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It Was A Good Week For... Star Wars and all things Star Wars-related
It Was A Bad Week For… Any of the pirates jailed for assorted offences…
OK, we know there’s no definitive video release date yet, and it’s only been out for a day or two at cinemas, but given the figures thus far, there’s no better place to start than with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For the incredible buzz and devastating first day box office for the revived franchise has put a spring in the industry’s step after what some would describe as a not exactly stellar Q4 period for home entertainment. Following on from the mountains of publicity, the film broke one day UK box office records, taking an estimated £9.6 million in its first 24 hours after opening at midnight on December 17. More than a quarter of that record amount coming from midnight screenings. This comes in addition to the 2 million advance ticket sales, another record. It means that the FDA’s recent prediction that the Q$ period would boast a whopping 50 million cinema visits looks on the cards. And obviously, it bodes well for home entertainment in 2016 too, with The Force Awakens set to join a slate that includes such current and recent box office this as Spectre and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Commenting on what the run of hits means for video, the BVA’s Liz Bales said: “The next 12 months is set to be a tremendously exciting year for video, we’re kicking off the year with hugely successful theatrical blockbusters from some of the world’s biggest franchises, which, looking at past franchise performance denotes success both in the video aisle and also in, out of category space across retail as the halo effect of film takes hold.  The collective strength of the 2016 slate is filled with opportunity and we look forward to working with members and retailers alike to maximise these opportunities across all formats.”
Home entertainment is already reaping some of the rewards from the massive renewed interest in the Star Wars franchise – according to Kantar Worldpanel almost double the number of consumers have bought in to the franchise on video in 2015, aided, no doubt, by the combined activity from Fox and Disney. 
Meanwhile, back in the rest of the video universe, SPHE was celebrating this week after its Adam Sandler starrer Pixels enjoyed the kind of week one that many films would give their proverbial right arms for, with the kind of conversion figures that will mark it among the year’s best. The film arrived on DVD and Blu-ray at the same time as Sandler’s new outing, The Ridiculous 6 turned up on Netflix, but it was far from Game Over for Pixels, which has been, er, Pac-ing ‘em in since release, with an 8.4 per cent admissions ratio, strongly over-performing against the genre. It came complete with a marketing campaign targeting families and kids, with some retro gaming activity with YouTubers for the teenage crowd (you can see it here). Commenting on its success, SPHE product manager Kate Jeremy said: “Nostalgia for such classic video games characters as Pac-Man fuelled a fantastic result for our family action adventure Pixels, backed by a high impact TV campaign over our first two weeks of release.  We are absolutely delighted with the result.”

And on to this week’s midweek charts, as the Official Charts Company’s bulletin lands in our in-boxes and Inside Out is set to return to the top of the charts, knocking Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation off the top slot, it was ahead by some 5,000 units. Highest new entry was the latest take on Fantastic Four, which was running a close third behind the Tom Cruise starrer. Minions us at four, ahead of Ant-Man at five. Other new entries just outside the top 10 are Paper Towns, at 13, andBad Education a couple of places behind that…
While Inside Out may be beating Minions according to the midweek chart bulletin, the odds look stacked in Minions’ favour in terms of ending up under more families’ Christmas trees this year, according to a survey put together by retail trade organisation ERA. It showed that, after Adele’s latest album, the animated film was the second most likely to be bought by consumers as a gift for friends and family. It bested Adele in all age groups and demographics apart from females and the over-55-year-olds. Films dominated the top 10 most popular gifts, with Jurassic World at number three, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation at seven, Ted 2 at eight, Terminator Genisys at nine and Downton Abbey Series 6 at number 10. Not only did the video titles have a distinctly family feel – most were 12-rated or under – but it was also Universal dominated, of the six video titles in the top 10 gifts, all were Universal or Universal-distributed. The other three making up the 10 were all game titles. ERA’s Kim Bayley said: “While Adele has taken all the headlines recently with the huge success of 25, these poll results are a clear reminder of the strength of video – particularly on family occasions. With little more than a week to go to Christmas, it is clear that Minions and Jurassic World are going to be giving Adele a run for her money in the sales rankings.” The BVA’s Liz Bales added: "It’s great to see that video is once again at the top of consumers gift lists, with a title selection that covers everything from Minions to dinosaurs, it’s easy to see why video makes a great stocking filler for the whole family and with gifting accounting for a third of all video sales it’s a gift that keeps driving people into store.”
One of the aforementioned titles out this week and placing in the midweeks was Fox’s Paper Towns and it was interesting to see the studio’s work with digital marketing agency Wilderness on the release. The activity saw the agency putting together a concept called Follow The Strings, an interactive personality quiz that featured on Instagram as well as through paid media advertising and a partnership with MTV UK. It saw the concept appearing on the X-Factor app over the finals weekend (December 12 and 13 if you hadn’t noticed) ahead of the release. Commenting on the activity and its work with Fox, Wilderness’ Tom Jarvis said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be working with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and we were as excited about the opportunity to showcase our ground-breaking digital marketing experience on a film as cool as Paper Towns. The reaction and engagement from fans.” Fox’s head of creative services Yasmin Doe added: “We were impressed with how Wilderness were not only able to uncover genuine insight about Paper Towns fans through their social listening tools but also how they applied a high level of creativity to the brief.”

