NEWSLETTER :: March 4 2011

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It Was A Good Week For…  Momentum, right down to getting a namecheck during the Academy Awards… And Despicable Me too…

It was a bad week for… More flak for HMV, delivering nearly £45 million in profits and yet only worth £66 million at one point…

It's been a ridiculously busy week, with awards, day-long industry events, more flak at retail, football and loads more, but we'll start our newsletter with news of last week's lead item, Despicable Me, a title whose performance is worth noting. THe animated film was flagged as being on target to surpass the 400,000 mark, and it did it with consummate ease, selling 434,000 in its first seven days. It makes it one of the best converting animated titles ever and puts it on a par with Disney's Up, despite having significantly less box office. What's even more heartening for Universal have been how sales have continued into its second week, with Despicable Me expected to sell another 100,000 by the time Monday arrives. Universal marketing director Karen Charalambous said: "We have Comic Relief and Easter still to come, and it's one of the key titles in our Hop drafting, so we are expecting its success to continue."

Now on to the big event of the week in terms of, well, everything – the Oscars. We wouldn't begin to tell you who actually won because, as we've oft maintained, if you don't already know who won, then you shouldn't realistically be a part of our industry. But there are all sorts of related stories and fall-out from the biggest event on Hollywood's calendar. The real winner on the night, well, as far as our industry is concerned, was Momentum, with two of its Q2 releases – The King's Speech and The Fighter – being among the most lauded. The former almost swept the board, picking up four gongs, including the key best film, director, screenplay and actor gongs; the latter a brace for supporting actor roles. With The King's Speech due in May and The Fighter in June, Momentum is, naturally enough, buzzing about the months ahead. The company's Xavier Marchand said: "“I would like to congratulate all of those involved in The Fighter and The King's Speech on behalf of Momentum Pictures. Six Oscar wins continues Momentum's amazing year following eight BAFTAs and the phenomenal box office successes of The King's Speech and The Fighter across Ireland and the UK. These are two films that have captured cinemagoers' imaginations and will stand as modern classics in years to come."

So where were Momentum staffers celebrating the Acadamy Awards? Well, the company, its agencies and some of the production team from The King's Speech were up at Hampstead's Everyman Cinema dressed in regal garb or even boxing robes, watching the action live throughout the night, fuelled by champagne and espresso cocktails. Sales director Neil Williams said: "The experience of watching the awards on the big screen and cheering on our films was truly a highlight of the year. Performances in The Fighter were exceptional and it was great to see two of the cast getting the recognition they deserve. And for The King's Speech to win four including Best Picture was just amazing – the crowning glory for this very special film. The thanks for Momentum in the acceptance speech was a brilliant end to a spectacular night." And soon after the film's crowning glory it passed another milestone, sweeping past the £40 million mark at UK cinemas and into the top 30 highest-grossing films ever in this country…  

Meanwhile, the buzz about Oscar-related product is likely to have a knock-on effect for other titles too. Take Second Sight's Daniel Deronda, due to make its bow around the same time as The King's Speech. The title, a lavish BBC costume drama adapted from George Eliot's tale,  comes with its own BAFTA awards, but it can now boast of being directed by an Oscar winner, Tom Hooper, who picked up the gong for The King's Speech. Second Sight's timely release will, of course, be flagging up Hooper's involvement on the sleeve… Second Sight's Chris Holden said: "Daniel Deronda would have been a fantastic acquistion for Second Sight at any point in time as it's one of the most highly acclaimed BBC costume dramas of recent years, drawing comparisons with Pride And Prejudice. To release such a production from the director of The King's Speech around the same time as the Oscar-winning film is obviously perfect timing. Added to this is an incredible cast that includes Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville. It's fair to say my expectations are high on this one. The release will be supported by extensive above the line marketing, details still to be confirmed."

The success of Black Swan (£15 million at UK cinemas and counting, as well as its Oscar win for Natalie Portman this week) means that ballet is big business again and Acorn's fitness imprint Acacia is hoping to capitalise on that with the April 4 release of Xtend Barre Ballet Workout, a fitness programme produced by dancer and Pilates instructor Andrea Rogers. It's part of a worldwide phenomenon for ballet-themed workouts and is broken down into three different sections, taking in both toning and cardio elements. Acorn’s Managing Director Paul Holland commented: "With the huge awareness for ballet generated by the success of Black Swan at both the Oscars and the Baftas coupled with the combination of ballet and Pilates into a fresh, graceful and flexible exercise routine we are looking forward to a very successful DVD release.”    

