblings of how the total home entertainment business, even factoring in a 108% uptick in Blu-ray Disc sales, is down 11% for the quarter — which, by the way, mirrors just about every other business I can think of.
Good tiding No. 1 is the latest report from The NPD Group, home of our good friend Russ Crupnick, one of the sharpest industry analysts I’ve ever come across. According to NPD’s latest tracking study, “Entertainment Trends in America,” U.S. consumers plan to either hold steady or increase their entertainment spending in 2009, something we’ve already seen reflected in the up box office. The NPD report also indicates that 51% of consumers surveyed purchased a DVD or Blu-ray Disc in the last three months, a higher percentage than video games (36% of consumers) or CDs (31%).
Good tiding No. 2 is that things are looking up at at least one of the six major studios’ home entertainment divisions. The president of said division told me on the sly that “we made our numbers” in the first quarter, something he was hoping for but not really expecting.
Despite studio executives' insistence that DVD is a year-round business, big theatricals have traditionally been bunched up in the fourth quarter, with predictable additional bumps in January (the "fifth quarter"), March/April (Easter gift-buying season) and September (a head start on Q4). This year, with box office up around 12% in the first three months of the year and April opening with a bang with Fast and Furious and Hannah Montana The Movie, we're seeing some of the traditionally "down" months brimming with activity. Take June. Just announced this week for DVD/Blu-ray Disc release are Warner's He's Just Not That Into You, with $92.9 million in theatrical earnings, coming to home video on June 2.; Sony Pictures' The International ($25.5 million) on June 9; and Confessions of a Shopaholic ($43.7 box office), from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, on June 23. That brings to six the number of big-ticket theatricals (defined as any movie that made more than $25 million in U.S. theaters) coming to video in June. The others, announced previously, are Paramount's Defiance ($28.5 million), June 2; Warner's Gran Torino ($146.2 million), June 9; and Lionsgate's Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail ($89.9 million), June 16. All this, for a month that not so long ago was reserved for TV DVD releases and catalog promotions. Can't wait to see what July will bring....
Teen fever came through once again, pushing Hannah Montana The Movie to the top spot on the box office charts for the weekend. The film, from Buena Vista, opened at a respectable $34 million on 3,118 screens, according to our friends at Box Office Mojo. Fast and Furious, meanwhile, held on after a record $71 million opening the previous weekend, lapping up $28.8 million this weekend on 3,472 screens. That's a drop off of less than 60%, not bad for a big theatrical actioner. Monster Vs. Aliens in its third week of wide release earned another $22.6 million on 4,136 screens to bring its total box office take so far to $141 million. The top five, courtesy, again, of Box Office Mojo and based on studio estimates Sunday morning:
1. Hannah Montana The Movie (Buena Vista)
$34.0 million on 3,118 screens; new
2. Fast and Furious (Universal)
$28.8 million on 3,472 screens; total after two weeks, $118 million
3. Monsters Vs. Aliens (Paramount/DreamWorks)
$22.6 million on 4,136 screens; total after three weeks, $141 million
4. Observe and Report (Warner Bros.)
$11.1 million on| 2,727 screens; new
5. Knowing (Summit Entertainment)
$6.7 million on 2,925 screens; total after four weeks, $68 million
I woke up this morning to find aliens in my house. Actually, they just looked like aliens: It was Justin and Conner, my two oldest boys (13 and 11), sitting on the family room couch and each wearing a pair of paper 3-D glasses while watching the newly issued Friday the 13th, Part 3, in 3-D. There's just no escaping the 3-D boom — or, more accurately, resurgence — we're seeing these days, what with more and more big theatrical movies coming out on 3D and — milestone alert! — Monsters vs. Aliens generating more than half its opening gross from 3-D showings. A spot check of Amazon found 169 3-D movies currently available on DVD, from cheesy 1950s sci-fi thrillers such as Creature from the Black Lagoon to the 16-minute animated cartoon Shrek in 3-D and The Polar Express Presented in 3-D and a slew of campy horror favorites. And there's more to come, particularly now that more and more voices are suggesting 3-D just might be Blu-ray Disc's "killer ap." For now, you need those funky-looking glasses, but ultimately you'll start seeing TVs capable of that same 3-D effect. Sounds like a fantasy, but hey, it wasn't all that long ago that the biggest TV you could buy was 27 inches and movies came only on videocassette …
To promote public awareness of Blu-ray Disc, supporters of the high-definition optical disc format have revamped and refocused their Web site, Hollywood in Hi-Def. The wraps just came off the page this week. The most notable is the emergence of "The Blu Blog," written by members of the Blu-ray Press Office. It's meant to tap into the growing chorus of Web chatter about Blu-ray and provide some clarity when misinformation is presented. It's good to see my old pal Scott Hettrick, former editor in chief of Video Business and home entertainment reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, writing and blogging on the site.
As a companion to The Blu Blog, the press office team also is on Twitter (click here to follow what they're up to) and has a fan page on Facebook (check it out here).
Full chart results are not yet in, but on the rental side we have a clear winner: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Marley & Me is the country's top video rental for the week ending April 5, according to Home Media Magazine's market research department. The family theatrical hit replaced Quantum of Solace in the top spot of Home Media Magazine's weekly rental chart; the James Bond film slipped to No. 4. The Sony Pictures Home Entertainment drama Seven Pounds debuted at No. 2 on the rental chart, while the No. 3 slot was snagged by 20th Century Fox's Slumdog Millionaire, this year's best picture Oscar winner. Stay tuned for the full chart story on the Home Media Magazine Web site.
