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It Was A Good Week For... Consumers travelling abroad who want to watch their vod services
It Was A Bad Week For… The jury's out on what the Digital Single Market might mean for independents in individual territories……
The key words floating around the industry this week have been portability and access, as executives around the film and video industry have been studying the European Commission’s Digital Single Market plans. While seemingly rowing back from the idea of allowing access to titles across the 28-member states, which could, as we’ve noted here before, cause huge problems for independent distributors across Europe, concentrating instead on allowing portability for Europeans when they’re in other countries, on, say, holiday. It noted: “The proposed rules would oblige online content service providers to offer the cross-border portability feature to their subscribers who are temporarily outside their home country.” So far so good, although the devil is in the detail and there are fears that the EC may return to the idea of cross-border access, which could signal an end to the way independents acquire and then distribute films in their respective territories. As the EC statement noted: “This initiative is part of the efforts to provide a wider access to content across Europe.” The BVA’s lobbying expert Lavinia Carey said: “The BVA perspective on this is that we now have our work cut out to lobby MEPs in the European Parliament to improve the text of the regulation. While we have been cooperating with officials on portability, we have pressed the IPO and the EC on the need for a clear authentication process, including a specified time limit for portability, because an ill-defined period that users may be on holiday or ‘temporarily out of your home country’ leaves us vulnerable to market distortion and issues over cross-border licensing, which would impinge on our industry’s funding mechanism. It is felt that the European Parliament, where this now passes (as well as to Member States) for debate and co-decisions, will welcome the vagueness of the 'temporarily abroad' language as they will see it as a way to ensure that people who are abroad for a couple of months/years are also covered.  We will need to stress the necessity of distinguishing clearly between portability and cross-border access in disguise, so as to avoid the detrimental effect on film and TV financing and distribution.”
There were equal notes of caution from other quarters. Take the BFI, whose Amanda Nevill said: “It remains crucial that the EU does not seek in any way to undermine the principle of territorial exclusivity that is fundamental to the financing model for independent films in the UK and across Europe, and allows audiences to see and enjoy films that reflect their own distinctive cultural identity.” Another word of warning came from Europa Distribution, whose Christine Eloy said: “Portability could lead to all kind of abuses if we don’t set limits on time and it could be a slippery slope towards the scrapping of territorial copyright which ensure the livelihood of our film industries in Europe.” Expect to see plenty of lobbying in the coming months, as the BVA and other groups lobby to effectively tie up the definitions and prevent the Trojan horse concept of sneaking cross-border access into the mix… Portability rules would come in to force by 2017. 

And so, after that grown-up start to the newsletter, what’s been doing well in the sales stakes this week? As executives continue to pore over the year on year figures trying to work out what the hell is going on, one of the titles featured here last week, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (a film that we constantly refer to as Rouge Nation, a typo waiting to happen if ever there was one), has taken the lead in its first week on sale as a physical offering, according to the Official Charts Company’s midweek offering. It sold some 115,000 copies in its first few days on sales, the organisation’s bulletin noted. There are two other entries in the top 10, SPHE’s Pixels at three (making it a big week for Adam Sandler fans, see below for more) and Warner’s The Man From UNCLE at five. 
Before we move on to some interesting research figures, here’s something from the Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation launch, which saw commuters at Victoria Station, London, get the chance to re-enact Tom Cruise’s opening scene stunt from the action film, thanks to virtual reality technology, obviously, donning Oculus Rift headsets. We’ve got some great footage of the event, it’ll be up on our website shortly…
Right, here’s that research we promised you and first comes from regulator Ofcom, which has put together its  annual International Communications Market Report for the year, which contains some fascinating statistics. Those include the fact that almost a third of the UK population (32 per cent, to be precise) are watching less Blu-rays or DVDs this year, with only eight per cent saying they are watching more. More than half of connected TV owners (and 42 per cent of the population are connected to the Internet through their TVs) are watching content via a subscription vod service, naming the ubiquitous Amazon and Netflix. The total of connected TVs is higher than any other European country, save Spain. Meanwhile, consumers spent more than £900 million on online content, a leap of 44 per cent from the £631 million quoted in 2013. More than half of the UK population (54 per cent) own a tablet, with more than two-thirds owning a smartphone. All this is, Ofcom said, leading to an on-demand and catch up Christmas for viewing. The organisation’s director of research James Thickett (ironically, a former home entertainment executive at Disney back in the VHS era) said: “UK viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas. More than anywhere else, we're watching TV and films at a time that suits us, on a range of devices, in and out of the home. So this year, more people can fit their festive TV viewing around opening presents and carving the turkey.”
On a more positive note, it’s good news for Frozen, as the film has, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel, become the most gifted film ever, outstripping another Disney distributed title, Toy Story 3. It has, the organisation said, shifted 1.66 million copies purchased as gifts in the 18 months to the end of September 2015, taking it past the Pixar title and achieving it in faster time too.  The announcement, published ahead of Christmas and picked up by papers such as The Times, was a timely reminder to consumers about the power of gifting DVDs and Blu-rays, as the BVA’s chief executive Liz Bales noted: “The successful performance of Frozen is great news: it illustrates the ongoing consumer appetite for physically owning content.  Gifting is a vital driver of the £2.2 billion video sector, accounting for a third of all sales, and when a film really captures the public’s imagination it continues to boost the market outside the ‘new release’ period.” Kantar’s Fiona Keenan added: “That Frozen has achieved such staggering success in such a short space of time shows just how much the movie has gripped the nation and bodes well for the success of its sequel.  Until then, we can expect to see another boost for Frozen in the run up to Christmas: over half of the year’s total video gifts are traditionally purchased in the final quarter.  Some 7.3 million people bought films as gifts during the Christmas period last year, so there are likely to be plenty more DVDs under the tree this festive season."

