NEWSLETTER :: July 15 2010

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It Was A Good Week For... Paramount, passing the $1 billion mark for 2010 at the international box office for the fourth year running. And Blu-ray – up more than 100 per cent across Europe (see below for more)...

It Was A Bad Week For... Well, not so much bad as flat, as overall DVD and Blu-ray sales fell by 1.2 per cent across Europe...

Last night (Wednesday) saw Anchor Bay hosting a special evening to introduce its two big comedy signings for the autumn, Al Murray and Lee Mack, to retailers. And it also gave the company the chance to talk a bit more about some of its key releases across the last part of the year. As previously reported, the company has signed up two big comedy talents to its roster this year and, with its increasingly mainstream film acquisitions and continued investment into fitness, 2010 is shaping up to be Anchor Bay's biggest Q4 ever, as md Colin Lomax said: "It's our strongest ever Q4 and we're delighted to be associated with two of the hottest names in comedy. We're very excited about Q4 and the opportunities this kind of produced offers us."

Murray and Mack will both make their DVD debuts as Anchor Bay acts this year. The former has total DVD sales of more than 700,000 and his touring this autumn (the show is being recorded in October for a quick turnaround and November release) and is being supported by the Pub Landlord. Mack, meanwhile, could be, Anchor Bay believes, one of the stars of the autumn. His sold out tour has seen him playing to 200,000 people this year, his sitcom Not Going Out will air in a new season this autumn and his fanbase continues to grow – last year he sold 70,000 with little or no promotion or support. And as well as growing its comedy, Anchor Bay continues to invest in other non-feature areas, with its remarkable success in the fitness sector, inspired by its 10 Minute Solution range, set to continue. Currently the bestselling fitness label in the market, with sales of 600,000, half this year. Anchor Bay has a new programme produced specifically for the UK, Blast Off Body Fat, and, for the first time, a TV campaign and major above the line marketing support. It is taking on "ambassadors" – well known UK celebrities who will use the title and proclaim its worth on assorted TV and press outlets – to give a local feel to the product. "This brand is amazing," said Anchor Bay's Emma Nicholls. "We've done a lot of PR with it, but nothing else, this time we're going on television for the first time with a major spend."

And on the feature film front, Anchor Bay's slate has strengthened too – with Fanboys, boasting some of America's finest current comedy talent, a host of guest names and a Star Wars theme, beginning its Q4 line-up at the start of October, moving on to the Cristina Ricci Brit-based horror The Gathering; Stone Cold Steve Austin in Hunt To Kill, riding on the back of The Expendables; a clutch of seasonally-themed family titles such as The Dog Who Saved Christmas and, in the post-Christmas December 27 slot, 22 Bullets, an actioner in the same vein as Taken and From Paris With Love, aiming to get those all-important self-purchase sales on the back of its September theatrical bow. There's also a theatrical this year and home entertainment release in 2011 for I Spit On Your Grave (much better, the company says, than other recent horror remakes, and "still as uncomfortable as the original was" according to Anchor Bay's Rod Smith).  

It's not just Anchor Bay either – sister label Manga is also boasting a strong line-up, with its previously reported move into live action (see previous issues of The Raygun) continuing apace – Escape From Vampire Island, billed as Lost meets The Lost Boys meets Battle Royale arriving on DVD on October 4 after its FrightFest appearance. And on the traditional anime front, it boasts – on the same date – arguably its biggest single release for some time and one that takes Manga into other areas. Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva is based on the bestselling Nintendo franchise and the label is wooing an audience of women and youngsters outside of its traditional fanbase. Jerome Mazandarani said: "Professor Layton is the bestselling Nintendo DS brand in the UK. Nintendo has sold more than 1.5 million games in the last two years and estimates that 3 million Brits have played the game. That is amazing market penetration and a huge amount of pre-awareness for the brand. Manga will work closely with Nintendo for a seamless integrated home video/videogame campaign around the launch of the brand new DS game in October."

Over the past week on The Raygun website:
Our regular round-up of DVD, Blu-ray and related coverage in the weekend's newspapers
A look at Momentum's forthcoming tiger flick Burning Bright
More from Momentum in the shape of its TV spot for next week's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and  a preview of the forthcoming Goemon; HMV and Paramount pictured; Second Sight's excellent Possession and much, much more. And it's updated daily...


