If you can't read this newsletter or see the ads, please click here 

It Was A Good Week For... Star Wars: The Force Awakens, what else could it be?
It Was A Bad Week For… Online copyright infringers, facing a 10 year stretch…

It was, many pundits, ourselves included, noted, like an old-fashioned video industry launch, harking back to the old VHS era or even the peak of the DVD boom. Heck, in some ways, it was even better, as Star Wars The Force Awakens is set to trump all three of the blockbuster Star Wars prequels in its first week on sale in the UK. Midnight openings, true event status, a genuine sense of excitement on Monday, April 18, the trade press and assorted distributors and interested parties doing store visits, heck, even some supermarket discounting, recalled the glory days of the industry’s bygone days. But rather than just being simple nostalgia, it also sent out a powerful message – physical is far from dead… So, here’s some of the key facts about the title: first day sales of more than 570,000; the biggest day one for more than three years, outstripping the likes of Spectre, Jurassic World and Disney’s own Frozen. In fact, coming on top “some of the largest pre-orders on record”, that day one figure represented Disney’s biggest ever sales in the first 24 hours on release. It’s also Disney’s widest ever release for a home entertainment title – The Force Awakens was available in 13,000 stores, rather than the typical 6,000. The title was also available in all 2,800 Tesco outlets, the first time a DVD had gone onto the entire estate. The campaign was hugely aided by the Dark Side/Light Side sleeves. As Disney noted, it helped become a talking point and encouraged chatter across social media. The creative featuring the two opposing Blu-ray packages was a focal point for much of the marketing, featuring across its vod and outdoor campaigns, as well as in digital elements in key shopping locations. Our sources suggest that the split between those Light and Dark SKUs was somewhere between 60 and 70 per cent in favour of the latter. 
In-store was a huge event too – The Raygun went out and about on Monday morning to see it in full effect, from HMV’s Westfield store over in east London, through all the major grocers, with major takeovers at all the outlets. As the studio was keen to point out, much of its retail activity will run for six weeks, rather than just two, while it was also the major’s biggest ever point of sale campaign. As we noted here last week, for many retailers, it represented their biggest ever campaign. And we haven’t even touched on the rest of the activity that truly conferred event status on the release – PR, social, TV, online – as well as elements we’ve covered here on The Raygun previously, such as the special gala screening of Secrets Of The Force Awakens, and its celebrity design-your-own BB-8 fundraiser (you can see it here All of which added not just to its excellent day one (one that buoyed the entire industry as news spread of how well it was selling), but throughout the week. Sure, there was a drop-off, but it’s still on target, according to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin, to become the year’s bestseller in its first week and should hit the 1 million mark. By the midway point it had notched up almost 800,000 sales, as much as the rest of the top 200 combined. It’s also worth noting that that figure was ahead of the entire week one performance of both the second and third episodes of the saga, Attack Of The Clones and Revenge Of The Sith. Its tally should also outstrip The Phantom Menace, which did 915,000 units in its first week.
Retailers were pleased with the way the first week of The Force Awakens had gone. Commenting on its performance, Sainsbury's Andy Chatburn said: "We're delighted with our performance this week. The engagement we got from our store colleagues helped deliver fantastic in store theatre and the sales have followed. It's brilliant to see that Film can still deliver such a buzz and unprecedented levels of  excitement in retail." HMV’s Andy Anderson said: “It’ll be interesting to see what happens over the weekend. It was a fantastic day one and it’s bigger than Spectre, bigger than Frozen and HMV’s biggest title since Skyfall. It’s an old-fashioned event release.”
Amid all its success, we do hope the media wake up to how well it’s done. Our old pals at The Guardian didn’t mention its huge success this week, all it could muster was a story (taken, as is the norm for journalists these days) from Twitter and Amazon reviews with consumers complaining about the lack of additional material on the Blu-ray (a story that also featured in the Mirror). A DVD and Blu-ray selling by the bucketload may not fit their narrative, but it should be worth celebrating… Elsewhere in the charts, incidentally, it’s much the same in the top five as it has been in recent weeks, The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part II, The Good Dinosaur at three, The Lady In The Van at four and, rising one ahead of the sixth series airing, is the fifth outing of Game Of Thrones. Universal’s Charlotte Crosby fitness release continues to rise back up the charts, while both Star Wars trilogies, the originals and the prequels, also soar back up the charts. New entries include Grantchester Series 2 (16), The Survivalist (21), Prisoners Of War at 31, Lego Star Wars Droid Tales at 34 and the sixth season of Pretty Little Liars at number 39. 

