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It Was A Good Week For... Both The Night Manager and Happy Valley flying the flag for British TV…
It Was A Bad Week For… Three websites, fined $150,000 each for illegal downloads of The Expendables 3…

After recent dominance of Game Of Thrones – in many ways a near-homegrown TV show given the number of Brits, Irish and other Europeans involved – programmes airing on the BBC returned to the fore this week according to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin, which saw The Night Manager in at number five, marking another step in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s 2016 revival of fortunes, while BBC Worldwide’s second series of Happy Valley is in at number nine, taking up another two slots in the charts with a series one and two boxset at number 24 and the first outing on its own a couple of places below that. Leading the way is the Steven Spielberg hemmed Bridge Of Spies, with Tom Hanks helping the spy thriller ahead of The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2, last week’s bestseller. Also arriving in the top 10 is The Fall Of The Krays, with a boxset of Signature’s two Reg and Ron capers at number 30…
One title that’s been out over a week and is enjoying a solid success is Carol, Todd Haynes’ period drama that features standout performances from Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The film may have been deemed to have been one of those unfairly snubbed come awards season, but that hasn't dampened the public’s enthusiasm for the title, as highlighted by its first week sales. Commenting on its success, Studiocanal’s Olivia Dean said: “We’re really pleased with the week one result of Carol. The box office conversion compared to other awards releases is testament to how much fans loved the film in cinemas and were driven to own Carol. The stunning performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara were hailed by critics from the start and it’s great to see a film with two strong female leads perform so well outside of a traditional gifting period.”
A week after it opened and some 10 days since it first aired to critics and the industry and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is still dominating the conversations across social media and the web as a whole – the film truly is the one that launched a million columns, articles, features and more. And Warner is currently looking at a suitably gargantuan-sized box office figure ahead of its home entertainment bow later this year. The film, which we saw at the Central Picturehouse (a venue we’ve been to not once, not twice but three times this week, see below), earned the accolade of being the biggest opening superhero film EVER at the UK box office, with almost £18 million earned over the Easter weekend. And, as well as storming the box office, Warner’s drafting for the release is performing well too, with a raft of product being creatively shown off by the likes of HMV in stores, with Man Of Steel leading the way, jumping another 20 places in the Official Charts Company midweeks, taking up into the top 30. The DC-related activity from Warner in stores is certain to continue throughout the year too, with Batman V Superman arriving on home entertainment formats this year, followed by another comic book outing from the DC empire, Suicide Squad.

To the Central Picturehouse (again) to see one of our most eagerly awaited films of the year, Midnight Special, starring Michael Shannon, who should be everyone’s favourite actor right now. eOne is releasing the title at cinemas on April 8 and the buzz is building around it, something that director Jeff Nichols, in town to promote the release, seems mightily modest about. “I’m very flattered you’re here,” he told an audience of assorted journalists, media types, opinion formers and Shortlist magazine readers, before going on to recount how, the first time he saw Shannon, he decided he wanted him to appear in every film he ever made. And as for Midnight Special itself, it really does live up to the hype that’s currently surrounding it, it’s one of the year’s best and the word of mouth should help it to a strong home entertainment success later in the year. Commenting on the release, eOne’s Scott Monahan said: “A close encounter of a different kind and a modern sci-fi gem, Midnight Special is unlike anything we’ve seen for a long time and we are delighted to be releasing on Blu-ray and DVD in August. A thrilling, tense and mysterious road movie with amazing lead performances from Shannon and rising star Jaeden Lieberher, we’ll be supporting the home entertainment release with a standout national TV campaign, impactful pre-roll, display and social activity along with a comprehensive publicity campaign with talent support.”
To the Central Picturehouse (again) as we headed off for a special gala screening of one of the key additional features on the forthcoming Disney Blu-ray and DVD of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The event showed the pulling power of the franchise, for as well as assorted press attending, there were hardcore Star Wars fans and devotees there too, who were hugely excited to see one of the film’s young stars, John Boyega, arrive in person. After assorted picture opportunities ahead of the film (follow us on Twitter for more), Boyega himself introduced the screening of Secrets Of Stars Wars The Force Awakens A Cinematic Journey. He was, he noted, to much cheering: “Just filming this movie called Star Wars 8.” Boyega added he hadn’t seen the documentary yet, but didn’t realise it would be that detailed – it featured his auditions for the role of Finn. “All I’m saying is don’t judge me,” he laughed, further further noting “it’s great to relive it again.” After a quick quiz, he took some selfies of the audience (eagle-eyed viewers might spot our junior correspondent’s hand right at the back on Picturehouse Central’s twitter feed). It’s the start of what should be a few weeks of dominance by The Force Awakens and Disney as we near the April 11 (digital HD) and 18 (Blu-ray and DVD) release dates. More on our website soon…