Big deal news of the week comes from Fremantle and Network, as the pair have furthered the licensing deal that sees much of Fremantle’s Thames catalogue going to Network. Alongside the existing arrangement, all of Fremantle’s Thames titles will now be released through Network, with the company taking over some of the crown jewels from the TV giant’s catalogue and adding them to its bulging catalogue. These include the likes of The World At War, Rumpole Of The Bailey and Merlin, ongoing series such as Birds Of A Feather and, the first to fall under the new deal, Cuckoo, with the complete second series of the Greg Davies sitcom landing on January 26. It will see Network bringing some unreleased titles to the market too, with the likes of Kenny Everett set to arrive too. In a statement on its website, Network said: “The Network catalogue is about to get even more diverse and impressive. This new deal will see us releasing brand-new versions of Minder, Rumpole of the Bailey, The World at War, Reilly – Ace of Spies, The Kenny Everett Video Show and many more. We will also be delving yet further into the Fremantle archives to bring never-before-released titles to your home, as well as continuing releases of current hits including QI, Birds of a Feather, Cuckoo, Great British Railway Journeys and Trollied. All of this, plus the fourth and final edition of The Professionals and even more classics from The British Film collection, makes 2016 our most exciting year yet." Commenting further, Network’s Tim Beddows said: “We have worked with Fremantle for over 15 years and I’m thrilled that our relationship is set to continue with this new deal which will see a whole host of previously released and unreleased titles given the ‘Network treatment’ that our consumers have come to know and appreciate us for.” Pete Kalhan, svp home entertainment for FremantleMedia commented: “I am delighted to extend our working relationship with Network, who are the perfect distributor for our Thames Catalogue. As the market evolves, this extended partnership will enable both companies to grow their home entertainment businesses.’’ Expect more statements from Fremantle in the new year…
One person who won’t be enjoying a happy Christmas at home with the family and friends is Keith Liggins, a 62-year-old man from Milton Malsor, near Northampton, who was this week sentenced to two years in jai for  assorted offences. Liggins had previously been convicted of eight charges under the Trade Marks Act, after ignoring three warnings from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). He had been importing counterfeit DVDs from China and flogging them via eBay, with sales worth almost £150,000. A further 500-plus DVDs were seized as part of the joint operation by FACT and Northampton Trading Standards officers. As well as the two year jail sentence, he was also handed a confiscation order, meaning he must pay more than £66,000. Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, said: “In the UK our creative industries support more than 1.8 million jobs, however criminal enterprises – like the one Liggins was running – put the livelihoods of those working in the industry at risk.At FACT we are committed to tackling criminals who profit from others’ intellectual property. Working alongside our partners, such as Trading Standards, our work is vital in protecting the industry, the people who work in it and the films and TV programmes you love.” Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage, county council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth, said: “This is a real deterrent for anyone thinking of selling counterfeit products and shows that we will take action against rogue traders. It may be tempting to buy counterfeit DVDs at a cheap price, but pirate films are often poor quality and, more importantly, cause serious damage to those working hard to earn a living within the film and TV industries.”
And, a day later, there were more seasonal woes for pirates, after the a group of five men were sentenced to a total of 17 tears in jail after being sentenced in a private prosecution brought by FACT. The five, online under aliases, were behind assorted online release groups involved in the race to get illegal copies of films up as early as possible for illegal downloading. Each of the five accepted they’d cost the industry upwards of £1 million each, involved in uploading more than 2,500 films that were downloaded “millions” of times. They were raided almost three years ago by FACT, working with other groups, one of the men was in the process of encoding a film when officers burst in. That same man, Reece Baker, of Birmingham, who received four years and two months in jail, was further involved in piracy even while on bail. The other four, with sentences, were Sahil Rafiq, of Wolverhampton (four years and six months), Graeme Reid, of Chesterfield (three years and six months), Ben Cooper, also from Wolverhampton (three years and six months) and Scott Hemming, also from Birmingham, who received a two year suspended sentence. It’s the first time FACT has gone after release groups. FACT;s Kieron Sharp said: “Today’s sentencing is a great success for FACT as it marks the first time a release group has been criminally prosecuted. Rafiq, Baker, Reid, Cooper and Hemming were all aware that they were engaging in criminal activity. Their actions have now cost them their liberty. The result of this case sends out a serious message to anyone engaging in online piracy to think twice or face getting caught, prosecuted and sent to prison.I would like to thank the police, the members of the West Midlands GAIN and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for their assistance in investigating a crime which they no doubt viewed as unusual when we first presented the case to them.” Intellectual property minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe added: “The illegal copying and distribution of films has real consequences for the film industry and consumers. Today’s sentencing shows how seriously the courts take this crime and the power of collaboration between industry, government and enforcement agencies.” 
FACT officers were also busy this week clamping down on social media counterfeiting and intellectual property fraud as part of Operation Jasper, a trading standards and police initiative that covered other goods and products. It’s the second phase of the initiative and IP minister Baroness Neville Rolfe said: “The Government is committed to tackling counterfeiting and it’s great to see this successful operation. Industry, government and enforcement agencies need to continue to work together to tackle counterfeiting and disrupt organised criminal networks who use social media sites to commit IP crime.  The fantastic results of this operation show what partnership working can achieve.”
It’s not just in the UK, however, that authorities are clamping down. This week in Germany a 29-year-old from Kazakhstan was sentenced to three years and four months in jail for his involvement in an illegal film streaming website, Its two founders are still on the run. Matthias Leonardy, from FACT’s German equivalent, said: “The successful completion of this criminal process shows once again that sound investigative work against copyright cyber-criminals is amply rewarded. The investigating authorities have once again done excellent work here, and they are supported by the GVU and other rights holders wherever possible.”

