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It Was A Good Week For… Mrs Brown and her ubiquitous boys…

It Was A Bad Week For… The HMV stores marked for closure, beginning to shutter their doors for good … 

Who’d have thought it? The phenomenon that is Mrs Brown’s Boys is steadfastly refusing to budge from its position as the UK’s most popular telly show. After its stellar performance in the final quarter of 2012, the third series of the good, old-fashioned sitcom was released last week and was a barnstorming success. Universal timed its release to coincide with Mother’s Day and the gifting potential that that brought, and its faith paid off in spades. For the programme beat off competition from more fancied favourites to become the highest new entry of the week, beaten only in the overall sales charts by the ongoing phenomenon that is Skyfall. In the  DVD charts, showing the slightly older age of its fanbase, possibly, the programme even managed to outsell the latest adventures of 007. Universal’s Claire Hay said: “We are delighted that the mammy of comedy came out as the number one mum for Mother's Day beating the competition hands down – although we are sure she would have liked to have come out on top of Mr Bond too.”
The biggest winner last week in terms of value in the market was HBO’s second series of  the much-talked about swords and sandals saga Game Of Thrones. As we noted last week, it got off to a flying start, and, by the end of its first seven days, had notched up sales of almost 130,000 units across the dual releases of both the second series and the seasons one and two box set. It’s a figure made all the more impressive when you consider that it’s up on the first series total of a touch over 72,000 units and is also in the same ballpark as one of HBO’s leading series, The Pacific – it’s just 1,000 units under the wartime saga’s week one number, a figure that, as HBO noted, is “outstanding” when you consider The Pacific was released in Q4. HBO’s Sophie Knight said: “We're absolutely delighted with the results of Game of Thrones Season 2; achieving 77 per cent growth season on season in a difficult market is fantastic. It's been a very exciting and rewarding campaign to work on. Now we can look forward to finding out what Season 3 has in-store on April 1."

This week now and the frontrunner among titles released on March 11 is, of course, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final part of the franchised which arrived in a number of SKUs, including a complete box  set, an essential purchase for the Twihards. eOne reported strong sales in the first few days, a feat that it considered all the more noteworthy given some of the appalling weather conditions in parts of the country as well as the current state of the market. It also pointed towards strong sales in non-traditional areas, although it was good too to see HMV highlighting its credentials as a retailer that you can really use to confer event status on a film, through activity in its store in the giant Westfield shopping centre in west London. eOne’s Jeff Suter said: “"Sales have continued to be strong this week though all outlets and its particularly noteworthy that non-traditional outlets have performed so well. I believe that the above the line and PR campaigns have continued to provide amazing coverage for us - throughout this week we have been getting amazing support for our viral video (filmed at Westfield last weekend), Twiline and our Nocturnal Screen. This has come through broadcast, press and online.”

The week beginning March 18 should be a busy one too, with a clutch of big titles taking in all kinds of different genres. Keep an eye on Amour, as Artificial Eye’s release of the Michael Haneke title is shaping up to be a biggie, especially as it will be one of a number of new releases being stocked in HMV stores.
Another biggie on Monday March 18 is End Of Watch, a brilliantly reviewed cop thriller due from Studiocanal. The company is getting right behind the Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena starrer, with a campaign that includes TV spots and something of a digital first too. Talking through the campaign, Studiocanal’s Claire Establier said: “We did not want End of Watch to be just another cop movie (as this is definitely more than that) so we made sure to position it as the must-own cop movie. To make the release look even ‘cooler’ and because we know our target audience loves that format, we created a limited edition double-play Steelbook. Our TV campaign is starting tonight and we have great 10 and 20 second spots running across key male and sport channels. And if you’re in a pub this Saturday watching the Everton vs Man City game, watch out for our 20” spot. People spend more and more time on their phones/tablets so we extended our online ads to mobile platforms rather than just focussing on desktop ads. We also did a first in the industry: next week we will take over the Shortlist app on iPad with some banners and full pages ads promoting the availability of the title on iTunes.” You can see that 20 second spot for the film here.

