NEWSLETTER :: March 25 2011

If you can't read this newsletter or see the ads, please click here

It Was A Good Week For…  Arrow, as phenomenon that is The Killing grows and grows…

It Was A Bad Week For… The Digital Economy Act, getting itself more and more tangled in red tape…

In the days leading up to chancellor George Osborne's budget this week, newspapers were full of chatter about the fact that he was planning to close the "VAT loophole" that allowed consumers to avoid paying VAT on DVDs, Blu-rays and other items, as long as they cost less than £18 and were sent from the Channel Islands. The loophole was said to have cost the Treasury more than £130 million in lost revenue, although many believe the true figure was higher, and certainly would have been this year given the VAT hike to 20 per cent. The Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) was, according to pre-budget stories, on the way out. Of course much of the home entertainment sector's online business revolves around the LVCR scheme and its abolition could affect our business in many ways. But don't expect it to happen just yet. In a move that some observers believe sees the Chancellor being "weak" on the issue, he pledged to bring the threshold down from its current £18 level to £15, albeit from November onwards (in time for the Q4 rush, admittedly, but increasingly savvy consumers can just order before then). He further said that he would "explore options" in Europe (it's an EU regulation) to "to limit the scope of the relief so that it can no longer be exploited for a purpose it was not intended for". And if that didn't work, he'll come back to it next year in his budget. So the loophole has been closed. Or it might be. In a year. As one website backed by retailers campaigning against the LVCR said: "Is it the beginning of the end?"

There was one potential winner from the budget and Osborne's decision to close, or at least narrow, the loophole, and that was HMV. Shares in the retailer rose (for the second week running, we hasten to add) significantly after the budget, with the stock market believing, by the look of things, that any move to change the LVCR regulations would favour the company. It came after another bout of speculation about HMV's plans, with many of the weekend's business pages containing stories about how the company might sell off its book retailing arm, Waterstone's or its Canadian business.

Sticking with politics, and it's been another tempestuous week for the Digital Economy Act, with fevered activity across the board. The latest saw rights holders, including the studios and other distributors, drawing up a list of around 100 websites, such as The Pirate Bay, that it wants internet service providers to block. It would be part of a voluntary code being discussed this week between the government, ISPs and distributors and copyright holders. Under the agreement, content owners would amass evidence on illegal filesharing sites and pass it on to the ISPs, who would block them. Meanwhile, at the same time as discussing the Act, ISPs, in the form of BT and TalkTalk, were in the High court this week, as a judicial review of the act kicked off. The ISPs claim that it contravenes European law, and if they win the act will be deemed to be unenforceable. Also this week, the Act was slammed in a report from the London School of Economics, where the LSE Media Policy Project produced a document entitled Creative Destruction And Copyright Protection. It argued the act "got the balance between copyright enforcement and innovation wrong". This, of course, is the same LSE that has been under fire for its links to the Gadaffi regime in Libya… Watch this space, as the DEA furore looks set to run and run – this week Lord Puttnam voiced his fears over the lengthy delays in introducing the act (see Quote Of The Week, below).          

Right, on to some product and happier news now, and Saturday night will see the final double bill of episodes in The Killing, the subtitled Danish BBC4-aired series that has become the television phenomenon of 2011. It is drawing the same kind of buzz as The Wire and, better still for Arrow which is releasing the series on April 4, many prospective viewers are eagerly awaiting the DVD bow. To gauge some of that audience reaction, take a look at Amazon's customer reviews for the title here.  Note also the kind of programmes it is being compared to, particularly HBO's The Wire, arguably the closest comparison in terms of the way its reputation has grown and Arrow hopes it will have the same kind of success on DVD. "It's been nothing short of astounding," said Arrow's Alex Agran, talking about the phenomenon. "We knew we had a first class series on our hands when we acquired it, but to take off the way it has has been beyond our expectations in every way. It's on a minority channel [BBC4], but the word of mouth on it is extraordinary." The release will be supported by advertising in the press, targeting publications such as The Guardian's Guide.

