It Was A Good Week For… Blockbuster has seen customers flocking back to its stores on the back of its 99p rental initiative. For the views of chief Gerry Butler, see our website early next week… 
It Was A Bad Week For… Best Buy, as consultation begins on shuttering its 11 stores…
Never have the meetings being held by a company entering the market been as keenly observed as those involving Netflix have, but that's just the case as discussions between the US giant, which recently confirmed its plans to come to these shores, and UK operators have been extensively reported over the past seven days. First there was the announcement that the company had penned a far-reaching deal with MGM that will, according to the official announcement, make Netflix the "exclusive subscription streaming service in the UK and Ireland for most first-run feature films from MGM". The multi-year deal will kick off as Netflix opens for business in the UK on 2012. Crucially, it will include both of Peter Jackson's films based on The  Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey and There And Back Again, which will be available via Netflix a year after their theatrical release. It also takes in MGM's vast catalogue, including West Side Story, The Usual Suspects and Fargo, among others. Commenting on the deal, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said: "We are delighted to be entering the UK and Ireland with a legendary studio like MGM at our side. And we are excited to be extending our relationship with MGM from the U.S. to these important markets and proud to be the exclusive home for their films in the traditional Pay TV window." This announcement was followed by a flurry of stories speculating as to the next names in the frame; these included ITV, Channel 4, Lionsgate and Momentum. As we said recently, watch this space for more…
It's been another busy week in the political arena, with a major announcement from the government and more anti-piracy action. The former saw the coalition confirming that the low value consignment relief VAT waiver, the "loophole" that saw retailers sending out, among other things, DVD and Blu-rays that cost less than £18 free of VAT from the Channel Islands, will be closed from April 1 2012. It is estimated that the loophole, used by most of the larger entertainment mail order companies, was costing £140 million a year in lost revenues. The government said it would level the playing field for smaller retailers. But trade organisation the Entertainment Retailers Association, believes that the VAT dodge could move further afield, and called on the government to abolish all VAT on DVDs and other "cultural goods". Director general Kim Bayley said: "We have always supported a level playing field for all retailers and recognise the concerns of smaller operators who have felt unable to compete with Channel Islands shipments. But the Government's latest proposals only partially address the issue. No one can blame those retailers who have invested in business operations in the Channel Islands. The law specifically allowed them to do so. Equally many independents believe the law has caused them damage. The problem now is that having lured many companies to the Channel Islands with this tax break, suddenly withdrawing it like this is bound to have consequences for both the operations of many Channel Islands based businesses as well as for Channel Island jobs." In a separate statement, HMV said it was still considering the implications of the announcement, but it did say: "We believe that the interests of all our customers, in what is an increasingly multi-channel world, are best served by all web-based retailers operating on a true level playing field. No single organisation should be able to gain a significant commercial advantage over its competitors by relocating its fulfilment facilities or digital operations to a non-EU territory.  We would encourage the appropriate authorities to take this key consideration into account when continuing with any review of government policy on this matter."
The other big news of the week from this sector came as a coalition of entertainment trade bodies and the likes called on British Telecom to block access to The Pirate Bay. BT said it was considering its response to a letter it had received from the BPI and others. The Pirate Bay is, of course, one of the leading sites for Bit Torrent information, enabling illegal downloads. Their move follows a judge's decision to force BT to block access to another pirate site, Newzbin2.   

