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It Was A Good Week For... Alien Covenant has literally burst into life…
It Was A Bad Week For… Digital pirates, whose dodgy practices were laid bare in a new report…
More than 1 million illegal set-top boxes, complete with the add-ons that enable viewers to stream content illegally, have been sold in the UK in the past two years. And unscrupulous pirates are increasingly moving online, where they are earning tens of millions of pounds from ads on sites offering illegal downloads or steams of film and TV content. Those are some of the stark findings just published in arguably the most comprehensive report yet into the world of online piracy. Cracking Down On Digital Piracy has been published and compiled by a wealth of agencies and other groups with a working knowledge of this rapidly growing – and worrisome – problem. Those involved in putting it together include FACT, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, PIPCU, based out of the force’s City of London police HQ, the Intellectual Property Office, Police Scotland and Entura International. It paints a picture of the typical digital pirate, a criminal earning money from casino and dating sites through pop-up banners and ads on their sites, or selling subscriptions for pay subscription services; the report estimates they are making anywhere between tens of millions and hundreds of millions of pounds from their nefarious enterprises. As FACT director general Kieron Sharp said: “This report has come at a crucial time in our fight against digital piracy. A quarter of Brits access digital material illegally, and often don’t realise the risks associated with that, for them and their families. Pirates are not Robin Hood characters; they are criminals who do it to make money through illicit means. As a result, the risks are high – inappropriate advertising that could be seen by young children, electrical safety associated with counterfeit parts, and financial cyber crime.”
The Cracking Down On Digital Piracy report further identified new trans in piracy, particularly with the illegal add-ons to Kodi and other set-top boxes. It said that criminals are increasingly moving towards social media such as Twitter and Facebook, but these added security and malware problems. They are also using bitcoin for payment and the Dark Web for transactions. This kind of behaviour was replacing the old pub or car boot sale, with illicit streaming helming them remain anonymous. Commenting on this, head of PIPCU, DCI Pete Ratcliffe said: “While it may be tempting for people to think they are getting a bargain when streaming illegally, it’s important to remember that there are organised criminals behind it, often associated with other serious crimes. Pirating content is not a petty crime; from release groups, to site operators to set-top box wholesalers and distributers, there is an international criminal business model.”

Following our reports a few weeks ago on the current state of play when it comes to theatrical windows, and the potential move to day and date releasing for big theatrical releases, we’ve been speaking to XCinex, a company that has developed its own platform, Venue, which facilitates viewing at home for consumers keen to see – and pay a premium – blockbuster and other cinema releases around the time of their release in theatres, albeit at home. And the company has promised to “revolutionise” the market, further stating that it expected to land in the UK and Europe within years – or possibly sooner. The company further rubbished the current pvod model and added that it has forged close ties with all major Hollywood studios. Director of marketing and business development at the company Yazan Khalaf said: “XCinex is an audience detection per-viewer transaction services and technology provider. With our patented IP, we’ve created Venue, a plug and play in-home entertainment system, designed to stream theatrical films and live exhibition like concerts, sports and more, directly to the home while facilitating ticket sales per-viewer. Venue is the definitive in-home entertainment experience; building upon the current system rather than trying to devalue or replace it. We offer consumers unparalleled access to theatrical movies and live events, expanding the potential audience worldwide. XCinex offers not only the best platform for content owners to control their monetisation, we also offer the best in industry security to eradicate piracy.”
