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It Was A Good Week For… Lionsgate, with 50/50 in stores, Mad Men on the telly boosting its box sets and the small matter of The Hunger Games…

It Was A Bad Week For… Game, officially in administration, possibly to come out soon, although far, far leaner…

Lionsgate has  been celebrating after topping the box office charts in the UK (as well as the US and numerous other territories) with its biggest ever release, The Hunger Games. The company had invested heavily in the title with a view to developing a major franchise – its faith has paid off and then some. In the UK it took just under £5 million, despite the unseasonably warm weather, while in the US its $155 million haul made it the highest non-sequel opener ever and the biggest out of the traditional blockbuster season, and the third biggest bow of all time. It's certainly got all the potential to rival other big franchises, the next film, Catching Fire, will arrive in some 18 months. In the meantime, however, there'll be the small matter of home entertainment release for The Hunger Games later in 2012. Lionsgate home entertainment md Nicola Pearcey said: "The appetite for The Hunger Games in the UK has been reflected by its impressive opening weekend box-office and positive reactions by audiences of all ages across the UK.  We are delighted with the results thus far despite the amazingly sunny weather." Marketing director Marie-Claire Benson added: "The Hunger Games spearheads a very strong line-up from Lionsgate for the second half of the year and plans for the home entertainment release are shaping up very well."

Also celebrating: we often highlight film releases that have performed particularly well, but it's also nice to note other genres and titles that are excelling. This week, step forward Love Never Dies, Universal's filmed adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera. The title was released on March 12 to capitalise on Mother's Day and shifted some 37,000 plus units in its first week. It's been the highest charting non-film performer and also the bestselling Mother's Day-timed music title for four years, continuing to sell through strongly. Commenting on its performance, Universal senior product manager Grainne Devine Gill said: "We’re thrilled with how this new production of Love Never Dies has performed on DVD and the reception it has received from fans. It’s been great to reintroduce this spellbinding musical to a UK audience and allow them the opportunity to fall in love with the music and the show on DVD."

More from Lionsgate and, in case you hadn't noticed, Mad Men, the acclaimed US series following the ins and outs of a Madison Avenue ad agency in the 1960s, has returned to our screens, this time via Sky Atlantic rather than BBC4. Viewing figures were well above average for the channel during that time slot, and what's more, its transfer to Sky Atlantic can only enhance the prospects for the season five release due from Lionsgate later this year. The series is one of the best that US TV has to offer and generated huge coverage across newspapers and magazines in the run-up to the relaunch. Lionsgate's Ben Grunbaum said: "The last month has been a whirlwind for the brand. We've seen sales grow by up to 50 per cent week after week and sell over 13k units across all SKUs. We can't wait to get cracking on the home entertainment release and make this the biggest Mad Men event by far for Lionsgate." 

