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It Was A Good Week For... Kurt Cobain doc Montage Of Heck showing the way for short window releases…
It Was A Bad Week For… Anyone who's had to read through every manifesto…
The election campaign is now well and truly up and running and this week has seen the political parties launching their respective manifestos. We’ve been perusing through them – as have other organisations (see below for another story on further reactions). Rather than offering up our own prejudiced viewpoints (come on, you know how we’re voting), we’ll offer up what the respective parties are saying…

The party’s track record in government may not have been ideal – think the failure to implement the previous government’s Digital Economy Act and recent woes over the Digital Single Market (see recent newsletters), the Conservative manifesto pays close attention to copyright-related issues. It clearly states: “We will protect intellectual property by continuing to require internet service providers to block sites that carry large amounts of illegal content, including their proxies And we will build on progress made under our voluntary anti-piracy projects to warn internet users when they are breaching copyright We will work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites.” No mention of the other thorny issues although in a Guardian webcast Ed Vaizey made some encouraging noises about looking at diversity in the industry.

Over at Labour HQ , its manifesto outlines its commitment to culture and arts and pledges to have broadband across the country. But Chris Bryant MP has already spoken out against the government’s support for the Digital Single Market and other IP  issues. He promised to “definitely” do something about creative industries having their content “ripped off”. He said: “It is embarrassing that the prime minister has written to the European Commission to say that he agrees with their policy of creating a single digital market. Which could cause untold damage to UK intellectual property. Not only is the prime minister's letter economically illiterate but I think he's only written it to seem helpful to the commission when he is trying to get a renegotiation of Britain's membership of the EU to appease his howling backbenchers. One songwriter recently told me that one of his songs as performed by One Direction had been listened to several millions times on Spotify or YouTube, yet he has only earned a few hundred pounds from it. Protecting IP is a key part of our industrial strategy for the creative industries.”

 The Lib Dem manifesto clearly states that the party will “support growth in the creative industries, including video gaming, by continuing to support the Creative Industries Council, promoting creative skills, supporting modern and flexible patent, copyright and licensing rules, and addressing the barriers to finance faced by small creative businesses”. The Green Party manifesto was somewhat more worrying – less takedowns of content (only in “exceptional circumstances”), shorter copyright periods and other elements – although it did say there will be a new comprehensive legal framework for such issues. And over at UKIP? It’s ironic given that a former chief of CIC Video (the VHS era collaboration between Paramount and Universal) is in its midst – you can read up on John Bickley here – there is no mention of copyright in its manifesto. 

Meanwhile, what do other organisations think? The Alliance For IP issued a statement last week – the group had already set out its own manifesto previously – and it praised the three major parties for all realising the importance of copyright and creative industry. But its director general this week issued a warning about the threat of the Digital Single Market. Eddy Leviten said: “It is very encouraging that the three main parties have all acknowledged the value of the UK’s IP-rich industries. When the Alliance developed our own Manifesto, businesses and creators from all parts of the UK told us what they needed from the next Government to help them grow and create jobs. The political parties, albeit in different ways, have recognised that they need to support the creative, branded and design sectors. However, proposals in the forthcoming white paper from the European Commission on the Digital Single Market could fundamentally damage the ability to create and sell content so we call on all parties to stand up for IP-rich business and creators now and throughout the next Parliament.”

And what of the Digital Single Market? UK politics may be in something of a limbo, but it’s business as usual over in mainland Europe. So we got an update on the scenario from Lavinia Carey, former BVA director general who now lobbies in the UK and beyond on behalf of the video and creative industries. The day before the general election – May 6 – will see the European commission publishing its strategy document on possible plans to allow content to made available across Europe without allowing for windows or other territorial and contractual differences. Man believe the government in the UK has not grasped its implications yet and the coming weeks will see plenty of fevered activity, especially at Cannes. Lavinia Carey said: “
Research will be commissioned in order to demonstrate how mandatory cross-border licensing will harm the amount of AV content that will be able to be produced without the unique financing system we use, the damage to consumer choice, cultural diversity and skilled jobs within Europe, due to the fact that fewer platforms will be able to service the market (and most likely only the largest multi-national/non-European companies will survive in the long run) because those who meet the demands of local/national audiences will be squeezed out. Industry is providing officials (while Parliament is closed for business) with information about the other obstacles to delivering the EC’s goal, such as the variations in classification systems throughout Europe, technical problems in enabling portability and the de facto pan-European licence created for film and TV despite the EC only focussing on digital services. Meetings are also taking place in Brussels and with industry representatives in all member states to swell the voice and evidence against the EC’s mis-guided position, which Brussels officials privately acknowledge looks increasingly difficult to achieve without serious harm to the European audiovisual sector.” More on this in the coming weeks…

