NEWSLETTER :: July 22 2010

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It Was A Good Week For... HMV, seemingly interminably busy, hosting half the industry on Thursday, then at Lovebox and Latitude at the weekend... Oh and Ricky Gervais too (see below…)

It Was A Bad Week For... Like last week, not bad, just flat, as US figures for the first half of the year were a bit, well, drab (see Quote Of The Week)

When you've got your own venues to hand, it's only sensible that you use them for your own presentations and that's what HMV did last week with its presentation at the HMV Forum in Kentish Town. Chief executive Simon Fox underlined the company's commitment to its core products despite its ever-evolving product mix (a key plank of his strategy going forward). "We're completely passionate about music, games and films," he said. "We love your content." But as he noted, these were the core categories, but HMV is becoming an entertainment brand, with its cinemas, live venues and increasing in-store mix, taking in technology and fashion and even some food and drink going forward. But as Fox said, he wanted to work with distributors and suppliers to join up those new and old categories and add value to the offering.

New product director Steve Napleton further outlined its evolving categories, stating that the life cycle of a product was becoming increasingly important. The retailer also wanted to revitalise range and deep catalogue offerings. Head of DVD Rudy Osorio underlined the fact that life cycle was one of the key focuses for his team: "We need to start earlier. The HMV launch period is pre-order, it's about [giving] content and value to the customer. And if you can give us value and support, we can give you value back." He pointed to how working with ticketing and DVD pre-orders with a comic such as Tim Minchin led to a 400 per cent increase in orders. New release was another focus ("The old RRP dealer price model is irrelevant," he said) and it was important to try and sustain new release sales beyond week one and make it relevant after the first seven days. It would be continuing with its multibuy offers to try and avoid letting DVD pricing slip down to £3, and is looking to broaden its offering. Box sets are also an area to focus on, as is range. Blu-ray is key too, and Osorio called on suppliers and distributors to not confuse customers with wildly differing pricing for BD product. It was also looking to drive adoption of Blu-ray. Its progress as a technology retailer will also allow it to expand its bundling offers for hardware and software.

As well as focusing on other categories (music, digital, games, technology and so on), other elements of the presentation looked at its Loose Fit store strategy to incentivise staff. Marketing director Graham Sim also outlined current marketing thinking and gave a fascinating insight into the way the retailer works. He looked at the way its advertising reflected the product it was highlighting (from specially created anime ads that joined the dots between Sergio Leone films and video game Red Dead Redemption). "We love pop culture and it runs through the things we create," he said. He praised the DVD, audio and games industries for their help in getting legal clearance to help HMV's ads bring content to life. Looking at its different seasonal activity, Sim said: "Everything connects, everything flows together as a brand." And at the very heart of this is the My Inspiration ads. "[These] keep going from strength to strength," he concluded.       
Speaking of HMV, we couldn't help notice, as we staggered around the Lovebox festival in Victoria Park, East London, at the weekend, the pop-up, or festival store the retailer created. Pictures on the website, and while there was no DVD on sale specifically, it's an interesting new route for the retailer. Rockers can see it at this weekend's High Voltage festival. Incidentally, as well as seeing a fair few industry types there, we also bumped into former MIA Video supremo Laurence Ronson, at the event to see his son Mark playing second headliner to Roxy Music on the main stage…