More from XCinex and here’s marketing director Yazan Khalaf again. He said: “Although everyone’s hearts seems to be in the right place, there is a fundamental problem in the subscription model being proposed by some players. We believe this subscription model is outdated. Our model is designed for content owners to have direct control of their assets. We’ve designed Venue as a secure eco-system that provides the environment and tools for content owners to build their own store fronts and manage their own assets; set ticket prices, launch date, end date, add-on merchandise, digital downloads, etc. Given we are a utility, XCINEX never has control or ownership of content- bypassing the need for minimum guarantees, bidding wars or paying for rights. Our intention is to be a global platform. We have patents pending across Europe including the UK. We are excited to also provide content producers in the UK the ability to stream their content on Venue - expanding their market penetration. We are continuously growing our network and are in conversations with international players within the entertainment industry.  We plan to launch within the next year or so in the US and Canadian markets. We anticipate expanding globally within 3 years after launch, which of course includes a strong push into Europe. However, this is not an official timeline. Things may unfold much sooner. We have successfully formed and have strong relationships with all six major Hollywood Studios. We have also established relationships and obtained LOI’s from independent and foreign content providers from various entertainment industries. Industry experts we’ve communicated with understand our model and agree that it is the most complete and feasible solution. Regardless, the industry is really calcified in its traditional ways. Anyone looking to disrupt this must understand the challenges involved and come to the table with real sound solutions. By the way, we believe renting a movie for $30-$50 in a “PVOD” window 30-45 days after theatrical release is totally illogical!”
XCinex director of marketing Yazan Khalaf concluded that he firmly believes that the company’s Venue will become firmly established within the industry. He said: “Why? Because XCINEX will expand the audience for a movie – not shift it from cinema to living room. It does not play off studio against theatre owner. Instead it respects both, and is structured to support the long term health of both exhibitors and distributors – resulting in greater sustainability for the wider film industry itself and at the same giving consumers never before access to theatrical & live exhibition. Furthermore, because Venue facilitates ticket sales per-person, it would count towards box-office numbers, since the value of content is based on its box-office numbers.”

Heading into stores this week, with suitable alien activity, not least a full character roaming the streets in costume, visiting magazines and publications, was Fox’s latest in its ongoing franchise Alien Covenant, a film many saw as a return to form for the brand, and one which has made a strong impact in terms of sales this week according to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin. The title was sitting pretty at number one at the halfway stage, selling some 77,000 units in its first three days, dislodging Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 along the way. The fifth season of Arrow was in at number five, while drafting titles, in the shape of the first Kingsman film and the original take on Stephen King’s It, were at numbers four and five respectively. More from Alien, a six film collection, was a new entry at number eight, followed by other newbies NCIS – Los Angeles Season 8 at nine and, further down, Jessica Chastain starrer Miss Sloane at 21. The seventh season of Hawaii Five O and a five film Bourne collection, were also set to enter the top 40 at numbers 28 and 38 respectively.
Studiocanal has this week been showing off some key scenes from its forthcoming family blockbuster Paddington 2, which sees the bear and pals returning for another romp on the back of the enormous success of his first big screen outing. it hosted assorted press and other interested parties to tease elements from the film, which will also herald the return of one of the company’s biggest home entertainment success stories to date – the first Paddington has already shifted some 1.4 million units – with drafting opportunities in stores around the theatrical release of the sequel. Commenting on the activity, Studiocanal’s Olivia Dean said: “On Thursday we hosted a day of screenings of exclusive footage from the forthcoming Paddington 2. Introduced by Hugh Bonneville and producers Rosie Alison and Alexandra Ferguson-Derbyshire, the laughter and love for Paddington in the room was evident. Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson’s new characters promise much marmalade-related mirth for children and adults alike as Paddington 2 lands in cinemas November 10. Having sold over 1.4m units to date, we’re also gearing up for a strong Q4 drafting campaign for the first film, ensuring everyone has caught up on Paddington’s story so far and enjoys some furry fun this Christmas.
We sought further opinion on Paddington 2 from our old chum Nick Gibbs Mcneil and his cohorts at the excellent kidzcoolit.com website, who know more about family fare than anyone around. He said: “We got to see 5 clips and they were just as magical as anything seen in the first Paddington and the Harry Potter movies. Con, aged 10, and Bex, five, were laughing there heads off throughout. The stand out scenes were with Paddington in prison for the kidz - there's loads of slapstick moments kidz and parents will find very funny.  For me the best sense was when Paddington was buying a pop up book of London for his Aunties 100th birthday. The whole scene plays out within the pop-up book. It's a beautiful piece of animation.  It's looking very much like Paddington will have a series of hit movies. Paddington 2 is going to be as much of a hit as the first if not bigger!”