So, April 1 sees the VAT loophole, the Low Value Consignment Relief, closing, and there's still no clear idea what will happen to DVD and Blu-ray prices once VAT is added to goods costing under £15. As most readers will know, the LVCR meant VAT wasn't charged on any goods under that price as long as they were sent from outside the EU, which takes in the Channel Islands such as Guernsey. And with the April 1 deadline looming, speculation was still rife as to what will happen. Will there be a 20 per cent surge in online home entertainment prices next week? And what about rumours still swirling around that other non-EU territories not covered in the government's clampdown, such as Switzerland or Liechtenstein or even further afield to the US, will become home to UK retailers sending product back in to the UK? That latter scenario now looks unlikely, but there's still the question mark over pricing. We'll be looking closely at the pricing from online stores from Sunday…
Meanwhile one retailer, HMV, has announced its plans following the government's VAT rule changes. And it has said it is consolidating its online operation in its Birmingham warehouse, exiting Guernsey. The April 1 deadline coincided with HMV's lease on its Guernsey warehouse coming to an end. The retailer had never been a committed Channel Islands operator, arguing the LVCR caused an uneven playing field, a point it further reiterated this week. An HMV statement said: "While we understand and share recently-expressed concerns that some retailers may simply seek to relocate their online and digital fulfilment centres to other non EU locations by way of circumventing the Government's decision to end Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) - and to this end we reiterate our call for a genuine level playing field, we also have to accept and respond to the fact this ruling will now definitely come into effect. Clearly this will have a number of implications - not least in our case given the lease on our fulfilment centre in Guernsey expires in a few months time - so we were having to review our options in any event.  It also means that for our online offer to remain viable and attractive to shoppers in what will continue to be a highly competitive market - particularly at a time when we are looking to develop a much stronger multi-channel offer, we need to seek greater business synergies and to further reduce our online operating costs." It stated it is now closing the Guernsey operation at the end of July, with Merlin Park, Birmingham, taking on all its distribution. The statement continued: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly, particularly as we have enjoyed a productive relationship with Guernsey, and our actions are also in no way a reflection on the dedication and valued efforts of our fulfilment team on the Island, to whom we extend our sincere and profound thanks." The consultation process has now begun, looking at the future of the 46 HMV Guernsey employees.
Talking of distribution, it's interesting to note than in a week when the independent report into last August's riots was published, Sony DADC unveiled its plans for its new distribution centre in Enfield, after the previous one was completely destroyed by fire during the riots. The new centre will be on the same site, two metres higher and one additional office floor. It will offer improved business to consumer facilities to match its business to business services. It will have a new "super structure", holding more weight, while it will also be able to accommodate new products and services, making it future proof. And the centre, due to open in the summer, will have enhanced security, including new concepts in protection, making a repeat of last summer's events "virtually impossible". Sony DADC International executive vice president Chris Reiser said: "In addition to their outstanding experience, the team that we have built in Enfield makes me incredibly proud to think of the way they have reacted so professionally to adversity. Our plan is to support this team, keep the skill base we have built here and continue to provide our customers with the same high service levels. When completed, our new UK distribution centre will occupy the same site, but it will provide even better support than before with more capacity, better technology and a bigger infrastructure, which is intended to support future growth." Recently appointed general manager for distribution UK Natasha Tyrrell added: "Despite suffering the complete loss of our UK distribution centre in summer 2011, our customers have been very supportive and encouraging during the difficult period post fire, while our team has shown tremendous strength of character and determination to succeed. We are determined to keep this fantastic team together, to strengthen their resources and to create a great place to work - while supporting our current client base in their growth strategies. We are excited about going online this summer. More details will follow soon."

It's been a busy week for the Industry Trust, which has kicked off a new burst of activity on two fronts. First it has produced a new cinema ad under its Moments Worth Paying For tagline, this time using clips from forthcoming blockbuster Battleship. The campaign, set to air in the coming weeks at cinemas across the UK, cuts between action-packed excerpts from the Universal tentpole and audience reactions, showing the magic of the movies and reinforcing its message. It's also put together a new outdoor campaign featuring talent from British films such as the forthcoming Strippers Vs Werewolves and television (Hollyoaks, EastEnders et al) choosing their own favourite films, again using the Moments Worth Paying For message. We've got both up on our website, more detail on the campaigns and further comments. Industry Trust director general Liz Bales said: "After the success of last years Moments campaign, we’re delighted to take this step forward and work with Universal Pictures on such a fantastic title. Using new release content to engage with our audience on the important issue of copyright infringement is a proven approach embraced by both the film and TV industries. We feel certain it will provide great benefits to the marketing of the release while continuing the great strides made in change attitudes and consumer behaviour around copyright theft."

The fledgling UltraViolet digital cloud-based locker system received a boost to its UK prospects when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, aka SPHE, announced that a trio of its summer releases will come complete with UltraViolet versions for consumers who buy the DVD or Blu-rays. The three films, Jack & Jill, The Vow and current box office hit 21 Jump Street, are being released in June and July. SPHE president David Bishop said: "Our goal at SPHE is to make content ownership more convenient and flexible in the evolving digital marketplace. By bridging physical and digital media, UltraViolet presents an unprecedented value for consumers.” The system now has 1 million live accounts in the UK and US, with Walmart's announcement of its disc to digital UltraViolet service giving it a further boost in the States. SPHE's UK move was welcomed by the business, the Industry Trust's director general Liz Bales said: "Sony’s announcement is fantastic news for UK film fans, the vast majority of whom are ready and very willing to pay for legal film, TV and video online and are looking for the industry to provide them with convenient, value-for-money services. UltraViolet offers this and more. It enables film fans to enjoy their content on their own terms, with the chance to move seamlessly between disc and digital formats. This latest move by Sony reinforces the UK audio-visual industry’s ongoing commitment to tackling copyright infringement by giving consumers even greater choice in the way they consume legal content, both on and offline.”  

