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It Was A Good Week For... The Krays. Still big business…
It Was A Bad Week For… Thoughts with the Xtra-vision staff as the Irish retailer slips into receiveship…
A big week for Studiocanal, as trailed here by us last year and mentioned last week, as its Kray twins biopic, Legend, arrived in stores. And the title, one of last year’s biggest successes and one of the company’s biggest ever titles here in the UK, has got off to the kind of rampaging start that Reg and Ron would have been proud of. According to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin, the film had shifted some 157,000 units in its first three days on sale. Commenting on its success, Studiocanal’s John Rodden said: “Legend is performing incredibly well across all areas of the market. Digital sales last week were very strong and as we go into the weekend, all indications are that we will beat our original ambitious target on physical release.  The enduring interest in the Krays and Tom Hardy’s standout double performance have elevated interest and increased the buzz on the film. We’ve worked hard with all of our service and retail partners to make this the first event title of the year,  it’s great boost for the whole industry.   As always we share our success with Elevation and thank the whole team for their hard work.”
Meanwhile, there was another success story for the Manga imprint, as the release via Platform and worked by anime experts at Animatsu, of Dragonball Z: Resurrection F saw the title catapulting into the midweek charts at number four, bested only by Legend and a brace of Universal former number ones, Straight Outta Compton and Everest. Its first week sales were hailed as a huge sucess, Animatsu’s Andrew Hewson said: “"Fantastic result so far! Not only has Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F had huge success at the UK box office with it landing in the top 10 week of release, it’s also currently the second biggest selling new release title in the official BVA chart, just behind Studiocanal's Legend. We are extremely proud and thankful to everyone who has worked on this great campaign, from all the hard working people here at Manga to the amazing PR team at Substance. Since the very beginning fans have been so receptive and loving towards the film and we can’t thank them enough for helping make it such a hit, both theatrically and on DVD/Blu-ray.”

After its Golden Globes success – the fact it won in the comedy section is still being commented on – The Martian has landed on digital HD this week ahead of its physical bow on February 8. Fox marked the event by coming up with a PR wheeze, commissioning a survey that found out how consumers remain positive during the winter months. The idea was based on the way the film’s chief character, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) cheers himself up when stranded on the red planet. As well as listening to music (the top way), other suggestions also included watching a DVD. Celebrity psychologist Jo Hemmings said: “Indulge yourself, whether that means enjoying your favourite songs like Mark Watney who listened to disco music, or just taking one day at a time. Mark wrote down and crossed through all his ‘sols’ and this helped him focus on seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Think about what you’re going to do when January is over – book that holiday, get out more to see friends and family, plan a weekend away.  Anticipation helps us feel better.”
And how’s it been doing in its first week as a digital HD release? has been pushing it hard this week, giving the film a major push through its social media channels and elsewhere. So, how’s it performing? Well, it’s off to a strong start according to Wuaki. The company’s Simon Homent said: “We're delighted with the launch we've had this week with The Martian and are expecting it to continue its stellar performance over the weekend. We've agreed a cosmic marketing plan with Fox across Europe and are looking forward to seeing it at the top of our charts throughout the awards season."
Sticking with Wuaki and the company has announced it has passed an international milestone this week as it continues to expand. The streaming service has reached 2 million users in Spain, adding 600,000 viewers in a year. It now boasts a total of 3 million users across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Ireland. It plans to reach 15 countries by the end of 2016…
Some more figures now and Sky has published its financial results for the six months to the end of December 2015 and it made for suitably impressive reading, as revenue (£5,718 million) and operating profit ((up 12 per cent to £747 million) both showed growth. But what the company had to say about Sky Store and its Buy And Keep offering was perhaps the most interesting. Revenue was up 35 per cent and the report noted: “We continued to expand our transactional services with Sky Store growing fast and already generating annualised revenues of £100 million. Our UK Buy & Keep service was the number 1 digital retailer in the UK for many new releases with our bestselling films in the quarter including Minions, Jurassic World and Inside Out. In November we launched our Spectre ‘pre-order’ campaign and this, along with our recent Star Wars campaign, have seen amongst the largest ever digital pre-order sales in the UK.” As anyone who’s seen Sky – or any other commercial channel – recently will know just how hard its been pushing the pre-sales of both The Force Awakens and Spectre…

And yet more figures, as Kantar Worldpanel has unveiled its latest entertainment retail data for the 12 weeks to December 20. And in keeping with much of the industry’s received wisdom, the organisation said that recent theatrical successes mean that physical sales in 2016 could surprise many. Kantar’s Fiona Kennan said: “Physical video may have struggled last year, but the video release of Star Wars in 2016 will no doubt be a welcome boost for the physical video market. Over 60 per cent of cinema-goers from the opening weekend of The Force Awakens intend to buy the movie once it’s released – more than double the average blockbuster.”
