It Was A Bad Week For… Anyone who presented but wasn't nominated for BVA awards. Commiserations…
With Blockbuster and HMV’s fate still in the lap of the gods, and still no word from Revolver, it’s great to be able to report on our industry doing something positive. So, we’re starting this week’s newsletter with just that: some good news. Not content with just having enjoyed its biggest year ever in terms of theatrical and home entertainment revenues, Lionsgate organised a cracking charity bash held last night at London’s legendary 100 Club. The live music night raised more than £17,000 for a quartet of good causes, Macmillan Cancer Support, Shelter, Pancreatic Cancer Action and Nordoff Robbins. It mixed both a quiz and karaoke, the former done with a live band made up predominantly of Lionsgate staffers. With different studios and suppliers turning up, retail support, different agencies and a full complement from both Lionsgate and its sales company Elevation, it had a decidedly old school feel to it, it was the kind of event the industry used to do so well but has faded from sight during these tougher times.
Highlights from the Lionsgate charity event included Icon and former HMV staffer Ian Dawson and former retail colleague Colin Dunlop performing their duelling guitars, Sainsbury’s Andy Chatburn singing live, Lionsgate’s Nicola Pearcey on keyboards and the vocals of the company’s own singing sensation Kaz Mills. Oh, and, er, Nick Gibbs McNeil singing Pulp’s Disco 2000, which was, to be fair, nowhere nearly as bad as you might have expected it to be. Lionsgate’s Nicola Pearcey, chief organiser of the event said, “I am so incredibly proud and grateful to the band and everyone at Lionsgate for their hard work and camaraderie around the organisation of this event. What materialised from a small to gig to a sell out audience of over 300 we have our sponsors and raffle prize donators to thank for helping raise so much money. The band members deserve an individual shout out in return for the weekends and evenings we all spent together practicing, so thank you to Lionsgater’s Richard Ashley-Cowan, Matt Smith, Melissa Frost, Kaz Mills, Sol Tricot, Andy Trickett and our guest drummer Kim Buttress.” Congratulations to all involved for putting in their time and efforts, not just in raising the cash but also making it such a good event.
And congratulations too to Lionsgate, which cemented its growing reputation as a big league player with a quartet of nominations for the forthcoming BVA awards, as unveiled this week. The company picked up four nominations for the coveted gongs, including TV (for Mad Men) and three different categories (for Troll Hunter, Keith Lemon The Film and The Hunger Games). Universal leads the shortlist, with a total of eight nominations, straddling special interest, music, film, children’s, catalogue and creative initiative categories. Warner has five, Fox four, and Sony (SPHE), eOne, Studiocanal, Momentum and BBC Worldwide all have two apiece, while Fremantle also has one. A few further points worth noting: it’s good to see the blockbuster section (marketing for films with more than £10 million box office) dominated by the independent sector (or mini-majors, as they’re sometimes referred to), with nods for both eOne (The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 1) and Lionsgate (the aforementioned The Hunger Games), joining Warner (The Dark Knight Rises) on the grown-ups’ table. It’s also good to see Momentum Pictures, a name that is likely to disappear from the industry after its recent acquisition be eOne, marking its farewell with two nominations, for film marketing for Troll Hunter and The Raid, both campaigns which we’ve detailed here extensively on The Raygun. In one of the more interesting categories, the Creative Initiative, Arrow has been nominated for its Nordic Noir brand, SPHE for its partnership with DFS for Arthur Christmas and Universal for its augmented reality work. Supplier/agency of the year nods are for Premier, Creo and Eulogy.
And now more on some of those other nominees. As noted above, both Blockbuster and HMV are nominated in their respective retail categories and the next seven days should prove to be crucial for the retailers, both currently in administration (both, ironically, with Deloitte). The HMV deal is delicately poised, and although the much vaunted date of March 25 is a bit of a misnomer – it’s when the second quarter rent bill is due for retailers – mainly due to the fact that many HMV stores are on monthly rents and the stores will be open beyond that date no matter what, a deal is still likely to happen close to Easter, either on or before. Hilco is now said to be the only company left in the bidding process, with today’s Independent stating that it is looking to buy the brand and 130 of the stores in a deal that will be worth more than £50 million. Hilco has been meeting suppliers and discussing likely terms if and when HMV comes out of administration. Any deal will hinge on this, and it could all still unravel, but it looks as if Hilco could be moving in the right direction… Details about Blockbuster’s future are far sketchier, but our thoughts are with both retailers, fingers crossed for all the staff involved.