To the Genesis Cinema over in London’s East End, a fitting venue for the premiere of the concluding instalment of Signature’s Krays double header, Fall Of The Krays. Cast and crew, including Reg and Ron themselves, were in attendance, along with us at The Raygun, for the film, which is another look at the ever-fascinating gangster twins. 2015 has proved to be a bumper year for Kray-related action, with both the success of Legend and Signature’s sales of more than 110,000 for its first Reg and Ron outing, Rise Of The Krays, 2016 is shaping up to be another knuckle-dusting year for the twins, with Fall Of The Krays benefiting from a theatrical and premium vod from January 1, with physical home entertainment release due to arrive on March 28. Commenting on the film, Signature’s Claire Loewenthal said: “Following the phenomenal success of Rise Of The Krays earlier this year, we are extremely excited to bring the much anticipated sequel to the market. There is clearly a huge appetite for this genre across all platforms so we want to ensure consumers see Fall Of The Krays at the earliest opportunity to get their fix. We are hoping Fall Of The Krays will bring in 2016 with a bang.”
After its hugely successful run on BBC4, the Nordic Noir genre – and label – is back with a bang on Monday with the physical release of the third series of The Bridge. Individual episodes have already proved their worth as a digital download in recent weeks, even though it’s had traditional transmission and catch-up TV option via the BBC iPlayer. And it looks like, on the back of some strong PR (including an unbelievable story in the Evening Standard highlighting its availability), the third series will be a winner on physical formats too – pre-orders will already take it past week one sales of the second outing, as Jon Sadler, from Nordic Noir parent Arrow Films explained: “The Bridge is set to pre-order more than we sold week one of The Bridge II – despite the market being significantly down since Feb 2014, plus we have had great business digitally throughout the TX, also despite the series being on Free TV and catch up, so it’s going to be our biggest season of the series yet. The Trilogy box set has surpassed the season 1&2 set now as we recently deleted the latter and is ranking ahead of the single now in terms of rate of sale – which is great news. Previously we have enjoyed successes with The Killing 3 and Borgen 3 at this time of year, albeit a week earlier but pre-orders and day one sales should all hit delivery in time for Christmas. The series comes to its dramatic conclusion on Saturday night on BBC FOUR with the usual double episodes.” It marks what should prove to be a strong 12 months for the imprint, with Trapped, Hinterland and Follow The Money all arriving via the same route – BBC4 and on to Nordic Noir – in 2016 (see below for trailer…)
Shaping up to be one of the biggies of the Christmas period on TV is And Then There Were None the Agatha Christie adaptation that has had reviewers positively salivating ahead of its transmission. the classic take on the tale features Charles Dance, among others, and is due to arrive on DVD on January 11 courtesy of RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn imprint. Commenting on the release, the company’s md Stuart Shaw said: “We’re thrilled to have acquired from our friends at Agatha Christie Ltd the DVD and digital rights to the biggest drama on TV this Christmas airing on BBC One for three nights from Boxing Day.  Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was recently voted The World’s Favourite Christie by the fans and is already the bestselling crime novel ever. Now with a cast that includes Poldark’s Aidan Turner, Douglas Booth, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson and more (including a stunning new star in the making Maeve Dermody, watch this space) this promises a great start to the New Year when the Acorn label brings it out on DVD having been taken on by every major DVD outlet and supermarket chain.” Joint head of marketing Gareth Brown added: “The DVD release has the benefit for fans of a 40 minute exclusive behind the scenes called And Then There Was Something: The Making of And Then There Were None. Featuring interviews with all the stars as well as key cast and crew, this gives great insight into what promises to be one of the best TV thrillers of 2015 and 2016.”