Also celebrating at the weekend: Sunday's Carling Cup final may have left the industry's Arsenal fans inconsolable and its Spurs devotees laughing, but the victory for Birmingham City will also mean a boost for Cornerstone Media, as well as the fans celebrating the club's first trophy win for almost 50 years. The company is releasing the full match on DVD on March 21, in conjunction with the club itself and PDI Media. The release will also include a 45 minute documentary on the road to Wembley, including further highlights. Cornerstone's Graham Dawkins said: "The DVD is a real souvenir for any Birmingham City Fans. This is their first ever victory in a major Wembley Final for the Blues and opens the door to Europe next season. It was certainly a nailbiting Sunday watching the game, one minute we would have the DVD the next we might not, then in the 89th minute… Yes! We've got it. We will be doing local marketing but making sure that we get awareness nationwide, there were 30,000 very very loud fans at Wembley and they sure enjoyed it."

To the Apollo Cinema just off Piccadilly Circus, where the great and the good of the industry were gathered for the annual BVA Research Day. The afternoon featured a host of fascinating presentations and debates. We'll be posting up more detailed reports on our website next week, but the attendees heard about the increasing prevalence of time-shifting in terms of media consumption and how "sampling" could be the way forward for home entertainment advertisers; about the future of 3D product and how digital trends were developing; there was a fascinating and hilarious presentation on the grocery sector and a look at current trends in the hardware sector. The event finished with a debate about the way forward for our industry. More on The Raygun website early next week, when we've waded through the pages and pages of notes we made…   

Seeing as we've mentioned the website, this week we've got a brilliant report by a Millwall supporter on hoolie classic, a look at the Industry Trust's latest campaign and loads more, with more going up at at the weekend. As ever, for more, click through to

As soon as HMV issued an addendum to its earlier profit warning, it was obvious that the retailer was in line for another proverbial kicking from the press, which it duly received. The company issued a statement this week that its profits for the year would be slightly below the £45 million mark it had previously said. It further stated that it was negotiating with banks about its loan facilities because of a possible breach of banking covenants. The furore once again appeared somewhat out of proportion to the actual announcement – the statement saw shares slide and the company, which is still making a profit, let us not forget, valued at £66 million. The news came on the back of assorted newspapers seizing on news of the closure of HMV's store in the Brent Cross shopping centre. Coincidentally, we at The Raygun had been in that self-same store the day the Daily Mail announced its closure, and were never sure about the location within the shopping centre, which may be being redeveloped anyway, the retailer has chosen not to renew its lease due to high rent levels. There have also been a number of redundancies at the head office too as the retailer seeks to reduce costs further.

Some more interesting developments at retail, albeit this time more on the online front. Although given the Internet gripes about HMV and the price of DVDs in its stores, the fact that the government is currently mooting plans to close the loophole in VAT on DVDs ordered online, it may prove to be interesting news for the retailer. It is thought that chancellor George Osborne may crackdown on the low-value consignment relief (LVCR) that enables DVDs and other goods to be sent from, say, the Channel Islands without consumers having to pay VAT. It is estimated that more than £130 million could have been lost in tax revenues due to the loophole last year, and that is said to be a conservative estimate too. Treasury minister Lord Sassoon told the House of Lords that the government was "committed to tackling tax avoidance" and that it was hoping to be able to announce plans to change the LVCR in this month's budget.

Two major promotions at Warner this week as the studio upped two of its senior staffers. John Stanley has been promoted to the role of senior vice president and managing director for Warner Home Video UK. The news comes on the back of Warner's 2010 achievements, that included having the number one market share by value. At the same time, the company has upped Polly Cochrane to the role of senior vice president and group marketing director for Warner Bros UK. Both were announced by Warner Bros UK, Ireland and Spain md Josh Berger who said: "In just four years, John has built up and significantly restructured Warner Bros UK’s home entertainment business to create a more unified and innovative approach to our customer-focused operations. His drive, dedication and creativity have helped us enjoy our best ever year, one that has driven Warner Home Video back to the top of the UK industry rankings. Polly is an exceptional executive who, in the short time she has been with us, has made an outstanding contribution to the company’s success, creating a 'best in class' marketing function that has helped us to deliver our best ever theatrical year and regain the top spot in the home video rankings."


Scanbox has picked up the rights to the Dino Di Laurentis catalogue, a 22-strong collection of films that takes in some classic titles. The sought-after deal sees Scanbox getting the rights to release, among others, David Lynch's Blue Velvet and Dune, The Bounty, The Dead Zone and, ahead of a reboot for the character, Conan The Destroyer. Off the shelves for some two years, previous sales total more than 1.3 million units. Scanbox commercial director Steve Jackson said: "Prestigious catalogue titles form a key part of the business, so I am extremely pleased to bring this catalogue into the company. We have already had solid experiences of working with David Lynch catalogue titles, and with the new $90 million production of Conan due in August, these are just a few examples of the opportunities we will have to rework this valuable catalogue with our customers."  

