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It Was A Good Week For... Disney, number one at the box office and in the physical charts, with Captain America due to open too…
It Was A Bad Week For… Farewell to the eOne sales team…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars franchise looked, if not dead and buried then at least mortally wounded. But the huge week one success of The Force Awakens, the film that not only revived the franchise but also launched a thousand “the force is strong in this one” headlines and puns, has set the seal on a mighty comeback. The figures, as outlined first here last week and then confirmed after its remarkable first seven days, reaffirmed the public’s love affair with physical media too – as we noted on Twitter, “stick that up your ‘nobody buys DVDs any more’.” So let’s recap the figures after that all-important week one: the total was, according to trade organisation BASE, 1,247,662 unit across DVD and Blu-ray combined, worth just under £15 million at retail. What’s more, it’s Blu-ray total was a healthy 531,949 units, making it the fastest selling high definition disc of all time, overtaking the previous record holder, Skyfall. It’s the fastest selling release this year, overtaking another Bond release, Spectre, and the fastest selling Star Wars film ever, overtaking The Phantom Menace, which, like the other prequels, was released at the height of the DVD boom. It gave a huge boost to the market – up 51 per cent in volume and almost 82 per cent in value. It sets the seal on a strong start to the year – the top 10 titles in Q1 drove a 35 per cent increase in volume and 22 per cent increase in value compared with 2015. Blu-ray new release volume figures are up more than 17 per cent year on year. 
Reaction to the result came from across the industry: BASE chief executive Liz Bales said: “The results from individual titles in Q1 and particularly from Star Wars – The Force Awakens last week, shows the absolute consumer desire to own content and illustrates how working hand-in-hand with retailers, the industry can capture imagination and create event-style engagement with consumers.  The huge leap in Blu-ray consumption shows that consumers absolutely value the content and are willing to pay a premium price for the best quality viewing experience at home.” HMV’s head of film and TV Rudy Osorio, also ERA joint chairman, added: “We're delighted with our performance of Star Wars this week across both home entertainment and merchandise. A success driven by our in-store theatre and P.O.S. collaboration with Disney and the passion and dedication of our store colleagues, many of which dressed for the occasion for photo ops with customers. “It's great for the industry to have such a major footfall driving event and it serves as evidence that great movies can still create great consumer excitement and the desire to own physically.” And we’ll peace the final word to Disney, whose commercial director Dean Pappadakis said: “We’re overwhelmed by the week one performance of Star Wars – The Force Awakens across all its formats. It’s one of the most enduring franchises and set to become one of the best-selling titles ever as fans old and new enjoy adding it to their DVD and Blu-ray collections, ready to watch it again and again.” We've got more reaction and a closer look going up on our website shortly…
The success of Star Wars The Force Awakens has continued into its second week on release, acceding to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin. With sales of more than 136,000 in the first few days of its second week, again, outselling a proportion of the rest of the charts – its sales topped that of the rest of the top 50 combined. It was ahead of new entries Sisters at number two and Joy at number three. Behind these was an impressive first showing for another new release IP Man 3 at number four, the box set featuring all three films in the series also makes its way into the lower reaches of the top 20. Krampus, another Universal title, is new at number six and there’s another new entry for an independent, as Signature’s Exposed is in at eight. The seventh new entry in the top 10 is the latest series of Homeland at number 10, giving Fox, like Universal, two new entries at the top end of the charts. Elsewhere, Ant-Man, Avengers Age Of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy all return to the top 30 on the back of Disney’s drafting coinciding with the theatrical release of the latest Marvel outing, Captain America Civil War. 