 After that political opening gambit, let’s have a look at the week’s sales from Official Charts Company’s bulletin and heading in to the weekend, the third Night At The Museum outing, Secret Of The Tomb, looks st to follow its two predecessors in the series into the top slot, shifting 57,000 units in its first few days on sale. Other strong performers in the top 10 include Metrodome’s What We Do In The Shadows (featured in these very pages last week) at number six and, just below it, fittingly given its underwater setting, submarine thriller Black Sea from Universal. Needless to say, the dual pair of Paddington and Interstellar are still there or thereabouts, as Official Charts Company’s Matin talbot said: “For a third week, Paddington and Interstellar are also continuing their ongoing battle, with Paddington leading the race to be at Number 2 with 21,000 sales after half the week, 6,000 copies ahead of Interstellar at Number 3.”

In the world of subscription video on demand there's still a significant battle going on, as Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix continue to go head to head and the former was celebrating after the huge success of Outlander, which broke records on the eerie in its first week on air. The first eight episodes of the epic tale were available to stream on March 26, with new episodes added weekly from Sunday April 5 onwards. It set records from the opening day onwards, becoming the most streamed show on the service on the Thursday it made its debut, with similarly impassive records in its first week too – most streamed show, while on the Monday it boasted the highest numbers of viewers streaming a single season in a day. More than half the Amazon Prime Instant Video customers who started watching it had viewed the lot within three days, setting bingeing records. It has drawn similarly strong reviews too, with the Daily Telegraph’s Charlotte Runcie providing the most obvious comparison when she said: “History, love triangles, grisly warfare and kilts fuel this impressive rival to Game of Thrones.”

While this was making waves on the Prime Instant Video, Amazon was notching up some impressive figures elsewhere: its streaming-friendly Fire TV Stick, the device which enables viewers to easily watch streaming and catch-up services through their TV, has become the company’s fastest-selling device in the UK within weeks of going on sale. “We expected Fire TV Stick to be popular, but the customer response has just blown us away,” said Jorrit Van der Meulen, vp, Amazon Devices EU. “For just £35, Fire TV Stick delivers powerful performance and access to a vast selection of content, apps and games. The phenomenal demand has made Fire TV Stick our fastest-selling device ever in the UK in the first week after going on sale, and we think our customers are going to love it.”

Sticking with success stories and Universal’s continued efforts when it comes to the multi-platform releases have paid off again. Following on the back of last year’s breakout hit Northern Soul, its latest music-themed release, Cobain: Montage Of Heck, got off to a bright start last week ahead of its home entertainment bow. For its theatrical outing last weekend, ahead of an end of April arrival  on digital and physical formats, becomes biggest opening for a documentary film in 2015. Commenting in its success, Universal senior product manager Mike Hewitt said: “We are delighted that Cobain: Montage of Heck achieved a terrific collapsed window theatrical result – the best opening for a documentary all year, crossing £100k from around 200 shows over the opening weekend and now set to take over a quarter of a million lifetime. PR coverage has been phenomenal, thanks to director Brett Morgen visiting the UK around the release, and reviews have been fantastic with the vast majority giving four or five Stars. The film was also the Dublin Film Critics’ Circle choice for Best Documentary at this year’s Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.  As a result we are very much looking forward to seeing all this translate to a strong Week 1 number on DVD & Blu-ray when we release on April 27, with unseen extras on both SKUs.” 