As anyone who's recently picked up a tabloid will know, Channel 4's My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has been a bona fide phenomenon, breaking audience viewing figures for the channel and featuring in scores of stories, no matter how tenuous the link. Well, that phenomenon is now making its way to DVD, with 4DVD securing the rights to the series, with a release date slated for April 21. Needless to say, it is likely to continue to home entertainment, if you don't believe us, check the Daily Star's front page last Monday, which broke news of the release in a story that bore little or no relation to 4DVD's release (or anything factual, seemingly), which had the story as its splash, under the strapline "Amazing Scenes TV Dare Not Show." It's a long time since a DVD release has appeared on the front page of any tabloid…
Speaking of the Daily Star, has anyone seen it on a Monday recently? We picked it up after spotting the DVD-related lead, and were amazed to see how much DVD, and in particular, DTV advertising there was in the publication. Ads on display were, in order, Shell Shock (eOne, Asda tagged), Terror Trap (Anchor Bay, Morrisons), Due Date (Warner, HMV), Primal (Kaleidoscope), Criminal Minds (Disney, HMV), Accursed Blood (Metrodome, Sainsbury's) and Stonehenge Apocalypse (Anchor Bay, Morrisons).   


 In a week when awards have dominated the agenda, it's worth investigating one of this year's more intriguing gongs, one that was as British as The King's Speech and with an equally fascinating back story. What's more, that same title is now making its way to DVD… John Krish is, as those in the know might say, "British cinema’s best-kept secret", but after years of his work languishing in obscurity, the 87-year-old film-maker fought off challenges from young whippersnappers such as Banksy to win the Evening Standard film award for best documentary for his A Day In The Life: Four Portraits Of Post-War Britain. Now this quarter of shorts is making its way to a dual format DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of the BFI, with a release date scheduled for March 28. The films, made in the late 1950s and early 1960s, were long forgotten until being rescued by the BFI, an effort that will culminate in the DVD release after his Standard gong. The title is sure to earn plenty of coverage following the award, it already arrives with a wealth of four and five-star reviews. The BFI's Sam Dunn said: "It's absolutely fantastic that John Krish's extraordinary films have at last been given the recognition which they truly deserve.  The films in the A Day in the Life programme are incredibly moving and totally inspiring.  Now, with the films available on DVD and Blu-ray, it's at last possible for audiences to enjoy some of this great director's finest work."

Anchor Bay has enjoyed a strong start to 2011, thanks to its post-Christmas release 22 Bullets and the nasty remake I Spit On Your Grave. And it is hoping to continue that run of success with its March 21 release of Altitude. The film features a cast of pretty young things on a flight to hell, its blend of old-fashioned mystery and suspense story coupled with modern-day teen friendly sensibilities has led Anchor Bay's Thom Leaman to call it "Twilight Zone fo the Twilight generation" (and you won't hear a better description of a film than that this week). Anchor Bay's Leaman said: "It's not your average DTV horror gorefest. It harks back to a bygone era of the Twilight Zone, but does it all with a attractive young and recognisable cast – including luminaries from 90210 and The OC. As such, above the line activity has been aggressively targeted toward the teen market via spots on catch up services including 4OD and Five On Demand, backed up with some well targeted press ads. Its a great title that we hope will continue our buoyant start to the year."

 Next week sees a major burst of promotional activity kicking off Showbox and its Cine Asia imprint. The main thrust of it will see cine Asia titles being offered at special prices, starting at £3 for DVD and £6.99 for Blu-ray. It's running tradewide, with HMV and online stockists taking the entire Cine Asia range, which takes in titles such as Chow Yun Fat in Confucius and Jackie Chan's recent Little Big Soldier, and the grocery sector taking selected titles from the range. And in a further move aimed at widening the audience for the label and enticing new fans into the Asian cinema sector, Showbox this week released The Myth Special Edition, a Jackie Chan title at a special low price, which also includes a bespoke Introduction To Cine Asia featurette. This sees assorted film critics and luminaries (including sometime Raygun contributor Jessica Mellor) talking about the delights of Asian cinema and Cine Asia's titles. To top it all off, next week also sees Cine Asia releasing the excellent martial arts actioner IP Man 2. Marketing for the promotion and releases will include press spots in the red-top tabloids and men's magazines, while there will also be TV advertising on Channel 4, Filmfour and Five. Showbox's Steve Rivers said: "It's a milestone for the label because every major retailer is involved in the promotion. For the fans, it will give them a chance to add to their collections and it can recruit new fans to the genre too."  