Back to a few chart success stories worth marking. First up and worthy of note is IP Man 3. It’s a title we’ve already covered, both after its theatrical release and last week ahead of its home entertainment bow. And it’s landed at number four in the midweeks, making it one of the best-performing martial arts titles for some time. Commenting on its strong early showing, Kaleidoscope’s Spencer Pollard said: “We’re over the moon with the early performance of IP Man 3, which if you add the boxset sales of IP Man 1-3, it’s the highest new entry into the charts this week. For an Asian cinema release, albeit one with an excellent fanbase and a box office of over £250,000, it’s testament to our sales and marketing teams and our partners that we’ve achieved such a strong result. The boxset sales are especially pleasing as it means new fans are enjoying the IP Man brand and long may that continue. We can only thank our retail partners – across grocers, high street and online for such an excellent result and we’re excited about the campaign opportunities upcoming. The film has done fantastically well digitally also, charting high and delivering some of our most impressive vod and ppv numbers recently too.“
And a few places below that is another impressive performance from Signature, no stranger to the top 10, with Exposed, featuring another figure who has also been a familiar face in the upper echelons of the chart, Keanu Reeves. Commenting on its success, Signature’s Emilie Barra said: “We are thrilled with the Exposed sales so far this week which prove that Keanu Reeves is a force to be reckoned with and has huge appeal for the key home entertainment consumers. We would like to thank our customers for their great support which is a huge part of the success of Exposed so far this week.”
And one from last week, as Bulldog Film enjoyed one of its biggest successes thus far, as strong word of mouth and a raft of good reviews helped The Survivalist to the second highest new entry in the Official Charts after The Force Awakens. Commenting on its success, Bulldog Film’s Philip Hoile said: “We’re really pleased with first week sales of The Survivalist across physical and digital environments. We hoped we’d set the release up well with the theatrical campaign, the awards buzz and the wealth of positive publicity achieved by Organic and Limelight Communications – including great reviews and promotion from champions like Mark Kermode. We had strong physical distribution and digital store presence (with great work from our partners at Spirit and The Movie Partnership) and targeted media supporting all outlets, but it is still a challenging film in a tough market so we’re delighted with the numbers that have been achieved so far. Hopefully we can find similar successes over the next few months with releases including thriller Misconduct starring Josh Duhamel, Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins, and powerful and edgy drama The Violators, the debut film from best-selling novelist Helen Walsh.”

We promised last week that we’d have more on the BASE Awards nominations, particularly looking for comment from some of those garnering the most nods for the event, due to take place on June 9 at Tobacco Dock. We’ve got the full list of nominees on our website, but here’s some word from Universal md Ian Foster after the studio scored eight nominations, he said: “We are thrilled with the eleven nominations Universal received for this year’s BASE Awards. 2015 was a stellar year for Universal and the number of nominations is a testament to our innovative approach to bringing a diverse slate to market. We look forward to celebrating the strength of the category with our industry colleagues on June 9.” 
Elsewhere, Studiocanal, like its contemporaries at Universal, had a cracking year too, setting the seal in its recent strong performance across theatrical and home entertainment with four nominations. Commenting on its success, Studiocanal’s John Rodden said: “We’re delighted to be shortlisted in 4 categories at this year’s BASE Awards.  The nominations are reflective of Studiocanal’s ongoing commitment to big budget UK productions like Paddington and Legend as well as quality kids’ franchises with Bing! and the curation of one of the most vital and expansive back catalogues through our successful Vintage Classics brand. Thanks to the marketing, digital and servicing teams alongside the entire team at Elevation for all their hard work and dedication.”