Fresh off the back of another success with the aforementioned Fall Of The Krays, Signature is launching its first ever title under the Precision Pictures imprint on Monday April 4. Commenting on its release, the company’s Katie Hart said: ”We are extremely excited to be releasing our first Precision Pictures title this coming Monday. Hard Line is a gritty horror film where you experience a zombie apocalypse first hand. The film is riding on the rise in popularity of the POV genre. We have great support  from all our partners across the board and a complimentary campaign to elevate the title’s presence in the market. Precision Pictures look forward to bringing the best of non-theatrical films to the Home Entertainment market, so watch this space."
Sticking with the expanding Signature set-up and the company has, ahead of that launch, announced a new structure at the head of the company, with director of digital and TV Jon Bourdillon taking up a wider post under the title of chief operating officer, with owner and md Marc Goldberg taking on the new title of chief executive officer. It comes as the company approaches its fifth birthday and, as Goldberg noted: “As we approach Signature’s fifth anniversary we are actively planning for the next five years and our strategy to continue our growth within the industry. From his time at Contender and eOne Jon has a wealth of experience in developing a growing entertainment company. This move allows him to look at all aspects of the business and help shape and execute our company ambitions.” Bourdillon himself added: “Signature is the most exciting film company in the UK right now and our plans for the next five years will help harness our continued success. I am delighted to be a part of a team that has such enthusiasm and passion and I am looking forward to seeking out and exploiting all the exciting opportunities that will help the company expand even further.”
Independent label Eureka Entertainment took to social media this week to unveil its plans for the coming months, which include a raft of recent acquisitions, meaning it’s adding to its Masters Of Cinema imprint, one of the most respected in the business, as well as new titles for its Eureka Entertainment parent. Those include a quartet of titles, which it is currently putting together separate release strategies for. The titles are another from Alex Ross Perry, Queen Of Earth, following on the heels of the Eureka-released Listen Up Philip. It also has festival favourite An (Sweet Bean); Japanese psychological thriller Creepy; and Aloys, following a private investigator who comes involved with a mysterious woman. There’s a huge raft of product for the MoC label, taking in Robert Altman’s thriller That Cold Day In The Park (June 20); Wolfgang Petersen’s excellent 1980s sci-fi adventure Enemy Mine (also June 20); silent film legend Buster Keaton in a four-disc Blu-ray set, The Complete Short Short Films 1917-1923, boasting a 12 hour-plus running time (July 18); Billy Wilder’s Fedora (August 8); more classic early cinema in FW Murnau (August 22); Robert Aldrich’s Flight Of The Phoenix, starring Richard Attenborough and James Stewart (September 12) and, on the same date, Resistance, based on true events and following freedom fighters in Paris during the Second World War. Also worthy of note is a 30th anniversary edition of Ron Howard’s Cocoon, coming in special edition Blu-ray form. It’s a hefty slate and as Eureka’s Ruth Brukarz-Schofield said: “At Eureka Entertainment we are really excited about our line-up for the year ahead. Our core brand Masters of Cinema is moving from strength to strength and our release schedule over the coming months is certainly one not to be missed. We look forward to continuing to support new and groundbreaking directors with a diverse range of releases as we move into a new era. These titles are a select few of what to look out for in the coming months, with plenty more scheduled. I would like to thank the great team here at Eureka for their immense support over the past few months since my father, Ron Benson, passed away. The journey that he started 15 years ago will continue as we look to make Eureka bigger and better than ever before, and to preserve the brand that is his legacy. I know he would have been the first to admit that Eureka is looking at its strongest line up for a long time.”

