It Was A Good Week For... Fox, gearing up for the release of Avatar next week. As one retailer we spoke to noted, the film is "everywhere" when you walk down the street...

It Was A Bad Week For... Retailers gearing themselves up for the likely "carnage" as rumours continue to circulate overwhich one of them will go lowest with Avatar come Monday...

Just a brief message before we really get into the meat of this week's newsletter, but a reminder that The Raygun website is now live. We've been updating daily every day this week, with new features and newsletters. As well as a backlog of great information, marketing detail and fun stuff, this week has seen us look at the current top 10 most popular illegal film downloads, the way 4DVD has pushed its TV brands, and offering up new trailers for Revelation's The Game and a look at PR activity around Momentum's The Men Who Stare At Goats. See more here... 
So as the volcanic ash cloud spread across Europe, it was a case of Planes, Trains And Automobiles for the industry, as acquisitions and senior executives from the UK (and beyond) fought to get home after MIP. Although obviously, it was less a case of "planes", many were left stranded due to the grounding of flights across the UK and mainland Europe. The lucky ones got out on Wednesday, before all hell broke loose. The Raygun was receiving regular updates from those stranded and while the missives started off chirpily ("We could think of worse places to be stuck"), they became increasingly desperate as time wore on and it looked like there might be no flight traffic for some time. "I went to hire a car at the end of the week and there were four or five people in front of me," said Acorn's Paul Holland. "The next day the queue was 50 or more. There can't be any hire cars left in the south of France, they must all be in Calais." One enterprising television company hired a fishing boat to take them up the Atlantic coast and closer to home. "It wasn't the kind of luxury boat you see in Cannes harbour," laughed Holland, "it was more the kind of trawler you see in Grimsby harbour." Companies such as ITV hired minibuses to bring them back, while others took the train to Paris (after lengthy queues) and then the Eurostar. "Icon played Steve Martin to Lionsgate's John Candy," said Icon's Ian Dawson. Our favourite story was industry veterans Pete Kalhan, Tony Taglienti and Warren Goldberg, who shared a people carrier over a mammoth journey from Cannes to Calais, then got a driver with car to pick them up from there and get them on the Eurostar. Better still, Kalhan was back in time to see his beloved Wolves play at Fulham. All that effort, for a 0-0 draw... And pity poor Lace sales director Andy Lyon, who decided to treat his 30-month pregnant wife and two-year-old son to a few days in the south of France, while he worked at MIP. Cue cancelled flights, a 13 hour drive to Calais with family in a dirty rental car (last left), night in salubrious Calais, an extra fee on the ferry as afoot passenger, then 300 miles back to Wigan, arriving on Saturday night after initially planning to fly back on Thursday... He too was buoyed by a football result involving his home town team... 
Highlight of the extended stay in Cannes was according to our sources, a drunken karaoke rendition of I Believe I Can Fly, with a couple of hundred industry types, many from the UK, singing their hearts out, on Friday night. "I dream of Iceland every night and day, only wish that I could fly away..."
Meanwhile, in London, other executives were sweating on a return to the skies as they waited for materials to turn up from sales agents, DLTs to arrive from authoring houses, contracts to be FedExed over and stars to turn up for junkets and premieres. For Icon, for example, Edge Of Darkness was being authored in Australia with a Blu-ray DLT due to be delivered just as it was sending a similar disc over to Oz for A Single Man (both due shortly). "If flights hadn't kicked back in we'd have needed to get it on a boat immediately," said Icon's Ian Dawson. Its effect could have been far worse had it carried on any longer. As Neil Bottrill from authoring house Blinkbox said: "Most of the assets that we are currently using including disc images can be sent electronically to replicators in Europe. Couriers switched  from air to overland transport in Europe adding another 24hours to physical deliveries." "It caused a lot of delivery issues," said Lionsgate's John Lea, particularly with the teaser for The Expendables, due to air with next week's release of Iron Man 2, were as much of a problem as anything. " I wouldn’t have been able to achieve it at all if it hadn’t been for digital technology."
Most stranded executives were not overly fussed – most just wanted to ensure that they were back in time for tonight's BVA awards, due to take place at Old Billingsgate. The Raygun will be in attendance, see you down the front. 
Back in the real world, Paramount has announced the release date for Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, one of the famed director's most successful films ever in terms of box office (it's taken more than £10.5 million at UK cinemas). This Hitchcockian thriller, starring Scorsese's current favourite actor and collaborator, the ever-popular Leonardo Di Caprio, is due to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray on July 26. Paramount is currently putting together what it promises will be an extensive marketing campaign, taking in TV, online, radio and print, among other things (full details on next week's newsletter). Commenting on the release, Paramount's marketing director Lesley Henry said: "The reaction to Shutter Island from our retailers has been extremely positive. Shutter Island is the most successful Scorsese / DiCaprio collaboration to date and we are anticipating similar success to Watchmen, which released at the same time last year. With plot twists and turns brilliantly woven throughout the film, the suspense of this thriller gives it the repeatability factor that makes a DVD truly compelling. With a significant media spend and marketing campaign in place, we are confident that Shutter Island will be one of the summer’s heavyweights."