Also enjoying notable success in recent weeks and months has been – as reported here and elsewhere – Sky’s innovative Buy & Keep service and this week, marking its first anniversary, the TV giant has announced that it is extending the service. Now not only Sky customers, but anyone accessing or the Sky Store app will be able to stream or download films and receive the DVD at home a few days later. Non-Sky customers can watch on TV through Now TV, Youview or Roku boxes. Sky Store director Nicola Bamford said: “People want the simplest and most convenient way to buy and watch the movies they love, which is why it’s great news that from today Buy & Keep will be available to everyone and across multiple devices. Sky Store offers the complete service - straight to your TV, across your devices and you get the DVD in the post too.” Sky Store is proudly claiming to be the number one digital retailer for new releases and has also pledged to expand its service to include catalogue and TV box sets.

News from the Industry Trust now and the anti-piracy organisation has launched a new, bespoke Moments Worth Paying For Trailer featuring forthcoming British spy thriller Spooks: The Greater Good. The specially shot 35-second teaser, now breaking in cinemas, sees stars Kit Harington and Peter Firth highlighting the benefits of watching films through legal channels and directing consumers to find legitimate sources through
. The clip, which can be seen here, has been put together through Pinewood Pictures and Fox ahead of the film’s May 8 opening. Commenting on the collaboration, Pinewood’s head of distribution Gemma Spector said: “This is our first collaboration with the Industry Trust and we are very excited to be working with them to continue their efforts in educating consumers on the value of film. Creating and delivering a unique script for the Spooks: The Greater Good trailer has allowed us to carefully balance the messaging required to inspire audiences of all ages to choose official film, whilst promoting the film itself.  It was great to invite the Industry Trust down to the shoot and for them to see the hard work that goes into producing bespoke content. It’s a great partnership to be part of and we really hope this trailer continues to support the hugely successful work of The Industry Trust.” Spooks producers Ollie Madden and Jane Featherstone added: “It has been wonderful working with the Industry Trust on such a great campaign that we hope will continue to inspire film and TV consumers to understand the value of content. It has been a great project with full support from our writers Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley, cast and crew led by director Jim Weedon who worked tremendously hard on this unique piece.” The Trust’s Sylvia Wan said: “We were lucky enough to visit the set during filming which was absolutely fantastic. It was great watching the script come to life and to see first-hand how hard the cast and crew worked to get the trailer filmed, we are extremely grateful to have been invited to the set. It’s been brilliant working with Pinewood Pictures for the first time and collaborating with 20th Century Fox again. Spooks: The Greater Good is a perfect fit for the 16-34-year-old filmgoers; making this trailer impactful and engaging whilst still informing audiences on where they can book, buy and watch.” 

Sticking with the Trust and the Findanyfilm online aggregator that falls under its remit and it has announced that Google Play has now joined up. Consumers now searching for films and TV shows to watch through legitimate sources can see content available through the Google Play service. Commenting on the announcement, Sylvia Wan said: “Through FindAnyFilm the Industry continues to tackle the challenges around availability by championing the wealth of official ways to access film and TV content. It’s wonderful to be working with Google Play; this is a key addition to the service ensuring whatever your preference for viewing there is a legal option to suit your needs.”

 Deal news of the week comes from Icon and the ever-busy independent has unveiled a deal with horror film experts at FrightFest. The partnership will see Icon releasing films selected and curated by the FrightFest team on all digital formats under the FrightFest banner. The deal means FrightFest and its founders’ impeccable taste and canny knack for discovering horror will be given a wider, commercial platform and enables Icon to use their A&R sensibilities to bring more consumers in. FrightFest’s Paul McEvoy, who inked the deal along with co-founders Ian Rattray, Alan Jones and Greg Day, said: “In expanding the FrightFest brand we are opening up new audiences for horror and fantasy, a genre which already has a clear, devoted and almost fanatical fan base. With Icon as our partner and using their distribution channels, we are looking forward to talking to producers and sales companies about how FrightFest can get their films to more film fans.” Icon’s Zak Brilliant and Sophie Wong helped put the deal together and the company’s Ian Dawson said: “Icon has always had a strong relationship with the FrightFest team, never more so than over the past 12 months when they, and their supporters, have been an integral part of our launches for The Guest, The Babadook and It Follows. We have long admired their commitment to genre and the loyal community they have built up over the years. This partnership offers a great opportunity to work together behind new and exciting content, taking it to the widest possible audience, making their community a whole lot bigger.”