And sticking with Studiocanal, the company has also been talking us through its impressive Q4 slate, which includes some big, big releases, alongside a wealth of strong catalogue activity from its Vintage Classics range and beyond. Here’s the company's Kristin Ryan on the slate, She said: “From the funny and utterly charming Judd Apatow produced rom com The Big Sick, to action packed all-star Soderbergh heist Logan Lucky to tense two-hander war thriller starring Arron Taylor Johnson and John Cena, The Wall, we’ve a strong new release line- up this Q4, all backed by full marketing and publicity campaigns through new release and into gifting. Our extensive Q4 catalogue output this year include multiple SKU release for the James Cameron restored Terminator 2, which will appeal to fans old and new, 50th anniversary edition of seminal French classic Belle de Jour, 80s werewolf slasher The Howling, the Coen Brothers debut Blood Simple, the release of the first four of our eight Hammer Horror restorations, Murder on the Orient Express and other Agatha Christie titles and the classic war film Dunkirk, all fully restored and released under the successful Vintage Classics brand.” We’ll be covering these in more depth in the coming weeks…
Both theatrical and home entertainment markets have this week been gearing up for the imminent release of arguably the year’s most eagerly awaited film, Blade Runner 2049. While press junkets and heavily embargoed screenings have been taking place of the years in the making sequel, Warner has been gearing up for opportunities around the original, seminal sci-fi film. As well as normal drafting opportunities, the major is releasing a 4K Ultra HD version of the on Monday September 25, this week screening it for journalists at its HQ (to a suitably strong response). The state of the art package features not just The Final Cut, director Ridley Scott’s definitive version of the film, but three other versions of the title and a raft of extras as well as an exclusive art book, there’s also a Steelbook SKU available. Commenting on the release ,Warner head of catalogue Colin Thomas said: “We’ve had great success with the 4K UHD release of Blade Runner and seen really strong retail support. It’s a joy to see such a classic, well respected film on this format as it delivers an incredible home entertainment experience. We’re also releasing an UHD 4K Special Edition limited release with over 10 hours of extra content including every cut of the film which will really give collectors the ultimate Blade Runner experience.”
Meanwhile, the winner of ITV’s Love Island, Amber Davies, and a group of other red swimsuit-clad model types running around the streets of London to help promote the Paramount release through Universal for physical formats, of Baywatch. They were recreating the iconic slo-mo version of the TV show’s opening credits, and the group were aiming to “protect the bay”, or, as most people know it, the Thames. The campaign includes adverts aimed at engaging the fans, using introductions from star The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson, aimed at preventing consumers from skipping through, with three different creatives for different target audiences, while there’ll be four weeks’ worth of social activity, a media drop and press ads. Commenting on the release, Universal product manager Emily Evans said: “Baywatch has been the perfect title to work on this summer. I have had so much fun bringing the iconic franchise back and making the content as creative and engaging as possible. September is about to get a lot hotter!” You can see some of the coverage achieved here.

Its taken almost 40 years to get there, but notorious VHS horror The Toolbox Murders, one of those oft-mentioned titles during the height of the video nasty panic that swept the nation in the early 1980s is at last set to see the light of day in the UK in uncut form. Genre specialist 88 Films has received an uncut 18 rating for the film, made in 1979, from the BBFC and is now readying the film for an all-singing, all-dancing home entertainment bow on November 20. Previous versions had had as many as two minutes’ worth of cuts insisted upon by the classification body, this is the latest once controversial film to be rehabilitated and recognised as worthy genre fare.  The title will be released under its Slasher Classics Collection banner. Commenting on the release, 88 Films’ Richard Elliot said: ““We’re delighted to be able to add the notorious video nasty, The Toolbox Murders in its full uncut glory (gory) to our ever burgeoning Slasher Classics Collection imprint, which is going from strength to strength. We also have the original House on Sorority Row coming out in October and Fopp are running a fantastic promotion on both Slasher Classics and The Italian Collection next week until Hallowe’en so it should be a very good Q4 for genre fans and 88 Films.”