To The Driver in north London, where assorted industry types bade a fond farewell to one of the finest sales teams in the business, the fine folk at eOne. As reported here, the company is putting its sales and distribution through Fox as part of a worldwide deal, with the team proving to be the unfortunate victims of the pact. Of course, this being eOne under the leadership of sales director Neil Williams, the farewell party went with a bang – it was still busy when we left after the witching hour. If anyone in the business is looking for any sales staffers, you could do no worse than look at any of the team who are currently now seeking new positions within the industry. In a moving speech (complete with heckles and gags aplenty from Williams and his cohorts), eOne home entertainment chief Ken McMahon paid tribute to their work. He said: “I’ve worked with these folks for a long time – ranging from three to 14 years – we’ve been through a lot of changes and have weathered many storms together. Good times include, at Momentum, Lost In Translation, Control, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and The King’s Speech. At eOne, we made some great new fiends and colleagues, completed the perfect sales team and worked on some incredible films from Twilight to 12 Years A Slave to Mr Turner. I can honestly say, pound for pound, we’ve had the best sales team in the industry working at eOne. Our competitors have acknowledged this. Sometimes unpredictable, maverick at times, always passionate, dedicated but above all, principled and fiercely loyal. Their relationships with our customers, many of whom are here tonight, are special and unique, this has helped us secure deals others might not have enjoyed. On many occasions, competitors have called me to compliment our impressive execution and week one box office conversion rates. This sales team is also very tight, there have been monumental fall outs, make-ups, break-ups, laughter and tears – never a dull moment. I’d just like to say how utterly sad I am to day goodbye to a very talented bunch of individuals. I hope you all move on to new and exciting ventures and get whatever you wish for. Thank you, it’s been a pleasure and I’ truly grateful to have worked with you all.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves and wish the team all the best in the future.

Deal news of the week, of course, is the widely reported agreement which saw Universal buying DreamWorks Animation in a deal worth $3.8 billion deal. It covers the entire DreamWorks catalogue and properties and, with alongside Universal’s ever-growing Illumination animation stable, home to the likes of Despicable Me, helps create a true animation powerhouse. Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will be on board as a consultant. NBC Universal ceo Steve Burke said: “DreamWorks Animation is a great addition to NBCUniversal. Jeffrey Katzenberg and the DreamWorks organisation have created a dynamic film brand and a deep library of intellectual property.  DreamWorks will help us grow our film, television, theme parks and consumer products businesses for years to come. We have enjoyed extraordinary success over the last six years in animation with the emergence of Illumination Entertainment and its brilliant team at Illumination Mac Guff studio. The prospects for our future together are tremendous. We are fortunate to have Illumination founder Chris Meledandri to help guide the growth of the DreamWorks Animation business in the future." Katzenberg added: “Having spent the past two decades working together with our team to build DreamWorks Animation into one of the world’s most beloved brands, I am proud to say that NBCUniversal is the perfect home for our company; a home that will embrace the legacy of our storytelling and grow our businesses to their fullest potential.”
This week was World IP Day and PIPCU, the specialist City Of London intellectual property and anti-piracy task force has marked the event with a trip to China alongside staff from the UK Intellectual Property Office to discuss IP crime with officials from the Chinese government and other agencies and businesses. As well as outlining methods of fighting IP crime and piracy, he will be talking about working closely with authorities and agencies in other countries. DCI Peter Ratcliffe said: “This is a landmark visit for PIPCU, as China and the Asia-Pacific region trade huge amount of goods to Europe and the UK. This visit will help us to exchange intellectual property expertise, strengthen relationships with our Chinese counterparts and increase PIPCU’s capability in tackling and disrupting those looking to sell fake goods in the UK. “World IP day reminds us that this is a global issue and our visits to Asia demonstrate the growing global reputation of PIPCU as a world leader in the fight against IP crime. Extending our global reach connects us to colleagues across the world and provides us with international capability to disrupt IP crime at the earliest opportunity.”
The IPO representative, Dr Ros Lynch, helped ink a deal with international copyright holders and Chinese search engine Baidu. The memorandum of understanding will see copyright holders and Baidu work together to tackle online piracy, which should help reduce IP crime in the territory. Dr Lynch said: “Our work is fundamentally underpinned by industry engagement. In the UK, we recognise that government and legislation can only reach so far. It is important that rights holders and Internet platforms work together to help protect IP. The benefits of an efficient and fair global IP system are huge, for both the UK and China. This MOU today represents a great step towards this, creating a collaboration which will lead to faster and streamlined approaches to tackling a global problem.”