Closer to release date is Fox's mammoth Avatar, which came out in the US today, ahead of Ireland and then the UK on Monday. James Cameron has been everywhere across the international media supporting environmental issues, Earth Day and, of course,  the DVD release. Also due to fly in was Stephen Lang, aka Quaritch, ready for a special HMV opening on Sunday and press interviews on Monday. Perhaps most intriguingly, Fox was planning to erect a giant replica Tree Of Souls at Speakers' Corner in London's Hyde Park for three days, from Saturday, with Wi-fi and bluetooth enabling passers-by to put messages up on screens. 
Momentum was celebrating this week after notching up a number one slot with theatrical release Dear John, which took almost £2 million in its opening frame. Momentum's Louisa Mitchell said: "We are absolutely delighted that Dear John took the top UK Box Office spot despite stiff competition from Clash Of The Titans and How To Train Your Dragon. This is a particularly good achievement considering the good weather, the nine week lag behind the US release (where it went straight to number one, knocking Avatar off the top spot) and the under-performance of The Notebook back in 2004. The performances has secured Channing Tatum's and Amanda Seyfried status as box office stars and has sparked a huge amount of interest from the retailers." Dear John comes to DVD and Blu-ray in August. 
Acorn Media is planning a month's worth of promotional activity centred on its long-running crime series Midsomer Murders. The series has already notched up sales of more than 1.5 million DVDs and this move, part of the alliteratively titled May Midsomer Murders Madness promotion, is likely to see it pass the 2 million mark. It ties in with the release of a mammoth box set featuring all the episodes (29 in all) starring John Nettles' sidekick, Daniel Casey, aka DC Troy and covers Acorn's entire range of Midsomer Murders titles. Acorn's Paul Holland said: "Midsomer Murders is a powerhouse of a brand with consistently strong storylines which provide Acorn with consistently strong sales. Selling 2 million discs stands as a testimony to the quality of this wonderful series and with the announcement of a new star for the show we are looking forward to two million more."
Fresh from the theatrical success of I Am Love (see last week's newsletter), Metrodome has unveiled its new look management structure, again, as mentioned seven days ago. Jezz Vernon has been promoted to head of distribution with immediate effect, overseeing sales, marketing, operations and PR, reporting in directly to ceo Mark Webster. He will work alongside head of acquisitions and production James Brown and Jamie Brewer, who will head up sales and new business and commercial development.  Webster said: "This is an exciting time for Metrodome and I am proud to be working alongside three of the most talented executives in the business. We look forward to implementing our revised business plan and building on recent successes."
Meanwhile at another UK film operator it's been all change, albeit in a different style, as Icon packed up and moved out of its Finchley offices (handy for us on The Raygun to pop round for a cuppa, its closure mourned by few others) and headed into W1. The official day is tomorrow (Friday, April 23) and the new address is Charlotte Building, 17 Gresse Street, London W1T 1QL. The number will be 020 7927 6800. And those hardy souls at Icon are promising that despite the move, and the closure of office for the day (and, we hasten to add, tonight's BVA Awards), they will be responding to emails and available on mobiles throughout the day...  
If March has ended then it's time for some first quarter figures. The BVA's numbers were received too late for last week's newsletter, but are still worth your perusal. Perhaps the most heartening news was in the Blu-ray sector with sales up almost 70 per cent in volume terms year on year, and up 5 per cent over that same period in value terms. Some 2.7 million Blu-ray discs were sold in the first three months of 2010, pushing the overall total sales to 15.6 million units. DVD back catalogue was down, although that figure of 3/4 per cent was matched and more by a rise of 6.4 per cent in new release. New release volume was up year on year by more than 10 per cent, and an increase of almost a third year on year in March. Biggest success stories were arguably The Hurt Locker, thanks to its whopping 24 per cent Blu-ray split and E1's latest Twilight film, New Moon, which sold 1.2 million. Music and children's genres were well up, 42 and 38 per cent respectively, on the back of a couple of biggies (This Is It in the former and Up in the latter). The BVA's Hannah Conduct said: "While it is extremely encouraging to see such strong growth in market volumes in the run up to Easter, the performance of Blu-ray is especially impressive. Growing sales show that the benefits of the format – higher picture quality, superior sound, and an ever-expanding range of titles – are better understood than ever before. The strong sales reflect consumer confidence in Blu-ray.”  
At UK cinemas, total spending at the box office for the first quarter rose by 16 per cent, up to almost £300 million. Over in the US, figures were not as heartening, with total consumer spending across DVD, Blu-ray, digital and rental down eight per cent to $4.8 billion. March was the bright spot across the three months, giving some hope. More importantly, perhaps, Blu-ray was also rising, with sales up 74 per cent and rentals up 36 per cent. Equally heartening was a three figure leap in hardware sales for Blu-ray, up 125 per cent.  