It’s not strictly DVD-related, but we liked the story that landed on our desks from Icon, which has joined forces with the ERA-backed Record Store Day for a series of special screenings of its forthcoming jazz feature Miles Ahead. The film looks at the life and times of Miles Davis and a series of screenings will take place at independent record shops around the country on April 18, two days after Record Store Day (meaning acres of promotion on the day itself) and four days before the film’s April 22 theatrical release. The participating stores include Crash Records, Eastern Bloc, Endless Music, Jumbo Records, Norman Records, Piccadilly Records, Rise, Bristol. Rough Trade Nottingham, Rough Trade East, Vinyl Exchange and Vinyl Revival. Commenting on the initiative, Icon’s Chris Warrington said: “We approached RSD knowing it was a key day in the run-up to the release, and the independent ethos matched the independent nature of Miles Davis and the film. It’s a perfect match to do something more than just leafleting.” “Offering customers’ exclusive access to films before cinema release is a first for Record Store Day and something we are very excited to be involved in”, says Rupert Morrison of Drift Records, RSD’s spokesperson. “Record Store Day celebrations aim to unite those through their love of music and partnering with Icon Films for the Miles Ahead movie does exactly that. Given the musical icon that Miles Davis is, this is the perfect partnership.”
Icon’s home entertainment arm powers ahead, meanwhile and one of the next releases from the company (after the FrightFest titles we talked about last week) is the wildly differing Oddball & The Penguins, an Australian live action family film that has already proved its worth, smashing box office records on the other side of the world and performing strongly here on its theatrical release, arriving on DVD on June 6. “There’s not a lot of live action product out there for families and this has all the key ingredients. It grew from its initial theatrical release thanks to word of mouth and was the perfect antidote for parents looking for something they could sit through with their kids. We’ve now got the awareness and elevation for its home entertainment release and we think we can turn it into a strong release. We’ll be advertising it on TV, targeting housewives with kids in half-term just before release.” Icon will also be promoting it via what is now our new favourite website,
Streaming site http://www.TheHorrorShow.TV, which styles itself "the UK's home of horror on demand" and remains the UK's only horror-only streaming platform, has passed a significant milestone as it enters its third year in business: the addition of its 300th film. The milestone was passed with the addition of the latest batch of films from FrightFest Presents, the horror festival's ongoing partnership with Icon Distribution, and comes just as the horror-only streaming platform goes up for sale. "We're incredibly proud to be at the vanguard of the streaming business in the UK, with a hugely varied catalogue of 300 new and older films covering every aspect of the horror genre," said co-founder David Hughes, who remains the platform's chief programmer and MVP, "although we felt we'd really arrived when we had one of our films (James Cullen Bressick's Hate Crime) banned outright by the BBFC." Hughes is currently in talks with both potential investors and buyers for an outright sales, although he prefers the former option:  “Although there have been some attractive offers, we feel it's vital to keep the spirit of independence alive going forward, rather than hitching ourselves to one or other distributor with a huge number of films, which we feel might affect our carefully-built relationships with other distributors, many of whom are from the independent sector themselves." There are other options, he concluded: ”We've been thinking about offering shares through a crowd-funding company, or selling small chunks of the business to interested parties, which will allow us to retain a majority stake and thus keep control of the day-to-day business. But competition in the vod sector is strong and getting stronger every day, so we're considering any and all offers at present."