Back to the heady world of politics, and the industry's been back on the agenda , albeit in Europe this time, with the publication of a report on by the European Parliament's culture and education committee. Igt called for more flexible  release windows to benefit smaller distributors and producers, while they should be given "fair remuneration" when their films were distributed online. It said that net neutrality was key in helping smaller distributors and producers get their material online too.  

Anyone keeping an eye on Twitter on Monday couldn't have helped noticing that Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was one of the top trending names. Why? Well, the footballer turned actor was in the UK for the premiere of Anchor Bay's Switch, due at cinemas this week and on DVD and Blu-ray on April 9. He gave numerous interviews in and around town, notably appearing on Sky News. In the evening he turned up at the film's premiere, introducing the exciting French cop thriller alongside director Frederic Schoendoerffer and Anchor Bay's Thom Leaman, before taking part in a Q&A after the well-received screening. Quote of the night? Cantona's wonderful response when asked who he'd like, footballer or actor, play him in a film of his life. "No one could play me," came his snappy response. We'll have more on the event and Switch on our website. Anchor Bay's Thom Leaman said: " Larger than life, impossibly outspoken and with a fanbase that transcends usual boundaries - Eric Cantona is a bit of a movie marketer's dream. The press and public response to Cantona's visit to the UK for the launch of Switch has been justifiably huge. We had a strong response from press in previous weeks in anticipation of the release, but Eric's arrival on these shores has sent the excitement skyrocketing. We logged interviews and features right across the board, and he put in numerous broadcast interviews including the Sky News Adam Boulton interview which became a trending topic on Twitter. This activity was all supplemented with a great amount of organic press coverage surrounding the premiere and not least the fact that Eric got mobbed before, during and after the screening! This platform has given us a great launch pad as PR activity continues over the weekend and through next week, to be supplemented by ATL activity (print and broadcast) hitting Cantona's vast fanbase, and of course action/thriller fans in general. Just make sure you don't mention football."
In stores on March 26 was Lionsgate's 50/50 and, as we'd noted on here, to mark the occasion there was a major launch event at HMV's flagship 150 Oxford Street store raising cash for Teenage Cancer Trust at the same time as heightening awareness of the release. The event saw members of the public and HMV staffers, among others, getting their heads shaved like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the comedy drama. The event could raise as much as £3,500 for the charity, as well as further highlighting its work (and the film). We've got pictures up on our website, including HMV's head of press Gennaro Castaldo, now sporting a rather fetching close-cropped look. Lionsgate's Kaz Mills said: "It was such a pleasure to be involved in the 50/50 Challenge. We are delighted with the amount of money raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust - and so happy we were able to help create a charitable event like this in conjunction with our film release. Massive congratulations need to go to the brave HMV volunteers who not only consented to having their heads shaved, but were also daring enough to lose their locks in front of the London public! So respect to HMV - and thank you to Premier PR for organising such a fantastic, unique and totally commendable event." Freshly shorn Castaldo added: "On behalf of the participating 'hmv shavees', we'd like to say how very happy we were to take part in the 50/50 Challenge by way of supporting Teenage Cancer Trust as well as the release of 50/50 on DVD and Blu-ray - which is a great film and we hope does really well." More on our website… 