Meanwhile, the government’s IP expert, Baroness Neville-Rolfe marked the event at an Intellectual Property Awareness Network event, and further underlined the current work in this arena. She said: “As Minister for Intellectual Property (IP), I am aware of the symbiotic relationship between digital and IP. The creative sector must be able to protect and benefit from intellectual property. And the United Kingdom currently has a good story to tell. We’re placed 1st for enforcement and second overall on the Global Intellectual Property Centre Index. But if we want to secure our future as a nation of innovators, we need to make sure that our IP framework is fit for purpose in the digital age. The UK is playing a vital role in shaping the European Digital Single Market.  It will enable the greater portability of digital content across European borders. Most people see no reason why they should not be able to access their iPlayer or Netflix accounts when they are away. I agree with this.”
Elsewhere, a 22-year-old Nottingham man has been bailed at the magistrates’ court in the city facing charges f running an umbrella website giving illegal downloaders access to dodgy torrent websites. Callum Haywood faces seven charges in all and will appear again on May 19 for pleas and a case management hearing. 

The WWE has been in the UK, spending a week on these shores, with two key dates at London’s O2 arena, one for each of the two main strands of the WWE universe, Raw and Smackdown, as well as others around the UK. It’s now an annual fixture on the calendar, with the grapplers flying to these shores after the biggest show on the WWE calendar, Wrestlemania. The shows proved just how big the WWE still is, how the brand overall is developing and where it’s at – sell-out crowds, the vast venue packed to the rafters with devotees, both new fans and older supporters too. As our on-the-spot correspondent noted: “It was a great crowd and a great night, there was a real buzz particularly for Kalisto. And some super-funny chants and signs too, stand out was 'Why is your hair so wet?' when Kane was in the ring.” Needless to say, Fremantle timed its activity around the release and used the tour to market its titles to wrestling aficionados, with one release on April 25 as the tour wrapped up (Fastlane 2016), and all roads leading to Fremantle’s June release of this year’s Wrestlemania event. The company’s Ken Law said: “WWE is a great brand as it sells all year round but we do see two distinct sales peaks during Q2 and Q4 when the two Live Tours land in the UK. The April tour coincides perfectly with our run in to the biggest release of the year, WrestleMania, in June. The November tour does the same for the run up to Christmas. We carefully target campaigns and promotions around these period and focus our key releases, advertising, PR and social media on these major seasonal events. Christmas comes twice a year with the WWE.”
Sticking with sporting releases and after its recent successes with themed sports titles given a limited theatrical release ahead of a full home entertainment bow, usually timed through Fathers’ Day, eOne has again earmarked this year’s day for a special release. Bobby is a documentary charting the England legend’s life and career and, of course, his greatest success, lifting the World Cup 50 years ago. Here’s eOne’s Tim Westbey on some of the company’s plans: “We’re proud to be releasing Bobby to celebrate the 50th anniversary of England’s 1966 World Cup win. Producer and renowned sports broadcaster Matt Lorenzo has pulled together a compelling film revealing the triumph and tragedy behind one of sport’s greatest ever heroes and some incredible unseen footage from the golden era of English football. The release on May 30 is perfectly timed for when the media interest, hype and the public’s sporting conversation surrounding the  England team and the 50th anniversary will be at its peak two weeks ahead of Euro 2016, and three weeks prior to Father’s Day to maximise the gifting opportunity. The DVD launch will be preceded by a gala screening at Wembley Stadium – the first time a film will play on the big screen on the hallowed turf – and be supported by a comprehensive media and publicity campaign with support from the 1966 players.” We’ve already had the trailer here, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look, it’ll bring a tear to your eye…
And still with eOne, and its long-running TV franchise, one that was way ahead of its time in popularising the concept of TV boxsets, is reaching the end of the line, as the company’s Jeff Suter explained: We’re delighted to be releasing CSI Season 15 this week – which sees Ted Danson and his crew close the casebook on one of the most successful TV crime series of all time. CSI is a ground-breaking series that changed the format of crime shows and spawned a number of spinoffs set in Miami and New York as well inspiring the next generation of crime dramas such as Criminal Minds and Silent Witness. More recently it has turned its attention to cyberspace with CSI Cyber, which releases on DVD in June following its successful TV run on Channel 5. This week all the attention is on CSI Season 15 though with activity targeted to fans of the show via an extensive PR campaign and marketing to our database, which will also set help us set up the release of CSI: The Finale next month, a special 2 hour long episode that sees many cast favourites from previous season re-united for their most challenging case to date.

