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It Was A Good Week For... The Martian, blasting off nicely…
It Was A Bad Week For… Is Torrents Time the killer piracy app? 
With a tagline ready made for home entertainment – Bring Him Home – The Martian landed in stores this week and made a stellar impression in its first few days on sale, shifting some 123,000 units and seeing it rocketing to number one in the Official Charts Company’s midweek listings. The release was backed by a heavyweight TV campaign, press ads in the likes of the Metro and film press, outdoor advertising and digital. Fox worked with Absolute on a major promotion, including a takeover of Absolute 70s and activity on the main stations Christian O’Connell breakfast show, and a further partnership with Albert Bartlett potatoes. PR included a press trip to NASA which resulted in features in Shortlist and on Yahoo. Commenting on its week one success, Fox head of new release marketing Matt Brightwell said: “Our ambition was to make The Martian the sci-fi/adventure event of the year and drive mass market appeal centred around the great positioning of ‘Bring Him Home on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital HD’. Results have been way beyond expectation, largely down to exceptional support from our retailers. We’ve benefited from some strong brand and media partnerships as well as inventive and disruptive PR initiatives. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the results, the HE release has been exciting to work on for all involved, reflected I think through every facet of the fully integrated, quality campaign we’ve delivered.  We are delighted we have brought him home.”
The Martian knocked Studiocanal’s hugely successful Legend off the top slot in the Official Charts Company’s midweek listing, while Pan is a new entry at number three. Other notable new entries include BBC Worldwide’s War & Peace at number eight and The Lobster, a title we’ve discussed here extensively already, at number 13. 
Also worthy of note in the Official Charts Company’s midweek charts is the return of Happy Valley, sitting at number 25. Its return to TV screens  on BBC1 was backed by an impressive amount of press coverage, all of which helped boost BBCC Worldwide’s release. As Worldwide’s Rhidian Bragg said: “Happy Valley Series 1 is 130 per cent up week on week off the back of a brilliantly received first episode of series 2.” 

While we’re on returning series, this week has seen the return of The X-Files to our screens, with the Fox show arriving on Channel 5 and scoring some strong viewing figures – 3.27 million, making it the station’s highest rated show for more than a year and its biggest drama launch for more than six years. Fox will be releasing the six episode event series on DVD and Blu-ray, with a June 13 date currently earmarked for release. Far closer to home, incidentally is Alan Partridge, whose Mid Morning Matters returning to Sky Atlantic has won as many column inches. This will arrive courtesy of BBC Worldwide at the end of March…
Sticking with the Official Charts Company, the organisation has published a fascinating look at last year’s most successful franchise releases, with The Hobbit, spurred on by sales of almost 1.5 million units across five different SKUs topping the listing. It fought off the Jurassic Park franchise, which buoyed by Jurassic World sold 1.43 million units in 2015. Films dominate, with various film series selling 19.5 million in the 12 months. No surprise in the fact that Game Of Thrones was the biggest TV franchise, with sales of almost 900,000 units last year. Second biggest was Downton Abbey, selling 414,000. The children’s sector was dominated by pre-school series Peppa Pig, selling 660,000 units, beating off Scooby Doo (634,000). The organisation’s Martin Talbot said: “The new Official Charts Franchise Report highlights the power of the movie and TV franchises in the home entertainment sector – brand loyalty is clearly an important driver in helping inform movie and TV fans’ DVD and Blu-Ray choices. Our report not only underlines the popularity of the Hobbit, Game Of Thrones and Peppa Pig and her family, it also demonstrates that Warner Home Video and Universal Home Entertainment are currently kings of the franchise. While Warner can claim the top movie and TV franchises (thanks to the continuing power of The Hobbit and Game Of Thrones), Universal has three titles in the overall Franchise Top 10, in the form of Jurassic Park, Fast & The Furious and Pitch Perfect.”