Sorry I haven't posted since Moday morning--we had lots of corporate goings-on these past two days--but I am back in the saddle and gearing up to do my weekly chart story, detailing last week's top DVD and Blu-ray Disc sellers. Nielsen VideoScan and Home Media Research data isn't in yet, but the likely winner is 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's Marley & Me, a family hit that will likely prove as successful on disc as it was in theaters (the film's U.S. gross is just under $143 million). Marley & Me also is 20th Century Fox's first "triple play" release, with a premium package available that contains the Blu-ray Disc, standard DVD and digital copy. Brilliant strategy--triple plays take care of a household's entire home entertainment needs, all in one neat package. No need to download a movie for your iPod, and certainly no need to debate whether to buy it on DVD for the bedroom (or kid's room) or Blu-ray Disc for the family room widescreen. You can do it all in one transaction....
Universal Studios Home Entertainment president Craig Kornblau must be smiling right now. His parent studio's Fast and Furious, installment No. 4 in the fast-car franchise, opened to a phenomenal $72.5 million this past weekend. That's the highest-ever April debut and, according to our friends at Box Office Mojo, the biggest opening ever for a car-themed movie. The film's success also lifted overall box office to $185 million, a new April record and 65% higher than the comparable weekend last year. When the film gets released to DVD and Blu-ray Disc--I'm projecting a late-September release, just before the fourth-quarter frenzy but in time to capitalize on back-to-school boredom among the film's core demo--Kornblau will undoubtedly be a very happy man, and our industry will get a prime Q4 kickoff that just might reverse several years of declining whole-year packaged media sales.
One more bit of news worthy of your attention: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment this morning announced the Jack Lemmon Film Collection, a six-disc set debuting June 9 at a suggested retail price of $59.95. The collection includes five films never before available on DVD: Phffft!, with Kim Novak; Operation Mad Ball, featuring the film debut of Ernie Kovacs; The Notorious Landlady, with Fred Astaire; Under the Yum Yum Tree; and Good Neighbor Sam, a 1964 comedy with Edward G. Robinson. Extras include a two-part documentary hosted by Chris Lemmon and featuring interviews with the likes of Kevin Spacey, Andy Garcia and Shirley MacLaine; a photo gallery; and the Ford Television Theatre’s "Marriageable Male" episode that stars Lemmon. Kudos to Sony Pictures for coming up with a quality package that once again sets packaged media apart from all its digital competitors.
Quite a splash in home entertainment circles this morning as word breaks that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is once again using its flagship animated classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to break new ground. The 1937 retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale will be released in a Blu-ray Disc combo pack (which includes a DVD) on Oct. 6, seven weeks before the standard two-disc DVD package streets Nov. 24. It's a daring strategy designed to drive consumers to Blu-ray and comes exactly eight years after Snow White's first and only DVD release in a features-laden package that became the first DVD to sell a million copies. Many experts now see that release as pivotal in DVD's breakout from early adopters to mainstream consumers. For the complete story check our Web site; for The Hollywood Reporter version click here, or for the USA Today consumer take click here.
Lot of news coming in today, so I figured I’d give you a few updates on what’s rocking our industry as we officially turn the leaf on a new quarter.
Tongues are wagging over Apple’s counterattack on studios that are packaging free digital copies with premium DVDs or Blu-ray Discs. Beginning today the iTunes Store is offering anyone who buys a download a free DVD or Blu-ray Disc, shipped right to their homes in environmentally friendly packaging. The Obama Administration has already taken notice and praised Apple for going green, rewarding the company with a $12 billion bailout package on the condition the company issue a restructuring plan within 30 days and install a new CEO. …
Former Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb, still smarting from HD DVD’s loss to Blu-ray Disc, has reportedly taken a part-time job back at Warner, working as a security guard in the parking garage of the division’s Olive Street headquarters. His greatest joy, he says, is putting chalk marks on the tires of cars parked in the two-hour visitor zone, and then writing citations to those who overstay their welcome. “These people are like school children,” he fumed. …
Word has it that the “True Blu” consumer campaign will finally launch in the fourth quarter—of 2023. That’s when the 2,435 member companies are expected to finally reach a consensus and approve the final art elements of the campaign, which initially had been slated to launch last year. …
Other studios are determined to one up Disney and Fox, which are both pumping out “triple plays” that contain a DVD, a Blu-ray Disc and a digital copy, all in one package. Sony Pictures is adding a UMD for the PSP, while Lionsgate is talking about going retro and throwing in a VHS. Warner is reportedly looking at memory cards, Universal is talking about tossing in some old leftover HD DVDs, while Paramount is taking an even more aggressive stance and packaging select DVD/BD/DC releases with a frozen TV dinner and a Happy Meal toy. …
Vowing to do its part to lift consumer spirits, Blockbuster Inc. today announced it will pull all “sad and depressing” titles from its 5,000-plus corporate stores. The chain cited the ongoing recession and reduced consumer confidence for the move, which includes removing new releases such as Seven Pounds that are known for their depressing endings. Stores will begin pulling catalog titles, including Love Story and On Golden Pond, later this month. “We’re especially targeting movies in which nice people die,” Blockbuster chief Jim Keyes said in a conference call with analysts. “We believe people will want to spend their money on something that will make them feel better, not something that will add to their misery.”