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It Was A Good Week For... Lionsgate, with The Hunger Games, one of the year's bestsellers, heading back to the top of the charts and Eddie The Eagle strong at cinemas…
It Was A Bad Week For… The kids today, as a quarter of European youths think there's nothing wrong with illegal downloading…

As Q1 has now come to a close, the Official Charts Company has issued its look at the bestselling releases of 2016 so far, and it’s no surprise to see Spectre at the front of the pack after the first three months of the year. The latest James Bond starrer sold more than 1.3 million copies in its first six weeks on sale, with, as previously reported here, almost 1 million of those (or 987,000 to be precise) coming in its first week on sale. Its figure was double of that of its nearest competitor, Legend, although kudos must go to Studiocanal for its hugely impressive performance with the Kray twins film. It shifted some 568,000 in the first quarter, ahead of another Fox title, The Martian, which sold some 415,000. In fourth place was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (see below for more on that), with sales approaching the 400,000 mark up to the end of the quarter. At five and six, a resurgent Sony Pictures Home Entertainment marked a strong start to the year after a relatively quiet 2015, with healthy sales for The Lady In The Van and Hotel Transylvania 2. Universal’s Everest sat in seventh place, while the fifth season of Game Of Thrones was the best performing TV title of the first quarter. A brace of Disney titles, namely The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out, round out the top 10, the latter a Q4 title from last year buoyed this time round by its strong Oscar performance. Other noteworthy successes include eOne’s Stick Man at number 17, Davina and her return to the fitness queen throne courtesy of 5 Week Fit, released through Spirit at number 35 and BBC’s Happy Valley a place below that. You can see the full 40 here.
So what do the industry experts make of the first quarter of the year? Well, who better to ask than BASE, the British Association of Screen Entertainment, the trade body formally known as the BVA, which has this year gone under a name change to reflect the change in the business? BASE chief executive Liz Bales said: “The first quarter of 2016 has seen some of the category’s biggest film and TV franchises hit retailer shelves and while such greats as Bond (Spectre), Hunger Games, Hotel Transylvania and Games of Thrones have clearly resonated with consumers, it’s also testament to the strength of the category to see runaway successes on standalone titles like Legend and The Lady in the Van chart so highly. Home grown talent is a key theme dominating this year’s bestsellers too, with the likes of Spectre, Legend, Lady In The Van, Suffragette, Imitation Game  and TV drama Happy Valley all leading the charge. With so many more big titles yet to come, it’s shaping up to be a very exciting year for the industry.”
Given its hugely impressive performance with The Lady In The Van, which has far exceeded expectations, as well as its success with Hotel Transylvania 2, we spoke to SPHE about its return to form. Commenting on the success, Neil Rodwell, head of product marketing, said: “We’re very happy to have built on the breakout theatrical success of these titles to deliver market-leading conversions. The Lady In The Van in particular has already surpassed all of our comps to become one of the best performing dramas of the last five years. It’s a really great start to what promises to be a very exciting year for SPHE and our partners.”

And what of this week? Well, as noted above, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 is set to triumph again, returning to the top slot it held on to on its initial March release in the Official Charts Company’s midweek charts. The Jennifer Lawrence starrer will replace Bridge Of Spies, down to number three, with The Good Dinosaur sandwiched between them at number two. The rest of the top five has a familiar look and feel, with The Lady In The Van and Spectre continuing to hold their own. Elsewhere in the top 20, children’s and family titles, such as Hotel Transylvania 2 (number eight), Jurassic World (12), Paw Patrol (14) and Minions (18) all enjoy Easter holiday-inspired resurgences. The highest new entries in a relatively quiet week are Sunset Song, at 29, and HBO’s Banshee – The Complete Season Three, at 38. Commenting on its return to the top of the charts, Lionsgate’s Ben Grunbaum said: “We’re delighted that Mockingjay Part 2 is back at number 1 in the charts. The support and reaction from the fans has been superb, and despite huge volumes on all of the singles in the franchise, the fact that the Complete Collection is still in the Top 10 is the icing on the cake.”