Frightfest, the 11-year-old fantasy and horror festival, is moving into publishing with the announcement it is planning to issue a bi-monthly e-zine (online magazine to you and me), starting in July. Print, it says, has had its day (who are we to disagree) and the magazine will feature major articles and tons of reviews of forthcoming DVD and theatrical releases. Former HEW, Dennis and IFG staffer Nick Gibbs McNeil, who is working on the magazine, said: "For many years our FrightFest fans have asked for a magazine to accompany the festival, now is the right time. The 2009 FrightFest Brochure was immensely popular for marketeers within home entertainment as it provided a targeted environment and delivered less wastage on their already pressured marketing spend."   
Good news for fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm – and HBO too – as news has emerged that star/writer/creator/multi-hyphenate Larry David has signed up for a new season of the programme – the eighth. The last series, which saw David working with his old Seinfeld pals, was another roaring success, but its future was unclear until the comic finally inked the deal this week. The new series will film this summer, ahead of transmission and hopefully DVD release next year. The news just about makes up for the fact that the star and creator of both Curb and Seinfeld cancelled his trip to the UK this weekend, where he was due to appear as part of a special HBO weekend at the BFI...
It's the news that everyone's been waiting for – well, a horde of predominantly male heavy home entertainment consumers at any rate (oh, all right then, anoraks and geeks) – and this week Lucasfilm has confirmed (or as near as dammit) that the Star Wars franchise is coming to Blu-ray. Lucasfilm's director of fan relations (which, we reckon, must be all about calming down irate blokes in their 20s and 30s still complaining about Jar Jar Binks) Steve Sansweet confirmed the operation was compiling the discs for Blu-ray, although he refused to pin down an exact date (the not too distant future was as close as it got). "We have been at work for a couple of years working on—I won't call it the Ultimate Set because we keep finding stuff—but, a very full set of all six movies on Blu-ray with lots of extra material." he is reported as saying by IGN. "We're finding all kinds of scenes from dailies that have never been seen before. Beyond all of those things that you know about… there are some real treasures."