So, rumours and counter-rumours are still swirling around the retail sector, with home entertainment stories all over the business pages of tabloid and quality press alike this week. We’ll start with HMV…
The still-in-administration retailer today started a new initiative in stores, with Blue Cross titles from its last big promotion now up for grabs as a Buy One Get One Free offering. It came as administrators at Deloitte issued a statement to creditors. The report makes for interesting reading – more than £350 million is owed, much of it to unsecured creditors, including suppliers and distributors, with a total of £237.1 million owed to them. Deloitte confirmed that some six “expressions of interest” had been made to the administrator, although it had not received any formal offers. The big story – or is that rumour – of the week concerned Asda’s interest in the retailer. It first broke in The Sun, and then proceeded to do the rounds (as has been the way with the HMV story since the beginning, with reports of reports from other publications filling the space). All have stated that the idea could be to keep the HMV branding and also use it in its own supermarkets for entertainment stores within stores. Some experts familiar with the retail landscape who we spoke too were more sceptical about the reports than others and although Asda has a strong reputation as an entertainment retailer, some suggested it might prefer to concentrate its efforts on the digital arena rather than the bricks and mortar marketplace. One thing looks certain though – despite its ongoing strong performances in stores, it looks as if a week Monday – March 25 – could be D-Day for the chain, as that’s when some of its next quarter rental payments are due. Meanwhile, some of the stores earmarked for closure are now shuttering their doors for the last time, sales are still going strong, this week's best performer has been David Bowie. Keep up to date with announcements and developments as and when they happen by following us on Twitter,
And what of elsewhere? The other big retail story is another speculative one, with WHSmith rumoured to be making a fully-fledged return to home entertainment through enhanced video sections, mainly made up of train stations. The retailer was, of course, once a giant in our industry, with suppliers and distributors selling titles  in as “a perfect Smiths release” and the chain forging a whole business out of exclusive titles covering areas such as aviation, motorbikes and trains. The original report is here, stay tuned for more on this story…

And the latest on Blockbuster. Dates for rents for its stores are said to be due at the same time as HMV’s, so the need for a deal to be done is becoming more pressing. Again, speculation is rife, but this week it appears as if new frontrunners have emerged in the bidding for the rental to retail, video and games chain. The company currently in the frame, in a story broken by Sky News, it appears, is Gordon Brothers Europe. The company has plenty of experience when it comes to retal restructuring and is said to have submitted a plan that will retain some 275 of the total 528 stores that were in business as the company fell into administration. Its rescue package for the retailes said to be the best because it is the one that offers the Big Blue a future as a going concern. 
Let’s move on to the other speculative story of the week and what’s happening at Revolver. Or rather, what’s not happening at Revolver. No word yet as to what next for the indie,  still believed to be on the brink of administration. The Raygun has been speaking to those familiar with the scenario over the past seven days. It appears as if staff who were told they have been laid off have heard nothing more from the company and are themselves asking the same questions as we are. Will they be getting redundancy payments? Is the company in administration? What on earth is happening? Former staffers spoke with either a twinge of sadness or something more approaching anger, but it looks like some are now pursuing their claims through legal channels. Meanwhile, the hottest clip doing the rounds this week (as well as the Alan Partridge trailer, of course – see below) is the latest take on the Downfall viral that has been the subject of so many spoofs in the past few years. This well-produced take concerns events at Revolver, and we’ve been sent it more times than we’d care to imagine this week, with the clip also doing the rounds on Twitter. For those that haven’t seen it yet – and there can’t be many in the industry, judging by the amount of times it has been viewed this week – you can see the spoof here.
Talk of retail brings us round to reports from the Entertainment Retailers Association, which published a whole raft of figures from its Yearbook. We’ve already printed some – the overall market in 2012 falling 12 per cent to a still hefty £4,213.4 million – although we’ll concern ourselves with video figures, as the fluctuations in music and games make it much harder to get a clear picture of where our sector of the entertainment business is going. For example, digital sales showed a huge 20 per cent spoke in video terms in 2012. ERA has blamed some of the poor performance on a poor release schedule “across all entertainment formats”. But it has been buoyed by the performance of Skyfall in 2013, with its sales of more than 2 million in two weeks (see previous issues of The Raygun) outstripping that of last year’s bestseller, The Dark Knight Rises. The Batman flick was the third bestselling entertainment item of 2012, behind two games, Call Of Duty: Black Ops II and FIFA13. ERA said that the top 40 entertainment titles (which we’ll be posting over the weekend on our website) were down 25 per cent year on year, highlighting what it believes was a weaker schedule. Director general Kim Bailey commented: “2012 was a tough year for entertainment due to a
number of factors, but this sharp 25 per cent shrinkage in sales of the biggest titles suggests that the quality of releases was at least partly to blame. Luckily 2013 has got off to a good start with Skyfall already selling more than 2m copies - way ahead of last year's biggest-selling
video, The Dark Knight Rises." ERA also points to retail helping keep the cost of DVDs at a lower price for consumers too. As director general Kim Bayley said: “Sales have continued to be strong this week though all outlets and its particularly noteworthy that non-traditional outlets have performed so well. I believe that the above the line and PR campaigns have continued to provide amazing coverage for us - throughout this week we have been getting amazing support for our viral video (filmed at Westfield last weekend), Twiline and our Nocturnal Screen. This has come through broadcast, press and online." The average price of a DVD was £8.22 in 2012, its inflation-adjusted price for 2002 would have been more than a tenner more. 

