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It was a good week for… Disney and especially Marvel…
It was a bad week for… After its Comic Con reveal, Disney looks set to dominate for years…
It’s been a busy week for Disney’s Marvel operation, with guns blazing and fists flying on all fronts. Last weekend daw the major unveiling its slate for the next phase of Marvel action across both feature film and television properties, with a raft of new programming announced, using the big San Diego Comic Con event to reveal its plans. And then, as the dust was settling on its announcement, its current big theatrical blockbuster Avengers: Endgame hit a landmark of its own. The film is now officially the highest grossing film ever at the global box office, having passed the magic mark and amassed $2.79 billion at cinemas worldwide.  Ironically, it bested a title that is now a Disney-owned property – Avatar. And the creator of that film, due its own sequels shortly, James Cameron, congratulated the studio. “I see you, Marvel. Congratulations to Avengers Endgame on becoming the new box-office king. Jim Cameron,” he said. The fact that Avatar now falls under the Disney banner was noted by the major’s supremo Alan Horn, who said: “ Of course, even with the passage of a decade, the impact of James Cameron's Avatar remains as powerful as ever, and the astonishing achievements of both of these films are ongoing proof of the power of movies to move people and bring them together in a shared experience. The talented filmmakers behind these worlds have much more in store, and we look forward to the future of both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Pandora.”
And so, just as it passed Avatar’s landmark box office haul, Disney chose this week to announce the release of Avengers Endgame on home entertainment formats. It enabled the press release to trumpet the fact that “the biggest film of all-time is coming home”. It comes, of course, in a slew of different SKUs across both digital and physical formats, with the former arriving on August 19 and the latter on September 2. All contain a raft of extras, including a blooper reel that has been gaining plenty of traction this week in the wake of Comic Con (you can see it here ). And they’s started pre-ordering strongly too. Adrian Zak, senior manager at Virgin Media Store and Virgin Movies told The Raygun: “Endgame is shaping up to be our biggest movie to date given the strong pre-order numbers and we're really getting behind it as are Disney with some strong drafting support.”
All of this comes as Captain Marvel is enjoying its moment in the sun in the home entertainment charts, holding on to the number one slot in the Official Film Chart this week. The film has performed strongly on the back of its strong box office earlier this year and the general Marvel brouhaha that continues. As Virgin Media Store and Virgin Movies’ Adrian Zak added: “Captain Marvel's done well for us with its Week 1 EST figure and its rental debut is one of the strongest this year so far.” In its Official FilM Chart weekly update this week, BASE and Official Charts Company had noted its success, saying: “Brie Larson’s strongest Avenger, Captain Marvel, returns to the summit of the Official Film Chart this week thanks to its release on DVD and Blu-ray, after shooting into the top spot two weeks ago on digital sales alone. The superhero epic shifted over 231,000 copies and outsold the rest of the Top 10 combined this week as its fellow Marvel Universe title, Avengers Endgame was announced as the highest grossing film of all time at cinemas.”

And while we’re on releases doing well, this week’s Official Film Chart’s highest new entry, at number five on the back of its digital release alone, is Us, the Universal-released horror from Jordan Peele, his first post-Get Out release and another corking genre tale. Commenting on its success is Virgin Media Store and Virgin Movies’ Adrian Zak who said: “Us has had a solid start on Store aided by some nice promotion (including the Jordan Peele’s Horror Tournament featurette we've been showing with Peele holding a knockout competition with his favourite horror movies to find his number one). I don't want to spoil what the winner was except to say "don’t fall asleep”.”