And mention of Momentum brings us on to more of the company’s Q2 offering. Talks are still ongoing for what the merged eOne and Momentum operation will look like following the former’s acquisition of the latter, but, as we’ve noted here and elsewhere, the company is still going strong with its Q2 releases. All of which brings us on to Quartet, a delightful homegrown comedy that, while being set in the UK, marks the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman. It took more than £8 million at the box office and is now being readied for a May 6 home entertainment release, in premium packaging and with a commentary from Hoffman himself. Commenting on the release strategy, Momentum’s Kristin Ryan said: “While our targeting will be focused on the 55+ market, the awareness and appeal of the cast and director broadens it out much further. Our marketing campaign consists of heavyweight TV, kicking off with a key spot in the terrestrial broadcast premiere of The King's Speech on Channel 4 mid-April and throughout release across ITV, Channel 4, the Sky group and key digital channels. Our press advertising will include national broadsheets over the bank holiday weekend and throughout release week as well as key ads in Saga, Royal Opera House and the National Trust magazines. With its strong music connection we'll be building on the Classic FM association with a two week radio ad and online campaign. Additionally, we'll be advertising with the Royal Flower Show group through the month of May which is perfect fit for our audience as well as other key 'silver surfer' sites around release. The cast as well as key behind the scenes talent are fully committed to supporting our release and we have additional confirmed activity with Jazz FM, BBC Music mag, Age Concern, Decca Records and the Verona tourist board plus much much more. Our list of promotional partners is a reflection of both the broad appeal and the sheer Britishness with which bands want to be associated; activity is so far confirmed with English Heritage, James Whites drinks, COOK stores, TIMEX Originals Classics and the National Opera.”
One likely candidate for BVA awards next year could be Network’s ambitious plans for The British Film collection, which aims to do the same for homegrown films as it did for classic British television. It is aiming to become an umbrella brand for vintage British films, it will launch with titles from its recently inked Studiocanal deal. All the titles will carry The British Film logo and Network is pledging new transfers in the correct aspect ratio, the opportunity to use “Instant Play” to get stuck straight into the film, slimline packaging and “attractive price points”. It is all being supported by a series of The British Film ambassadors, experts in different genres, from Ealing to horror and saucier output. They will be doing PR work to support the releases, which kick off on April 8 with The Ealing Studios Rarities Collection Volume 1 and The House In Nightmare Park, a comedy horror starring Frankie Howerd. Social media will play an important part of the marketing, with Facebook and Twitter (#TheBritishFilm) launching on Monday March 25. Network’s Tim Beddows said: “No UK company has the breadth and depth of thought-provoking British films like Network. There is a distinct lack of appreciation and knowledge for many of the nation’s cinematic treasures and we are now going to pro-actively address this as part of a five-year plan to put classic UK cinema back into the public’s consciousness.”
The wrestling world, or rather the WWE, is gearing itself up for the busiest part of its calendar year and Fremantle, the new home of WWE on DVD in the UK and Europe, is keeping itself equally busy. Its carrying on with its ongoing series of releases – TLC: Tables Ladders Chairs 2012 is out on Monday March 25, The Best Of Raw And Smackdown 2012 out on April 8 and Royal Rumble 2013 on April 15 – as well as preparing itself for Wrestlemania. The event, the highlight of the WWE’s year, with all the storylines and bouts leading up to it, takes place in New York on April 7, ahead of Fremantle’s release in the summer. And the WWE is also heading to the UK for a multi-date tour later in April, with Fremantle planning plenty of activity around the British dates. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, Monday March 25 sees Fremantle launching the WWE iTunes store, with 12 titles on offer. Fremantle’s Ken Law said: “Most labels gear up for a Q4, with WWE our Q4 is Q2. We have January’s huge pay-per-view the Royal Rumble, when The Rock returned, out on 15th April and this is bookended by the big one, WrestleMania 29 on 10th June not to mention the WrestleMania live event itself in NYC on 7th April which creates a huge increase in awareness for the whole brand and then the Superstars and Divas land in the UK for 8 arena dates at the end of April and we have the full roster of WWE talent on hand for promotion. Combined with the iTunes store launch on Monday, it’s a very exciting and lucrative time for WWE.”
To the ever-wonderful Soho Hotel for a packed screening of the forthcoming Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, already one of this year's most talked about films. It stars James Franco as a bad boy rapper and some of Hollywood's hottest starlets, including Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, and follows a group of girls going wild during the notorious American college holiday. It's another local acquisition for Universal, part of its ongoing move into upping its slate by buying films with a keen eye on their home entertainment potential. As well as this excellent outing, it has also this week announced that it has picked up the eagerly awaited Spike Island, a film following a group of lads making their way to the legendary Stone Roses gig. Both will be released at theatrical by independent Vertigo, with Universal handling the subsequent home entertainment rights.
Good to see Koch Media continuing its assault on the film business, and it’s been dreaming up some inventive activity to back its theatrical titles. Take, for example, Red Dawn, a big acquisition for the company (as reported here previously) and released at cinemas last weekend. As a publicity stunt, Koch had a crack team of soldiers, complete with a tank, invading Washington, much like the Koreans due to America in the film. The novelty being that, for the purposes of the PR stunt, Koch had them head to Washington in Tyne and Wear rather than the US capital. As well as that, the company also produced a ubiquitous Harlem Shake video, which you can see here: The company’s Paul Nicholls said: ““Outside of traditional marketing we always like to create a more inventive and stand out piece. We were looking to create a stunt that would capture the media's attention and build consumers' excitement ahead of the film's release. Our invasion of Washington, Tyne and Wear, alongside the Harlem Shake video was designed to appeal strongly to our core, teenage demographic - as well as proving very topical.”
And while we’re on Koch, interesting to see the company experimenting with new release strategies and ways of bringing its title to the market. One such title is The Expatriate, a thriller starring Aaron Eckhart and Olga Kurylenko. It was released this week as an exclusive via iTunes, and will arrive at cinemas 11 days after its iTunes bow, on March 29, before finally making its way to DVD and Blu-ray on April 1.
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