In a move that’s being trumpeted as some kind of Netflix for the piracy world, new streaming service option has been added to sites like the Pirate Bay this week, and is, as observers have noted, “a totally new method of piracy”. In essence, installing the Torrents Time plug-in enables anyone going to Torrent-friendly illegal download sites such as The Pirate Bay to stream a snide version of a film. Many torrent sites have incorporated it into their pages already and the developers have come out fighting after objections from Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. “Torrents Time is revolutionising the world of torrents, here and now,” they said. “Because it’s a revolution, you can expect a bloodshed, like the fate of all revolutions. It is not a pirate’s tool. It’s cool and it’s legal. We are certain it will improve the world.” Not so fast, said BREIN, which has issued it with a cease and desist order. A FACT spokeswoman added: "From FACT’s perspective it’s still early days on this one however we are aware of the site and looking into it. We are aware BREIN have issued the site with a C&D notice and will support them, and any of our other industry partners, moving forward.”
Better news on the piracy front comes from Northamptonshire, where a further warning was sent out to pirates in the case of Keith Liggins, one we reported here towards the tail end of 2015. Liggins, of Milton Maisor, was convicted of eight offences under the Trademarks act after importing counterfeit DVDs from China and then flogging them via eBay. He was given a two year prison sentence and this week it was announced this week that he has been forced to repay a whopping £66,000. The confiscation order has now been satisfied, according to HM Courts and the Tribunals Service. Northants county council’s Cllr Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Keith Liggins’ attempt to make money by selling counterfeit DVDs imported from China have earned him not only a two-year prison sentence but also a court order to repay £66,000 of his ill-gotten gains. This really does prove that crime doesn’t pay. Trading Standards will not hesitate to take action against anyone found to be selling fraudulent or counterfeit products.”

Sticking loosely with the world of anti-piracy and assorted initiatives and the Get It Right campaign, the education initiative put together by the entertainment industry and ISP supported Creative Content UK organisation, continues into 2016. As UK independent film Between Two Worlds arrives in stores courtesy of indie imprint Three Wolves, the film is part of the latest strand of Get It Right activity. It has teamed up with high profile cutting edge Internet TV operation SBTV, which has produced a series of short video documentaries highlighting the importance of the creative process  and how much time, work and effort goes into making films, music and art. As well as looking at Between Two Worlds, which stars rapper Example, there are other videos on artist Phillip Butah, rapper Nines and producers EY and Nav as well as the work that has gone into Football Manager. SBTV founder Jamal Edwards said: “We are very happy to be able to shine a light on the UK creative industries. Every piece of creative content has artistic merit and should be treated with respect. The rise of legitimate content services are doing a lot to combat content piracy, but there’s still work to be done and I hope these videos make people think twice about illegally downloading creative content.” The series, which can be seen here, has been deemed a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of views notched up, while the next giant Get It Right mural is due to go up soon…
As acquisitions and assorted film types head to Berlin for the annual trip to Berghain, sorry we mean annual film festival, there’s been a raft of acquisitions announcements this week. First up come a brace of big announcements from Metrodome. The company has announced it has inked a couple of deals to pick up some strong home entertainment releases. Chief among these is 
documentary Lenny McLean – The Guv’nor, which looks at the life and times of the bare knuckle fighter who, after a lifetime of fights and punch-ups in unlicensed bouts around the country, ended up starring in Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Commenting on the deal, Metrodome’s Jezz Vernon said: “Lenny McClean is the definition of iconic. Beloved by a generation, this story was one that was always going to be told. But beyond the obvious reputation and ultimate alpha status there existed a hugely complex individual and Salon, hand in hand with Lenny’s son Jamie McClean, are going to build an extraordinary portrait on film. We’re delighted to be working with them on the project.”
Also picked up by Metrodome is The Childhood Of A Leader, a Venice Film Festival winner starring Berenice Bejo (The Artist) and Robert Pattinson, which has earned comparisons with the likes of The Others and The Omen. Commenting on the deal, Metrodome’s erudite head of acquisitions Giles Edwards said: “With Childhood Of A Leader, Brady Corbet makes a statement of artistic intent so fiercely uncompromising and so audaciously accomplished that it ensures fevered anticipation for any project to which he next turns his directorial hand. One of the finest, most compelling and exciting debuts in years.” 