Next Friday sees a theatrical release for Hatchet 2, another title from Arrow and leading the company's new push into the market. As well as its Arrow Video and Arrow Academy imprints, the former taking in horror and  cult fare, the latter classic world cinema titles, the company's main Arrow Films operation is upping its activity on 2011 and expanding at a rapid rate. There's a clutch of four or so releases in Q2, blazing a trail for another dozen or more for the rest of the year, with Hatchet 2, the Adam Green sequel to the first gorefest, being one of four theatrical releases planned. Regular Raygun readers should have already noticed Arrow's aggressive acquisitions policy following the arrival of Tom Stewart, who is helping spearhead the new assault. "We've long wanted to expand the company and we've always felt we had a good reputation in the industry in which to develop into a bigger organisation. We believe the way to go is to acquire more first run titles to support our successful arthouse and cult labels. We've got very commercially driven DVD premieres and some outstanding titles for theatrical release. We think this is a great time for us to expand." For more on Hatchet 2, see here. The less squeamish among you can see the trailer here.  (seriously, this is not for the faint-hearted…).

Of course, the antecedent to The Killing was, as we've noted above, The Wire and after the huge success of that, HBO is now readying creator David Simon's next series, Treme, currently airing on Sky Atlantic, for its May release. We'd already noted its imminent release, and now HBO is pulling together its marketing campaign. The company's Ian Fullerton said: "HBO is delighted to be able to release David Simon’s new TV drama on DVD in May.  In my eyes, he’s fast becoming one of the key commentators on modern America and Treme is as innovative and challenging as The Wire was when it initially aired in 2002. The Treme DVD will be support by a press advertising campaign focusing on broadsheets and entertainment magazines along with a national PR campaign. A big part of our campaign is about celebrating New Orleans, so we will have a big focus on the City, the music and the food. This means we’ll be teaming up with the New Orleans tourism board to take journalists over to the city to see how the rebuilding work is going, we’ll be giving people the chance to taste the food of Treme and we hope to link up with Jazz Festival events over the summer."

More TV, and another title worth keeping an eye on is Anchor Bay's Spartacus franchise. The newest series, Gods Of The Arena, started on Sky1 this week and outperformed the station's usual figures, drawing in some 500,000 viewers. Anchor Bay is readying itself for the May 16 release of Spartacus Blood And Sand, the first outing. Its Twitter account, @spartacusAB will be live tweeting during episode two of the new outing on Sky, we'll be tuning in as it helps build momentum for the release. More on Anchor Bay's marketing next week…  
Last year it succeeded with its Back To The Future Blu-ray release and for later in 2011, Universal has once more dipped into its vaults to give one of its classics a new lease of life, although in Scarface it has a Blu-ray bow that is far tougher than the adventures of Marty McFly. The studio this week unveiled a September release for an all-singing, all-dancing Blu-ray version of the Brian de Palma-helmed, Al Pacino gangster starrer. It will come on September 6 in a wrapped in SteelBook packaging, with a 7.1 audion version of the film, the original 1932 Scarface and, naturally, a wealth of extras. Our favourite among these is the scoreboard facility that allows you to keep count of the number of times the F-word is used. Universal's Ryan Virgo said: "Scarface is a true gangster classic and have been fully remastered to show off it's violence in stunning high definition with the Blu-ray Collector's Edition release. To entice the true Blu-ray collector there are a range of 3 collectable SKUs to drive trade-up: the collector's triple play SteelBook, cigar box contain the SteelBook and numerous other collectable items and then the ultimate top end in collector's editions with the Official Humidor Cigar Box.  All of the collector's SKUs are strictly limited edition to drive urgency with the core fans.  The campaign will be supported with TV, heavyweight online, full media relations and span over 6 months its release to ensure all core fans of the title engage with the property and build the hype this classic truly deserves." One report suggested that the humidor will have a whopping $1,000 price tag in the US and come complete with 100 cigars. We think a blag might be out of the question…

Last week we reported from the premiere of Revolver's Anuvahood, and The Raygun is delighted to announce that the film made a hugely impressive bow for the independent at cinemas over the weekend. The film's opening weekend was the biggest and best in the company's 10-year plus history, and it proved to be another hit for Revolver's production arm, Gunslinger, which can now boast a two for two record, after Shank's strong box office. It took some £536,280 in its opening frame, and its screen average of £3,600 was the highest in the top 10. Revolver ceo Justin Marciano said: "Our campaign for this film has been proven to have reached exactly who we wanted it to and harvested a number of converts to the concept of ‘urban comedy’ too. We set out to deliver a new genre of film that was lacking in the release roster of UK cinemas – home-grown, inner city comedy for young audiences." Other figures – the trailer has now been viewed almost 1 million times on youtube and boasts more than 52,000 friends on Facebook – as well as the success of the cross-platform Anuvahood app. It has also started selling Anuvahood merchandising, see here for more… 