The Christmas decorations are not even up yet (well, not in most people's homes, anyway) and already the industry is now turning itself in earnest towards 2012 and Q1 line ups. We've seen some of both the majors and independents' line-ups and will be bringing you some of the highlights over the next week or two. Let's start with Momentum, which has had (and is still enjoying) a record breaking 2011. Its 2012 slate is particularly varied, taking in almost every genre imaginable. It starts Q1 with Troll Hunter, one of the year's most talked about horror films which will come dressed in a rather fetching lenticular sleeve. "It's a great monster movie with great CGI," said the company's Adam Eldrett. "It's always had excellent word of mouth. We are supporting Troll Hunter with a full above the line marketing campaign." Elephant White is what the company rightly describes as a "high quality action movie" that blends the best of Asian cinema (it's from the man who directed seminal biffer Ong Bak) and Western action (it's from the producers of The Expendables and The Mechanic, among others) and will come with strong support for a DTV title. Momentum's Clare Dundrow said: "It will be packaged to premium quality in order to maximise shelf impact and to really hit home the quality pedigree behind it." Vanishing On Seventh Street is a post-apocalyptic thriller that is certain to benefit from TV support that boasts a commercial story and a clutch of recognisable faces, including Brit Thandie Newton, whose presence will help with the release in terms of PR. Justice Is the latest in the recent spate of revenge action thrillers (think Taken et al) with Nicolas Cage in the hot seat. Of course, Cage's track record as a home entertainment banker is impeccable and the presence of January Jones and Guy Pearce are also big names. It will be supported by heavyweight above the line activity, including TV. TV titles come in the shape of the latest new outing from ongoing franchise CSI (the seventh season of the NY branch) and, at the opposite end of the scale, the fifth series of Doc Martin, released for Mother's Day, which ranks alongside Downton Abbey in terms of viewing figures. Beyond that, and looking into Q2 and further, there's a slate that includes the latest action outing from Steven Soderbergh, Haywire; the much-talked and awards-friendly Shame; Daniel Radcliffe's spooky post-Potter tale The Woman In Black and the next Scandinoir phenomenon from "the next Stieg Larsson" Jo Nesbo, Headhunters (although this one does appear to have the clout to back up its claims). "We're really excited about 2012," said the company's Louisa Mitchell. "We've got a really exciting mix of product." 
Ahead of Christmas and Q1, however, expect to see The King's Speech rear its head again before the year is out. Momentum has put together a campaign for the gifting market for The King's Speech to highlight it once again to consumers and further sales to the awards-friendly blockbuster British film. This will include specially created TV spots and press ads for the film… "2011 certainly was 'the year of The King's Speech'. Its phenomenal success and appeal to all ages and demographics really does make the film the perfect gift for Christmas. Our Q4 push will include TV spots on ITV including XFactor and I'm A Celebrity, gift guide press ads and a dedicated PR re-heat." Chalet Girl will be heated up for the winter and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will also be pushed thanks to the interest in the US remake.  
To California, where savvy acquisitions executives have fled the oncoming British winter and headed to the AFM. The big market event was expected to be a bit quiet this year, according to our man on the spot, following on from a busy Cannes and was viewed more as a "contractual obligation". However, things have been a bit different from what you might have expected. "It was surprising that several of the UK distributors announced multiple acquisitions and that a few were locked in frenzied bidding wars for some of the hotter titles, one of which was, wait for it, a zombie film." One of the biggest topics for debate was the proposed move away from Santa Monica to downtown LA, with many signing a petition to stay in what has been its home for some 25 years. 

Among the announcements we've received thus far from AFM, are a clutch of acquisitions from High Fliers. It has inked deals for action thriller Brake, starring Stephen Dorff and Tom Berenger; suspense thriller Elevator and powerful drama Memorial Day, starring James Cromwell. Commenting on the deals, High Fliers' May Monteiro said: " We are pleased to announce these latest fantastic additions to the High Fliers stable. Our 2012 slate is further strengthened by [these] and we are looking forward to bringing them to the UK market next year."
One of the more intriguing announcements of the week came not from thousands of miles away, but was instead far closer to home. Lionsgate's UK arm announced that it is venturing into feature film comedy with the production of Keith Lemon: The Film, which takes the exploits of Leigh Francis' latest comedy creation onto the big screen. The deal was borne out of the success of Lionsgate's 2010 DVD release Keith Lemon's Fit, the fitness parody that sold more than 100,000 units. Lemon has become a huge hit thanks to his Celebrity Juice series, but it's great to see a feature coming out of a home entertainment release in this way. Lionsgate ceo Zygi Kamasa said: " Keith Lemon is someone that everyone in the UK wants to be or wants to be with. Given his universal appeal and electric popularity with the ladies, making this film will prove to be an absolute rollercoaster of a ride for us, exposing Keith’s natural talent – something he is very used to doing both on and off screen." Lemon himself added: "It's a privilege to have the power of sight, hearing, touching and feeling. But to make a film which I am going to be able to see myself in, hear myself in, but unfortunately not touch or feel myself in (because it's not in 3d) is even more'rer'rer of privilege. Especially since it's based on true life events that have happened in my true life, apart from of course 98.2 per cent of it which has been made up simply for entertainment purposes.”