Plaudits must go to Metrodome for its work on Sunset Song, turning the latest film from British director Terence Davies, giving him arguably his biggest ever home entertainment bow. Metrodome praised, among others, the likes of Amazon and Sainsbury’s for putting their weight behind the release and helping it to its strong showing in the Official Charts Company’s midweek listings, with the company’s Kalina Jones said: “We’ve organised a significant spend with Amazon Media Group, giving us great visibility amongst our target audience across all platforms. We’ve been able to target fans of the book by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Terence Davies and the cast, with a heavy weighting towards Scotland and the Aberdeenshire area. In order to raise awareness of the film to those who may have missed the theatrical campaign, we focused initially on branding and then retargeted the same audience with more sales driven ads. On top of this we are running some targeted Facebook ads and traditional print media in Scottish press. We are also running a great competition with Visit Scotland who we have partnered with on the release for competitions. We also worked with Visit Scotland on the theatrical campaign, who produced a movie map of the film’s locations – this is still in circulation amongst libraries, visitor centres and cinemas.” Given Davies’ stature, especially among critics, there was plenty of press support too, as Katy Sharp Watson, from Metrodome’s publicity department, noted: “Off the back of the advertising spend, we saw a significant amount of social engagement, which led to a fantastic organic reach on our non promoted posts. These posts included competitions to win a BFI Terence Davies box set Furthermore, we worked closely with the BFI to access their huge social media channels and set up DVD, signed poster and book competitions. We planned and executed a significant national PR campaign, with strong emphasis upon Scottish media. We secured coverage with The Herald, The Daily Record, Glasgow Evening Times as well a wide range of local Scottish broadsheet and print media. The national critics were supportive of the film and we secured reviews with the following outlets: Observer, Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday and The Sun as well as coverage in Empire, Total Film, Reader’s Digest and The Big Issue. We set up many competitions with online blogs such as HeyUGuys and Entertainment Focus to win the DVD and a signed poster.”
Over in the theatrical world, we reported a few weeks ago on Lionsgate’s Eddie The Eagle, the buzz surrounding the film ahead of its release at cinemas and its home entertainment prospects and we’re pleased to report it’s off to a strong start, with the company claiming the biggest opening for a British film since Spectre, earning £2.8 million in its opening frame. Commenting on its success, Lionsgate European office ceo Zygi Kamasa said: “This charming, funny and empowering film proved to be a crowd pleaser just like Eddie Edwards was at the Olympics in 1988. The opening results show that Eddie the Eagle touched UK cinema goers hearts, provided an entertaining watch for the whole family and was a highly recommended visit to the cinema.” More on this one, we’re sure, in weeks to come…

News from another trade organisation now, and retailer body ERA has announced the appointment of a new director of marketing and communications in the shape of former Universal and Fox publicist Lynn Li. She’ll take on the role, overseeing consumer, business to business and internal communications, reporting to ceo Kim Bayley and working alongside ERA’s long-time advisor Steve Redmond. Commenting on the appointment, which comes jus4t ahead of one of the biggest dates on the ERA calendar, Record Store Day (due on April 16), Bayley said: “We are delighted that Lynn is joining us at ERA. Her extensive experience working within the home entertainment industry and strong consumer focus will allow ERA to amplify our members’ voice and develop new consumer-facing initiatives.” Steve Redmond added: “ERA has already demonstrated its ability to champion new consumer promotions for entertainment with the hugely successful Record Store Day. Lynn’s expertise puts us in a strong position to emulate that success in other areas.” Li herself added: “The ever-evolving entertainment ecosystem means there has never been a more exciting time to be joining ERA. I’m looking forward to working alongside our members and partners to help drive growth and understanding during this time of dynamic change within the industry.”