Meanwhile Dogwoof has picked up a documentary looking at someone far gentle than bruiser Lenny McLean, in the form of Vs. The Life And Films Of Ken Loach, looking at the career of one of the finest living British directors. The deal covers UK rights and international sales and the documentary specialist’s Oli Harbottle said: “After such a successful collaboration with Sixteen Films on Ken Loach’s The Spirit Of 45, we have high hopes in bringing what promises to be a fantastic insight into the unique career of Ken Loach from the hugely talented Louise Osmond to UK audiences. We are even happier that we have been entrusted to look after the film for its international sales as well, and we look forward to taking the film to buyers.” It comes from production outfit Sixteen Films, whose Rebecca O’Brien said: “It’s exciting to be working with Dogwoof again after they did such a terrific job for us with The Spirit Of ‘45. I think this film will really surprise and it will be in strong hands with Dogwoof, with their reputation for distributing films that confound expectations.”
It has also inked a similar deal to pick up Author: The JT LeRoy Story, which charts the weird and wonderful story of the boy who stormed the literary world in New York, becoming a minor celebrity with a circle of friends from the book music and film world – until he was revealed to be a middle-aged woman named Laura. Commenting on the deal, which covers UK rights and international sales, bar in the US where it has been picked up by Amazon Studios, Dogwoof’s Anna Godas said: “JT LeRoy is a stranger than fiction story which will shock and entertain international audiences. It's fabulously crafted by [director] Jeff Feuerzeigand we really can't wait to start working on it.” Producer Brett Ratner said: "Following the tremendous reception at Sundance and anticipating what we know will be a high-profile release in the U.S., we wanted a partner who could carry our belief in the film across the world. Dogwoof shares our passion and delivers a track record of success with prestigious commercial documentaries like this one.”
And another acquisition comes from Lionsgate, which has inked a deal to acquire writer and director Luc Besson’s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, based on a French science fiction comic book. The film stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as well as a supporting cast including Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke and Herbie Hancock. Commenting on the sea for the film, due for release in 2017, Lionsgate UK ceo Zygi Kamasa said: “We are thrilled to add such a unique and exciting project to our 2017 slate. Luc is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker and has a visionary way to bring stories to life, so we can’t wait to see how he brings Valerian to life for cinemagoers.”

Out next week and certain to be keeping the kids busy during half-term week is SPHE’s Hotel Transylvania 2, the animated Adam Sandler sequel. The major has been having a lot of fun this week ahead of the release, not least by putting together some smart pancake art as a YouTube film (you can see it here). The art was created by Saipancakes, and a Vine sparked plenty of interest after Amazon shared it with some 1.67 million followers. It appeared on both the Mirror and First News too. What’s more, as SPHE’s John Biggin said: “It all coincided with a blogger campaign, working with a range of parent and food bloggers to share the pancake video and create tasty treats of their own.” There’s also further activity around half term run in conjunction with craft company Creation Station, which is encouraging parents to tweet their kids’ drawings of monsters inspired by Hotel Transylvania 2. The winning design will be recreated in the style of the movie by a professional character designer from Sony Pictures Animation. More on this one over here. Biggin added: “Hotel Transylvania 2 was a monster hit in cinemas and now we’re celebrating the release with a whole host of fun social activities to keep kids and their parents entertained this half-term.”