 An interesting release crops up on Icon's forthcoming release schedule, as The Disappearance Of Alice Creed is added to the slate with an October 4 release date pencilled in. The film was released theatrically by production and distribution arm Cinema NX and the title represents the first with Icon and the independent, with Icon adding its sales, marketing and distribution nous to work with Cinema NX on the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Icon's Ian Dawson said: "It's a really nice fit for our titles and theirs, they have a  good slate going forwards, built around quality British films. We will be working in co-operation with Gemma and the team on this and other future CinemaNX titles." Alice Creed has taken £400,000 at UK cinemas but garnered acres of coverage, thanks, in no small part, to the appearance of recent Brit Bond girl Gemma Arterton as the eponymous heroine.  
And while we're on Icon, keep an eye on its recent release Surviving Summer, proof that Hilary Duff is alive and well and still selling DVDs, after shifting 15,000 units in its first three weeks, seeing only single digit drop offs against the market in both its second and third weeks. The title's still doing nicely and proved to be a nice little piece of World Cup counter-programming as well as exceeding expectations...

On the children's front, and more specifically pre-school, 2 entertain is to run a trade-wide BOGOF promotion to support its slate of titles for toddlers. The initiative, entitled Tiny TV Stars, will run from September 6 and takes in new releases from 2 entertain brands such as Waybuloo, In The Night Garden, Chuggington, Timmy Time (mere mention of which gets us singing the theme song), Shaun The Sheep and new franchise dirtgirlworld. All titles will retail at £12.99 and the promotion will be supported with press advertising and point of sale, including FSDUs. 2 entertain brand manager Mel Beadon said: "We're consistently looking at fresh ways to support our new release titles within the pre-school market. We devised this Tiny TV Stars promotion to pull together our market-leading content in a launch that delivers both high quality, new to DVD content and great value to the customer."

A few years ago, it was another crashed retailer, but since being saved by HMV, which originally reopened six stores under the banner, FOPP has gone from strength to strength. And this week, the retailer announced that it was opening a new store – the 10th FOPP – in London's West End, near University College in Gower Street at the corner of Torrington Place, ironically a stone's throw from the flagship West End store that was shuttered when the previous incarnation of the retailer folded.


Speaking of HMV, interesting to note that members of its purehmv scheme have been offered the opportunity to win a ticket for themselves and a friend to this weekend's Toy Story 3 premiere in London's Leicester Square. The offer was part of purehmv's ongoing pledge to offer money-can't-buy incentives to its members. This one is, in our opinion, as good as it gets...

One group of lucky youngsters got to see it even earlier, thanks to an Industry Trust initiative. The organisation hosted a screening of the film for 400 Screen Champions, who have learnt about the value of the creative industry in the UK and the importance of copyright, even making short films and adverts. The initiative was organised with the Industry Trust and FILMCLUB and Cineclub and came after research showed that the earlier children learn about piracy, the better. The event saw them taking in a debate about copyright theft and surrounding issues, followed by the screening of Toy Story 3. The Industry Trust's Liz Bales said: "The quality of the adverts and the standard of debating we’ve seen today have been outstanding. With real passion, these young Screen Champions are helping to spread the word about the positive role that copyright plays. By encouraging everyone to think about the blood, sweat and tears that go into making the films and TV shows we love, the aim is to reduce copyright theft among younger and older consumers alike.”    

We at The Raygun, along with our junior correspondents, caught it a few days prior to that, at the BFI IMAX in Waterloo at an ungodly hour on Sunday morning. But, we're pleased to say, it was well worth getting up for. And it looked truly stunning on the gigantic IMAX screen too. It's playing alongside Inception at the IMAX and both are rapidly selling out screenings for the summer months... We also saw Inception at its premiere in Leicester Square last week too. And all we can say is believe the hype... It is as good as it's cracked up to be. And what's more its complex plot makes it ideal for repeat viewing, meaning roll on the home entertainment release...

It's been interesting to note that during the course of every Q4 presentation that The Raygun has been to so far, assorted distributors have been discussing the importance of getting their stand-up comedians on to the relevant chat shows. And last weekend the bandwagon started rolling, as Jimmy Carr appeared on one of the final Jonathan Ross shows on BBC1. The comic discussed his next live release, Making People Laugh, and an accompanying clip proudly boasted the November 8 release date from 4DVD. 4DVD's Karla Berry said: "Jimmy is a seasoned pro, releasing his sixth live DVD this autumn, and fully understands the importance of a strong publicity campaign to gain cut-through in such a cluttered market. As soon as it was announced that Jonathan Ross wouldn’t have a returning chat show this autumn (now that he’s confirmed a new ITV chat show for late 2011) Jimmy made sure that he appeared on the one of the last shows to help drive pre-orders for the upcoming DVD release."