And as surely as day follows night, Q4 follows Q1 and there’s plenty of jockeying for position for key releases and titles in the first quarter. We've been looking at eOne’s slate for the months ahead and it’s looking pretty good. The sale kicks off with underrated actioner No Escape which sees Owen Wilson moving into Taken territory, fighting against the odds to protect his family when caught in the midst of a military coup. It’s swiftly followed by the latest comedy from Adam Sandler, The Cobbler, as the success of Pixels shows, Sandler continues to be a big seller. Wildly different and rounding off January is Diary Of A Teenage Girl, a critically acclaimed teen tale with a sharp sense of humour that sparked controversy earlier in the year with director Marielle Heller speaking out against its 18 BBFC certification. As we enter February there’s have two very different buddy-movies, the female-friendly Miss You Already, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette in a touching but funny tale of friendship against the odds followed by Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson smouldering in Anton Corbijn directed James Dean film Life telling the story of celebrated photographer Dennis Stock and his friendship with the rising star weeks before his untimely death. There’s also Stick Man (covered here previously) and, at the opposite end of the scale, two other book adaptations, Dark Places, starring Charlize Thereon and Nicholas Hoult based on a novel by Gone Girl creator Gillian Flynn and A Walk In The Woods starring Robert Redford as author Bill Bryson enjoying a renaissance in the twilight of his career, along with Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson as he attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail. Finally finishing off a very busy February there’s Freeheld featuring an all-star cast led by last year’s Oscar-winner Julianne Moore which tells the amazing true-story of Laurel Hester and her partner Stacie Andree who together battled for equality to secure Hester’s pension benefits when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Moving into March, horror and fantasy comes in the shape of Vin Diesel in The Last Witch Hunter and far darker goings on in Eli Roth’s long-awaited homage to cannibal films, The Green Inferno followed by  some homegrown fear in supernatural horror The Hallow. And finally capping off the quarter there’s have Mississippi Grind, starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn as two gambling addicts on the road trip of a lifetime to New Orleans and World War II stranded-at-seas action flick Against The Sun.
The BFI announced its latest major season this week, with a three month retrospective looking at the work of seminal French maestro Jean-Luc Godard, and, as well as the raft of cinema activity, much of it set around the Southbank, it’s good to see video, and especially Blu-ray, heavily involved in the proceedings too. For as part of the season, the BFI will be giving a first ever Blu-ray release to Bande A Part, due on March 21, while ahead of that, on February 1, Studiocanal is releasing a lavish five film set of Godard’s classics including Breathless and Le Mepris. Both packages come complete with a raft of extras, each will include interviews with one of his stars, and former wife, Anna Karina, while the former includes interviews with Quentin Tarantino on A Bande Apart’s influential dance sequence, the latter has more than six hours’ worth in total. Commenting on the activity, BFI’s Sam Dunn said: “Godard’s Bande A Part is a true classic of world cinema, and a direct influence on such filmmakers as Hal Hartley and Quentin Tarantino. We’re delighted to be releasing this UK Blu-ray premiere as part of the BFI’s Godard celebrations. In addition to the stunning presentation of the film itself, our release features a wealth of new and exciting extras that will delight fans of this great director.” Studiocanal’s Alison Arber added: ““We are really excited to be releasing this stunning Blu-ray boxset of Essential Godard which includes, Une Femme Est Une Femme and Alphaville on Blu-ray for the first time, plus a brand new interview from Godard’s muse,  Anna Karina. To make the set even more special we created a 72-page booklet with essays on each films from various film critics and academics. Perfect for any Godard fans and a great way to celebrate the fantastic retrospective at the BFI.” 
Before that, there’s plenty more from the BFI’s video arm – this week, for example, brought a late entrant for one of our finest releases of the year this far, the rather excellent look at the early and defining years of British TV documentaries, the two-disc Visions Of Change set. Commenting on the release the BFI’s Sam Dunn said: “Visions of Change has been an incredibly exciting project to work on, and has been a long time in the making. We wanted to be sure to produce a collection that did justice to the quality and breadth of these great documentaries. The result is a selection of rarely-seen BBC TV productions by filmmakers who went on to become seminal British directors, such as Ken Russell, Dennis Potter and John Schlesinger. Anyone with an interest in great British cinema of the 1950s and 60s, or in cutting edge documentary films in general, will love this unique collection.”