Us arrives on physical platforms on Monday July 29 after its early digital success. As with the above special featurette on Virgin Media Store – it really is a belter, we caught up with it this week – there is plenty of material involving director Jordan Peele and the near-hour’s worth of extra content featured has provided Universal with much of the thrust of its marketing campaign. This includes a print, social and vod campaign, with a special ad in the London Film and Comic Con programme. PR has included interviews and coverage in British Blacklist, Dread Central, Pride Online and Daily Record, alongside a Jordan Peele-themed feature in Empire. Mirror Online ran a world exclusive special feature clip from this Friday,  while there will be a media drop including gingerbread ‘tethered’, soundtracks and finished copies to the likes of Unilad, Total Film and Digital Spy on Monday (we’re in all day if someone wants to send it to us too). Commenting on the release, product manager Alicia Cho said: “The film is incredible – on a horror and artistic level. I always catch some new easter egg or something I missed every time I watch!”
Also arriving on Monday after a hugely successful theatrical run is Capernaum, the 2018 Cannes jury prize-winning Lebanese drama that has wowed audiences worldwide. Released by Picturehouse Entertainment, it comes on the back of its Cannes performance, Oscar and numerous award nominations, a raft of four and five-star reviews and film of the week plaudits and more. The film is also not only the most successful Arabic film ever, as well as the biggest from the Middle East, thanks to its word of mouth-achieved blockbuster status in China and a $68 million global box office haul. Commenting on the release, Picturehouse’s Corrina Antrobus said: “We're incredibly excited to be releasing Capernaum on DVD, Blu-ray and digital on Monday. This is a stunning film from Nadine Labaki and truly deserves all the acclaim it's received - it's genuinely a must see.”
And while we’re on Monday releases, July 29 sees recent entrant to the distribution sector, Lightbulb Film Distribution, releasing Eaten By Lions on to DVD. The company was formed by experienced industry stalwarts Matthew Kreuzer and Pete Thompson. Commenting on the release, Kreuzer said: “We are incredibly excited about the home entertainment release of Eaten By Lions – a film that has been a joy to work on. After a successful theatrical launch in March, punters will finally be able to get their hands on the DVD from Monday. The whole team and cast (including Asim Chaudhry, Jack Carroll, Antonio Aakeel and Johnny Vegas) have been incredibly supportive; sitting on sofas, doing press junkets and social media posts. We also owe a big debt of gratitude to the sales team at Elevation for securing trade-wide support (and of course all our retail colleagues for taking the DVD). The film is hilarious and we can’t wait for new audiences to enjoy it.”

To the Soho Hotel on a Saturday morning for a special screening of Horrible Histories The Movie – Rotten Romans for assorted influencers, bloggers, film types and, of course, us at The Raygun and our junior correspondent. The film lands in cinemas on Friday (July 26), keenly timed for the school holidays which kicked off this week, from Altitude. It’s the latest addition to a hugely popular franchise among kids and adults alike, with TV series, comics and loads more spinning off from the bestselling books from Terry Deary. The film features a whole host of familiar faces from British TV and beyond (it features everyone from Lee Mack and Warwick Davies to Kim Cattrell), and is oodles of fun, with just the right level of disgusting elements for the series’ devotees, and we even learned a thing or two. Given the brand’s built-in collectability, this has buckets of potential for home entertainment release due in the autumn, a prospect that Altitude is looking forward to. The company’s Adam Eldrett said: “We are very excited to be releasing Horrible Histories this Q4 and it’s great to be part of such a fantastic franchise. The film seems to connect with children and adults alike and the film really is best described as ‘Monty Python for kids’ 
Something a little different from the average studio kids film and we are looking forward to working with retail and our online partners to make it a huge hit this coming Christmas.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s been a bit hot this week, with little respite from the heat, and with the schools breaking up, our thoughts are turning to Summer Holiday… So what better time for Studiocanal to confirm details of its forthcoming planned release for the Cliff Richard classic of the same name? The company has announced details of the package for the classic tale of innocents abroad, as Cliff and cohorts head to Europe in a converted double decker bus. As well as additional material from around the film’s original release, including footage of him training with London Transport and learning how to drive the vehicle, it also features new material with Saint Etienne artist and writer Bob Stanley, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of 60s pop, as evinced by his book Yeah Yeah Yeah The Story Of Modern Pop, and Cliff Richard knowledge, should provide for some great insight into the musical comedy. It also comes complete with four art cards. Commenting on the release, Studiocanal’s Tara Hutton said: “A consistent strong seller in our catalogue, we're very excited to announce that Summer Holiday is finally getting the Vintage Classics restoration treatment it deserves later this summer. A true British icon, we're sure his legions of dedicated fans will be eager to pick up this classic piece of pure Cliff Richard pop that features what is surely one of the catchiest title songs ever."