Those impressive box office figures for 2015 which could, as we’ve noted able and here before, were broken down further by the BFI as the organisation revealed a statistical look at the year gone by. As well as the previously reported mammoth box office haul in the UK – £1.24 billion, up 17 per cent year on year – it showed admissions totalling just shy of 172 million at UK cinemas. More than 10 per cent of the total box office came from independent homegrown productions, led by Legend, with eight taking more than £5 million. Commenting on the figures, the BFI’s Amanda Nevill said: “With spend from film production over £1.4 billion, audiences flocking to cinemas and UK box office topping £1.2 billion for the first time, today’s numbers show a golden age of British film continuing – and underlines film’s important contribution to the UK economy. It’s significant that a wide range of fantastic British independent films won the hearts and minds of audiences in a hugely competitive year, but it’s clear that the market is still tough for the makers and distributors of independent and specialised films – something the BFI is seeking to address through its Film Forever strategy.”
And now a figure that makes for rather grimmer reading – 580. For that’s the number of staff facing redundancy as Irish rental chain Xtra-vision collapsed into receivership. The predictable headlines – “streaming killed the video store” and assorted variants – belie the fact that in some respects owner Hilco had not viewed the rental market as being viable in the long-term, noting that it could be a “niche player”. It was a separate entity to the other retail businesses. The growth of streaming and poor sales in the run up to Christmas were blamed – sales were said to have been 25 per cent down on the previous year. For many in the industry it was a case of assessing the damage, but it’s not thought that Xtra-vision owed across the industry. Problems with credit insurance meant that none were facing huge losses, with much of the €6 million worth of stock – now being collected in a warehouse in Dublin – was on consignment and set to be returned to distributors and suppliers. Monies owed to the authorities, for VAT and the likes, as well as money outstanding to parent Hilco. Observers suggested that the Xtra-vision brand will remain for its online operations, as well as the vending machine business. There were 83 stores in total, 72 in Ireland and 11 north of the border, Many had already been earmarked for closure, while Hilco said there was potential for some to be saved, possibly under the HMV banner. This could further help some of the workers, as would the ongoing bending business. Our thoughts are with the staff affects and fingers crossed for their futures. More on this in the weeks to come…
Amazon in the US has published its own sales figures and the online behemoth has seen global sales grow again – up by more than 20 per cent to a whopping $35billion plus. The sums are so great and on such a worldwide level, it’s hard to get a true sense of its achievements, but some of the more pertinent facts include the one that Prime membership grew by more than 50 per cent, with it recording even faster growth outside of the US. Its streaming customer numbers were nearly double those in the fourth quarter of 2014. And, over the holiday season, Man In The High Castle was its most watched streaming programme, boasting more than four and a half times as many viewers as other shows. Commenting on the overall figures, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos said: “Twenty years ago, I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping we might one day afford a forklift. This year, we pass $100 billion in annual sales and serve 300 million customers. And still, measured by the dynamism we see everywhere in the marketplace and by the ever-expanding opportunities we see to invent on behalf of customers, it feels every bit like Day 1.”