The fledgling Crabtree Films label is upping its release slate for 2011, with plans for almost two releases a month in the year ahead, most on DVD and with the odd theatrical thrown in for good measure too. Its March schedule alone consists of four releases, taking in Brit horror Patrol Men, out on March 28; ballroom dancing doc Simply Dance!, also on March 28, hich should ride the wave of Strictly Come Dancing fever;  Finale, a horror that has drawn comparisons to the likes of Bava and Argento (March 14) and the Berlin-filmed eroticism of Bedways (March 21). The Nottingham-based company is distributed by Lace, and its slate for the rest of the year includes the Jesse Eisenberg starrer Holy Rollers (a film we're very eager to see). Crabtree's Amir Bazrafshan said the label might also be looking to invest in productions as well as acquire titles. "We want to grow and expand the business," he said. "We're looking for genre films with a commercial edge to them."  

Another fascinating story doing the rounds concerns the ongoing legal spat between Sony and LG. The dispute concerns Blu-ray technology, with LG claiming Sony's PS3 infringes its BD technology. It has ordered European customs officers to seize PS3 shipments into Europe, which could eventually affect stocks in stores. The patent row is expected to continue in the courts…


Last week we forgot to mention seeing the enjoyable sci-fi romp I Am Number Four at the BFI IMAX in Waterloo, while last Saturday, we were lucky enough to see the wonderful animated tale Rango at a special gala screening in the West End. It was complete with its own musical entertainment, animals to touch and stroke and loads more "fun in the foyer".  

“Collectively, across the United States and Europe, the industry needs to invest more than $100 million in new plant and equipment this year in addition to upgrading older replication lines, in order to be able to meet the disc requirements of the content community. The studios will try to press ahead wherever possible to alleviate some of the pressure, but even with this level of investment, [the fourth quarter] is still going to present some peak season challenges to avoid missing street dates on some of the key titles." Futuresource Consulting's Jim Bottoms, quoted in US trade Home Media Magazine about how global Blu-ray production is under threat because

Wes Craven is, of course, one of the biggest names in horror, and his Scream franchise is due to make a return to the big screen in its fourth outing, due on April 15. All of which makes Momentum's April 4 DVD and Blu-ray release of My Soul To Take, the latest from the master of terror, all the more timely. The release will be stickered to remind consumers of the link, and Momentum's campaign will also drive that link. The company's Adam Eldrett said: "The title is being supported by a cracking marketing campaign, utilising 10 second TV spots across terrestrial and satellite TV channels, tapping into the core horror and teen audience utlising shows such as Glee and Misfits." Further activity will take place online, on sites such as youtube and the Gorilla Nation Network, and press advertising will appear in Kerrang. Eldrett added: "Craven and teen slasher fans should be fully aware of our release come April 4."

Half term brought strong successes in the family field, as Gnomeo And Juliet was the week's top earner, its total now stands at just shy of £13 million. Pegg and Frost's latest outing Paul has now passed the £10 million mark in second place, while the highest new entry was I Am Number Four which opened with £1.7 million. Yogi Bear and Tangled continued good runs, as did Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son. No Strings Attached, with just under £1 million and West Is West, with more than £750,000, were the other new entrants in a busy week.

More Wikileaks news, as DreamWorks enters the fray, picking up the rights to now one but two books about the whole affair and, in particular, its founder Julian Assange. There are another three films also said to be in the works…

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen together? Done it in Toy Story. A live action film based on a theme park ride? Disney's done that too with the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise. But how about combining the two? According to Deadline, the studio is aiming to put Hanks and Allen together in a film based on one of its rides, Jungle Cruise. The phrase licence to print money springs to mind.

Sequel (and prequel) news of the week: the news seeping out from the US that production outfit Alcon has acquired the rights to Bladerunner, the sci-fi classic. The company is said to be working on new projects for the brand, with Warner distributing (definitely in the US, international distributors yet to be announced). The good news is, it seems unlikely there'll be a remake, but instead prequels or sequels to the 1982 film, itself based on a Philip K Dick story.


Comic Dane Cook, of Good Luck Chuck and so on, stars in post-modern, post-Scream comic slasher…

One that has dominated online conversations in the UK this week…

For the Raygun reader who complains every time we mention it (you know who you are), here's a peek at the short before Cars 2…
A Brit-friendly cast for this JFK-esque look at an earlier assassinated president:
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