Studiocanal has also added to its classic slate of restored titles for Q3 by announcing another release this week, revealing that Sylvester Stallone’s 80s action classic Lock Up. The release of the 4k restoration marks the first time the film has been available in ultra high definition, while the September 23 bow comes as Sly returns to the big screen with Rambo: Last Blood. It includes a raft of extras and comes complete with a new sleeve inspired by the original artwork. Studiocanal has also teased more restored action to come in the final quarter, with Red Heat and Universal Soldier on their way… Commenting on Lock Up, Studiocanal’s Nicola Browning, who recently joined the company as senior product manager, said: “Following his continued career resurgence and our 4K releases last year of the Rambo films 1-3 and Cliffhanger, it's great to add to our 4K catalogue line up with the release Lock Up, another pumped up stone cold Stallone 80s classic. Activity will run across search, social and publicity focusing on Stallone's decades spanning career."
Staying with Mr Stallone, it’s worth noting, a few weeks ahead of its UK release, just how well the third and final instalment in the Escape Plan franchise, not unsurprisingly entitled Escape Plan 3, has performed on its US home entertainment releases. First week rentals and digital demand propelled it to number one on both Redbox rental and digital on demand charts, compiled by Redbox, and right near the top of the Blu-ray and DVD sales charts. Such was its success that Stallone himself highlighted its performance on social media, saying, on Twitter: “We are so proud that we beat the odds and are at the top of the charts!!!! Not Easy ! But what I think is amazing and what people should know is this film was made in 17 days with a budget that was less than what the GREAT Floyd Mayweather pays for one of his BUGATTI cars!! (about 3.6 Mil. ). ..... So for young films makers out there shows what can be done when everyone PULLS together And you have the AMAZING marketing team at GRINDSTONE ENTERTAINMENT GROUP ! Ya killed it!!!” (That’s his overuse of exclamation marks and capital letters, by the way.) He was in a similar mode on Instagram, again using upper case and publishing an image from US trade Media Play News, noting: “Yo, Good work by the promotional efforts from the folks at grindstone entertainment group! AND MY DEAR -OLD FRIEND , DIRECTOR JOHN HERZFELD , did an amazing job ...HE ONLY HAD 17 DAYS TO MAKE THIS MOVIE!!!!!” Signature is releasing the title on August 19 and believes its performance on this side of the Atlantic will match the US. The company’s Claire Loewenthal said: “Escape Plan 2, released last year, was one of our most successful releases of the year for not just Signature but all our partners and we anticipate the upcoming third instalment to be just as popular with fans of the franchise and the home-entertainment market.”

Sticking with Signature and the company has this week been talking about its full line-up for this year’s Arrow Video FrightFest, as the company is airing a record 10 films. It has, as reported here previously, both the opening and closing films for the festival, Come To Daddy, starring Elijah Wood and Michael Smiley, and A Good Woman Is Hard To Find (think British social realism meets gangster thriller). The former is due on DVD and digital October 7 under the FrightFest Presents banner – the indie’s partnership with the festival – the latter at cinemas and on digital HD on October 25.  Others include Dark Encounter, an alien abduction film due on DVD and digital on October 21; Western frontier tale The Wind (a FrightFest Presents digital release on September 2); Eddie Marsan in Feedback (digital on August 26); The Dark Red, a cult tale about a cult (FrightFest Presents digital in November); Luke Goss in high school murder romp Extracurricular (DVD and digital October 21); seasonal tale I Trapped The Devil (a FrightFest present title due on digital October 21); Ozploitation slasher The Furies (digital September 16) and another digital FrightFest Presents title, Here Comes Hell (billed as “Downton Abbey meets Evil Dead” and due on November 11). As Signature’s Claire Loewenthal told The Raygun recently: “FrightFest 2019 is a monumental event for all involved. Celebrating 20 years of the worlds most loved and regarded festival whilst Signature marks our biggest and best line-up at the festivity... as we premiere a staggering 10 films from our Signature and FrightFest Presents slate, including the prestigious opening and closing films with Come To Daddy (FFP) and A Good Woman is Hard to Find (Signature). 2019 also marks the first anniversary for our FrightFest Presents label... a partnership which continues to thrive."