Studiocanal took over not just one but two auditoriums at Leicester Square's Vue Cinema this week for screenings of one of the year's most anticipated horror films, the remake of Evil Dead. And the film, an updated take on one of the 1980s' most notorious horror franchises, went down a storm from where we were sitting, with the crowd whooping, hollering, cheering, screaming and applauding the onscreen offering. With point of sale that proudly proclaims it is "the most terrifying film you will ever experience", this is video gold and we reckon could have the same effect the original did on a whole new generation of would-be horror buffs, as well as wooing fans of the first Evil Dead films. Speaking of which, with the theatrical release slated for April 19, Studiocanal has cleverly timed its Special Edition Blu-ray for the 1987 sequel to the original, Evil Dead 2, on April 15 for maximum drafting opportunities. The Blu-ray features a wealth of extras, including some new ones for the UK. Studiocanal’s Kelly Morris said:  “Evil Dead 2 is a cult horror classic and the fans will love this brand new, fully remastered Special Edition SKU, as it shows the film like never before. Plus there are more than 4.5 hours of bonus features including a brand new Making Of and behind-the-scenes and location featurettes.
More horror now and Momentum has proved its mettle within this sector for some time now, with the likes of V/H/S already under its belt this year. Next in this arena for the company, now, of course, under the ownership of eOne, is Lords Of Salem, the latest from director Rob Zombie. The title is due on April 22, after a short theatrical release the Friday before. Commenting on the release, the company's Adam Eldrett said: "Rob Zombie has a very loyal fan base and we have perfectly timed our release to co-incide with the new Zombie Album - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. It has enabled us to work closely with Universal Music and ensure our PR and media messaging is working as hard as possible. We had an early pre-awareness fans back in December during the Twins of Evil Tour sending some lucky winners to the show and we continue to work closely with Rob Zombie and his core fan base. We will be working closely with publications such as Kerrang and well as traditional film press and websites to ensure we are hitting our core targets of rock, metal and horror fans."
Out in the real world, in case you hadn’t noticed, a new Pope was chosen this week, and the timing couldn’t have been better for 4DVD’s series of Father Ted titles reissued as three separate titles in newly created artwork on Monday 11. For the company and its agency MarketME were quick off the mark, helping instigate a campaign to have Father Dougal, the daft priest from the much-loved series, installed in the Vatican. The Father Dougal For Pope campaign earned more than 19,000 likes on Facebook and the story went viral, picking up ointerest from the likes of The Sun and Radio Times and sites such as Digital Spy. 4DVD’s Claire Bosak said: “We are delighted with the support our much loved Father Ted brand continues to receive 15 years after transmission. Last year Father Ted was named Digital Spy readers' funniest ever Channel 4 show and the recent Father Dougal For Pope Facebook campaign has reinforced that the loyalty and demand for Father Ted products remains strong.” MarketME’s Akriti Farmahan added: “We are thrilled with the pickup from such high traffic and influential websites from Father Dougal’s reaction to the ‘Father Dougal For Pope’ Facebook campaign. At MME we always strive to be reactive to current press coverage and this week’s media take-over of the Pope’s re-election was no exception. Coaxing Father Dougal out of hiding on Craggy Island for nearly 15 years was no easy feat but we were determined to give something back to the massive, loyal and clearly hungry fan base in connection with this week’s Father Ted DVD releases.”

