It Was A Good Week For… HMV, relaunching its website and taking on the mighty Apple
It Was A Bad Week For… Apologies for the delay with this week’s newsletter, technical issues…
We’ll start with some sales news and a brace of titles from Lionsgate have got off to a flying start. The company’s pair of Hummingbird, the latest outing from video star Jason Statham, as well as the third instalment in the Green Street football hooligan series, which the company has successfully revived and turned into a DTV favourite. Commenting on the week’s sales so far, Lionsgate’s Marie Claire Benson said: “"The early sales on Hummingbird and Green Street 3 have been very encouraging indeed, especially given the other titles which are competing for the same audience this week. In particular, it's great to see how Jason Statham continues to deliver solid conversions at home entertainment stage, and with Green Street now on its third instalment, the sales are so far are demonstrating a loyal fanbase for the franchise"
It’s been a week of mixed fortunes for HMV. On the downside, the company has fallen foul of the mighty Apple, which effectively forced the retailer to temporarily remove its much-lauded new app from Apple’s store. It appears as if the huge corporation realised that HMV’s app might impinge on its own interests. HMV’s tech team is now working overnight to develop an app that is approved by Apple. Although what Apple will or won’t approve is not entirely clear – the company initially approved the app before changing its position. There’s an excellent piece penned by Steve Redmond on the ERA website. He said; “Isn't it good to see HMV with a spring in its step again?”
But on the positive side, HMV this week launched its new-look website at hmv.com. The content-rich site has been put together by a new editorial team and has contributions from across the chain’s 142 stores. It includes features about new releases and back catalogue titles and has recommendations aplenty about titles worth looking at. It ties in with the recently launched digital music store and will, over time, be expanded to allow customers “more ways” to buy film, TV, music and games. HMV.com’s Caroline Pesch said: ““As a hub for entertainment, a key element of the site is the sense of community and ease of use for finding local and relevant information. In addition to editorial features and reviews store staff can post their own picks and tips based on what’s happening on a local level. This is just phase one of the new site; as it develops we will be introducing lots more new and exciting functionality. The volume of content available will grow daily.” HMV chairman Paul McGowan said: “Everything we’re doing with HMV is focused on engagement, content and curation – all the things that HMV lost sight of in recent years. The passion within the business for the products we sell, the specialist knowledge and ability to recommend and guide our customers – from store staff to the team in head office – is second to none and the new hmv.com brings that to the forefront.”
To the swish Century Club in London’s Soho for the launch of one of our favourite films of the year, Shane Meadows’ documentary about the Stone Roses, Made Of Stone. As we reported here recently, the launch of the 4DVD release was marked by an online auction of prints of the band taken around the filming raising cash for the Teenage Cancer Trust (you can see it here). Meadows was there, along with producer and Warp Films supremo Mark Herbert and in a joint statement they said: “We have always been aware of the teenage cancer trust's work and we have always wanted to work with them, as they are a great charity who do great things. The charity auction to run alongside the release of the DVD, seemed the perfect chance to collaborate and raise some money in the process.” Speaking at the event, Meadows said: “I’m massively proud of the fact it’s coming out. This was a passion project for both me and Mark. All the cinema experiences were kind of working. I’ll probably sit down tonight and watch it without any stress for the first time since I started working on it two and a half years ago.” We spoke to both Meadows and Herbert after the launch, see our website for more from them.
Sticking with 4DVD, Thursday October 4 sees the launch of a major new comedy on E4, with the label releasing the accompanying DVD on November 25. It’s certainly got pedigree – it comes from the same team that created hugely successful series The Inbetweeners, one of the biggest UK TV franchises of recent years. Commenting on the release, 4DVD’s Claire Bosak said: “Drifters is a brand new comedy which starts on E4 next Thursday. It comes from the production company that created The Inbetweeners and is probably best described as a female version of the series. It has an exciting young cast and is written by and stars Jessica Knappett who starred in The Inbetweeners Movie. We’ve had amazing success with The Inbetweeners TV series and film and have high hopes for the release of Drifters as it comes from such a good pedigree.”