We've previously commented on how the mere mention of a forthcoming release from Eureka's Masters Of Cinema imprint can send the Internet into overdrive, as film fans welcome any snippet of news from the label. That same effect was illustrated not once but twice in the past few days. In one instance it was aided by the ever-newsworthy BBFC. A story on the 100th anniversary of the organisation, a forthcoming film season looking at its work and other issues, ended up focusing on Island Of Lost Souls, a horror once banned outright but, on its MoC release, deemed worthy only of a PG (you can see the story here). The label was also the focus of much Internet chatter after announcing the acquisition of early cinema classic (and arguably equally controversial) The Birth Of A Nation, which will be released later in the year. Ahead of those two releases, Masters Of Cinema is releasing Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat in a stunning looking Blu-ray version. Eureka md Ron Benson said: "At Eureka we don’t shy away from controversial films. It’s not just Human Centipede. Island Of Lost Souls is a taboo-flaunting, blood-curdling spectacular, and one of Hollywood's wildest, most notorious, pre-Code pictures and I am proud that we have it in our Masters of Cinema series. It’s a true classic of horror cinema from the early 1930s. And  DW Griffiths' The Birth Of A Nation may have shocked audiences over the years with its attitudes towards race yet it remains one of the defining films of the silent era."

More classic cinema and Studiocanal has put together another first for its latest Blu-ray release of a classic title. La Grande Illusion was shown at the Gate, Notting Hill and other cinemas around the country ahead of its April 6 theatrical re-release and April 23 Blu-ray and DVD release, followed by a Q&A beamed to the cinemas with, among others, director Mike Newell. The event was supported by the BFI and Studiocanal's Candy Vincent Smith said: "We are very grateful to have the support of the BFI for our first satellite Q&A event broadcast for a reissue; not only does it give regional audiences the chance to experience a special preview and discussion around the film's enduring importance in cinema history, but by having the event on offer, it will help our partner distributor, the ICO, with follow-on bookings for the release, as well as generate more great press. The continuing success of these classic reissues allows us to  invest more in restoring other classic films from the Studiocanal catalogue in the future.For our classic reissues, we are sometimes lucky enough to be able to enlist a famous fan to help promote the film's re-release. As well as helping to generate more press around the film, the championing of La Grande Illusion by someone as well known as Mike Newell (Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, Four Weddings and A Funeral, the forthcoming Great Expectations) can help to bring the film to a new audience previously unfamiliar with it." Newell has already been interviewed for the likes of The Times and Daily Telegraph as part of a PR push and there'll be further advertising for the title. 

New appointment time, and no sooner has one former Nintendo employee joined our industry than another joins too.  Dawn Paine has recently started at Universal as vice president of marketing, while this week's it's been announced that former Nintendo head of console marketing Rob Lowe will be joining BBC Worldwide as marketing director. Lowe's brief is to look at developing brands such as Doctor Who and Top Gear across key consumer products. His role will take in home entertainment formats. Commenting on the appointment, product development director for BBC Worldwide consumer products Fiona Eastwood said: "I am delighted that Rob will be joining us as Marketing Director. He brings to the role excellent experience in brand management and new title launches, fantastic creativity and bags of drive and enthusiasm - I very much look forward to working with him and I am sure he will be great asset to BBC Worldwide.” Lowe added: "This is an amazing opportunity and a great time to be joining BBC Worldwide Consumer Products. I am really looking forward to working on some incredible brands, and hope that I will able to use my previous experience of launching successful entertainment products to help continue driving BBC Worldwide's performance in the UK."