Back to the presentation season, and our second port of call over the past week has been 2 entertain's offices north of Oxford Street in London, to see the company's line-up for the rest of 2010. Now on a solid footing following the collapse of the Woolworths empire, and back in sole BBC Worldwide ownership after the protracted wrangling, 2 entertain is approaching this year with renewed vigour, under the three-pronged banner of Great British TV, Great Talent and Great Gifting. Starting with the first of those, 2 entertain kicked off with Doctor Who (back with a bang on TV). The complete season release, Matt Smith's first, will be available in a limited edition, numbered, steelbook package in November. Extras for the increasingly savvy fans, who appear to be waiting for the box, will include a Matt Smith video diary. The Doctor's old assistant will also appear in the third series of The Sarah Jane Adventures in November. Another institution, albeit more grounded in the real world, is Sir Michael Parkinson, and the Michael Parkinson Collection, hosted by the man himself, will chart his finest – and most outrageous – interviews. The Deep, in October, has all the makings of being a "DVD-friendly property", a thriller starring, among others, James Nesbitt, Minnie Driver and ER's Goran Visnisc. Old favourites Wallace And Gromit return with The World Of Inventions and last year's big Christmas winner, James Corden, star and creator of Gavin And Stacey, returns in A League Of Their Own, a greatest hits from his Sky comedy sports quiz show, and Horne & Corden, his sketch show with fellow Gavin And Stacey star Mathew Horne. Catherine Tate, in here last year's Christmas special, is another returning star. Newer comedy comes in the shape of School Of Comedy and the Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque, Episodes, starring Matt Le Blanc as himself, while Outnumbered makes a third appearance, certain to add to the 400,000 sales achieved by the franchise thus far. An old 2 entertain face returning, albeit briefly is Ricky Gervais, sending off his cohort Karl Pilkington to see the Seven Wonders. Children's fare comes from ZingZillas and Wibbly Pig.

Among the Great Talent section were a new Strictly Come Dancing Live release, sure to be bigger than ever this year with publicity support from two of the stars of the show, Mark Ramprakash and Austin Healey; a live concert featuring squaddie singing sensations The Soldiers; a new Cliff (last year's was his bestselling ever) and a workout and behind the scenes look at life with dance stars and X Factor grandees Diversity. Old favourites Davina (Body Buff) and Jeremy Clarkson will be returning with new outings, and his Top Gear colleagues Hammond and May appear together in a Top Gear-branded title for the first time. Stand-up is represented by Julian Clary and Eddie Izzard documentary feature Believe. Everyman comedy sensation John Bishop will also be making a DVD bow, in what could prove to be one of the biggest stand-up hits of the year. More soon on our website. New head of marketing Julia Mallinson said: "2 entertain enjoyed an exceptional Q4 last year and we’ve lined up titles that we anticipate will match our success in 2010. We are very fortunate to be able to offer retailers and consumers an incredibly rich portfolio of titles that span the biggest names in TV, in comedy, in fitness and in children’s. Headlines for us include the new Clarkson, Britain’s Got Talent sensation Diversity, the best of national treasure Sir Michael Parkinson and the debut DVD from the UK’s fastest growing comedian John Bishop. Beyond a stellar line-up of new titles on DVD, we will be celebrating high definition with Blu-Ray releases across all major titles and releasing more DTO content than ever before through our partnership with iTunes. Last – but by no means least – 2 entertain continues to be the home of classic BBC content that’s perfect for gifting. We have content spanning decades of great British television from Fawlty Towers through Only Fools and Horses, The Thick of It and Gavin and Stacey – it’s a catalogue we’re incredibly proud of and continues to be a key sales driver for us in the final part of the year."
Talking of The Raygun website, there's loads of new stuff gone live this week, including our weighty, regular look at the weekend's press coverage for DVD and Blu-ray, scores of titbits, trailers, images, pictures, in-store activity and free stuff we've accumulated, and, on the way, and, up shortly, some Q4 coverage and an exclusive interview with The Torment writer and director Steve Isles.

The Raygun website publishes a weekly update on DVD and Blu-ray press and PR activity, mostly concentrating on the weekend's reviews in the broadsheet and tabloid press alongside film coverage. One title that got all kinds of coverage of a different sort was Warner's release this week of The Ricky Gervais Show. But it wasn't just your average kind of PR coverage, oh, no. There was a video interview on The Guardian's website here, under the cracking headline of "Here we go again, flogging something". Gervais and pals Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington also took over The Sun's Bizarre pages, while Gervais featured in a major interview in the Observer magazine. Other highlights included an interview on GMTV, Radio 1 and Radio 5 Live. As well as TV on the likes of E4, there was also a Spotify takeover and national press. Check out the trio on Amazon too, here, and keep an eye on The Raygun website for a hilarious youtube clip… Warner's Martin Burke said: "Ricky’s support and input allowed us to create some really unique and exciting campaign ideas for this release."