Every week, The Raygun follows its most clicked through items, guess what it was over the past seven days? The podcast, in which our very own Tim Murray, former trade press editor Toby Weidmann and Anchor Bay’s Rod Smith discuss, under the chairmanship of Stuart O’Connor from Screenjabber, the industry’s current woes and problems and offer thoughts on what’s next for our business. It’s been so well received, in fact, that we’re planning to make it a regular monthly occurrence. We’ll be recording the next one, as we did this, in the upstairs room of  a licensed establishment, over a pint or two. To get involved, contact Tim at The Raygun at the usual address. To listen to the current one, click through here.
And while blowing our own trumpet, head over to our website for loads of features and a look at, among other things, the launch strategy for Game Of Thrones and Breaking Dawn Part 2… More next week, including a look at premium priced horror product. See
This week’s relocation news: the ever-growing Arrow operation, taking in its excellent Arrow Video and Nordic Noir imprints, is moving offices. The company’s new address will be The Engine House, Shenley Park, Radlett Lane, Shenley, Herts, WD7 9JP. The phone number is 01923 858306. As the rather wonderful moving address note told us, the area “rivals Soho for buco9lic charm and available picnic areas”.
And we’ll end where we started, with Universal, and the company has spent the last week drumming up interest and pre-sales for its forthcoming awards-friendly release of Les Miserables. The major kicked off a campaign for the title, due on May 13. It announced its impending arrival with the delivery of a breakfast basket to key publications such as  Empire, getting online attention from them. Also officially announced this week – SPHE has confirmed the date of another gong-happy film, Django Unchained, on numerous SKUs, with the title due out a week after Les Miserables, on May 20… More on these in the coming weeks. 

We’re excited to offer our members each new episode of Season 3 of The Killing within a week of its US premiere on television. The Killing is a terrific serial drama and we know our members love these high-quality programmes.”
Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Netflix, announcing the US take on the Nordic Noir series’ exclusive run on its service, after inking a deal with Fox. Netflix further said this week it would be interested in speaking to UK TV producers about exclusive deals…
The highest new entry in this week’s theatrical charts was Disney’s Oz The Great And Powerful, which took just over £3.7 million in its opening weekend. Side Effects, with more than £900,000 was second, Parker took £568.777 in its opening bow, the other new entry was The Guilt Trip (£432,068).
It’s official: Steven Spielberg wont be at the helm of Jurassic Park, which is aiming to dig up the dinosaur franchise. The next instalment in the adventures will, in what is anticipated as a bold move, be directed by Colin Trevorrow who was behind Safety Not Guaranteed.
More director news and two well-known helmers are both being lined up to work on familiar projects. David Fincher, who needs no introduction, is said to be close to signing up for the film adaptation of the bestseller Gone Girl, while Tom Hooper, he of Les Miserables and The King’s Speech is moving up to a more modern day setting and is said to be close to signing up to direct the forthcoming Freddie Mercury biopic. If he does, it will reunite him with Sacha Baron Cohen, who appeared in his most recent outing, Les Miserables, and has long been set for the role of the Queen singer.
This week’s viewing has included Universal’s forthcoming Man With The Iron Fists, starring, among others, former WWE star Batista, now known as David Bautitsta. For the tattooed heavyweight grappler is being lined up to star as Drax The Destroyer in the next big Marvel franchise due from Disney, Guardians Of The Galaxy. We’ll see the big guy filling up the big screen in the summer of 2014…

This is the best thing we’ve seen on the Internet this week, as Lionsgate staffers gear up for their major fundraising social at the 100 Club on March 21 here. The event is raising cash for a selection of charities, including Nordoff Robbins, Macmillan Cancer Support, Shelter and Pancreatic Cancer Action. The event will include karaoke with a live band (bandaoke, if you will) and a pub quiz (we will be taking part in one of those events). Lionsgate is seeking sponsors and raffle prizes for the event, for more details contact
We’ve been following James Moran, writer of the likes of Tower Block, railing against pirates and people uploading the film on to youtube. After getting in touch with him, he’s helped us put together a feature on the plight of those affected by pirates. Meanwhile, follow us on
Forthcoming from Lionsgate…

The trailer for this looked great at the Evil Dead screening this week,
All kinds of wonderful, the most talked about trailer currently on the Internet:
Remember Keanu Reeves? He’s back…
“It’s like Cars, right, except they’re Planes…”
Do people still use the word “bling”? Here, they do…