It Was A Bad Week For… HMV staff, and others laid off elsewhere in the industry…
Another week, another raft of sweeping changes across the industry. And another seven days that saw our industry once again catapulted on to the news pages of national newspapers. It’s been a terrible week for many – our sympathies go out to staff at not just HMV who’ve been made redundant in the past few days – and it also saw some darkly comic moments too, as the redundancies at HMV ended in a bizarre scenario where Twitter went into meltdown, many believe as a result of the HMV situation. So, as we’re now used to saying in a tumultuous week or two, where on earth do you start?
Well, let’s begin at HMV’s head office in Eastcastle Street and the tumultuous day – black Thursday – that saw 190 staff working for the retailer, currently in administration, being laid off. The staff were from head office and other distribution centres around the country. Some 78 went at the West End HQ, with all staff uncertain as to whether or not they would be axed by administrator Deloitte. In an official statement, the company’s Nick Edwards, one of three joint administrators, said: “Since our appointment as Administrators over two weeks ago, we have been assessing the financial position of HMV. Following this review, a number of redundancies at the head office and distribution centres have been made. Although such decisions are always difficult, it is a necessary step in restructuring the business to enhance the prospects of securing its future as a going concern. We have been very pleased with the level of interest in the business as a going concern, whilst the response from customers has demonstrated the demand to see HMV remain on the high street. Equally, the support received from suppliers has been very positive and has enabled us to continue trading during the administration. As a result of all of these factors, I remain hopeful we will be able to secure a future for a restructured business.”
For the video team, it was a sad scenario that saw both seasoned and veteran staff and newer recruits laid off. The three affected included Rob Edwards, one of the most popular characters at the retailer, as well as Will Preece and recent addition to the team from store level, Mik Goraczniak. Also among the staff laid off were everyone from the finance director, Ian Kenyon, downwards. We’re sure that many in the industry, such as ourselves at The Raygun, have seen friends, acquaintances and drinking pals affected by the redundancies, we’re sure you’ll join us in wishing them all the best for the future. We are looking at ways of setting up a resource that will enable anyone in the industry looking to take on staff get in touch easily with those laid off; in the meantime, please feel free to contact us and we will pass your emails on.
If there’s any good news that can be drawn from this awful occurrence is that a leaner, fitter HMV looks like it could have a future on the High Street and elsewhere. Take video for example – the redundancies could have been far worse and the fact many of the team are still in place shows that Deloitte and Hilco, which now owns the debt, are looking to keep the business afloat going forward. Full buying teams in place across video and other areas mean that negotiations can continue on forthcoming product, and we understand that some music suppliers are now working with HMV on new release titles. Negotiations are still underway, with Deloitte having upped its offer to suppliers, distributors and labels. More on this next week and regularly via our Twitter.
Ah yes, Twitter. The HMV story would have hit the news pages of the nationals irrespective of what else happened, but one employee’s tweets went well and truly viral and, at one point Twitter itself crashed, as millions flocked to the social networking site to see what all the fuss was all about. What was it all about? Well, you must have seen the story now, but, in a succession of tweets, one employee said: “We're tweeting live from HR where we're all being fired! Exciting!!!" And thus began a short, sharp burst of tweets, praising the “hard-working individuals” and “loyal employees”. The story has been around the world and back, with many using it to criticise HMV’s ignorance of web-based matters. Our take is that we shouldn’t forget that it’s Deloitte making all the decisions and in charge at HMV head office, but it was, if nothing, a bold move. We’ve spoken to the person who made the tweets, who was subject to a flurry of interest, both from the media and Twitter. We’re not naming them, but we did chat to them online. It was, they said, a case of standing up for what they believed in and paying tribute to co-workers and friends. We’re pretty sure that remaining HMV staff may wish it had been done from personal accounts, but there's no arguing that it was a sensational afternoon…