Talking of PR activity, The Raygun headed down to The Covent Garden Hotel last Thursday night to shake the hugely talented hands of Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, two of The Doors, in town to promote the August 30 DVD and Blu-ray release of When You're Strange, Tom DiCillo's Johnny Depp-narrated documentary about the band. The two gave two full days' of press, radio and TV interviews, some airing ahead of the release and some timed to coincide. At a Q&A after the screening of this must-see film, the first ever full-length doc about the band, featuring unseen footage, the pair had the obligatory hallucinogenic conversation, and discussed the making of the film and Morrison himself. Krieger said: "[Singer Jim Morrison] was the most far out guy I ever met, people want to know about Jim and I never get tired of talking about him." Which was lucky for those 48 hours of interviews... The title is being released by Universal's cutting edge indi VISION imprint.        

"War, war is stupid," Boy George once famously sang. "No it's not," said Metrodome this week, as its direct to DVD title Saints & Soldiers officially passed the 700,000 mark in terms of units sold. The war film, about a group of US POWs who escape their captors and head back to their own lines, cost less than $1 million to make but has sold an average of 1,000 units per week for the past four years, outgunning many bigger budget, higher profile war films. Metrodome ceo Mark Webster said: " We’re delighted that Saints & Soldiers has reached this landmark number of sales, proving it to be one of the top selling World War II movies on DVD since its 2006 release date. These figures demonstrate the company’s ability to pick out commercial titles, and we are delighted to be working again with Saints & Soldiers director Ryan Little on Metrodome's upcoming co-production Age Of The Dragon."

Last week we mentioned the forthcoming video nasty documentary being screened at this year's FrightFest and this week we can reveal the film, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship And Videotape, will be released as part of a triple box set due from Nucleus Films on October 11. That will form one disc of the set, the other two feature trailers and specially filmed introductions from all 72 films banned by the Director of Public Prosecutions under the original nasty legislation, taking ranging from the ridiculous (Cannibal Holocaust) to the sublime (The Evil Dead). As children of the video nasty generation, we are unbelievably excited about this package. Producer Marc Morris, co-author of, among other things, The Art Of The Nasty, said: "Hopefully, every true movie fan will want this in their collection." More on the website soon.

Talking of horror, 4DVD is planning to release the first title from the newly revitalised Hammer Films studio on September 6. The wonderfully titled Beyond The Rave already boasts 2 million fans after airing online and is a vampire series set in the rave scene. It features a host of well-known British names and follows a soldier about to return to Iraq trying to find his girlfriend, who's fallen in with a crowd of clubbers and partygoers who may or may not be vampires (hey, we've all been there). The title is the first in a series from the legendary and now rejuvenated brand.

Also from 4DVD comes Pete V Life, a sitcom that began life as a pilot but was almost instantly commissioned as a six part series, also due on September 6. 4DVD's Jessica Scott said: "Pete V Life is a really fresh and original show, with a great cast and team behind it. It’s a great fit for the 4DVD slate of quality British comedy. Our marketing campaign will include sports press and a targeted online push, as well as a broad PR campaign."

Meanwhile, 4DVD has appointed a new agency for its social media and PR, with marketME winning the pitch for the next 12 months. 4DVD's Karla Berry said: "I'm excited to have such a dynamic and innovative team on board to work across our business this year. MME has extensive DVD and entertainment experience and is a great fit for the Channel 4 brand."

Statistic of the week: one in five films sold on DVD and Blu-ray in 2009 were British. Our second favourite stat: there are now 32 internet and TV-based video on demand film services available to UK consumers, a total that's increase fivefold over the past two years. Both figures come from  the Film Council, which this week published its 2010 Statistical Yearbook, an invaluable resource offering facts and figures about the UK film and video industry. It's also being made available online, which may stop the barrage of emails and calls we at The Raygun get asking us for industry stats… UK Film Council chief executive John Woodward said: "The UK Film Council’s Statistical Yearbook is the definitive annual snapshot and health check on the British film sector. It allows us to see the really big picture both in terms of audiences and the industry itself. This year it’s clear that the picture is one of increasing contrasts." See it here .