Arrow has issued a touching tribute to French new wave director Jacques Rivette, whose death was announced on Friday January 29. The company recently released a mammoth box set featuring some of  the director’s output under the banner of The Jacques Rivette Collection. In a statement on its Facebook account, the company stated: “We’re very saddened to hear that Jacques Rivette has died. We have heard through friends and have no official links just yet but expect more information to surface online soon. Rivette was a titan of not only the French new wave but of all cinema. His work is dear to our hearts and we are incredibly proud to have released a small portion of it. We can't recommend checking out his films enough, if our Rivette box is too daunting a starting place, Paris, Nous Appartient and Celine And Julie Go Boating have been released by the BFI (and are an excellent start), Eureka has released Le Pont Du Nord, and Artificial Eye has released numerous key works. RIP Mr Rivette, your work will live forever.”
Speaking of Arrow, the company added another string to its bow this week with the announcement that it is moving into the world of sales and distribution after taking over the S&D for SecondRun, the boutique label that recently celebrated 10 years in the business. It’s the first label Arrow Films is looking after, with the operation handling both physical and digital sales. Commenting on the move, the company’s Alex Agran said: “This is a great opportunity for Arrow to be able to represent one of the finest and considered labels in the UK. I have been a long-time admirer of Second Run for its curated approach to distribution, its distinct brand and for its many accolades and awards it collects each year. We are excited to be able to represent Second Run’s rich catalogue at this special point in time for the company.” Second Run’s Mehelli Modi added: ““In beginning our second decade as an independent label, I feel that Second Run is really fortunate to have found a company such as Arrow Films to represent our sales and distribution.  In the past few years Arrow have, with their focus, choice of films and the effort and care they take in presenting their work in the best possible editions, become amongst the very top labels for the discerning cinephile. Arrow’s whole-hearted acceptance and understanding of a deeply-curated label such as Second Run, having even released films from Second Run’s own wish-list that I never expected anyone else to want to release, clearly shows me that we will be in good and caring hands. I really hope and believe that this alliance with Arrow will provide us with more opportunity and a wider reach for our films and the filmmakers we work with and that result is, at its heart, exactly what Second Run exists to try and do.”
The deal will also help act as a springboard for the next step in Second Run’s development. For after  10 years the imprint, which has concentrated on DVD thus far as part of its own ethos – the label is admirable for having its own set of standards and ideals. In one of the first moves under the deal, in March, Second Run will be bowing its first ever high definition disc. Here’s Mehelli Modi again: “As a totally independent label, it has also given us the confidence to make our first foray into Blu-ray with the release in March of Pedro Costa’s award-winning and extraordinary film Horse Money.” And, as he added: “All this makes the next ten years of Second Run even more exciting to contemplate.”

Dogwoof is keeping itself busy into the New Year, with the distributor's gripping The Fear Of 13 heading straight to the top of the documentary chart on iTunes, followed by Janis Joplin biog Little Girl Blue in cinemas next Friday (February 5) and on DVD and digital this Q2 (May 9). Sandwiched between those two home entertainment releases are the likes of Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015 opener The Show of Shows (February 8) and Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (February 22). Commenting on its forthcoming releases, the company’s Daniel Green said: "This is already looking to be a fantastic Q1 for Dogwoof. The Fear Of 13 is sating the thirsts of those rightly obsessed with Making A Murderer and our run of acclaimed art documentaries continues with Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict. We also had a very productive Sundance and can't wait to bring titles like Jim: The James Foley Story, Mapplethorpe and Weiner to UK audiences later in the year."