Deal news now and the growing Signature Entertainment company has signed a distribution deal with Kaleidoscope which will the latter looking after new release and catalogue titles for the fledgling indie across physical and digital formats. The move comes as Signature, owned by Marc Goldberg, ups its slate, with forthcoming titles such as Osombie The Axis Of Evil Dead (as featured on The Raygun some weeks ago) and Hirokin The Last Samurai, with its first theatrical release and titles starring the likes of Kevin Spacey and Ryan Gosling due to follow. The deal will bolster Kaleidsocope's own busy schedule, which includes another much talked about title, Strippers Vs Werewolves. Signature's Goldberg said: "Kaleidoscope has shown the UK market its ambition over the past 12 months, creating a business model that supports what we at Signature are aiming to achieve through 2012 and beyond. 2012 is about the growth of Signature Entertainment, with Spencer [Pollard] and his excellent team we believe KHE can help us build on a successful 2011. There are some exceptional opportunities through both traditional, non-traditional and the variety of digital platforms for both Signature catalogue and our exciting 2012 line-up of new titles. It is an exciting time for both businesses." Kaleidoscope's Pollard added: " We are delighted to be teaming up with Marc Goldberg and his team at Signature. They have achieved an incredible amount of traction within the UK retail space in a short space of time and we are very excited by the opportunities we believe we can maximise for them across the trade in their back catalogue and also exciting front line releases in Q2 including Hirokin – The Last Samurai and the very much anticipated Osombie, which was one of the buzz titles in Berlin last month. The Signature catalogue and release slate complements Kaleidoscope’s own business well and combined will have real traction across retail, rental, digital and other ancillary channels."
An interesting online promotion from rental giant Blockbuster has launched via Facebook. Its recommend a friend campaign will see anyone who gets a pal to sign up to Blockbuster getting a £5 voucher. The voucher can be used for anything in any of Blockbuster's stores and up to 10 friends, and £50 worth of vouchers, is up for grabs. The friends who sign up will get a coupon entitling them to rent one free film a day for 14 days. The company's head of online commercial Mal Simons said: "We know that the best promotion is friends telling their friends how great a brand or product is. We are very proud of our rental service which is number one in the UK and our new ‘Recommend a Friend’ app is a great opportunity for our fans to be rewarded for their loyalty to Blockbuster. With over 20 million people on Facebook living near our 600 stores, we are offering a huge number of new potential members the opportunity to take full advantage of our fantastic catalogue with 2 weeks of free movie rentals.” You can see the campaign in action here
Titanic fever is all the rage, with the UK premiere this week of the 3D version of the James Cameron film, as well as ITV bowing its similarly named Titanic mini-series last weekend. Now another company's joining the fray, with Save The Titanic, an April 16 release for a programme due to air on television two days before. The film looks at the efforts of the engineers below decks to save the ship. Arrow's Jon Sadler said: "We are delighting to be bringing out this DVD, a film that sheds light on a totally new aspect of the Titanic legend. The small team of men who did everything in their power to keep the ship afloat and save lives, whilst risking their own, is a story well worth telling and it is brilliantly conceived and executed".

"This launch will offer UK viewers further choice and flexibility in how they enjoy our must-see films at home or on the move – all in a hassle-free cloud system. We’re looking forward to working with Google to launch a broad range of titles to suit audiences of all ages and tastes.”
Catherine Powell, senior vice president / general manager, Media Distribution, The Walt Disney Company EMEA on the pact between Disney and Google which will see films such as Real Steel and Pirates Of The Caribbean titles available to rent on YouTube and Google Play.  
As noted above, Lionsgate scored a huge opening with ~The Hunger Games, its £4.9 million haul making it the biggest bow of the year (and look, we've written about it without comparing it to Twilight). The only other new entry in the top 10 was Navy SEALs actioner Act Of Valor, which took £262,935.
The news that dominated the Internet and elsewhere this week concerned the long in gestation Anchorman 2. Ron Burgindy himself, aka Will Ferrell, took to Conan O'Brien's show in the US to confirm that a second film looking at the antics of the newsreader and his assorted cohorts is on the way. And what's more it will reunite the original cast, including Steve Carell. And boy, are we glad we avoided the "Great Odin's Raven!" exclamation at the start of that piece, seeing as every news outlet seems to have used it…
Mad Men returned to our screens this week, in case you didn't notice, and one of its long-standing directors  Matt Weiner is set to make his first foray into feature films between series of the TV drama. It's You Are Here, a road trip movie starring Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, who only seems to appear in road trip movies…
Here's some further reading in Island Of Lost Souls:
And here's a nice little Facebook app put together by Riot Digital for a Mirror Mirror promotion in conjunction with Odeon cinemas:.
New from the DreamWorks stable

Let's hope the film is better than the Photoshop…

Indie horror fare…

New Dictator fare: 

A trailer for the trailer? You bet… Full one live on Sunday
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