If it’s the end of October, then it’s time for the latest MCM London Comic Con over at its traditional home of Excel London. The usual faces will be exhibiting there, with anime specialist Manga once again at the fore. The company’s Jerome Mazandarani, long a regular at the event, has hit out at other labels and some of the major studios for not having a presence for their home entertainment releases at the event. He said: “MCM London Comic Con will attract over 80,000 of the UK's super fans to a packed out excel centre for a celebration of everything that is essential in the world of gaming, comics, film and television. With supermarkets and key national accounts shrinking their home video offering in store it is now more important than ever to guarantee that those consumers who actually want to buy our products week 1 and month 1 do so. Traditional media spend does not engage super fans or passionate followers. In this content driven marketing age we now live in where a well targeted Facebook campaign can deliver the same or better sell through than press or TV it is vitally important that brands, labels and studios engage the fan community face to face. It is disheartening to see none of the major home video brands on the convention floor. It also doesn't make any sense considering their US based operations regularly attend San Diego Comic Con and their UK based fans expect the same coverage here at home. Also, considering how many big budget studio productions including Marvel's Thor sequel, Avengers sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars sequels will be shot in London over the coming years it simply doesn't make sense how few marketing and pr chiefs are interested in communicating directly with the fan community in the same way they regularly do in North America. Comic Con will attract over 80,000 of the UK's super-fans to a packed out Excel centre for a celebration of everything that is essential in the world of gaming, comics, film and television. With supermarkets and key national accounts shrinking their home video offering in store it is now more important than ever to guarantee that those consumers who actually want to buy our products week one and month one do so. Traditional media spend does not engage super-fans or passionate followers. In this content driven marketing age we now live in where a well-targeted Facebook campaign can deliver the same or better sell through than press or TV it is vitally important that brands, labels and studios engage the fan community face to face. It is disheartening to see none of the major home video brands on the convention floor. It also doesn't make any sense considering their US based operations regularly attend San Diego Comic Con and their UK based fans expect the same coverage here at home. Also, considering how many big budget studio productions including Marvel's Thor sequel, Avengers sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars sequels will be shot in London over the coming years it simply doesn't make sense how few marketing and PR chiefs are interested in communicating directly with the fan community in the same way they regularly do in North America.”
One company that will have a presence at the MCM London Comic Con is Arrow, which will be showing off its excellent Arrow Video imprint. Commenting on its presence, Arrow’s Alex Agran said: “A new strategy for this year and next is for Arrow Films to ahead heavily attended consumer expos and event screenings. At the very top of these expos is MCM Comic Con at London's Excel which is our first adventure to this amazing Fair. It gives us a great opportunity to chat to the fans of Arrow Video and get their feedback on our latest and upcoming releases. For the first time in our company's history, we can demonstrate the incredible range of Arrow Video titles and merchandise direct to the public that we can't necessarily do when a customer is browsing in a store on shopping online. We have always had very tactile product because of our newly commissioned artwork for each release, distinct packaging style and incredible range and physical extras we produce for each release. We've backed our presence at the expo up with exclusive show pricing, exclusive merchandise signed by director Jack Hill (Foxy Brown, Coffy) as well as a PR campaign on all key home entertainment sites and a social media campaign. Come visit us and see Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 creating mayhem around stand 102.”
And staying with the Arrow Video label, the company this week used social media to unveil its line-up for the first quarter of 2014 (yes, we’re talking about next year already). The company also showed off much of its newly-commissioned artwork, which had genre fans positively drooling on Twitter (we particularly liked the new sleeve for Phantom Of The Paradise, the Brian De Palma update of the legendary title. Commenting on its slate, the company’s Francesco Simeoni said: “We’re thrilled to be announcing this very special selection of titles for Q1 next year. After a very busy 2013 (49 releases!) we’re pleased to be off with a bang again, taking in a variety of genres, from our usual slew of horror to erotic, action and a yakuza ghost story as well as some stone cold Studio classics on Arrow Academy. We’re also proud to be presenting two brand new Arrow restorations from original negatives in the never-on-DVD-before Donald Cammell classic White Of The Eye and melt-movie exploitation classic The Stuff along with numerous Blu-ray world premieres including Sullivan’s Travels, The Killers, Blind Woman’s Curse and Pit Stop as well as titles totally new to the UK, there’s much for fans to celebrate.”
There’s been plenty of deal-making announced in the past seven days, with a major appointment at one India and a few other acquisitions and partnerships being announced. We’ll start with the recruitment news and the ever-growing indie label Signature has announced the creation of a new digital division which will look after the company’s films across all digital and TV platforms. And we’re pleased to welcome back Jon Bourdillon, previously at eOne and Contender, who will head up the new arm. It comes as Signature prepares for a hugely busy 2014, with films starring the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Sir Ben Kingsley. Commenting on the new division and Bourdillon’s appointment, Signature’s Marc Goldberg said: “Expanding Signature’s presence in the digital space is the next very exciting step in the Signature journey. I see a significant opportunity for the company to expand in this area as the market opens up for content across all genres. I am delighted to have Jon on board, he brings a wealth of experience and skills to greatly add to the Signature team.” Bourdillon added: “As the market moves towards greater digital consumption and revenues, there are so many opportunities for smart thinking UK independents. Marc and his team have achieved so much in a small space of time and they have very exciting and ambitious intentions for the company. I am truly delighted to be part of the Signature team and am excited about helping take the company to even greater heights in years to come.”