Meanwhile, another independent Metrodome has this week announced shooting in under way on the supernatural chiller Thea, first of a slate which will be released by the company in the UK and sold internationally for other territories. Metrodome’s Jezz Vernon is among the film’s co-producer and he told The Raygun: “Its good to have the cameras rolling again – The Guvnors has performed exceptionally well for us and we have The Bait coming to market in Q2, the script for Thea is really unique – so much more ambitious in its themes and ideas than the average horror. It falls somewhere between Rosemary’s Baby and Bad Neighbours, its a very original film and we’re fortunate to have such a great line-up of talent in front of and behind the camera.”

Talking of Metrodome, the company’s Vernon appeared alongside West Ham fan turned film producer Cass Pennant in this excellent Guardian feature on homegrown British films. Commenting after its publication, Vernon said: “
While its only a part of what we do at Metrodome its a genre that has been very good to us over the years and working alongside collaborators like Cass we’ve been able to achieve some formidable sales figures – there are some incredible new stories to tell that we’re cueing over the next few months, watch this space.” 

What news of one of our favourite imprint, Arrow Video, and its launch in the US? The cult label has, as outlined here previously, opened a US arm recently, so we thought we’d ask the UK outfit how things were progressing… Here’s Francesco Simeoni who said: “It’s all going very well. Our first convention (Texas Frightmare) is coming up on the first May weekend which is exciting. We’re also about to sign some big deals in the US with one of the majors, a big independent on a big multi-title deal and US press is in love with us – we have one cover feature on the label coming upin  one of the big horror mags and the next edition of Video Watchdog is pretty much devoted to Arrow, which is nice. Critical support couldn’t be better but sales are going very well too and fans are beginning to be introduced to a kind of releasing strategy and style that doesn’t really exist in the US (booklets over there aren’t really much of a standard for boutiques like they are in the UK and full scale restorations like we perform are rare for genre titles) so they’re excited about all these little extras we provide alongside being fairly knocked out by our restorations and new to disc titles. generally it’s all going pretty well.”

And we’ll end with a reminder, as aspiring film poster designers have only got a few weeks left to enter the FilmDoo competition which includes such illustrious distributors and film companies as Picturehouse, Altitude, Terracotta, Third Window and Peccadillo and, of course, us at The Raygun, as judge (nice to be asked and all that). The competition closes on April 30, ahead of the winner being unveiled at Cannes, with the eventual winner getting the chance to design a poster for a proper film release. Commenting on its success thus far, FilmDoo’s William Page said: “We are happy to be supporting FilmDoo’s innovative competition.” More at
and we’ll have more on our website soon

“We had a phenomenal reaction in the U.S. and Canada for that movie. What could have been a financial disaster turned it into a financial win for the studio. So if anything you want to look at that and say, well, it's a beautiful possibility for future disruption in theatrical release patterns.”
Netflix’s Ted Sarandos on the “beautiful one-off” that was The Interview, released via Netflix just after its US theatrical bow. He said he was looking to shorten theatrical to vod window…

With the big blockbuster films dominating, there were a welter of mid-level box office entries, from Cobain: Montage Of Heck and its £100,000 opening weekend haul upwards… Other new entries included The Duff, with just under £900,000 and the likes of John Wick, Woman In Gold and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 all opening with receipts around the £500,000 mark.

It’s been a week for the biggies, as Star Wars fans have pored over the new trailer for The Force Awakens and hung upon every word uttered by JJ Abrams and others at the Star Wars Celebration convention. As if that wasn’t enough, the Batman V Superman trailer arrived too. But in non-Marvel and Star Wars related news, good to see Ryan Gosling is in the frame to star in the new Blade Runner film currently going into production…

Meanwhile big superhero debate of the week. Batman V Superman trailer aside, is another DC title, the 2017-due Wonder Woman film. For Michelle MacLaren has left the film, for the old “creative differences” chestnut, with Patty Jenkins, formerly behind the camera at Monster, as well as a raft of TV programming, taking over at the helm…


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