The week one performance of Star Wars The Force Awakens should certainly help Disney when it comes to the 2017 BASE Awards (the new name for the industry’s trade body is reflected in its awards too), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves – the organisation this week unveiled the nominations for the 2016 awards, the first to come under the new BASE banner. And after the major’s stellar year in 2015, it's no surprise to see Universal leading the charge in terms of nominations garnered, with eight in all. The nods reflect Universal’s breadth of product, covering children’s, comedy, fitness, catalogue film (Back To The Future), and span the film world, taking in sci-fi (Ex-Machina), animation (Box Trolls) and effects-laden blockbusters (Jurassic World). Studiocanal, another company that boasted an annus mirabilis last year had four nominations, again ranging from everything from the gentle (pre-school Bing) to the ultraviolent (Legend). The likes of Fox, Sony, Lionsgate and Signature all fared well, while in retail Sky’s emergence as a major player was further highlighted y its three nominations, with Amazon garnering three nods, and traditional players such as Tesco, HMV, Asda and Sainsbury’s all making the shortlist too. Commenting on the awards, BASE chief executive Liz Bales said: “We are thrilled to announce the shortlist for the 2016 BASE Awards, each year the standard of entries is astoundingly high and it’s consistently challenging to whittle down entries to a handful for the shortlist.  All entrants should be extremely proud of the work entered for the awards, it is testament to the skills and experience that drive the category forward.”
We've got the full list of nominations on our website and next week well have more reaction to the awards and nominations garnered, but here's Sainsbury's Andy Chatburn on the supermarket's nominations: "We're delighted to be nominated for two awards. I see it as a positive reflection of the hard work  and creativity the Sainsbury's team have invested in the category."
Sticking with Universal and the major has this week revealed its plans for 4K Ultra HD discs, with the studio rolling out its releases on a worldwide level, starting this summer. It plans to release a mixture of new releases, such as The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Warcraft and Jason Bourne all due on the new format, as well as catalogue titles like Everest, Lucy and Lone Survivor. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment worldwide president Eddie Cunningham said: “4K Ultra HD represents a giant leap forward in movie-watching. The format’s stunning resolution and peak luminance, combined with its deep bench of industry support, enables us to deliver to the consumer a truly differentiated viewing experience, one that has the capability to power the future of home entertainment. The advanced technology powering 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray in particular has created unquestionably the best, most pristine home viewing experience ever offered – one that will surely excite consumers and will remain unrivalled for years to come.”
We’re not sure about our readers, but we at The Raygun were out and about last Saturday for Record Store Day, the annual event that sees ERA working with the independent sector to celebrate the finest in both stores and, predominantly, vinyl. The day was a huge success, we got most of what we wanted and it’s good to see a few DVD-related releases riding on the back of the event. As covered here recently, there was Demon using the event to launch its release for Born To Boogie, the classic Marc Bolan flick due in May (its soundtrack release was among the top 10 bestsellers on the day), while HBO also used the event to help promote its release of the Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese-produced Vinyl – the title was given a digital release this week and arrives on physical formats later in the summer. In a Twitter competition, it offered consumers the chance to win a trip to New York by relating one of their rock n roll moments… Commenting on the day itself, ERA’s Kim Bayley said: Record Store Day has played such a positive role in stemming the tide of closures of independent record shops which seemed inevitable in the days before the launch of the event. Record Store Day continues to encourage new entrants to the market with a further 17 independent record shops having opened in UK in the past 12 months. But above all, it’s fantastic to see Record Store Day celebrated with the hundreds of parties, performances and one-off events across the UK, with both customers old and new. Here’s to our tenth anniversary next year!”