Green Umbrella, a name associated with the home entertainment sector in assorted guises, is dead... Long live G2. The company formerly know as Green Umbrella has changed its name to G2 to reflect its increasingly diversified slate, that takes in not just DVD and Blu-ray, but also books, music and spoken word in both physical and download form. It now boasts a catalogue of some 500 titles across the different media. The company, based n Southfleet, Kent, is jointly helmed by industry veterans Jules Gammond and Alan Jones. Commenting on the announcement, Gammond said: "We see ourselves as the Shrek and Donkey of the video business. I'll let our many friends and colleagues in the business decide which is which."

It's been a busy week for the FrightFest organisation. First it unveiled the line-up for this year's Film4 sponsored event at the Empire in London's Leicester Square. This year sees more than it's fair share of video-friendly features, including eight British films, a record for the event, as part of its full programme that totals 36 films across two screens from Thursday August 26 through to the bank holiday Monday. One element we're looking forward to is the screening of the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship And Videotape, which will be followed by a panel discussion. And tomorrow sees the launch of FrightFest's bi-monthly e-zine. To get your copy go to
Paramount has passed the $1 billion mark in international box office receipts for 2010, the fourth year running it has sailed past the all-important barrier. The studio has also gone past the same $1 billion mark in US box office receipts too. What's more it hit the mark a week ahead of last year too. It came on the back of a strong performance for Shrek Forever After at the UK box office and in other territories. Other big hits for the studio this year have included another DreamWorks animated title, How To Train Your Dragon, and Iron Man 2.
Whither reporting of box office figures? Fleet Street's main problem is that its coverage of theatrical receipts tends to focus on the US. So a feature in Saturday's business section of The Times showed box office receipts down more than 2.5 per cent and admissions figures even further reduced. True, maybe and yes, blockbusters may have been "given [the] cold shoulder", but the article neglected to mention that so, far, over the year, receipts are up. It said the UK was experiencing similar problems, with no figures to back it up, again mentioning the summer season. Although again, figures for the year are up; according to the Film Distributors' Association (FDA), receipts have risen by three percent for the first six months of 2010 year, to £516.7 million. 

"The major retail markets for DVD and Blu-ray sales in Western Europe and Japan are showing positive signs of stabilization due to improving declines in DVD sales and growing consumer adoption of the Blu-ray format." Brad Hackley, president of Media Control GfK USA in Los Angeles, announcing figures from a report that showed Blu-ray sales soaring by more than 100 per cent in the first six months of 2010, with overall sales being "flat", falling by just over one per cent year on year.


Jackie Chan is still the man when it comes to martial arts, especially that distinct territory that blends king fu action with a more family bias (a similar path to the one currently being taken by former wrestler Duayne Johnson, aka The Rock, albeit with his fisticuffs and grappling skills supplanting Chan's Asian skills) and Momentum's summer release of Spy Next Door will capitalise on his continued status as arguably the world's most famous martial artist. The August 2 release will be supported by a two-pronged TV campaign, aimed first at the kids and taking in Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Nickelodeon, CiTV X Box and then also taking in mutual viewing programmes for parents and their offspring, on channels such as ITV, Channel 4, five, ITV2 and Sky and Sky Sports. There will also be a national outdoor poster campaign. Momentum's Clare Dundrow said: "We have a very strong above the line campaign, carefully targeting the right programming for our TV audience, we looked at the PCA for our theatrical campaign to see what online mechanics worked best and where, and looked at regional box office reports to see where Spy Next Door performed best versus best performing Tesco stores, then merged the two for our front of store poster campaign with Tesco. I'm confident its a strong campaign that will deliver results."

Somewhat predictably, the latest in the Twilight Saga, Eclipse, stormed to the top of the UK box office, taking almost £14 million in its first weekend. The other notable new entry was Predators, with the latest in the franchise taking more than £2 million. In the US, Universal's new franchise Despicable Me got off to a strong start taking more than $56 million in its opening weekend (we can't wait to see it).
Strangest remake news of the week concerns South Pacific. We always thought that not only was the film very much of its time, but also that it is pretty much as good as it gets, much less in need of a remake than some of the action bluster that is doing the rounds... But that is what's going to happen. Producers Bob Balaban and Ileen Maisel have picked up the rights to create a new version of the 1958 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, but will be giving it a suitably modern feel, complete with a tougher edge. It will be grounded in reality, but still contain the songs that made it so special. The duo are currently meeting scriptwriters to work on their vision of the film...