In the acquisitions sector, another thriving independent operation, 101 Films, has this week announced that it has picked up one of the biggest hits of this year’s Film 4 FrightFest event, in the shape of Banshee Chapter. The deal for the film, which was acclaimed as the scariest at the event by Total Film magazine, was done in partnership with new company Intense Distribution. The release of the film in 2014 will be a joint venture between the two. Commenting on the acquisition and the formation of Intense Distribution, the company’s Chee Keong Cheung said: “After such a strong response at Frightfest, together with 101 Films, we’re incredibly excited to have the opportunity to bring Banshee Chapter to UK audiences. It’s an extremely tense, atmospheric picture with a truly unique and horrific blend of fact and fiction.” Cheung adds “Intense Distribution was formed with the goal of working closely with both established and up and coming directors and producers on their films and I couldn’t have hoped for a better, more passionate, diverse and talented group of filmmakers to work with for our companies debut release.” The film’s producer Christian Arnold Breutel added: “We are excited about working with Chee’s Intense Distribution and the team at 101 Films as they are truly enthusiastic about our movie, hard working and very experienced in what has become a challenging market.”
Also on the deal trail was Abbey Home Media, which has signed a long-term agreement with Red Bull Media House, which will see the independent releasing sports and documentary titles from the company. The package includes snowboarding film The Art Of Flight; mountaineering feature Mount St Elias; base-jumping film 20 Seconds Of Joy and mountain biking doc Where The Trail Ends. One of the key titles is Mission To The Edge Of Space: The Inside Story Of Red Bull Stratos, which charts the epic journey of Felix Baumgartner, the man who set the world record for skydiving with a 24-mile jump. Commenting on the deal, Abbey chief operating officer Dan Harriss said: “We are absolutely delighted to have signed this agreement with Red Bull Media House, which forms part of our strategy to expand on our success in the children’s market with a broader range of titles. The Red Bull Media House films and documentaries are incredible in their quality, and the sports and activities they feature are breathtaking. We intend to start releasing the range from Q4 this year with The Art of Flight snowboarding movie and Red Bull Tops, which is a selection of the highlights from many of the Red Bull extreme sports going on around the world. The story of Felix Baumgartner is planned for release in Q1 2014. The original YouTube clip of his jump has over 35 million views, and on the one-year anniversary the story continues with a new POV clip of Felix Baumgartner’s jump that hit 2 million views within the first 2 days alone.” Red Bull Media House’s Alexander Koppel added: ““People everywhere – children and adults alike – are inspired by their heroes, and Red Bull Media House content delivers authentic stories of real-life heroes, building bridges between those remarkable people and the viewers. “As the global fascination with the Red Bull Stratos mission demonstrates, a compelling story transcends demographics; so there’s a genuine synergy to our partnership with Abbey Home Media, a dynamic company that’s building on its proven success with content that will appeal new audiences.”
Our pals at TheHorrorShow.TV, the video on demand horror specialist, have been busy too, inking a deal with High Fliers which will see the independent’s titles, both new and catalogue, being made available to rent, stream and download. The deal includes films such as The Bereavement, The Breeder, In A Dark Place, Removal, Paranormal Asylum, The Last Experiment and Don’t Look Up. Commenting on the deal, TheHorrorShow.TV co-founder David Hughes said: “We're very excited to bring High Fliers films onto the site, not least because the deal includes some exciting digital early release titles, which we'll be able to offer before anyone else – and before DVD and Blu-ray releases.” High Fliers' marketing manager Jane Lawson added: “High Fliers Films is delighted to be working with TheHorrorShow.TV. The site is a fantastic destination for all horror fans and we're excited to be able to offer our films on the platform. High Fliers Films has a wide range of horror titles which are a perfect fit for TheHorrorShow.TV and we look forward to a successful future partnership." It’s perfect timing for the company to add to its roster, given that Halloween is looming. You can expect more announcements from TheHorrorShow.TV in the coming weeks, it recently added films from another independent, Safecracker, and there is another major deal in the offing too…
All of which brings us on neatly to more video on demand news. LOVEFiLM has just launched its latest exclusive TV series on its Instant service, the rather excellent Crossing Lines. And to mark the occasion, the company held a premiere for the series, attended by its stars, including William Fichtner, as well as producer Rola Bauer, who held a lively Q&A (Fichtner was absolutely hilarious). They also completed a round of interviews as part of a press junket. We spoke to both Bauer and LOVEFiLM’s chief marketing officer Simon Morris, with a full feature due on our website shortly. Producer Rola Bauer described the thinking behind production outfit Tandem, a Studiocanal owned company, inking the deal with LOVEFiLM: “It was a very strategic step. We wanted to get into business with LOVEFiLM and we’ll hopefully do something with them again in the future. We consumers want to watch TV the way we want to watch it. LOVEFiLM gives it to us when we want it.” Morris said: “We’ve been building a library of content, starting with Vikings, followed up by Copper and now Crossing Lines.” In terms of marketing the latest exclusive, he said: “We’ve got a fantastic array of channels we can use. We can use targeted emails and other channels. We’ll see that evolve from Friday onwards.”