Also this past week, the fledgling Precision imprint, the recently launched sister label of Signature, launched its football comedy Kicking Off on digital platforms with a VIP screening, ahead of its physical bow on Monday. The film is keenly timed to tie in with a summer of football. As Precision’s Katie Hart explained: “Precision is really excited to launch British football comedy Kicking Off on DVD Monday and out now on digital platforms. The film is a great addition to our slate and perfectly timed as the world starts gearing up for this summer’s Euros. Boasting a dream-team UK cast, headed by Warren Brown (Luther), Greg McHugh (Fresh Meat, The A Word), Danielle Bux and man-of-the-moment Alistair Petrie (The Night Manager, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), we are confident KICKING OFF will cater for the ever-growing appetite for football content in the UK. Our impressive PR campaign included cast interviews on Sunday Brunch, Soccer AM and Radio5Live as well as print interviews in Hello!, Metro and Evening Standard. To kick-start (!) our release we held a VIP screening at The Prince Charles Cinema on Thursday night which saw press favourites including Jack Whitehall, Gary Lineker and Mark Bright in attendance.”
After a relatively quiet week for new releases as many chose to avoid The Force Awakens, Monday April 25 returns to a relatively normal and fairly busy day for releases. Among those due out is Sisters, the comedy that teams up pals Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as, you guessed it, sisters. Commenting on the release, Universal’s Lucia Magadan said: “Sisters is coming out on Extended Edition Blu-Ray and DVD on Monday  and both SKUs will have an overall gloss O-ring with florescent pink details.For our campaign we are focusing on the humour and partying, heavily pushing AV to female comedy fans with an all-digital campaign which will reach over 2m of our target customers. The campaign includes a heavy social media investment, Daily Mail online takeovers on desktop and mobile and testing of a new video seeding company in the market place (Videoflare). We have also secured strong reviews by selected national and women’s lifestyle media to increase our reach.”
Also coming via Universal, as part of its ongoing deal with Paramount, comes the physical release of Daddy’s Home, another double header comedy, this time with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. In a joint initiative with Paramount, which looked after last week’s digital release, there’s a racking competition on this great website,, which gives kids the chance to discover if their dad is more #teamferrell or #teamwahlberg as well as winning £1,000 worth of prizes for their old man. Commenting on the physical release, Universal’s Lisa Penna said: “The theatrical smash hit Daddy’s Home reunites Global superstars Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Having stormed to success when it launched in cinemas on Boxing Day, we’re hoping we’ll be able to emulate this fantastic consumer reception when it releases on Blu-ray and DVD May 2.”

Documentary specialist Dogwoof is keeping itself busy too, with a raft of releases. Due on Monday April 25, on the back of its EST release earlier this week, comes Hitchcock/Truffaut, which looks at the groundbreaking interview between the old master and young upstart that proved so influential for generations of filmmakers, many of whom are involved in this project.The cinephile-courting package features a BFI Q&A with director and NYFF programmer Kent Jones, as well as extended interviews from star contributors Noah Baumbach, Peter Bogdanovich and Richard Linklater. Commenting on the release, home entertainment sales manager Daniel Green said: “After premiering in the Cannes Classics strand last year and enjoying sold out screenings at LFF and in cinemas earlier this year, we've been delighted with the trade response to the Hitchcock/Truffaut DVD. Fopp has emerged as one of the most fervent supporters of the film, with window displays and in-store promotion in place for Monday's release.”
And out as a day and date release on digital and at cinemas is Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures, an eye-opening (and often eye-popping) tribute to the late American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The film benefited from a Curzon Mayfair premiere and Q&A previews and is due on DVD later in the summer. Daniel Green, again, said: “We've had a terrific week across digital with the EST release of Hitchcock/Truffaut and Cartel Land breaking the iTunes top three as their Film of the Week. A host of four-star reviews from UK press have welcomed Mapplethorpe into cinemas and we're looking ahead to a strong opening week for the film both theatrically and on demand.”
Also due on Monday, after a successful theatrical release earlier in 2016, comes IP Man 3, a superior martial arts biffer due from Kaleidoscope, which the independent believes will show their is still plenty of life left in the Asian cinema sector. Kaleidoscope’s Adam Sergeant said: “The conclusion of the acclaimed martial arts trilogy, starring Donnie Yen, has been long awaited by UK fans.  After a successful theatrical early in this year, IP 3 is out on single DVD and BD, complete with bonus features, and has full retail support.  Additionally, two box sets are also available – a limited edition BD Steel Book featuring all three films and an amazing 7 hours + of bonus features, plus a triple DVD box, containing all the films but a reduced selection of extras only. IP 3, co-starring Mike Tyson, has been very warmly received by the media, with outlets as diverse as Radio Times and Empire, all the way through to bike magazine, RIDE, publishing glowing reviews.  We have an extensive digital campaign underway, with an additional strong focus on social media, plus print advertising breaking from this weekend. Pre-orders are strong, so we are quietly confident we can deliver a good number, and hopefully prove that for the right product with the right set-up, quality Asian cinemas has as strong a market as ever.”