And staying with industry matters, the Industry Trust has added a fearsome name to its roster, with the launch of a unique collaboration between the organisation, Disney, Lucasfilm, the UK Cinema Association and the UK government. It’s highlighting the UK’s creative input into films and comes as part of the government’s GREAT Britain campaign, showing how Star Wars: The Force Awakens was, as the ad is titled, Made GREAT in Britain. It features JJ Abrams and assorted cast and crew highlighting the work put in in this country, the importance and contribution of the creativity in this country and, by dint of that, the importance of paying for it. Disney’s Lee Jury said: “Disney is committed to investing in the UK’s creative industries and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is the latest example of this, contributing some £150 million to the UK economy. By partnering with the Industry Trust as part of the GREAT campaign, we have an opportunity to inspire audiences about the vital part they too can play in supporting UK creativity, every time they choose to purchase a cinema ticket.” Liz Bales, with her Industry Trust hat on, said: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year so it’s a great honour to be supporting Disney and the GREAT Britain campaign. We expect the trailer to be one of the most influential to-date within the Moments Worth Paying For campaign - inspiring audiences old and new to make the right choice by paying to watch the film in the way it was meant to be seen – at the cinema.” We'll have it up on our website shortly…
To the rather plush restaurant atop Waterstone’s in London’s Piccadilly to celebrate – to the day – the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Film Disributors’ Association, the FDA, Marking the event by publishing a rather nice book, Delivering Dreams, looking at 100 years of film distribution on these shores, the great and good of the industry were out in force, with assorted swing dancing, musical turns and a comedian, as well as the Golden Globe nominations filtering through and an introduction from FDA president Lord Puttnam. He said: “Distributors are, and always have been, the unsung heroes of the film and cinema industry. In today’s digital world of super-abundant supply, around 700 feature films are released every year. This means that the distribution machine is operating with tremendous vitality. While the channels that distributors deploy to engage audiences have multiplied greatly over the years, the underlying principle that distributors serve as the ‘engine’ of the film business, connecting each new title compellingly with filmgoers, remains utterly intact. Without distributors, the entire ‘value chain’ of the film industry would simply grind to a halt. The centenary falls at a propitious moment, as the UK cinema box-office heads for another record-breaking year. The current October to December quarter alone should generate around 50 million cinema visits. No one is happier than I am when Britain goes back to the movies. But the fact that top-line box-office receipts look so healthy should not completely mask the fierce challenges that film distributors continue to face in making it all happen. Given the sheer volume of content now available in cinemas and on so many other digital platforms, every instinct tells me that the business of film releasing has never been riskier than it is today.” We’ve started working our way through Geoffrey McNab’s book and will be covering it on our website and via Twitter
Meanwhile, the FrightFest Presents digital film imprint, a collaboration between the FrightFest organisation and Icon, with titles available through assorted digital partners, has unveiled its second wave of titles. It is releasing two films a week From February 29 for three consecutive Mondays,  with The Lesson and Last Girl Standing as the first two, Landmine Goes Click and Curtain arriving on March 7 and The Unfolding and Emelie on March 14. FrightFest’s Alan Jones said: “Our initial slate set out the stall of what FrightFest Presents is all about and got the brand off to a flying start thanks to its diversity and ability to deliver the shocking goods for genre lovers. Now we are building on that strong foundation with six more unmissable titles that once more shines a light on our market uniqueness and ambition to build a catalogue of first class chillers that is second to none.”
And how is the imprint working out for Icon? We spoke to the company’s Zak Brilliant about how the FrightFest Presents titles (the first batch included one of our films of the year, Aaaaaaaah! and the wonderfully named Night Of The Living Deb) had been performing since its launch earlier this autumn. “It’s early days, especially because of the way it’s reported,” he said, “but it’s a case of so far so good. Some titles are performing better than others, but we expected that. There were six different films, all released at one time, and we covered all different horror genres, and we’re beginning to learn which ones are doing better. The more distinctive the title is, as well as the quality, is a factor in it too.” That spread of different kinds of horror has helped, Brilliant said: “It’s important we have a variety on the slate. It’s certainly resonated out there, although there’s still work to be done. We have established ourselves in a short space of time and we’re now looking ahead.” 