Aside from the reviews for Inception last week (and getting to see it too), best Christopher Nolan-related news of the week was Michael Caine, Alfred in the Batman films and a supporting player in Nolan's newest, letting slip that filming on the newest Dark Knight film will begin in April. The picture has not yet officially got the greenlight, but Warner has given it a provisional slot in the summer of 2012. Book your seats now...

Loads more comic book news floating around at the minute too – so take a deep breath while we precis the highlights. You should all know by now that Brit Andrew Garfield is going to play Spider-Man in the Sony reboot (damn, we were trying to make it through without saying that word); while Ed Norton will not be returning as the Hulk in the forthcoming Avengers movie, somewhat breaking the continuity plan of having all the characters from the Paramount titles in the Marvel universe reprising their roles for the ensemble release, his role instead will be taken by an unknown; while Nicholas Hoult (from oddbod in About A Boy to far cooler and less weird looking Skins and, better still, A Single Man) will play Best in the X-Men movie. Kevin Bacon is rumoured to be in talks to play the baddie – which sounds good enough to us.


This is interesting, from the Inception website, where you can put yourself, or anyone else, on the poster for the film... Ince

If you can wade through all the Mel Gibson stuff, there's loads about Inception up on Twitter, as the anticipation builds for the release...

We were bowling with retailers, Anchor Bay and Al Murray and Lee Mack over in Bayswater last night, to celebrate the company's strong Q4 slate. It came after a busy week that saw us at the Inception premiere and Toy Story 3 on Sunday morning. This afternoon, we're seeing what HMV has to offer for the coming months at the HMV Forum...
This will be familiar to those who've seen the original Grindhouse...

Documentary subjects are getting weirder, but this does look intriguing...
The fur looks outstanding...

We're still laughing at "you'd better check yourself..." This year's Hangover.
Ah My Goddess Series 2 Part 2 (Manga)
The Bells Go Down (Optimum)
Big Barn Farm (2entertain)
Bitter Springs (Optimum)
Blood River (Revolver)
Cash & Curry (4Digital Media)
Chloe (Optimum)
Cracking The Da Vinci Code (Revelation)
The Crazies (Momentum)
Dan Cruckshank’s Adventures in Architecture (2entertain)
Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men 2 (E1)
Desert Punk Box Set (MVM)
Dr Quinn Medicine Woman A Heart Within (Revelation)
Donnie Darko (Metrodome) (Blu-ray)
The Duke Wore Jeans (Optimum)
Early Summer (BFI)
Flash Gordon (Optimum) (Blu-ray)
Gantz Complete Collection (MVM)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Momentum)
The Good Life Series 3 (Acorn)
Handy Manny Fixing It Right (WDSHE)
Happy Ever Afters (Verve)
Harry Worth 30 Minutes’ Worth (Revelation)
Hideous Kinky (indi VISION)
The House Of Windsor A Royal Dynasty (E1)
How I Met Your Mother (Fox)
Hunting The Lost Symbol (Revelation)
Ideal Series 5 (2entertain)
Illuminating Angels & Demons (Revelation)
It’s All Happening (Optimum)
Jack Cardiff Cameraman (Optimum)
The Kevin Bishop Show Series 2 (2entertain)
Late Spring (BFI)
Lockie Leonard Series One (Revelation)
Maggie And The Ferocious Beast The Jelly Bean Express (Fremantle)
Mahoromatic – Something More Beautiful 2 (MVM)
Mister Maker Double Pack (2entertain)
Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang (Universal)
Naruto Shippuden The Movie (Manga)
National Geographic The Changing Ape (Fremantle)
National Geographic Great Apes (Fremantle)
National Geographic Ape Genius (Fremantle)
National Geographic Gorilla Murders Lost Gorillas Of Virunga (Fremantle)
NCIS Season 6 (Paramount)
Psychosis (Lionsgate)
The Ricky Gervais Show (Warner)
Sailors Three/Save A Little Sunshine (Optimum)
Samurai Zombie (MVM)
Staten Island (Warner)
Thirty Minutes Worth Series 1 (Revelation)
Tokyo Story (BFI)
The Tommy Steele Story (Optimum)
Tommy The Toreador (Optimum)
The Upper Hand Complete Third Series (Network)
Bluebeard (New Wave Films)
The Concert (Optimum)
Inception (Warner)
Mega Piranha (Metrodome)
Rapt (Artificial Eye)
Rough Aunties (ICA)
Toy Story 3 (out Monday)

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