Back to the BFI, and the organisation has had a busy week. As well as unveiling its stats for 2016, the company has made a few major announcements. Monday morning saw Sir Ian McKellen help launch a major season being held across its different platforms, from the Southbank to other venues, and from the BFI Player to its DVD and Blu-ray arm. Chief among the activity is the release of Play On! Shakespeare In Silent Cinema, a painstakingly assembled look at early celluloid adaptations of the Bard’s work. It will be release theatrical ahead of a DVD and Blu-ray bow. Richard III, the McKellen 1995 take on the classic, will also be released by the BFI as a dual format title, complete with a new commentary, in May after a theatrical outing. Other distributors are getting on board too, as Studiocanal will be issuing a restored version of Kurosawa’s Ran (based on King Lear) on physical formats, again after it has aired at cinemas. The activity marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. McKellen said: “400 years on, Shakespeare’s plays continue to dominate stages worldwide, mostly of course in translation, challenging actors, directors, designers and audiences. The BFI’s Shakespeare on Film is more than just timely, it is a glimpse of the matchless collection of brilliant endeavour from world-beating Shakespeare experts like Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and Kenneth Branagh whose films have popularised Shakespeare over the years. Their theatre-roots are evident. They have respect for the text and cut lines with regret. Other directors have successfully translated the stage plays for the screen, aiming, perhaps to make great cinema than great Shakespeare. Here, I relish Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet; Julie Taymor’s Titus Andronicus; Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood and Ran. And there are more. I will not be the only one to be grateful to the BFI for their initiative in this anniversary year.” The BFI’s Jill Reading added: “With all the exciting and interesting Shakespeare activity happening this year, we wanted to add something special to the BFI’s Shakespeare on Film programme. Play On! Shakespeare In Silent Cinema reveals wonderful, pioneering footage that brought his work to the screen over a hundred years ago, and we’ve commissioned musicians and composers from Shakespeare’s Globe to write the score. Richard III has an all-star cast, is visually stunning (shot mainly on location in London) and is highly entertaining.”
Due later in the year from the BFI, comes the latest part of the ongoing restoration of another spent classic, Abel Gance’s Napoleon. The epic five-hour tale has now been completely digitally restored and, after playing at cinemas around the country and off the back of a gala screening with a live orchestral performance of the score at the Royal Festival Hall, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time ever in November. BFI creative director Heather Stewart said: “Several generations of staff at the BFI have worked on this project. Napoleon is a landmark in the history of cinema and we are grateful to all of the great talents who have helped us along the way but especially, of course, Kevin Brownlow for his indefatigable championing of the film and Carl Davis for his amazing score.” Kevin Brownlow, Photoplay Productions said: “This is a tremendous step forward for film history.” Carl Davis, composer added: “Thanks to the BFI we have this splendid DVD and Blu-ray. In the words of Napoleon ‘At last!’ “

As our regular readers know, we’ve spent a lifetime watching horror movies of all shapes and sizes dating right back to the early days of the VHS era, and we’e got pretty strong stomachs. But one release we’ve watched this week, The Green Inferno, due from eOne on February 22, is one of the more outré films we’ve seen in recent years. And, as we’ve noted on our website, it plays like an old 70s Italian horror film. Commenting on the film, directed by genre maestro Eli Roth, eOne’s Scott Monahan said: “We’re really excited to be bringing The Green Inferno to the UK as we see the long-awaited return of horror auteur Eli Roth who has dished us up a masterpiece of cannibalistic gore. Filmed on location in Peru and with a native tribe who had never been captured on film before, The Green Inferno is a horror of great scope that offers a fresh take on modern horror by paying homage to the video nasties of the past. We’ll be raising awareness for the release with special late night screenings at select Picturehouse sites including a double bill with Cannibal Holocaust at Picturehouse Central along with support from Eli in key horror and film publications. We’ll also be supporting the release with impactful above the line press and online pre-roll activity targeting our core horror and Eli Roth fans.”
Meanwhile, on the same date, February 22, and after a brief theatrical outing at cinemas on February 19, comes Freeheld, a drama based on a true story. Commenting on the release, eOne’s Scott Monahan said: “Based on the Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name, Freeheld tells the inspirational true story of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree’s fight for justice and equality with outstanding performances from Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon and Steve Carell. Julianne will be in town around release, appearing on Graham Norton and hosting a Q&A event at the Ritzy to discuss her experiences on the film, and we’ve also partnered with Stonewall on various online and social activations to further generate awareness for the release.”
Out on Monday, due from Lionsgate, is one of 2015’s most raved about films, Sicario. The movie, which follows the war on drugs and Mexican cartels, earned plaudits and looks set to become a home entertainment banker. Commenting on the release, Lionsgate’s Susie Bould said: “Having pulled out all the stops to create a marketing campaign that has a broad reach and speaks to the consumer in a way that truly captures their attention, we are very excited about Monday’s release of Sicario. From engaging and targeted pre-order activity across social platforms that utilises our AV assets in a unique and fresh way, to a broad and comprehensive marketing campaign across outdoor, TV, vod, print and digital – further complimented by a strong PR campaign that delves into the dark subject matter of the film, we have tailored our campaign to position this quality, BAFTA and Academy Award nominated film with the gravitas it deserves.”