As the year-end best of charts pile up, one title that seems to appear in almost all of them is The Lobster, the dating movie with a difference that stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and a whole host of familiar faces that include Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly and Lea Seydoux. Its critical acclaim and recognition in assorted finest films of 2015 lists has come at a perfect time for the release as Picturehouse Entertainment and Element Pictures Distribution ready themselves for the February 8 release of the film with Spirit looking after DVD and Blu-ray sales. Commenting on the film ahead of its release, Picturehouse Entertainment’s director of communications, Gabriel Swartland said “Following both the acclaim and box office success (now in excess of £1.3m), that The Lobster has enjoyed since its Theatrical release in October, we’re really excited to be releasing the film on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital on the 8th February next year. With such an amazing ensemble cast and one of the most intriguing concepts for any film released this year, the film continues to be a talking point. Featuring in various people’s film’s of the year, The Lobster continues to garner various award nominations and the best supporting actress win for Olivia Colman at the recent British Independent Film Awards was a particular highlight.”
It’s been a busy week for Amazon, with the Prime Video svod service celebrating after seeing its exclusive and original programming available only through its service collecting a hefty 13 nominations at the Golden Globes. And it was timely, given that the second series of Transparent earned three nods, just ahead of arriving on the service. There was more as it unveiled a new children’s series, Just Add Magic, is set to arrive on January 15. And it further announced that its remake of homegrown drama Mad Dogs, starring, among others, Michael Imperioli, Steve Zahn and Ben Chaplin is set to arrive on a week later, on January 22.  Amazon Studios vp Roy Price said: “Mad Dogs explores what happens when four school friends go on an exotic vacation that shockingly descends into a harrowing roller coaster that tests their mettle, their friendships and their very sense of identity. The show has a fantastic cast and is led by Shawn Ryan. We look forward to customers’ reactions.” 

Acquisitions news now and there’s a brace of announcements from Metrodome, which used the theatrical bow for  Terence Davies’ Sunset Song to announce that it had picked up the rights to release the next film from the acclaimed Brit director, A Quiet Passion. It looks at AmericaN poet Emily Dickinson, who will be played by Cynthia Nixon. Commenting on its acquisition, Metrodome’s Giles Edwards said: “A Quiet Passion
is another bold, exquisitely handsome and delightfully literate love letter to an icon of Modernist literature by a titan of contemporary film.” It has also picked up the UK rights to Land Of Mine, a drama that follows German POWs forced to defuse mines on the Danish coast and is based on real-life events at the end of World War Two. Commenting on the release Edwards, again, said: “Land Of Mine is powerful post-war poetry, absolutely searing character work  with the exquisite tension of a suspense thriller.”
US president Barack Obama as his favourite movie of 2015, just as Fox revealed a late January Digital HD and February 8 DVD and Blu-ray release for the Matt Damon starred. Commenting on its release, a source at Fox said they would be contacting the White House to see if the quote can be used on packaging…

"I don't know if it's more difficult than I expected, but it has not been an easy road. The studios are situated regionally in licensing. We are now a global buyer of rights for a show. There is some resistance to this, mostly from the regional sellers, who don't want their jobs marginalised. We are navigating the politics. It's a big change. It’s something our studio partners are struggling with.”
Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, attempting to drive another nail in the coffin of territory by territory licensing of films and TV, he further signalled that big deals with studios may no longer be on the agenda for the svod company…

Familiar faces at the top of the UK box office, with the final Hunger Games instalment at number one and Spectre at number three, the latter having now passed the £90 million mark. New entries included Christmas With The Coopers (£683,217), Victor Frankenstein (£431,125) and Krampus (£412,713). 

With the final aforementioned Hunger Games film, Mockingjay Part 2, still dominating at UK cinemas (and globally, for that matter), Lionsgate, realising where its bread is buttered, is said to be investigating the possibility of making a series of prequels to the hugely successful franchise…

And lo, in case you hadn’t noticed on US film websites, or from the number of people showing off about their awards screeners online, we’re now in the throes of awards season. And Thursday saw the announcement of the nominations for the Golden Globes Didn’t see the nods? Well, you can see them all here… They follow on the back of the British Independent Film Awards, which took place last Sunday. You can see the winners and more here
Comic book news comes in the shape of Cate Blanchett, the latest quality actor to head for an adaptation, with reports that she is in talks with Marvel and disney hierarchy to star in the next Thor film, Ragnarok. And Ryan Coogler, fresh off the success of Rocky update Creed, may be the man to take the helm on the forthcoming Black Panther movie…
We liked this, as Disney sets up something to push Inside Out to an older audience…
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Here comes The Assassin, weighed down with awards, plaudits and the likes…
To us, it’ll always be Frozen Turkey, Cheeky Monkey…
This week’s superhero biggie…
The Brothers Grimsby, aka Grimsby…
Turtles. Again. 
And another huge family film…
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