Arrow Video has outlined further details of its new American Horror Project, first revealed here last year. The first volume of the series, which aims to rescue some of the lost genre classics from the US from obscurity and old VHS stores and five them the kind of treatment they deserve. The first volume of three films, concentrating on films from the 1970s, launches on February 22,and is only available in a limited set of 3,000 copies. It contains Malatesta’s Carnival Of Blood, The Witch Who Came From The Sea and The Premonition. Each comes with the kind of extras and additional material that only Arrow Video can come up with, including shorts, commentaries, brand new documentaries and archive interviews. The set is being launched with a major event and will continue into the 1980s. Arrow’s head of technical and restoration services James White said: “In much the same way that Stephen Thrower’s landmark study NIGHTMARE USA told an alternative history of the independent horror film during the 1970s and 80s, Arrow’s Horror Project aims to shine a light on a number of innovative and provocative films made during this period that for whatever reason, have been allowed to languish, under-appreciated and waiting to be rediscovered. The majority of these films haven’t been seen for many years, and none of them will have ever been remastered for Blu-ray before. In some cases, they will have only been available on VHS. So for every one of our titles, we’ll be restoring these films from scratch, seeking out the best existing source elements and (whenever possible) involving the original filmmakers to ensure that the films can be seen at the highest quality and in most historically accurate presentations possible. In many cases this may mean extensive detective work and piecing the films back together from a number of separate elements, given the lack of care that some of these titles suffered back in the day. Most of these films will never appear pristine, but viewed in the context of the Horror Project, will reflect their own unique production and distribution histories in a way that they’ve never been afforded before. This was an incredibly prolific and creative period of independent filmmaking and Arrow’s Horror Project seeks to rescue these important films from being lost to cinema history forever.”
RLJ Entertainment is returning to the feature film sector with Criminal Activities, one of the smarter DTV thrillers you’re likely to see this year, boasting an impressive cast that includes John Travolta alongside younger names such as Brit hunk Dan Stevens and Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Pitt. It signals something of a new direction for the company in its feature film plans, as RLJE International Stuart Shaw explained: “We are delighted to be releasing Criminal Activities in UK, it's the start of a new direction for RLJE UK's feature film strategy.  We aim to release fewer, bigger movies and this epitomises that plan with its three big stars led by John Travolta. While this has long been our US operation's modus operandi we have tended to focus on more, smaller releases. As we work more closely across our key markets we will continue to look for more joint opportunities such as this" Added Gareth Brown, joint head of marketing: "With a strong national publicity push from Aim Publicity and a wide web and print presence planned, we have every expectation that Travolta will put his best foot forward, delivering great sales in-store and on digital platforms."
The SimplyMedia operation continues to impress with some interesting releases and slated for release in April is classic BBC sci-fi series Doomwatch. The release will pull together all the remaining episodes from the series – some have suffered the fate of many Tv series from the pre-video era in being wiped – spanning three series, with the seven disc set including an unseen episode and BBC documentary The Cult Of Doomwatch. Commenting on the comprehensive release for the 70s classic, Simply’s Debbie Ormerod said: ““I’m absolutely thrilled to have acquired Doomwatch. Cult classics don’t come better than this, and the audience response has already been phenomenal. We’re planning a full-on campaign across social media platforms and the popular film buff website MovieMail will be running extensive editorial and feature coverage of the series. We’re also working with Reader’s Digest magazine to promote Doomwatch to the original audience who would have been addicted to the series when it was first broadcast on the BBC in the early ‘70s.”

Fremantle has been busy sub-licensing some more of its catalogue as part of its ongoing strategy, singing on the dotted line with Universal in a deal that will see product from its FremantleMedia Kids & Family arm being released through Universal across territories including the UK. The deal covers 5,000 hours’ worth of programming and takes in the likes of Danger Mouse and Tree Fu Tom, as well as classic programmes such as The Wind In The Willows, Rainbow and the original Danger Mouse and BFG. Fremantle Media Kids & Family’s Rick Glankler said: “We are delighted to welcome UPHE on board to manage our portfolio.  They are a major presence in the Home Entertainment business, with one of the most respected catalogues in the industry. Their creative approach, best-in-class marketing and strong sales and distribution network will provide the very best route to market for both our new brands and much-loved classics.  We are very excited to be working with them.” Universal’s Helen Parker added: “We are thrilled to be partnering with FremantleMedia Kids & Family. With a rich and diverse portfolio that ranges from cult classics to current pre-school smash hits, Fremantle is one of the most dynamic independent producers of engaging and ground-breaking content. Combining this with our multi-platform distribution expertise and extensive knowledge of the kids and family marketplace, we are extremely excited to be able to take this portfolio of hugely successful brands to a new and extended global audience.”