On the way is one of this year’s big Oscar winners, the rather wonderful Room (we watched a check disc this week and it is everything it’s cracked up to be and works a treat at home), with Studiocanal earmarking May 9 for the release. Here’s the company’s Will Attard on the release: “We’re incredibly proud to be releasing Room on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms on May 9, following the fantastic box office result, which has now crossed the £4 million mark and continues to play across multiple sites. Initial pre-orders are strong, with Brie Larson’s incredible award wins and the film’s four Oscar nominations increasing awareness through awards season, which we’ve seen reflected in our pre-order curve. We’ve made the film’s outstanding critical acclaim a key focus on our packaging, featuring gold foil to highlight Brie’s key Oscar and BAFTA wins, aiding stand out on shelf and adding an additional premium quality to the product. The best-selling book adaptation angle gives us further opportunities to connect with this key audience, and as such we have been working closely with the publisher to cross promote wherever possible. In additional to book adaptation film fans and fans of quality award winning dramas, the film has connected ardently with mums, and a key aim of ours is to heavily target mums who may not have had a chance to catch the film in cinemas, but who will be able to purchase the film whilst on their weekly shop.
If we had a press release of the week award, then this week’s accolade would go to Fox for the excellent Deadpool announcement that arrived in our In-box this week. It fits entirely in with the style of arguably the wackiest (and certainly one of the most grown-up) comic book characters. Just as the Merc With A Mouth (as the red-clad creation is sometimes known) routinely breaks the fourth well and offers up his views on the world, so he’s left his imprint all over the release – with additional scribblings taking the mickey out of the numerous extras on the film. So "Gag Reel” has a scrawled footnote saying “Safe Word Not Included”, a commentary from its writers dubs them “the real heroes, a look at the costumers as an extra has, the handwritten item notes “so much spandex” and so on. The release certainly helped elevate a mere date announcement – it’s out on an extras-laden Blu-ray and DVD on June 13 – into a bona fide news story on film sites, as well as enhancing Deadpool’s rep as the smartest, wittiest and most media savvy superhero. It also sets the seal on a busy June for Fox, as the release comes seven days after the arrival of The Revenant, due on June 6.  