It's not just HMV that's seen changes this week either, as the integration between eOne and Momentum has continued apace. There has been a raft of appointments made at a senior level, with department and section heads appointed to oversee the combined eOne and Momentum teams. In our sector, the key moves have seen Ken McMahon given the role of head of home entertainment. McMahon, a long-time Momentum staffer who has overseen their remarkable record in recent months and years, had previously worked at the likes of Sony and MGM. He will oversee both home entertainment teams, while, sadly, Jon Bourdillon, a long-time eOne employ, who had been at the company since its days as the small independent Contender label, is leaving the company. In the digital sector, Momentum's Nick Smith, another long-term Momentum employee, whose CV included a stint in old-fashioned retail at Virgin, is to take the role of head of digital. Other appointments include on the theatrical side, heads of marketing (Bec Mortimer), publicity (Theresa Roberts) and sales (Paul Lofting) and head of TV sales and business development (Charlotte Thorp). Robert Walak, the acquisitions head at Momentum, whose recent successes had included the double whammy of The King's Speech and The Woman In Black, is also leaving the new operation. There's no official comment or statement yet from eOne, more expected on this in the weeks to come. In the meantime, we wish all the best to the new appointments and those departing…
Talking of eOne, Bourdillon will be bowing out on something of a high, after eOne continued its hot streak, the company is looking set to enjoy its second number one on the bounce. And its predictions that the first part of 2013 will be its biggest quarter ever are looking more and more likely to come true. “Biggest ever quarter” is a line oft trotted out by distributors, but in this case, with 100,000 plus copies of The Sweeney sold in its first seven days and this week’s new release Looper looking strong so far, it’s no hollow promise. eOne’s head of sales and marketing Matt Brightwell said: “eOne is off to a flying start this year with two consecutive number one titles. The Sweeney delivered an incredible result last week selling over 100,000 units in week one. This week Looper is on its way to become our second number one title before January has even ended. We are very proud that Q1 is set to become our biggest quarter ever.”
It’s been a big week for Netflix. For, in a blaze of publicity and marketing, today February 1, saw Netflix launch the first in the next stage of its development, its own production, House Of Cards. It’s the first of many, with a revived Arrested Development due later this year and a tranche of new funding set to be invested. House Of Cards has got plenty of coverage here, with, for example, a feature in the Daily Telegraph interviewing star Kevin Spacey and also giving complete instructions on how to access the subscription vod service. GQ described it as “the future of television”, Netflix chief Reed Hastings himself has said it is “a defining moment in the development of Internet TV”. At a launch in the US this week, Hastings told the Financial Times: “It’s the first time anyone has done something like this, taking a big-scale production that costs millions of dollars per episode and released it all at once.” Saying that its gamble was now looking to pay-off he further added: “As the internet grows, we grow. A reason piracy is so big is because people are frustrated… They might be able to get the first two or three seasons of a show like Mad Men, but not all five. We’re trying to change that.”
And, as is always the way with the video on demand sector, one announcement from one operator is usually met with another and LOVEFiLM has unveiled a deal with Disney which will see the Mouse House’s Marvel superheroes arriving on LOVEFiLM’s Instant streaming service. The deal takes in animated series featuring the likes of The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Silver Surfer and Iron Man. LOVEFiLM md Jim Buckle said: “We already have a fantastic range of animated TV content on offer for our customers and it is great to see it expand with Marvel animation as a result of this new deal with Disney. It is an exciting development as many of our members will have grown up watching Marvel classics and can now catch up whenever they choose. The collection will also appeal to new fans.
Mentioning piracy, as we did a paragraph or two ago, the Federation Against Copyright Theft has had a period. One of the key events saw a series of raids taking place across the West Midlands this morning. Four addresses in Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton were targeted, four men were arrested and a range of goods, including DVDs, were seized. FACT director general Kieron Sharp said: “The people targeted today are suspected of being involved in the sourcing, editing, distribution and supply of pirated films via the internet.” Economic Crime Unit officer Rod Rose said: “We’re pleased to be supporting colleagues from FACT and hope these arrests will have a major impact on those involved in the pirate ‘scene’ both in the West Midlands, across the UK and globally.”