Newer TV on its way to market comes in the shape of The Shannara Chronicles, which has just ended its first series on Channel Five’s 5star label ahead of Studiocanal’s planned June release. As the company’s Will Attard outlined: “We’re looking forward to bringing the brand new fantasy TV series The Shannara Chronicles to the market place. The show has great endorsement from its adaptation from Terry Brooks’ 26 million best-selling book series, and means we have the perfect fan base to target with our release. Season One concluded on 5Star Thursday just gone with consistently strong viewing figures throughout the series. The recent commissioning of a second season again emphasises the strength of the franchise. Our release date on June 6th ties in perfectly to London Comic-Con, where we will have live talent Q&As and cast signings, serving as the perfect platform to announce our release to the core audience.”
More forthcoming release news and 101 Films is gearing up for its biggest release ever, I Am Wrath, a tough revenge thriller starring, among others, John Travolta. Commenting on the release, the company’s Steve Davey said: “101 Films continues to invest in bigger and better releases as part of its ongoing plans for growth. I Am Wrath is our most commercial film and our largest investment yet and we are thrilled to be releasing a fantastic movie with a great cast lead by John Travolta, fresh from starring in The People Vs OJ. Physical and digital retailers have reacted positively to the movie and our retail and marketing set up is our best yet.  We are looking forward to a fantastic retail week on May 16.”
Meanwhile, Screenbound is preparing for a big release due on May 8, Three Days IN Auschwitz, which pairs film director Philippe Mora and musician Eric Clapton. The former is at the helm for a highly personal documentary looking at his family’s experiences during the Holocaust, tracing survivors’ stories and, finally, making a trip to the Nazi concentration camp. His pal Clapton provides the score. Commenting on the release, Screenbound’s Alan Byron said: ““It’s been an honour to work with both Philippe Mora and Eric Clapton on this release and it has played several festivals around the world culminating in the Jewish Jerusalem Film Festival in December this year. On the back of this, international TV sales have been very promising.”
The soft launch of 4K Ultra HD continues to slowly grow, with this week Sony Pictures Home Entertainment throwing its hat in the ring: SPHE will be releasing its first batch of the ultra high definition discs on May 23, with titles including Salt, Hancock, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Pineapple Express and The Smurfs 2. in a statement it added: “Sony Pictures has an extensive library of 4K content, including newer films and television shows, as well as classic catalogue films restored from original formats.” is definitely on the button: the streaming service has this week announced that a special Wuaki button on the remote control for Hisense smart TV models for this year, giving users direct access to its service. Hisense is the third biggest manufacturer in the global market, the second in 4K terms, making it something of a coup for the service, with its button sitting alongside those of Youtube and Netflix. It will be working on special promotions with Hisense throughout the year. Commenting on the news,’s Jacinto Roca said: ““This agreement positions as a pioneer in 4K content propositions in Europe and also presents a very unique user experience to Hisense Smart TV users.” Hisense’s Hanson Han added: “"This partnership is a new step to position Hisense ahead competition in European countries. It will allow us to provide a multitude of 4K contents to Hisense UHD TV owners and bring our Smart TV in a new era.”