Sticking with Record Store Day and this year’s event sees one of our favourite labels of recent years, Demon Records, kicking off what is essentially a two-month-long campaign for a forthcoming Blu-ray first. For the label, which has long been a supporter of the event, has acquired UK rights to the legendary Marc Bolan and T. Rex film Born To Boogie. One of Record Store Day’s most sought after releases (not least by us) will be a limited edition, numbered double coloured vinyl release of the film’s soundtrack, followed, in May, by a seven inch single and a special screening at the BFI Southbank of the film. And the next month will see  the film released on Blu-ray for the first time ever, complete with a raft of additional features, on June 13, alongside a two-DVD and two-CD package featuring the film, extras and soundtrack, and a single DVD edition. This follows a June 10 double CD soundtrack release. Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a one-day only theatrical release for the film on June 14 at Picturehouse Cinemas. Commenting on the release, Demon’s Ben Stanley, whose CV includes a stint at wrestling specialist Silver Vision, said: “Upon obtaining the rights for Born To Boogie we quickly realised not only did we have a great snapshot of Marc’s life at the height of T.Rextasy, but we had the opportunity to be creative and deliver a full marketing campaign that would start at record store day, include a ‘new’ single to be serviced to radio, and an event at BFI… all of which adding awareness to campaign Born To Boogie culminating in a range of physical and digital packages, along with a nationwide theatrical release through Picturehouse. It’s been an awful lot of hard work as this is a little out of our comfort zone, however with our expertise of marketing to this fanbase, we’re confident we can deliver the project to the T. Rex faithful.”
Earlier this year we reported on Soda Pictures and its move into the DTV arena, complementing its diverse release schedule with video-friendly releases, and, after the success of Breakdown, the label has unveiled a raft of new acquisitions that see it strengthening its hand in this sector. Among the titles on offer from the label are the May 16 release Orthodox, a boxing drama starring a Brit dream team of Stephen Graham and Michael Smiley, due on the back of a small theatrical and premium vod bow. This is followed two weeks later, on May 30, with 600 Miles, a thriller starring Tim Roth as a federal agent kidnapped and taken across the border into Mexico to be delivered to drug cartels. Beyond this, there are Q3 and Q4 releases being lined up for Thai-based actioner Asian Connection, starring Steven Seagal; Shark Lake, starring Dolph Lundgren and a lake-dwelling shark; football documentary Messi (already released on digital and now due a physical release); 70s horror remake Vampyres; US indie horror Darling, currently picking up a strong buzz, and Oz psychological horror Observance. Commenting on the acquisitions and forthcoming titles, Soda’s Louise Rae said: “"Having a slate that includes Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Tim Roth, Stephen Graham, two Vampires, a footballing legend, and a very hungry shark is exactly where we want to be in the DTV space, and is going to be keeping us busy for the next few months as we work with our grocery partners to bring these to genre audiences. Shark Lake in particular is going to be a really fun title to work on and we can't wait to get it out and begin the feeding frenzy."”
Sticking with Soda, and its further steps into DTV territory don’t mean its forsaking its other staples, announcing at the same time a May 30 release for Icelandic saga Rams. It’s one of the year’s more unlikely releases, charting two sheep-farming brothers living in a remote valley who must overcome their differences when their livelihood is threatened, but, aided by some of the best artwork seen on a theatrical release this year and some smart marketing, has defied expectations. The title is, Bollywood aside, the highest foreign language grosser of the year at UK cinemas, giving it a strong platform for Soda’s release. Commenting on the release, Soda’s Louise Rae said: “As soon as we saw Rams we knew we had something really special on our hands, and audiences have agreed, with people falling in love with it all across the UK and Ireland. We've got plenty saved up for our home entertainment release, including reversible DVD and Blu-ray sleeves that might just be the cutest artwork of the year.”