Abbey Home Media has switched its distribution, with Cinram taking over from Arvato as of September 6.  

Entertainment One, aka E1, currently enjoying huge success with the theatrical release of the latest title in the Twilight franchise, Eclipse, has announced that its shares are now trading on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, as well as unveiling a new corporate identity. Ceo Darren Throop said: "The move to the main market in London and the relocation creates an opportunity to ensure that there is a clear link between our global entertainment and distribution operations and our publicly traded entity. Our new visual identity unites all of our operating units and provides a contemporary look for the company."

And we'll finish off where we started, with HMV. The retailer is hosting its annual charity golf day raising funds for CLIC Sargent at the world famous Belfry on September 23 For more details, please email or

"Clearly, we are still grappling with a challenging marketplace and a tough economy, but overall the trends we are seeing are encouraging." Ron Sanders, president of the Digital Entertainment Group trade organisation in the US, a former UK Warner md and currently Warner's US chief. He was referring to DEG figures released that show a 3.3 per cent decrease in consumer spending in the first half of 2010 in the US. But after a steeper drop off in the first three months of the year, the second quarter was down less than one per cent. Blu-ray sales over six months were up 84 per cent, with the second quarter proving even higher, driven up 112 per cent by the Avatar factor.

Given all the brouhaha, it wasn't necessarily a surprise to see Inception take its place at the top of both the UK and US box office charts. It took almost £6 million over here, an impressive bow, and some $63 million in the US. Elsewhere animation continues to dominate, Shrek Forever After has now earned almost £25 million at UK cinemas, while Despicable Me and Toy Story 3 are both still raking in receipts at US cinemas.  

And as the geek community heads off to the annual Comic Con event, stories are already filtering through from San Diego. There's all sorts of rumours surrounding a new Judge Dredd film, which not only have to put the legendary 2000AD anti-hero on a big screen, but also overcome the stigma of Stallone's take. The fact it's penned by Alex Garland and directed by Pete Travis from Vantage Point may help, now it's rumoured that Karl Urban, most recently seen in Star Trek, is up for the role. Also from Comic Con: it looks like the long-mooted World War Z, based on the book about the global battle between zombies and humans, is also due from Paramount, complete with the involvement of Brad Pitt, no less.    

Sam Raimi may have left the Spider-Man franchise, but that doesn't mean he's deserted comic books all together. The helmer quit Sony's Spider-Man at the start of the year and has since been linked to a Wizard Of Oz prequel and, equally intriguingly, a World Of Warcraft adaptation. This week he has confirmed that he will get behind the camera for a film version of the graphic novel Earp: Saints For Sinners. The title, somewhat less well-known than Spidey, takes the Wyatt Earp tale into a modern environment. It is due out under the DreamWorks banner.  

The rejuvenated Hammer studio – mentioned elsewhere in this week's newsletter – is lining up a wealth of Brit talent for its forthcoming gothic horror The Woman In Black, due to start shooting later this year (ahead of its release by Momentum). The film will be helmed by James Watkins, who proved his chiller chops with Eden Lake, and penned Kick-Ass writer Jane Goldman, slowly overtaking hubbie Jonathan Ross in the name stakes. Now it's been announced that the title will star Daniel Radcliffe as the lawyer who uncovers the kind of dark secrets you'd expect to find if you were visiting an isolated community in a Hammer film.

All roads lead to San Diego this week, as the annual Comic Con event kicks off. It's already a huge Twitter trend, even if it's only just starting. #comiccon2010 So much so that, before long, the buzz about Machete was building too. Follow us at

Created by Paramount for the UK market ahead of the forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of Shutter Island, we like this website:


As well as the aforementioned Doors screening and Q&A (we want Ray Manzarek to read us bedtime stories, so soothing is his voice), the drinks after the HMV presentation, and our day and night at Lovebox with what seemed like more than a smattering of industry types, we also got up early on a Sunday morning to see Cats & Dogs 2, in 3D, courtesy of Warner. And great fun it is too.


Another week, another documentary:

Credible blockbuster trailer of the week:

We guarantee you we'll be crying at this one...

This week's big CGI-inspired family outing is the latest in the Narnia franchise:
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