Just ahead of the BVAs, packaging specialist AGI picked up a gong for its health and safety conscious procedures at its Slough, Berkshire, plant. It was presented with the British Safety Council's International Safety Award for the third consecutive year. AGI president Tony Garnish said: "Health and safety excellence plays an integral part in our daily and long-range operating decisions."
Now, this isn't the most relevant story of the week – Pearl & Dean is only peripherally connected to our sector, but you've got to give Sky credit for this headline here  

"It is a task that can never be completed. They are popping up whenever we are taking one down. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film." Constantin Films' Martin Moszkowicz, discussing his company's recent attempts to take down all the spoof youtube clips of Downfall (about three years too late, by our reckoning). We won't tell him which company sent us one a few years back then...
 As reported elsewhere, Momentum sits atop the UK box office charts with Dear John, while Ghost Writer and Cemetery Junction were the week's other new entries, taking in £853, 679 and £641,218 respectively. Kick-Ass is now up to more than £9 million and it also topped the US chart taking almost $20 million on its bow.   
Robert Downey Jr may have denied it already, but the word is that he is considering the role of the Wizard in the latest take on Frank L Baum's classic. The film could be directed by Sam Mendes, newly freed from the irksome task of making a new Bond film (come on, we don't need to tell you that that's been put on hold, do we?). Oz The Great And Powerful is being developed by Disney and is one of a clutch of Oz films being looked at by different studios (Warner is said to have two Oz-related titles on the go and Universal is working on a filmed version of musical Wicked). The story will follow a Kansas traveling circus performer's journey to a mythical world and how he becomes its, er, wizard. 
Another week, another Marvel story. So, we have Captain America. Thor and The Avengers joining the likes of Iron Man, but where next for the comic powerhouse's indie arm? Well, the studio is reportedly going more low-key for future titles,  lining up the likes of Dr Strange, Luke Cage and Iron Fist for its next crop of new franchises. Its budgets, however, will reflect the names involved, most will be in the $20 to $40 million range.. 
More on the franchise front as it seems as if Men In Black 3 is a goer... And, obviously given today's climate, it will actually be known as MiB 3D. Director Barry Sonnenfeld is on board (we love him because he prefers films that are under 90 minutes and refused extra cash to pad the first MiB out), as are Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. All we need now is a script. 
Hey, since we got into it last week (follow us we're really getting into this Twitter mullarkey. Check this out...

We've been saving ourselves up for tonight...

Not your average orthodox Jewish drug dealing film...

One for the ladies:

This looks quite interesting...