Spare a thought, if you will, for Lionsgate’s Marie-Claire Benson who is pounding the pavements on the route of the London Marathon this weekend, taking part in one of the world’s most prestigious long distance events to help raise cash for charity. MC, as she is known, has juggled her busy schedule as a mother of twins and commercial and marketing director at Lionsgate’s home entertainment arm to train for the gruelling 26-plus mile event; a feat alone that makes her efforts worthy of support. Moreover, she’s also swelling the coffers of a cause close to her heart, her chosen charity is Beating Bowel Cancer. She told The Raygun: “The marathon is a challenge I’ve wanted to take on since I cheered on my Dad in 1984. I shouldn’t have left it so long – I now have to juggle childcare, a full-time job and studies. Plus I’m not getting any younger. But seeing so many friends and family suffer because of cancer in its many forms is enough motivation to get out, do my bit and show my support.” Expect to see Lionsgate staffers on the sidelines cheering her on too… And you can sponsor her here.
It looks like the potential sentence for online copyright infringement will rise to as much as 10 years. The government this week published the details of the consultation it held and said it was planning to introduce “at the earliest available opportunity” the new sentencing as part of changes to the Copyright Designs And Patents Act 1988. The minister with IP responsibility, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, this week said: “The government takes copyright crime extremely seriously. It hurts businesses, consumers and the wider economy online and offline. Our creative industries are worth more than £7 billion to the UK economy and it's important to protect them from online criminal enterprises. By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals."
The Industry Trust has forged a partnership with out of home advertising company Primesight, which will see the Trust’s ongoing Moments Worth Paying For campaign airing on its digital six-sheet screens in cinema foyers. It enhances the campaign’s profile in cinemas where, thanks to relationships with DCM and Pearl & Dean, its spots appear on cinema screens. Primesight ceo Naran Patel said: “As a firm partner of the film and TV industry, Primesight is pleased to be supporting the efforts of the Industry Trust to both celebrate the creative value of content and reduce piracy. Our digital 6-sheet screens will ensure Moments Worth Paying For reaches the right audiences when entering and leaving cinemas, to further amplify this important message.” Liz Bales, Chief Executive of the Industry Trust, said: “Thanks to collaborations such as the Primesight partnership, we are able to collectively leverage strength from across the industry and bring crucial messages to more consumers, through more channels, with greater frequency. These collaborations are vital to the longevity of the campaign and the ongoing task of reducing copyright infringement through consistent education, inspiring audiences to value creativity.”

"So many arguments have been made to get people to stop pirating — that it is illegal, that it is immoral, that it destroys the livelihoods of the hardworking, below-the-line crew. All of those arguments are valid and true. But they don’t hit most people in the solar plexus of self-interest. And that is the crux of my argument. If we can’t find a way to stop piracy, art movies will disappear. Please join me in standing up to help fight piracy and to ensure that the art of filmmaking thrives well into the 21st century."
Film producer Jason Blum, behind everything from the Insidious and The Purge franchises, as well as the likes of Whiplash, railing against piracy, you can read the full piece here.
The Jungle Book’s huge success meant Disney is dominating the theatrical chart in the same way it’s overtaking home entertainment, with the attest Kipling adaptation opening with just under £10 million and the studio’s Zootropolis at number two with a total now over the £20 million mark. Eye In The Sky took more than £1.1 million in its opening weekend 
And it’s with remarkable timing, given that we’ve talked about its release further up this newsletter, comes the news that a Daddy’s Home sequel is in the works. The film will see Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reprising their roles as the warring dads, one the stepfather, the other the real pa, with the rest of the team all rejoining the Paramount production. It was Ferrell’s second biggest earner in the US, topped only by The Lego Movie and Elf, and it’s his biggest international earner. No date set yet for Daddy’s Home 2…
This week’s big Marvel news sees Robert Downey Jr, with the superstar confirmed to appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the latest iteration of the webslinger due from Sony. He will, of course, be starring as Tony Stark and his alter-ego Iron Man…
Now as anyone who follows us Twitter knows, the mere mention of the words “cinematic” and “universe” irks us somewhat, for reasons even we can’t fully fathom. So, after Marvel’s and DC’s us of the phrase, it now falls to toy manufacturer Hasbro to borrow it. The company is, in partnership with Paramount, developing a whole world based around a number of films featuring different properties, including GI Joe, as well as MASK, Micronauts, Visionaries and ROM. It has assembled a large team of comic book writers, genre film specialists and TV showrunners to help create its own interconnecting series of films…
Another book we haven’t read gets turned into a film…
*Sings the Clash song…
Today is our Independence Day, again…
Bourne again…
This week’s Red Band business…
To subscribe to The Raygun newsletter, please email
with subscribe in the subject matter

To unsubscribe, email with unsubscribe in the subject