Talking of strong foreign language performances… After a strong 2015 with some big hitters, it’s been a relatively quiet start to 2016 in home entertainment terms for the Curzon Artificial Eye operation, but things are about to get a lot busier for the independent. For in Victoria, which opened last weekend at cinemas and on its Curzon Home Cinema vod arm, it has, as sometime Raygun contributor, Guardian box office columnist and critic Charles Gant noted, “delivered the biggest arthouse foreign-language opening in many a month”, taking more than £100,000 in its opening frame. The film earned a raft of strong reviews, not least for its originality – this Berlin-based tale of late night folk was famously shot in one take spanning its entire two-hour plus running time – and is set to repeat that on physical formats in May when it finally arrives. It’s presaged by Tim Roth in Chronic, another critically acclaimed film and followed later in the summer by the wonderful Oscar-nominated Anomalisa. Commenting on Victoria’s success and its forthcoming titles, Curzon’s Steve Lewis said: “we’re delighted by the theatrical performance of Victoria which remained very strong throughout the week and bodes well for the home entertainment release in May. With the acclaimed Chronic we have Tim Roth giving one of his career best performances and Anomalisa is a unique adult animation from Charlie Kaufman, the creative genius behind Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
One thing we at The Raygun noticed as Victoria opened were the number of film fans on social media discussing how they were going to watch the film on its opening weekend via the Curzon Home Cinema on demand service. It proves that the message from Curzon’s vod arm is getting across to consumers and core audience for titles from the Curzon Artificial Eye network and other independent labels, with films appearing on the service day and date with their theatrical release. As Curzon Home Cinema’s Phil Mordecai said: “Victoria proved to be a independent success for Curzon Home Cinema as well as in cinemas, proving yet again audiences are making informed choices for unique and quality film via our day and date ‘In Cinemas’ feature. The social media positive buzz was in part a result of a targeted marketing campaign from Curzon Artificial Eye and CHC which pushed the film into targeted younger audiences nationwide that have an interest in foreign language cinema. Victoria on its opening weekend was one of CHC's top five best performing foreign language day and date films. It proved to be equally popular outside London with a 50/50 share of streams being delivered beyond the M25.”

Some forthcoming release news now and more from Icon. After talking about its horror slate under the FrightFest Presents banner a few weeks ago, then moving into family territory with Oddball & The Penguins, we’re returning to the world of horror. For due on June 20 from the company comes The Forest. It arrives on the back of the strong theatrical performance and, given its recent successes with titles such as The Babadook, Icon is proving itself adept at turning titles of this ilk into mainstream chart propositions, meaning this should become another strong title for the company. Commenting on the release, Icon’s Katie Sexton said: “While building The Forest home entertainment campaign, we’re working to replicate the success of our recent horror releases (The Babadook and It Follows), by harnessing the awareness generated off the back of a solid £1 million plus box office result, bolstered by strong creative, significant talent support and widespread exposure in the marketplace.
Returning to cinemas last weekend, replete with the kind of five-star reviews that most new releases would give their right arms for, is Kurosawa’s epic Ran. The film, loosely based on King Lear, is returning in a new, pristine 4K restored version ahead of a May 2 home entertainment bow courtesy of Studiocanal, which will see an all-singing all-dancing Blu-ray SKU which looks a treat. It coincides neatly with not just the 30th anniversary of the film, but with the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, giving it lots of activity to tie in with. Commenting on the release, Studiocanal’s Alison Arber said: “We are very excited to be releasing Ran  the final masterpiece from legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa  on the big screen – press reviews so far have been outstanding with everyone clambering to see the film restored to such a high level . The DVD and Blu-ray release will feature a booklet, artcards and a wealth of bonus material -  Kurosawa fans will not be disappointed.”  
And it’s good too to see Studiocanal continuing with its ongoing releases under its Vintage Classics banner, with the latest addition being the April 25 release of a stunning new restored edition of Ealing classic Pink String And Sealing Wax, starring a very young looking Gordon Jackson (of Upstairs Downstairs and The Professionals fame) alongside Googie Withers, as a femme fatale. Released on Blu-ray for the first time, it sees the company continuing to mine its catalogue for treats. As Alison Arber said: “Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics brand is a celebration of iconic British film history in one stunning collection  - all films have been digitally restored and feature brand new bonus material and collectable artwork – the next release from the collection will be Ealing Studio’s classic Pink String And Sealing Wax, starring the wonderful Googie Withers.”