Also on the acquisitions trail, Metrodome has announced that it has picked up the UK and Eire rights for Wu Xia, the groundbreaking martial arts film from Peter Chen, who helmed previous genre hit for the company, The Warlords. Metrodome's Jezz Vernon said: "Wu Xia is that rarest kind of film that re-invents a genre – a ground breaking martial arts epic that challenges all preconceptions, it’s amazing cinema." Metrodome has also announced that it has picked up the DVD rights for Brit horror comedy Kill Keith starring, Keith Chegwin and including cameos from the likes of Tony Blackburn and Joe Pasquale. The film premiered this week ahead of its theatrical bow and will arrive in stores next year. Chegwin himself has been carrying out interviews this week too, with publications banking them for the DVD release.  

Our correspondent Alex Kidd was at the premiere, among other events, this week. His thoughts on this and other films he's seen this week will be going on our website early next week. This week, we've been going Inbetweeners potty, with loads up about the forthcoming Inbetweeners Movie, as well as trailers, features and a whole lot more. Over the weekend we've got a fascinating interview with Blockbuster's Gerry Butler too…
Keith Lemon, of course, came to prominence via Celebrity Juice and the series is due to arrive on DVD courtesy of 2 entertain for the first time in Celebrity Juice Too Juicy For TV, which has the best, as well as unseen footage, from the first three series. Marketing for the release will include TV and vod spots, as well as London underground spots. 2 entertain product manager Katie Waters said: "With the growing popularity of Celebrity Juice and the fantastic support we have had from Leigh Francis and the Celebrity Juice team in driving pre-awareness of the DVD via social media, we are certain that this release, with a whole host of unseen footage deemed 'Too Juicy For TV’, will prove a huge hit among fans."
Recruitment news now and there was a major announcement from 2 entertain and its BBC Worldwide parent this week. Fiona Eastwood as marketing director at BBC Worldwide's Consumers Products division, with her role including overseeing marketing at 2 entertain as well as other arms. She will also be responsible for key brands such as Doctor Who, Top Gear, Frozen Planet and others. She had previously been at Worldwide's Brands, Consumer and New ventures division. Consumer Products md and 2 entertain ceo Paul Dempsey said: "Building a closer relationship with our fans is a big priority for us, Fiona brings with her a wealth of experience to drive this part of our strategy and we’re delighted to welcome someone as highly regarded to our senior team." Eastwood added: "The Consumer Products division boasts a fantastic portfolio of brands and talent, which I can’t wait to begin work on. The cornerstone of our strategy going forward is to put the consumer at the heart of everything we do, further deepening their enjoyment and engagement with these amazing franchises. It’s great to be joining the division at this very exciting stage of growth."
Talking of 2 entertain, last night saw the new series of popular series Rev begin its run on BBC2. The series became a bona fide phenomenon, winning over a big audience, as well as critics and BAFTA voters on sheer quality alone. 2 entertain has timed the release of the first series on DVD and via iTunes to tie in with transmission, supported by solus press advertising and activity as part of 2 entertain's outdoor campaign taking in underground and national rail posters and digital escalator panels on the tube. Product manager Caroline Fleming said: "With other fantastic British comedies such as Gavin and Stacey and Outnumbered proving such a success for us, and with the TX platform of the second series already showing fantastic results we have high expectations for Rev Series 1 on DVD and iTunes." 