Revolver has always been one of the smarter operators when it comes to getting the word out and a couple of its forthcoming titles have already started attracting interest. Firstly keep an eye on Blooded, which has already been causing controversy ahead of its April 1 theatrical and April 4 DVD release. The independent has undertaken some crafty marketing that has already attracted interest from pro-animal groups. The film follows a fictitious group, the Real Animal League, who kidnap members of a hunt and in turn hunt them, Revolver's Mike Hewitt said: "While the film Blooded deals with a fictional scenario, albeit in a thriller/mockumentary form, we decided to create a fake website for the fictional group in the film – the Real Animal League – as well as create the full-length virals the film portrays. While the film is neither pro or anti-hunting, our marketing campaign seems to have attracted a lot of attention from both sides of the argument which has really benefitted a wider exposure in the lead-up to next week’s multi-platform release”. See the website here Meanwhile, it is also working on its next big theatrical outing, The Veteran, for trailer see below…

This week on our website: loads has gone up this week, including a look at Kurosawa and the BFI, the first in an occasional series from former HMV staffer Alex Kidd, a new My Inspiration and loads more. See it here. There'll be loads more going up over the weekend too… 
And while we're blowing our own trumpet, keep 'em peeled for a wealth of activity surrounding The King's Speech, including a one-off Raygun special and loads of fantastic features on the website…
And there we were a week or so ago, thinking how things had been a bit quiet on the LOVEFiLM front since its acquisition by Amazon and then, like buses, a flurry of press releases all come along at the same time. On the appointment side, it has taken on Nick James as its new digital technical development director. The former Sky and NatWest staffer, who developed some of the broadcaster's innovative services such as Sky+, will look after the technical development of the digital arm of LOVEFiLM. He said: "LOVEFiLM has grown from strength to strength and is changing the way people consume film by creating media firsts such as its launch on connected TVs. LOVEFiLM's goal is to be available on as many platforms as possible across all territories, so I'm looking forward to being part of its continued development." Also in the technical side, the company has extended its platform capability after launching its WatchNow service on Oregan Network's Onyx media browser.

Also from LOVEFiLM, the company has hooked up with Kit Kat to offer consumers what it claims is the "ultimate night in", offering free films online and the chance to win a Sony Bravia TV. There will also be a Kit Kat Pop choc branded game and takeover of LOVEFiLM's site, the initiative has been set up to tie in with the launch of the Pop Choc sharing bag. LOVEFiLM senior account manager Alistair Tucker said: "Teaming with Kit Kat and Mindshare on this campaign gives us a fantastic opportunity to further showcase LOVEFiLM's digital offering to an audience of film lovers. The added ability to share streaming content with friends means that users can further spread the word about LOVEFiLM's ever growing watch online library - perfect for the ultimate shared night in." See the campaign microsite at

To the Curzon Mayfair and a special advance screening of The Whistleblower, a tough, uncompromising tale of the aftermath of the Bosnian conflict and a UN peacekeeper's battle for justice for trafficked women. The title due for release by High Fliers later this year at cinemas, with DVD to follow, features a tour de force performance from Rachel Weisz. It aired as part of the Human Rights Watch film festival and the film, which received rapturous applause from a packed audience that included acting talent Thandie Newton and Tamsin Greig, was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A. High Fliers' Jane Lawson said: "The Human Rights Watch benefit was the first UK screening for The Whistleblower and we are really pleased with the reaction from the audience. The Whistleblower will be one of High Fliers' biggest films to date, Kathryn Bolkovac’s book is flying off the shelves and we are really excited about the UK film release later this autumn."

Driving pre-sales and gaining awareness early on is a key aim for any release worth its salt, and this week the Dawn Treader took to the seas, or rather the Thames, to push Fox's April 18 release of the latest Chronicles Of Narnia title, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. The replica ship sailed around St Katherine's Dock near Tower Bridge, watched by crowds of onlookers. The event drew interest from local and international media, with some of the coverage due to break in the coming weeks.