Over to boutique curated vod operator MUBI, which has inked a raft of new deals, signing up digital rights giving it more exclusive content for its subscribers. The acquisitions include UK theatrical and digital to I, Olga, an acclaimed title that aired at the Berlinale film festival; US, UK and Irish rights for Baden Baden, which, like I, Olga will air at cinemas and on MUBI later this year, as will Son Of Joseph, which MUBI picked up UK and Irish rights for.  It will also air French Cesar nominated The Blue Room to its members later this year. It has two worldwide exclusives in the shape of 80s set double header El Futuro and Suenan Los Androides, loosely based on Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, also the inspiration for another sci-fi thriller. The pair are set to debut on the service on April 11 and 12. MUBI’s vp of content Bobby Allen said: “We are extremely excited about bringing these incredible films to our audience, fresh from the festival panorama. These exclusive digital and theatrical rights acquisitions are part of our wider strategy to bring the best of global cinema to our subscribers and we are looking forward to a very active Cannes to round up our slate.”
MUBI has further signed deals for a raft of other titles, including Rivette’s Out 1, due with a further nine titles on the service at the end of April, the William Klein library and further deals for 17 titles from Bac International and nine titles for a Lav Diaz retrospective. Also on the way is Arabian Nights, Miguel Gomes’ three volume adaptation of the classic tales, which, as reported here previously, are due from New Wave Films at UK cinemas on April 22 ahead of arriving on MUBI in May.  
Sticking with MUBI and this week saw the company jointly hosting screenings with Rough Trade in the retailer’s Nottingham store. The MUBI-curated event brought Mavis!, the rather documentary about singer Mavis Staples airing at the store, while the monthly screening in May will feature one of the finest documentaries ever made, Paris Is Burning, following the drag scene and voguing contests in New York in the 1980s, airing at the store. What’s more, the Rough Trade emails highlighting the event, have been flagging up forthcoming titles from MUBI too. Commenting on the initiative, MUBI brand director Amy Basil said: Rough Trade is a legendary company with a unique outlook and we are delighted to be partnering with it on these screenings of powerful films which take on equally legendary subject matters. We hope to continue working with Rough Trade in the future on more events; bringing excellent, diverse films to new audiences in unusual locations.”
The UK has joined another 10 EU member states in penning a letter to the European Commission’s vp Andrus Ansip, warning him not to over-regulate when it comes to the Digital Single Market. It urged him to view developments in digital technology as an opportunity, not a threat and to avoid too much regulation in this arena, working instead from existing legislation and employing a light touch. It said: “If at all possible, we should avoid introducing legislation that might act as a barrier to the development of new digital business models and create obstacles to entry and growth in the European digital market. Such legislation might have an unintentionally damaging effect on the innovation, competitiveness and economic growth of the European digital industries. It would not be in the interests of European businesses nor of consumers and would put us at a disadvantage in relation to global competition.”
Still in the Digital Single Market, and a part-EU funded European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, has launched a campaign against geo-blocking, with what we can only presume is meant to be a clever analogy about stopping people from different countries having something (look, we can’t be bothered to go into the rights and wrongs of this, you should all know why independent distributors are essential to our business, why territorial rights mean so much to film distribution across Europe). In its statement, BEUC noted: “In the EU’s Single Market we would never accept to show our passport when shopping on a high street or to pay a different price for a loaf of bread according to where we come from. Unfortunately this happens too often when going online. In a resolution passed in January, the European Parliament heeded our call to stop unjustified geo-blocking. Now it is time for the European Commission to deliver its promise. A recent Commission investigation showed that 38 per cent of retailers who were checked gather location data from users and use it for geo-blocking purposes. Sixty-eight per cent of digital content providers geo-block users located in other EU member states and 59 per cent reported to be contractually required by suppliers to geo-block.” You can see the film here.