We mentioned Arrow Video and its sponsorship of FrightFest above and the imprint has this week announced its slate for October and it’s got some goodies too – from seminal horror beloved of the VHS generation and strong cult fare too. Commenting on the line-up, the company's Mike Hewitt said: “We never look to disappoint with our monthly announcements, especially for October which historically proven to be our biggest month of the year. So for this year, we've gone all out with two amazing Limited Edition packages of two absolute cult favourites - Nightbreed and An American Werewolf in London. Both of these releases will come with deluxe packaging, fantastic transfers and a whole host of extra features - both old and new - and will satisfy most if not all cult film fans. For those with more niche tastes in horror history, we are also releasing Toys Are Not For Children, an amazing American indie horror from 1972, plus launching two new genre films - the scintillating Swedish SciFi epic Aniara (which will be in Cinemas and on Digital HD from August 30), and also The Dead Center, the US chiller from Billy Senese, a new masterful voice in terror. Something Old, Something New.. Arrow Video has something for everyone this Halloween.”
Also due in October and recently announced is a welcome release from Screenbound cataloguing the works of British saucepot Mary Millington. Here’s the company’s Martin Glew on the release. He said: “Continuing on from the success of the limited edition Blu-Ray of The Blood On Satan’s Claw, Screenbound Pictures have just announced ‘The Mary Millington Collection’. Released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mary Millington’s death, this special edition Blu-ray box set (individually numbered and limited to 3,000 units) features Mary’s most glamorous film roles, with stunning new 2K restorations, including: Come Play with Me (1977), The Playbirds (1978), Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair (1979), Queen of the Blues (1979), Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions (1980) plus Respectable: The Mary Millington Story (2015), an in-depth documentary chronicling her extraordinary life. This collectors’ edition is a must for any Millington fan. Filled with scintillating new special features, packaged in a collectable case (displaying brand new artwork throughout) and including a huge 80-page book, with an introduction from David Sullivan and notes by biographer Simon Sheridan (author of Keeping the British End Up: Four Decades of Saucy Cinema). The tantalising orgy of extras that no self-respecting lover of Mary Millington, includes new interviews, documentaries, featurettes and commentaries.” These are too numerous to list here, but they include West Ham chairman David Sullivan doing a commentary (he executive produced her films in his pre-football days). You can see the full listing here. 
It’s good to see some old pals of ours branching into other territories, and those fine folk at Revelation, the company headed up by industry veterans Tony Carne and Trevor Drane, are branching out into the world of virtual and augmented reality. Carne and Drane have formed a new company, Vinfinity Media, specialising in the creation of AR and VR product, aiming to direct, produce, develop, design, model, animate, build, create and innovate in both short and long-form pieces involving the technology. They’ve recruited young creative talent (“that’s where the ideas are,” said Carne) as well as an experienced consultant in the shape of Paul Taylor, whose CV includes roles such as  of transactional and multi-screen television at Virgin Media, CEO of Disney’s children’s TV distribution company Jetex and Sky Movies general manager. Commenting on that appointment, Taylor said: “I am looking forward to working with Trevor and Tony on this exciting new project. We first worked together over 20 years ago when the TV world was moving from Analogue to Digital this new technology is setting new benchmarks creatively and is challenging us to find new uses and ways of exploiting its potential, Vinfinty Media is well placed to benefit from these changes.” Drane added: “Paul Taylor is an experienced and successful manager of change in media, we are delighted to be working with him from the start of our exciting new venture.” On the company itself, Tony Carne told The Raygun: “It’s not that different from all those years ago, when we launched Lily Savage into the market, or released Dirty Sanchez on DVD, selling more copies than the audience for the first series on MTV, or produced British Gangsters, which has been reviewed by Netflix. We’re looking at scripted and non-scripted content. We’re an independent and you have to adapt to where the market is going to survive.”