The BFI Player continues to grow and this weekend sees the fruits of a smart initiative, that sees the organisation furthering its preservation and heritage work at the same time as highlighting its vod offering. After a public vote to decide on one of three films, early Peter Sellers movie Mr Topaze has been fully digitised and, for the bank holiday weekend, is being made free via the BFI Player. The “lost” film headlines a new section on the service called Forgotten Features, which can be seen here. Commenting on the initiative, BFI senior curator Jo Botting, said: :“We’re privileged to look after the world’s richest film and television archive, and as a curator I’m passionate about making the treasures in the BFI’s care available for audiences right across the UK to enjoy, just as their makers – like the great Peter Sellers – intended. There is a huge appetite for British films and the thrilling thing about BFI Player is that it enables us to make fantastic and important films like Mr Topaze available to audiences everywhere. These films are not only entertaining but also give us unrivalled insight into the development of some of Britain’s biggest stars, so it’s hugely rewarding to share this opportunity to enjoy Mr Topaze over the bank holiday weekend.”
And so, congratulations are in order for Lionsgate’s Marie-Claire Benson, who, as we noted last week, spent last Sunday pounding the pavements of the capital taking part in the London marathon. And despite being plagued with injuries, looking after twins AND keeping busy with her role was commercial and marketing director at the company, MC managed to finish the course in a very respectable four hours and 25 minutes. What’s more, she also managed to raise more than £3,000 for her chosen charity, Beating Bowel Cancer. She said: “ "I'm delighted to have raised so much money for my chosen charity. The marathon was an incredible experience and well worth the months of training. I'm quite enjoying putting my feet up at any given opportunity now.” You can still help swell the coffers further by clicking here and donating. We’re sure you’ll join us in congratulating her on her efforts…

"We're delighted to partner with Steam, a leader in the digital entertainment and gaming space, as part of our commitment to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in delivering content to online audiences around the world. With over 125 million users, Steam represents a unique, exciting and disruptive opportunity to expand our global distribution business."
Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television & Digital Distribution Jim Packer on the company’s deal with digital game distribution platform Steam. The deal for UK customers offers less choice than other territories, but it is expected to grow…
And as the Marvel bandwagon rode into town, complete with a near-full complement of the cast from Captain America: Civil War, some were lucky enough to attend the premiere, but we at The Raygun were lucky enough to see Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and the rest of the team, riffing their way through a lively and very funny press conference. Oh, and the film is one of Marvel’s best yet, and you don’t need us to tell you how well it’s going to do…
With hugely impressive word of mouth – we’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked us if we’ve seen it yet, raving about it – The Jungle Book continues its gold at the top of the UK box office charts, having now amassed £21.7 million after two weekends, although Captain America Civil War is sure to give it a run for its money when it opens this weekend. New entries in the top 10 included Bastille Day (£762,598), Friend Request (£624, 996) and Miles Ahead (£168,397), as well as event cinema title Shakespeare Live From The RSC (£250.893). 
After his appearance in the second series of Daredevill on Netflix, the svod service has this week confirmed that The Punisher will get his own standalone outing. It will see Jn Bernthal reprise his role as Frank Castle, the vigilante killer you don’t mess with… Netflix is also collaborating with the BBC on a new version of Watership Down, the U-rated film still drawing howls of protest to the BBFC and TV companies whenever it airs…
Unlikely superhero casting announcements come from Wolverine, the Hugh Jackman-starring X-Men spin-off. His next adventure will star, among others, TV funnyman Stephen Merchant as well as Richard E Grant, the latter playing a mad scientist…
Unlikely comedy announcement of the week will see Will Ferrell playing Ronald Reagan during the former actor’s second term as US president, when the dementia had started to kick in. We suppose if anyone can turn Alzheimer’s into laughs, then Ferrell is as good as it gets…
Great 70s pastiche from Warner in the US (Icon has the UK release)…
Ace Batman graphic novel is now an animated feature…
The final X-Men Apocalypse trailer…
After Citizenfour, another Snowden outing, called, er, Snowden…
In classic Tv to film style, they’re off to sunnier climes…
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