And we’ll end with more from Europe, as we’ve been perusing a report from the European Union Intellectual Property Office. It found that a quarter of all EU citizens between the ages of 15 and 24-years-old had used illegal sources for content, including films and TV, in the past 12 months. They were the most popular forms of content, and a further one in four thought they were “doing nothing wrong”. A third thought it was easier to source and quicker to access. If affordability and availability improved, some 60 per cent said they would choose legal sources. The UK figure was slightly lower than the overall European figures, with 19 per cent having accessed illegal content, far lower than territories such as Spain and France. EUIPO executive director Antonio Campinos said: “This study helps us to understand young digital natives, to explore how they behave online and to measure the scale of the challenge in changing their attitudes. I trust it will support our collective efforts to develop IP education and awareness initiatives which can connect with young Europeans, as well as providing valuable information for policy makers.”

“You may have received a letter if the copyright owner believes someone has used your internet connection to download copyright protected material, such as a film. If the material was downloaded without their permission, for example, from a file sharing website. Rights holders may seek compensation for the financial loss they have suffered. Companies such as Golden Eye, TCYK LLC and Mircom have taken action to get compensation in recent years. It’s important to understand that the copyright owner can only take action against the person who actually committed the infringement. This may not be you. Your internet service provider (ISP) can only provide them with details of the internet account holder, who may not be the actual infringer. Don’t ignore the letter, even if you believe that you or anyone with access to your internet connection hasn’t downloaded the copyright protected material. You should respond, even if you request more time to seek advice before you provide a more detailed response. If you didn’t know anything about the alleged copyright infringement check the letter is genuine. There are scams operating where letters are sent to try and gain compensation from you when you might not have to pay. You should also check with anyone who might have access to your internet connection. For example family and friends who may have your permission and password to use your wi-fi. They may have downloaded or uploaded the copyright protected material. They may be responsible for the alleged infringement. It is the responsibility of the copyright owner to prove who has committed the infringement. This may not be the internet account holder.”
New advice from the Intellectual Property Office to consumers who have received letters about illegally downloading films…
We've noted Eddie The Eagle’s success above, with its near £2.9 million opening haul, representing the only new entry in this week’s top 10, aside from the latest event cinema happening, Madama Butterfly from the Met Opera, which drew more than £420,000. Batman V Superman was approaching the £30 million mark after its second weekend… 
We’ve said it before, but there’s an increasing number of films, especially British ones, that can proudly claim that one or more of their stars have appeared in Game Of Thrones. Given the Brit-friendly nature of the cast, it’s to be expected, but they’re cropping up all over the place now, proving our pet theory that at some stage in the future, EVERY film will feature someone who’s been in the HBO series, going even further than Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon ever went. All of which leads us nicely on to the latest bit of GoT-related news, which sees Kristofer Hivju joining the cast of Fast 8, the eighth instalment of the Fast And Furious franchise (the full title is still unconfirmed). Norwegian Hivju, owner of one of the finest beards in the world, stars as Tormund Giantsbane (crazy name, crazy guy) in the series and will appear as a henchman, alongside the likes of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in the next film, set to shoot in Cuba and release in the first part of 2017. 

And there you go, just after we’d penned this, another piece of Fast 8-related news landed, as it was confirmed, as long rumoured and noted here and elsewhere, that Charlize Theron would be starring in the film, earning a score of increasingly unfunny and unoriginal Fast And Furiosa gags, after the name of the character in one of her last big action outings, Mad Max: Fury Road…
And here’s some comic book news, and it appears that Seth Rogen is trying to sew up the market in non-DC and non-Marvel adaptations. For not content with working in the eagerly awaited Preacher, it’s been recede this week that the comic and sometime producer is now working on a small screen take on another creation from British maestro Garth Ennis. The Boys followed a rag-tag bunch of characters who were keeping an eye on rogue superheroes (very much a theme du jour). Rogen and producing pals Evan Goldberg and Neil Moritz are working on the project for HBO-owned US premium cable service Cinemax. And if they’re looking for stars, then they need go no further than Simon Pegg, who was the inspiration for one of the eponymous heroes, Wee Hughie…
And here’s the one everyone’s been talking about this week…
Our junior correspondent gave this a big thumbs up…
And more from eOne, although this one has a distinct NSFW element…
And also from eOne, this nearly brought a Millwall supporter to tears…
And here’s some more Red Band business…
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