It followed a raid in Harrogate where a whopping 44,000 DVDs were seized, in a worrying development many of them were pirate copies of TV programmes in fake box sets, with the likes of Homeland, Glee, Supernatural and The Killing. FACT’s Sharp, again, said: “The action taken by North Yorkshire Police sends a strong message that those operating criminal websites selling counterfeit goods can face arrest and prosecution.” And talking of prosecutions, Gary Goodger, previously convicted of setting up illegal websites to stream live football games, narrowly avoided jail after being given a suspended prison sentence.
Right, let’s have some product news now. And starting chronologically, Monday February 4 sees the release of the latest HBO series, the much-talked about Girls. HBO’s Sophie Knight told The Raygun: “It's the first time for an HBO title to be released across both physical and digital formats on the same day, enabling us to create one integrated campaign for all offerings. Highlights include an above-the-line advertising campaign across both VOD and women's press, and an extensive PR campaign which has achieved phenomenal amounts of coverage around the release. PR campaign activities include a Brooklyn press trip showcasing how fantastically cool the location of the series is, 'Girls generational' surveys and features, and a wealth of reviews from a whole host of media fans." On the PR front, there’s been a major tie-in with Glamour magazine, asking its readers to talk about the mistakes girls make, tying in with the show’s tagline. More than 3,500 entries were received after it appeared online, with a follow-up four-page feature, with full credits, in the magazine.
At the opposite end of the scale comes From Beyond, due on February 25 from Second Sight. It continues the label’s recent strong showing in the classic 80s horror genre, following on from the likes of Basket Case released in 2012. We’ve seen the Blu-ray and it looks outstanding. Second Sight’s Chris Holden said: “We've been working on some excellent cult horror lately and From Beyond marks the latest. We've spent a lot of time on the release and have produced some excellent bonus features so this really is a lovingly packed edition, complete with new artwork from the great Graham Humphries. Well be following this up in the coming months with more classic gems from back in the day.”
More bang up to date horror, albeit with an old-fashioned “get out of the water” kind of theme comes in the shape of The Bay, an ecologically filmed title that provides some genuine scary moments (we know, we saw it at a recent screening and squirmed in our seats). In keeping with Momentum’s ongoing strategy, it will benefit from a platform theatrical release, ahead of its DVD bow. Momentum’s Adam Eldrett said: “We are excited about the multi-platform release of The Bay, ahead of our theatrical release on March 1 we have already seen some stellar review coverage. Publications such as Empire, Total Film and The Guardian are right behind the film, so far we have seen four and five star review coverage across the board. The Bay will be playing at selected sites across the country before coming to DVD, BR and download on March 18, the pedigree of an Academy Award winning director such as Barry Levinson is helping the film cross over to a wider audience. It's quite a unique horror film that touches on our subliminal fears before getting a little gory and downright shocking; we have seen a few parallels to Jaws in our press coverage which clearly is a massive marker of respect for the film. We will have a targeted campaign in place to support both stages of the release across TV, Press and online.”
More forthcoming release information now and they’re back: two of the biggest video stars of the past few decades appear together in a franchise that has prove equally lucrative over the years. Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning pairs Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren – both recently part of The Expendables team – and is due from Studiocanal on February 11 in standard DVD and Blu-ray SKUs, both in what the distributor calls “fantastic” lenticular packaging, or in a limited edition, Steelbook “bone-breaking” 3D Blu-ray version. Dolph himself is in town to promote the release. Studiocanal’s Tom Austin said: “Having Dolph Lundgren in the UK to help promote the film has been fantastic. We secured some massive appearances for him, he completed a live webchat for The Sun and is appearing on this Saturdays Jonathan Ross show. We will start a heavyweight TV campaign with a spot in the Man United vs Everton game on the 10th and week of release press ads in the Daily Star and Sport. With the 11th of February being such a busy release date we’re ecstatic with the level of coverage and media planned and are hoping we can achieve a successful week one result as we have with the previous two films.”