Some appointment news from the vod sector and TalkTalk has signified its further intentions to expand the TV side of its business by taking on two key staffers. Aleks Habdank has been appointed as chief operating officer, the former Virgin Media director will look at its consumer offering while growing the business. And it has taken on former Amazon Instant Video director Joe Eldridge as Tv engineering director. In a statement, TalkTalk noted: “The new appointments signal TalkTalk’s continued investment in TV and follows a number of significant developments over the last 12 months. TalkTalk acquired the pay-as-you-go digital movie and television service, blinkbox, earlier in 2015, and now has direct content deals with all major studios in addition to key channel and on-demand partners such as Netflix. TV has also been a driving force for TalkTalk’s growth. Its strategy of offering viewers flexible access to a broad range of free and paid-for content, without a lengthy subscription has attracted over 1.4 million UK homes.”

And now, the year is almost over, there’s just one or two loose ends to tie up, not least our industry-wide year-end survey, where we ask our regular readers and key industry figures to answer a handful of easy questions, which will be going live on our website early in 2016. Just note down your answers to the questions below and send them to… And please feel free to forward it on to colleagues, the more the merrier…
Favourite three releases of the year:
Highlights of 2015:
Lowpoint of 2015:
Event of the year:
Biggest challenge in 2016:
What I’m looking forward to in 2016:
All that’s left for us to do is wish all our readers a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2016. We’ll be returning early in the new year, but keep an eye on your in-boxes, on our website and our Twitter account over the holiday season for loads of updates, news, features and more over the holiday period. Thanks for all your support in 2015… 

"The spike in sales for the parody is representative of a much larger trend of brand-specific merchandise for Star Wars, which shows the strong bond fans have with the movies. We began noticing a gradual increase in sales of the title at the beginning of November, but it wasn’t until the past two weeks that purchases of Star Wars XXX really skyrocketed.”
Jeff Dillon from adult website Gamelink on the 500 per cent leap in sales of Star Wars XXX, an, ahem, adult parody…

It was the quiet before the storm, as distributors avoided even going a week before Star Wars The Force Awakens, with no new entries in the top 10, the first time this has happened all year. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 used the opportunity to add to its haul, it has now taken almost £25.5 million.

And there’s been a similar dearth of film news stories too – as everyone kept their heads down while all film writers, publications and bloggers were all talking about The Force Awakens at the expense of pretty much everything else. There were, however, plenty of trailers… see below for a double helping of trailers for this week…
In a space-related week, they’re back…
And so are this lot…
And here’s one from the Potter universe…
Here’s some great Nordic Noir fare for 2016…

Aired during a presidential debate…
In a week of great trailers, this is unbelievably inventive…
This one looks like it could go the distance…
This week’s second wee-referencing trailer…
And here’s the third…
Not until 2017, but we can’t wait…
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