Acolytes (High Fliers)
Ancient Egypt (Fremantle)
Animals At Work With John Barrowman (Demand DVD)
Avatar (Fox) (DVD and Blu-ray)
Backwoods Bloodbath (MVM)
The Best Intentions (Park Circus)
The Blackheath Poisonings The Complete Series (Network)
Britain Of Yesteryear (Fremantle)
Carriers (Paramount)
CBeebies Greatest Hits (BBC)
Channel 4’s Comedy Gala (Universal)
Chop Shop (Axiom Films)
Criminal Justice The Complete Series (Acorn)
Dad’s Army The Lost Interviews (Demand DVD)
Diamonds Of The Night (Second Run)
Discovering Ardi (Demand DVD)
Dr Who The Lost Interviews (Demand DVD)
Dr Strangelove (SPHE)
England’s Greatest Football Rivalries (4DVD)
Evangelion 1.11 You Are Not Alone (Manga)
The Essential Chabrol Vol 1 (Artificial Eye)
Executive Stress Series 1 (Network)
Foyle’s War Complete Series 6 (Acorn)
Free Style (High Fliers)
The Girlfriend Experience (Revolver)
Grand Designs Series 6 (Fremantle)
Great Wonders Of The Modern World (Fremantle)
Gutter King (Metrodome)
Heartland (4Digital Media)
Heston’s Feast (Acorn)
Ju-on Black And White Ghost (4Digital Media)
Kojak Season 2 (Fremantle)
Kojak Season 3 (Fremantle)
The Kreutzer Sonata (Axiom Films)
Lark Rise To Candleford Series 3 (2 entertain) (DVD and Blu-ray)
The Littlest Hobo (Fremantle)
Mad Men Season 3 (Lionsgate) (DVD and Blu-ray)
Murder She Wrote Season 11 (Universal Playback)
Nightwatching (Axiom Films)
Only The Brave (Scanbox)
Peppermint Candy (Third Window)
Prototype (Scanbox)
Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman (Fremantle)
Sally And Jake The Complete Series (Network)
Saving Private Ryan (Paramount) (Blu-ray)
Sherlock Holmes (Network)
So Cowboy (Network)
The Spectacular Spider-Man Volume One (SPHE)
Supernatural Season 5 Part 1 (Warner)
Tai Chi Master (Cine Asia)
Tenderness (Lionsgate)
Total Fishing (Fremantle)
Treeless Mountain (Soda)
Tropic Of Cancer (2 entertain)
Waterloo Road Series 4 Spring Term (Acorn)
Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael (Network)
Will Ferrell You’re Welcome America (HBO)
Attack Of The Crab Monsters (In2Film)Bear (Metrodome)
Blood (MVM)
The Boondock Saints II (SPHE)
Caligula (Arrow) (DVD and Blu-ray)
Cuffy The Complete Series (Network)
Death Sport (In2Film)
Dr Who Creature From The Pit (2 entertain)
Fate Stay Night 5 (MVM)
Four Idle Hands The Complete Series (Network)
Grand Theft Auto (In2Film)
Jane Eyre (Second Sight)
The Limits Of Control (Revolver)
Little House On the Prairie: Season 6 (Universal Playback)
The Morecambe And Wise Show Series 7 (2 entertain)
Mugabe And The White African (Dogwoof)
Murder She Wrote Season 11 (Universal Playback)
Museum Of Life (2 entertain)
Newsmakers (Showbox)
Not Of This Earth (In2Film)
Oh No It’s Selwyn Froggitt The Complete Third Series (Network)
The Onedin Line Series 2 (2 entertain)
Paranoia Agent Complete Collection (MVM)
The Prisoner (ITV) (DVD and Blu-ray)
The Railway Children 40th anniversary (Optimum) (DVD and Blu-ray)
Razor’s Ring (MVM)
Richard Hammond’s Invisible Worlds (2 entertain) DVD and Blu-ray)
Romeo x Juliet 4 (MVM)
Samantha Who? Season 1 (WDSHE)
Slayers Try box set (MVM)
Spider-Man Unlimited Season 1 (Clear Vision)
The Story Of The Battle Of Britain (Demand DVD)
Taking Woodstock (Universal)
Waking The Dead Series 7 (2 entertain)
WWE Live In The UK November 2009 (Clear Vision)
WWE Royal Rumble 2010 (Clear Vision)

Agora (Paramount) 
The Calling (Guerilla)
Centurion (Warner/Pathe)
Cherrybomb (Blue Dolphin)
Dance With Me (Orev)
Date Night (Fox)
Dogtooth (Verve)
Extract (Paramount)
It's A Wonderful Afterlife (Icon)
The Joneses (E1)
La Danse (Soda)
Life During Wartime (Artificial Eye)
The Sky Crawlers (Manga)
Vote Afghanistan (Channel 4 International)

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