“Dodgy boxes also take a bite out of our industry. According to a 2017 Sandevine study, which examined all forms of subscription TV piracy, 6.5 percent of North American households are accessing known subscription television piracy services. Almost 95 percent of TV piracy is driven by purpose-built set-top boxes. 
“In the U.K., nearly five million adults currently have access to platforms such as illegal Kodi boxes, Amazon Fire TV Chipped Sticks, and illegal streaming apps on smartphones and tablets, according to a 2017 YouGov survey. The government estimates that more than one million illicit streaming devices have been sold in the U.K. in the last two years.
“Complicating this threat is a range of new technologies that pirates are seeking to add to their self-enrichment arsenal, including cryptocurrencies and artificial intelligence.
“The emerging threats point to a continuing need to work together. Piracy ain’t broke yet. But it can become a lot less attractive if we keep on putting as much innovation into fighting it as cyber-criminals put into building it.”
Motion Picture Association EMEA president and md Stan McCoy on piracy, the full article is here
As noted above, Marvel made a whole raft of announcements at San Diego Comic Con… In case you missed them, these include the classic Jack Kirby creation The Eternals, starring Richrard Madden and due at cinemas in November 20. Around the same time is Marvel’s first show made exclusively for the Disney + streaming service, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, featuring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s Avengers characters. Due in February 2021 at cinemas is the first feature with Marvel’s post-Bruce Lee and Enter The Dragon character from the 1970s, Shang-Chi in Legend Of The Ten Rings. More for Disney + in 2021 includes WandaVision, starring the Scarlet Witch and Vision, aka Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and Loki, with Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s mischievous brother. Another feature comes in the shape of Doctor Strange In The multiverse Of Madness (May 2021), while the What If? Series imaging Marvel characters in different situations is due on Disney + in the summer of 2021, alongside Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Further feature films include a new Thior, Love And Thunder, with Natalie Portman returning and taking the hammer from Chris Hemsworth; as well as Black Widow with Scatlett Johansonn and Blade, with Mahershala Ali as the vampire hunter. 
And as if that wasn’t enough, there were further teasers too from Marvel supremo Kevin Feige and co. He added that the Fantastic Four, now a Disney and Marvel owned property after the acquisition of Fox, would be joining the fray, with further sequels for Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Guardians Of The Galaxy all planned. 
Get ready to buckle up again as The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is set to return in a new iteration. The tale of Arthur Dent and his galaxy-trotting adventures after earth is decimated have already been the subject of a radio series, TV show and a major film, as well as numerous other spin-offs. Now US TV streaming giant Hulu has announced plans to develop a new series based on Douglas Adams’ creation. Carlton Cuse and Jason Fuchs, who have worked on the likes of Lost and Wonder Woman between them, are set to pen the script. 
We’ll be spending a bit of time at the Duke Mitchell’s annual film festival, aka Dukefest, this year. The VHS night is always highly recommended, with the odd trailer tape and other rental ephemera turning up. Honestly, get yourself down here, we’ll see you at the bar…
More zombie stuff…
Here’s the rabbit…
Related to the above, here’s this week’s best Downfall clip…
The next Next Generation…
Due from Mubi
Not necessarily popular in Liverpool this one…
If it’s half as good as the comic…
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