Also due out on Monday is a series we've rather been enjoying recently, Designated Survivor, which places star Kiefer Sutherland back at the heart of the Whitehouse and US government, albeit not as an agent protecting the president a la 24, but rather as the president of the USA. It’s due via eOne, whose Tim Westbey said: "We’re pleased to be releasing the hit US show Designated Survivor. Key campaign activity for this Season 1 Box Set includes a great amount of talent support and features with Kiefer Sutherland and Natascha McElhone in The Guardian, Evening Standard, The Observer and Metro. Media includes a 30” spot VOD campaign.”
Kudos to the BFI, which earned acres of publicity this week with the launch of its Filmography, a living, breathing record of film taking in more than 100 years of film history. It threw up scores of amazing facts, many of which were picked up by the nationals. It’s the kind of thing the organisation excels at and should make for fascinating reading, browsing and a useful reference guide. And its look at all manner of films and facts could hopefully help spark further interest in film and boost catalogue sales. The BFI’s creative director Heather Stewart said: “With the creation of the BFI Filmography, with a complete data set from 1911 to the present day, we now know for the first time ever, exactly how many films have been made and released, when and by whom. At a time when the UK film industry is burgeoning, the BFI Filmography is an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in film, providing evidence that can help inform policy, the future of the industry and its workforce.” You can see it here.

“We think the industry will be shy to change and, despite the pressure, the exhibition window will break down to settle at somewhere around the 45 day mark. The companies involved will experiment with some kind of revenue tracking model for reviewing how to share revenue upside in the home entertainment phase to encourage cinemas to get on board with ideas like the Screening Room. 2019’s Cinemacon will likely be dominated by discussions on how this revenue sharing systems should work in the event that no upside in revenue in the home entertainment window will actually occur. Acrimony will continue to run high. At the 2020 edition of Cinemacon, we expect that the discussion will again be dominated by the need to shorten the windows further, as home entertainment revenue continues to stagnate. Negotiations will continue, to shrink the window between the end of the theatrical run and home entertainment to 30 days, then 20 days and so on and so forth. The process will be long and hard, but somewhere around 2022 a home entertainment model that makes 102 marketing and business sense should start to emerge. Along the way, there will be a lot of casualties, hopefully the cultural significance of film will not be one of them.”
From an excellent report entitled Winning Your Audiences form technology based media agency Gruvi, which is well worth a read. You can get it here.
With the record for the highest grossing horror film ever firmly in its sights – the Stephen King adaptation was set to overtake all-time record holder The Exorcist’s lifetime box office receipts in the US this week – It continues to dominate the proceedings at cinemas. After its second weekend on these shores, its UK haul has now broken the £20 million barrier. New entries included Victoria & Abdul, showing the strength of the older audiences after pulling in £1.85 million in its opening frame, followed by the much-talked about Mother! at number three with £831,676, and American Assassin with £768,951. The other new entry in the top 10 at UK cinemas was The Jungle Bunch with £374,982.
It’s barely even started in the US, but the next biggie from HBO, The Deuce, is already earning scores of plaudits from critics and viewers alike. And given its amazing pedigree, it’s no surprise – James Franco and Maggie Gylenhaal are among its impressive cast, while David Simon, the man behind the series rated by many as the company’s – if not the world’s – finest ever series, The Wire, is among the team behind the camera. Now, little more than two episodes into its run, HBO has announced that the series, which looks at the formation of the modern-day adult film industry in its 1970s heyday, is being recommissioned and will return again for a second outing. 
Also returning for another outing, although for more than a second time, is the franchise that keeps going back (from the future) for more – The Terminator. And as well as bodybuilder turned actor turned politician turned actor again Arnold Schwarzenegger donning the exo-skeleton once more, it’s been revealed this week that Linda Hamilton, aka Sarah Connor, aka the Mother of the Future, is also being lined up to return to the franchise…
Not the one in east London, apparently…
And not the footballer turned boxer either…
More murder…
Lara’s back…
The best thing James Corden’s done this week…
*Sings Guns 'n' Roses song*
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