Anyone tuning in to any of the weekend chat shows – think Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross – or reading the weekend glossies over the past week or two can't have failed to notice Studiocanal's impressive PR push for its big theatrical release I Give It A Year, with its stars, including the likes of Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall being interviewed. And Studiocanal's marketing push for the romantic comedy with extra bite has been similarly impressive too. Some retailers have already been lucky enough to see the film at its high profile premiere. Commenting on the title, due for home entertainment release later in the year, Studiocanal's Mikey Ellis said: "The premiere of I Give It A Year was a roaring success. It was held at the Vue Leicester Square and had a great turn out, with all of the cast in attendance. The brilliant and hilarious director Dan Mazer (Borat) introduced the film and the cast, and his wicked sense of humour shone through in the film, pushing the boundaries of any comedy of recent times. The film definitely played well for the men as well as the women and people were almost falling out of the chairs with laughter (this is not an exaggeration). The party was a pretty glamorous affair at Kettners and everyone had a blast."
And we’ll end where we started, on the front page of the national newspapers and kudos to Acorn Media and its agency Aim Publicity. For the pair managed the almost unheard of feat of landing DVD coverage on the front page of the Daily Mail today (Friday February 1). What’s more, it wasn’t tied in to a promotion, nor was it a piece on video nasties or bashing our industry: instead it was an interview with Richard Briers and Prunella Scales. The front page flagged up a centre spread, double age interview with the pair, tying in with the release of classic black and white sitcom Marriage Lines. Acorn’s Gareth Brown said: ““It was great to get front page exposure and a wonderful spread interview for Richard Briers and Prunella Scales in Marriage Lines. They were every bit as generous, warm and honest as the interviewer described and both in awe of their younger selves in the series. The comedy stands the test of time – as do both of the performers - and we’re thrilled to be releasing the series to mark its 50th anniversary.”
“There is a significant base of video customers in the U.S. who continue to be comfortable with physical formats, and a large majority haven’t made the complete transition from discs to digital video. For the time being, at least, consumers still like to own and rent movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray, even in a world of where connected devices and digital rental, streaming and ownership options are becoming more accepted and commonplace.”
Russ Crupnick, media analyst with NPD, talking about figures from the US which show that 61 per cent of home video spending was on Blu-ray and DVD discs (not including svod spending).
AT THE MOVIES
Oscar-nominated films dominate at the UK box office with Les Miserables still at number one, it has now taken fast approaching £25 million. New entries included Lincoln (£1.7 million), Zero Dark Thirty (£1.1 million), Movie 43 (£787,648) and The Last Stand (£538,867).
We mentioned Girls above and it’s worth noting that Lena Dunham, the multi-hyphenate behind the show is now said to be working on another outing for HBO. All Dressed Up And Everywhere To GO will be a comedy based o the memoirs of personal shopper Betty Halbreich, a well-known New Yorker.
More not-quite-movie news, as Amazon continues with its plans to develop its own comedy series. It is concurrently working on six pilots, one of which will be Alpha House, starring John Goodman, as one of a quartet of US senators sharing a house. It will be penned by Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
Some proper film news now and interesting to see Jeremy Renner continuing to show his action chops, he’s currently developing another actioner, to follow on from the =forthcoming Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters. Kill The Messenger will, however, see him more back on Bourne-style thriller territory, it’s the true story of a journalist smeared by the CIA…
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Today we have mostly been following Momentum’s activity around its current horror flick V/H/S under the #insertVHS4fear hashtag. And of course, we’ve been breaking news about HMV, eOne and more. Follow us at www.twitter.com/theraygun
TRAILERS OF THE WEEK
Yeah, we know it’s a short, not a trailer, but this is well worth a look…
Superbowl weekend means all the big guns are wheeled out, here’s Paramount’s biggie due to air in the half-time break…
After Brad Pitt, here’s this week’s other dreamboat…
Comedy heaven with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd…
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