Netflix has been busy too, announcing its latest figures. Its global subscriber base has now passed the 40 million mark and profits have jumped. It believes the soaring customer numbers have been influenced by its own programming, such as House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. And to further that demand, it has said it plans to double its original content output. Chief executive Reed Hastings said: “Over the next few years we aspire to support creation of some of the most compelling and remarkable content ever produced."
Broadchurch fever has been reignited this week as Acorn announced more details on its forthcoming Blu-ray release of the series that became one of the year’s most talked about homegrown productions. Acorn has secured commentaries on two of the episodes, with stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman as well as writer Chris Chibnall and his team offering their thoughts on the programme. The company smartly put together a list of some of the fascinating insights and titbits that they spoke about, which helped generate coverage in the Metro, as well as online on the likes of MSN and Yahoo, giving plenty of publicity for the November 4 release. Commenting on the release Acorn’s Paul Holland said: “It's always great to work on a series where, everyone is delighted to continue to be associated with it, well past its original TX. To get the cast together several months after TX was great and credit to [Acorn's] Gareth Brown and the team at Kudos for making this happen. We got some magical comments and thoughts during the commentary and we have teased some of these out to the press. It's amazing to see such a full range of coverage that Aim Publicity have been able to generate for us on this so long after broadcast and we are really excited about the sales potential for the Blu-ray given all the great extras and commentaries we now have.”
It’s anniversary time at independent Revelation, as two of the label’s more successful, yet wildly differing franchises are celebrating landmarks this year. Goodnight Sweetheart, the Nicholas Lyndhurst comedy, is celebrating its 20th anniversary, while extreme comedy series Dirty Sanchez is 10 years old. Both are being given a new lease of life with new compact, lightweight packaging. Commenting on the double celebrations Revelation’s Alice Dyson said: “The anniversaries provided an opportunity to revisit the design and packaging options. We have freshened the look, improved the racking options and reduced the cost of postage for mail order and internet customers by shrinking the case size. It's clear that with the right titles, fans still want to own the physical DVD's and these brands continue to perform extremely well for the catalogue. It's quite astonishing that it's twenty years since Nicholas Lyndhurst graced our TV screens, a show that's popularity has continued to grow with its current broadcast on ITV3 all these years later! The Dirty Sanchez show is still as disgusting a decade on. The Welsh boyos broke on to MTV taking depravity to new levels and believe me, it's lost none of its shock value in that time.”
“We signed up millions of new Prime members.”
Amazon supremo Jeff Bezos, one of the first times the retailer has revealed such figures, which were for the last quarter. His cfo Tom Szkutak added: “Prime is growing very fast, so it’s very exciting.”
AT THE MOVIES
Turbo, the latest from DreamWorks, got off to a lively start, its extensive previews the previous weekend helped get it off to a flying start, where it took just shy of £3.9 million. The previous weekend’s previews helped it ahead of Captain Phillips, which was under £3.5 million. The joint forces of Schwarzenegger and Stallone helped Escape Plan accrue a touch under £1 million in its opening frame. Boss was the week’s other new entry, with £235,086.
Perhaps the most widely reported story of the week, concerns the Elton John biopic Rocketman. The film, which the flamboyant singer will executive produce, will star Tom Hardy as the singer. Anyone who’s seen Bronson or, for that matter, Bane in last year’s The Dark Knight Rises, will be amazed that Hardy is taking on the role and it drew much online chatter and comment… Filming will not start until the latter part of 2014.
The other most widely reported story of the week was the latest 50 Shades Of Grey update. After Charlie Hunnam exited the lead role of Christian Grey, the much talked about project appeared to have hit a bump. But Hunnam has been replaced, with news emerging this week that Jamie Dornan will be taking on the onerous task. Given the reaction of some women we know to his starring role in The Fall, he’ll be a popular choice for the steamy tale. He’s said to have signed up for three films based on the book series and he’ll appear alongside Dakota Johnson, the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith.
Strangest sequel news of the week concerns Beetlejuice, For, according to stories from the US, director Tim Burton is in talks to return to the film, directing a sequel to the 1988 Warner hit. Michael Keaton is also said to be in the frame…
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Follow us on www.twitter.com/theraygun. As one satisfied customer said this week while recommending us “it’s more than just puff pieces and recycled press releases”.
TRAILERS OF THE WEEK
Double Ron Burgundy fun this weekend, here’s a new UK trailer…
And a US one…
This is now open in the UK, but this Red Band trailer is too good to resist…
As promised earlier, here’s the trailer for Banshee Chapter
We saw this at LFF, highly recommended…
Captain somebody or other…
New homegrown title, due from Studiocanal next year…