Some 50 years old and counting, Thunderbirds is the franchise that refuses to die and after its impressive return to screens in 2015, revived by ITV, the latest incarnation, Thunderbirds Are Go, is set to appear on Amazon Prime Video. The deal will see four 13-episode series arriving in the UK later this year after a high profile launch in the US. Commenting on the deal with ITV, Amazon Studios’ head of kids’ programming Tara Sorensen said: ““We’re thrilled to be collaborating with ITV Studios Global Entertainment on a world-renowned property that kids and families today will embrace. Our customers will enjoy the same action and adventure found on the classic series infused with a contemporary aesthetic and visually stunning world.” ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s Dan Gopal said: “We are delighted to be working with Amazon to launch Thunderbirds Are Go in the US; their position as an innovative content provider and their passion for the show makes them the perfect partner. Our strategy is to give audiences the flexibility to watch our content any time, any place, and the launch of Thunderbirds Are Go on Amazon Prime Video means children and families across the US, as well as in the UK, Germany and Austria, will be able to watch the entire series whenever and wherever they want.”
"The film industry’s a weird game in this country. It’s called the film industry… it’s not. Its not an industry in Britain. It’s not a business like it is in America. Los Angeles is a city that’s built to make movies. London is this weird mix of hobbyists and lunatics.” It was good to see our old pal Jonathan Sothcott, one of the foremost homegrown film producers, and one, as we’ve oft noted here before, has been behind some of the key limited theatrical platform and DTV releases of recent years, appearing on TV (and now on the iPlayer) as part of the Storyville documentary strand on the BBC. The subject of the The Great Gangster Film Fraud is a Britflick entitled, variously, A Language Of Lives and A Language Of Lies, and the dodgy financing deal that saw its producers clawing back VAT and tax breaks on a grossly inflated budget. Strangely, the film has yet to see the light of day on DVD. Sothcott, producer of such hits as Age Of Kill and We Still Kill The Old Way, discusses the market and particularly the home entertainment side, its importance and its unsung part in the business. It’s good to see someone flying the flag for the industry and this is recommended viewing. You can see it here… 

“It’s safe, user friendly and fun.”
Developers of torrent streaming plug-in Torrents Time (see above) defend the format from accusations about problems with the software…
Goosebumps and Dad’s Army were neck and neck atop the UK box office charts in their penning weekends, the former, with £2.69 million, seeing of the latter, with £2.1 million, thanks to its strong previews ahead of its official first weekend release. The only other new entry in the top 10 was Point Break (£421,818). 
Regular readers will know we a The Raygun are big fans of Danny McBride, the foul-mouthed star of HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down but even we were surprised to see that the star is in talks to join the next instalment in Ridley Scott’s Alien saga, Alien: Covenant. He will join Michael Fassbender, reprising his Prometheus role, in the sci-fi adventure…
Universal’s plans to revive its monsters films continue apace, with news this week that Johnny Depp is joining the clan and appearing as The Invisible Man. Tom Cruise is already planning to return as The Mummy, while producers are keen to get Angelina Jolie to star at The Bride Of Frankenstein. The series of films will see Universal return to its classic horror tales from the 1930s…
Kudos to our old colleague and pal, former trade press editor Toby Weidmann. Attendees at the BAFTAs on Sunday February 14 will get to see a programme edited by our chum. You can see this marvellous publication here
Follow us here
That Criminal Activities trailer…
Here’s the return of Frank Underwood…
Another high profile series, this from Cameron Crowe…
Some Superbowl biggies now, here’s Independence Day returning…
And the X-Men…
Jason Bourne…
Captain America…
Exemplary marketing form Studiocanal for High-Rise…
The final Batman V Superman trailer…
And some Red Band to finish (includes swearing)…
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