There’s been a wealth of features about Netflix in the press here and over in the US this week, with the Telegraph leading the way here with an excellent closer look at the svod giant’s operations and including new comments from some of its senior staffers in the US (sample quote from Reed Hastings: “We have to localise product, expand content and all that needs to be available globally” its look at”). Meanwhile The Guardian has been giving over near daily features to the online operator, taking in the rather banal (here) telling us stuff everyone already knows – sample quote: “Netflix became synonymous with the concept of binge-viewing after settling on a strategy of releasing all the episodes of its new shows at once, globally, taking the moreish habits already established with DVD box sets online”) and the more intriguing. The latter came in the shape of a story detailing the row between Channel 4 and Endemol Shine over Black Mirror going to Netflix. You can see it here, but here is our favourite comment from Channel 4 chief creative officer Jay Hunt, who said: “Black Mirror couldn’t be a more Channel 4 show. We grew it from a dangerous idea to a brand that resonated globally. Of course it’s disappointing that the first broadcast window in the UK is then sold to the highest bidder, ignoring the risk a publicly owned channel like 4 took backing it.” And our last recommended read came from Vanity Fair, another of those media outlets seemingly obsessed with Netflix, which looked at its shrinking offering (films down a third and TV 25 per cent in the last two years), which quoted on distributor going up against Netflix and fellow svod operator Amazon at film markets saying:: “We are shooting bullets, but Netflix and Amazon are using machine guns.” You can read it here.
So why all the Netflix chatter, especially on this side of the Atlantic? Well, much of the renewed interest came from the recent BARB study, assessing viewing habits of the great British public. The UK Television Landscape Report charts the growth of svod services, showing that 24 per cent of households subscribed to either Netflix, Amazon or Sky’s Now TV in the final quarter of 2015, up from 14 per cent the year before. IN household terms, that was an extra 1.4 million homes with Netflix, half a million with Amazon and 300,000 with Now TV. But it does suggest that the accepted narrative pushed by the likes of The Guardian – that no-one’s watching normal TV any more – is wrong, that it just means homes with svod, already among the heaviest TV watchers, are viewing more. “Subscription video on demand (svod) services continue their onward march in the UK market. Now nearly a quarter of UK households claim to subscribe to one of the three main svod suppliers. Netflix is by some margin the market leader, and its growth continues easily to outpace the other services. While Netflix is the big success story of the past three years, findings from the Establishment Survey do not support some of the more dramatic rhetoric emanating from Netflix HQ: Svod appears to be complementing rather than replacing traditional linear TV. The picture is clear: Svod homes are not swapping out their traditional TV for svod, they are using svod services to get even more of what they already have.”
Something from the BBFC now and as well as questioning parents – last year it discovered that most wanted the same kind of BBFC classification on vod as they did on cinema and home entertainment releases – it’s also speaking to children to find out what they want to see from classification. Its Insight offering details of classification for films is a godsend to many parents (we use it all the time) and its latest initiative is a competition asking children to give their own BBFCinsight on a film of their choice to talk about issues from it. Winners get the chance to have a BBFC team member visit their school, goodie bags and free cinema tickets. As BBFC head of education Lucy Brett said: “Every time we rate a film U, PG or 12A we publish information for parents and cinema-goers telling them how and why a film received a particular rating. We want to find out what issues children would like to be aware of before they see a film and how they think long BBFCinsight on CBBFC should express these to them. We know that issues that are less central to a film's classification can be important for younger children to know about, for example if a film contains certain creatures, like spiders, or themes such as bullying, which might cause upset to some children." 
And we’ll end this section with a few new clips that have gone up this week, with one here from the Intellectual Property Office, working with the City of London police’s anti-piracy unit. We’ve been tracking efforts initiated by FACT to stop big brands advertising their wares, albeit unknowingly, on illegal download and other copyright infringing sites. Of the top 500 infringing sites, some and the likes  294 contained well-known recognised brands on there and, as the short noted, “brands are tarnishing their reputations, and paying for the privilege”. It directs businesses and marketeers to the Infringing Website List so they can incorporate the list in their advertising plans. “Stop funding criminals,” it concluded, “sign up to the IWL.” And from the Get It Right group, there’s something more on the book side, aimed at discouraging the growing threat of illegal book downloads, it looks at independent bookseller Nick Bottomley and his Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights. See it here
Oh, hang on, April Fool’s time and it seems as if VHS releases were the gag of choice for some in the entertainment industry on April 1. We at The Raygun have foresworn off doing them after one or two spectacular backfires many years ago (one on a former trade magazine in the 1990s was swallowed too easily by rental dealers), but BBC Store came up with a wizard wheeze, telling consumers via email that it was launching BBC Store Video, offering a VHS copy direct to their door when they bought a title online. “BBC Store already allows you to buy, download and keep your favourite BBC shows, but very soon for every purchase you make on BBC Store, we will send you a free VHS straight to your door.” You can see the film they made here, where they even enrolled the help of Heat’s Boyd Hilton (and got 89,000 plus views) as well as a demo here (featuring an old BBC Video logo too). Smartly, after midday, BBC emailed again – and offered a hefty discount to new customers to try out the standard BBC Store. Meanwhile, in the US, Fox was doing much the same with Deadpool, tweeting this and linking to an Amazon page offering the May 10 Blu-ray release, with even Ryan Reynolds joining in joining in. As we noted elsewhere, the only thing is, we’d have willingly tested out the BBC version and actually bought Deadpool too…

“Nearly a third of takedown requests (28.4%) had characteristics that raised clear questions about their validity, based solely on the facial review and comparisons we were able to conduct. Some had multiple potential issues.”
A report on Google takedown notices from Columbia University
“Defendants hosted the anticipated film available online prior to its theatrical release for the purpose of enabling users to illegally download it, which more than likely diminished Plaintiff’s revenue substantially.”
US judge Otis Wright awards three websites to $450,000 to Lionsgate for copyright offences relating to the leak of Expendables 3 online…
As discussed above, the latest superhero outing, Batman V Superman enjoyed a cracking Easter weekend, taking more than £14.6 million in its opening weekend, a figure that rose further taking in the Monday bank holiday. Zootropolis, aided by previews before Easter, landed at number two with £5.3 million. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 took a touch under £1 million, making it the other new entry. 
Blade Runner news and it’s been a few weeks since we’ve updated anyone on the impending much vaunted, much delayed but eagerly awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic. The latest update is that Robin Wright, fresh from her machinations in House Of Cards, is set to join the cast…
Superhero news now and while the online world continues to bang on about Batman V Superman, talk is revving up about the new spin-off of X-Men for Fox. The New Mutants is set to be helmed by teen expert Josh Boone (The Fault In Our Stars) and the cast being lined up includes Maisie Williams, from The Fault In Our Stars… 
In a world away from superheroes and sci-fi and sequels, there’s at least one project that features a lot less testosterone, and that’s the mooted remake of The Beguiled, a US Civil War tale of a soldier imprisoned in a boarding school. The original was directed by Don Siegel and starred Clint Eastwood, this new version will have Sofia Coppola behind the camera and, according to this week’s reports, feature Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman…
OK, so it’s not a film, but still worth a butcher’s…
Deeper than deep…
There’s no such thing as too much Batman. Especially not Lego Batman. 
Trippy visuals, feed our head indeed…
Some hip hop for you…

Suitably 80s trailer…
And here’s the UK Red Band one…
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