Our favourite promotional and social network activity of the week comes courtesy of Icon and its innovative competition for the forthcoming Outpost 2 film. The company has picked up UK rights to the next film in the Nazi zombie franchise, which is currently being filmed on location in Scotland. And it is offering one lucky consumer, via the Facebook pages of its horror imprint Prepare To Be Scared, the chance to appear as an extra in the film. See here for the details (you've got a week to enter). Icon's Chris Warrington said: "We're glad we've been able to get involved in the production at this stage." The film, which may be released theatrically and is set to be a home entertainment banker when it is released later this year or early in 2012.

Senior Paramount executive Don Hunton has been appointed as chair of the Digital Entertainment Group Europe (DEGE). He will be supported by Technicolor European sales and marketing vp Jonathan Beardsworth as vice chair. Former MGM staffer Hunton, currently executive vp for Europe at Paramount, said: "I'm honoured to have been chosen by my peers to serve as the DEGE board chair, and look forward to an incredibly productive year. Our focus will be on tackling key industry challenges by offering a broad, pan-regional perspective and assisting the ongoing efforts of regional organizations." Beardsworth added: "The DEGE has been gaining momentum since its inception and I’m pleased to accept the newly created role of board vice chair. With many exciting initiatives afoot, I look forward to working with Don, the board and our subcommittees to expand and elevate our work across the industry and across the region."

"Copyright infringement and theft, especially and increasingly online… threatens to drain the sector of its legitimate rights and revenues; it undermines confidence, stability and, potentially, new and well paid jobs. Conversely, the more strongly IP is protected, the more likely it is to drive investment and innovation." Film Distributors Association president Lord Puttnam in a speech to the film industry. He added that the delays to the Digital Economy Act's introduction were cause for "dismay and frustration".

In a relatively quiet week, Rango returned to the top of the box office; its earnings have now passed the £5 million mark. The Paramount title is ahead of Battle: Los Angeles, at almost £3.5 million, and Unknown (£4.5 million). Highest new entry and continuing Momentum's strong run is Chalet Girl, which took £677,716, ahead of the aforementioned Anuvahood. Just outside the top 10 is Submarine, which took £220,216 off a limited number of screens.   

Best news of the week – hang on, no, best news of the year – is the story that Billy Bob Thornton is in talks to reprise his finest ever role in a sequel to Bad Santa. The actor let it slip during a panel discussion at the SXSW event in the US last week. It will form part of The Weinstein Company's partnership with Miramax that will revive some of the latter's franchises under the aegis of Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein, now heading up TWC. Sequels to Swingers and Rounders have already been announced, and, interesting as thay may sound, it's the thought of Bad Santa 2 that's got us all excited…    

Normally this column tends to talk about remakes that might happen, this time let's look at one that is now, apparently, off the slate. Robert Zemeckis' Yellow Submarine, using the style of motion capture animation he has produced for the likes of A Christmas Carol and The Polar Express, is now not going to be made, or at least not via Disney. The studio has pulled the plug after what has been a widely reported slow start for Mars Need Moms, Zemeckis' latest for the major… It may, however, materialise elsewhere…

And it's similarly rare for big name A-list talent to realise when is the right time to knock it all on the head. So credit where it's due to Steven Soderbergh, one of Hollywood's most intriguing directors, who has announced that he is likely to retire. Soderbergh's output, from sex, lies & videotape onwards is nothing if not interesting, and has seen everything from big budget romps to more esoteric artier outings. But he has told one US radio station that his next two films, a Liberace biopic and a new take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., will be his last. He already has a further two titles, Haywire and Contagion, in the can for a 2011 release. Saying that he had a sense of "having been there before", he added that his forthcoming projects were a "great way to sort of step off".     

We've been watching loads of films this week and we tweet about everything we see… Follow us at  www.twitter/theraygun

We liked this site to pass the time of day, sent to us by our pals at Name Creative…

The trailer for this was aired before the Anuvahood premiere, it's a tougher take on urban life…

Dear film websites, please can you stop saying a film, such as Captain America "gets a trailer", as it's really clumsy. In other news, Captain America gets a trailer:

New Pirates trailer…

Be honest with you, this isn't the kind of film we were looking for when we googled the title…
To subscribe to The Raygun newsletter, please email
with subscribe in the subject matter

To unsubscribe, email with unsubscribe in the subject

For editorial or advertising queries, contact
The Raygun
7 Lightcliffe Road
London N13 5HD

Forward this email to a friend