As January turns into February, so the thoughts turn to the BVA Awards and the organisation has this week declared that the awards are now open for business, or at least open for entries. There are 22 categories to choose from and forms and guidelines are now up on the organisation’s website, with entries open until February 26. Nomination packs and presentations need to be submitted by March 18, ahead of the judging in April. The event itself takes place on June 9 at its new home of Tobacco Dock over in east London. In a statement announcing that nominations are open, the organisation said: “With 10 per cent of tickets sold in the first week of going on sale and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment having both confirmed as event sponsors, the event is shaping up to be as spectacular as ever.”
And keep an eye on our website over the next few days – our pals at the Duke Mitchell Film Club have unearthed a whole series of gems from the VHS era. They unveiled these at their monthly night this week, showing trailer tapes and, best of all, a guide to how to run a rental store. We're in the process of tracking down some of its creators and feature comments and the short on our website in the coming days. Keep 'em peeled…

“TV viewing has been redefined. Growing access to the internet at any time and in any place, and a blurring of television content across channels and devices, brings a landmark change in behaviour this year. Children are now seeking out the content of their choice. They still find traditional TV programmes engaging but are increasingly watching them online and on-demand or binge watching box sets."
Simon Leggett, Childwise research director on its latest research unveiled this week, which shows Netflix is more popular among kids than traditional TV channels…
The Revenant remained at number one at UK cinemas, with a haul that now totals more than £12 million. Ride Along 2, on the back of the impressive Ice Cube and Kevin Hart UK PR tour, was the highest new entry with more than £2 million in receipts. The Big Short arrived with more than £1.3 million, while The Fifth wave took just shy of £500,000 in its opening frame.
Our old pal, sometime Raygun contributor, former HMV buyer turned Anchor Bay acquisitions director Rod Smith is keeping himself busy. Now heading up production outfit Evolution Pictures, the first film from the fledgling operation, Eat Local is currently shooting ahead of a planned theatrical and home entertainment release later in the year. The film marks the directorial debut of Jason Flemyng, a Brit movie veteran, and the tale of vampires getting together for a country retreat stars Charlie Cox, the titular comic book hero in Netflix’s Marvel adaptation Daredevil, and former Dr Who companion Freema Agyeman. Needless to say, given his track record and previous forays into production while at Anchor Bay (successes such as We Still Kill The Old Way), Smith has a keen eye on the film’s DVD potential. So, how’s filming going so far? “It's going incredibly well, this film is by far the biggest and best film I've ever been involved in, this is definitely a theatrical quality production and we have a stellar cast and crew. It's really going to be something quite special and I'm very proud to have it as my first main production for Evolution Pictures. Jason Flemyng is a natural born director and is already delivering some incredible scenes, I can't wait for everyone to see it in early 2017,” Smith said.  
Some sequel news now and the best story we’ve read this week concerns the proposed follow-up to one of our favourite fins of the past few years, What We Do In The Shadows. The sequel to the New Zealand comedy horror featuring some of the Flight Of The Conchords crowd, will be known as We’re Wolves. It’s a title that will appeal to both fans of the Championship football team, as well as anyone with an NZ accent or, better still, those who thought the best jokes in the first film revolved around Murray from the Conchords and his team of lycanthropes. “We’re werewolves, not swear wolves…” 
More sequel business now, as more details have emerged of the impending and somewhat delayed follow up to Blade Runner. The film will start shooting this summer, with Dennis Villeneuve, of Prisoners fame, directing. Oh and it looks like Sony will look after distribution outside of the US, with Warner handling in its own backyard.
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Eli Roth, exec producing a remake of one of his earlier outings…
New Deadpool clip…
Old-fashioned body swap comedy…
Not about online bullies…
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