To swish nightclub Merah in the heart of London's West End, for a major event to launch the release next week of Universal's hit comedy Bridesmaids. The title is due on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday and the event, held in conjunction with partners at OK Magazine had a decidedly more female friendly feel than the average event of this kind, with celebrities such as stars from Emmerdale, former members of Atomic Kitten turned TV presenters and assorted WAGs out in force. Having said that this was more akin to a film premiere than any DVD launch in terms of scale and size. The event garnered plenty of coverage (see a sample here) and forms part of a PR and marketing campaign that will include cinema advertising alongside the new Twilight film, an outdoor campaign that ranges from billboard ads to digital escalator ads, TV including Saturday night's X-Factor and press advertising and promotional activity. Keep an eye on PR over the weekend that will take in a live window at Debenham's in Westfield, and, over the weekend, exclusive Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton (as a bridesmaid) pictures appearing in the national press, flagging the release (and her standing as the ultimate bridesmaid). Universal senior product manager Grace O' Donnell said: “We’re really excited about our Bridesmiads release.  Given the strength of the £23m box office, huge viral buzz and quality of reviews to date; plus the reception we’ve had from media, retail and fans we have very high hopes for our week one result, and sales through to Christmas. It’s the perfect gift for any lady this Christmas.”   
Officials from anti-piracy organisation the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and trade body the Film Distributors Association (FDA) were doling out some £7,000 worth of cash this week to eagle-eyed cinema staffers who'd done their bit in the war against piracy. Eleven cinema employees were given the rewards for their efforts in spotting customers illegally filming which led to arrests and cautions, they took in both multiplexes and independent cinemas, with one leading to a landmark first conviction for camcording offences. FACT director general Kieron Sharp said: "These rewards prove the ongoing commitment from everyone working in the film sector to combat piracy. A recording captured in a cinema is the primary source for illicit online files and pirate DVDs and cinema staff are on the front line of the fight; continuing to prevent such recordings in the UK. I am delighted to be able to acknowledge and reward their achievements."
LOVEFiLM has released its first Android app, allowing its members to manage their rental lists as well as access film information. It's available to download for free here.
More recruitment news now and another appointment at eOne, which has taken on Stephanie Don as product manager at the company. She boasts experience at Paramount in the UK and Roadshow Entertainment in New Zealand. eOne's head of sales and marketing Matt Brightwell said: "Steph brings to the role a fantastic Home Entertainment background and has an impressive resume of successful titles. eOne continues to evolve, and 2012 sees significant growth in our theatrical and DTV slate. I am pleased to add Steph’s experience and ability to the team." She added: "I’m very excited to join such a growing and respected company as eOne, and look forward to working on the brilliant slate of titles that we have coming up here over the next year."

Last week we looked at some impressive figures from the US for Q3 and it was with great interest that we pored over an announcement from Fox's home entertainment arm that predicts a similarly strong quarter for the Christmas season on this side of the Atlantic. Fox has boldly predicted that seasonal sales will help deliver the first full year's rise in home entertainment spending across the continent since 2004. Blu-ray was up 42 per cent across Europe in unit terms in the third quarter. The UK and Germany re leading the way in Blu-ray terms, said Fox, with 10 million units sold so far this year. Germany itself has already seen overall sales rise by two per cent. Fox's titles, such as Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray, X-Men: First Class and the forthcoming Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes have helped, the latter is expected to sell half of all its international units on Blu-ray. Senior vp for international marketing for Fox, Vincent Marcais, said: "This Christmas is a turning point for home entertainment. Alongside a strong line-up of titles, the technology is in place to meet expectations that half of buyers will opt for the premium version of our films, enjoying Blu-ray quality at home, with the freedom to enjoy digital versions on their tablets and smart phones when on the go."
It came as a number of new pieces of research came out, offering some more sobering reading. Verdict Research's Global Home Entertainment report suggested that growth is being hampered by piracy, free streaming, casual games and more has intrinsically changed the value consumers give to physical products. Analyst Carly Syme said: "Society’s views on piracy remain fairly relaxed and people will talk openly about downloading or streaming products without any worries of it being against the law. Even with the prospect of Internet Service Providers being made liable for illegal downloads, piracy seems set to remain a major negative factor for the entertainment sector. Increasing internet usage, faster access speeds and a proliferation of P2P file sharing networks also means illegal downloading and streaming is relatively easy. The weak economic climate has only added to the problem, making it more difficult to tempt people away from piracy towards legitimate services." Also in the news this week: research suggested that two thirds of consumers in the UK didn't want to be bothered by big name brands on Twitter and Facebook. For more, see our Twitter and Facebook pages… 
"They opened at the worst possible time with the market in quite a steep decline and with consumers not buying in the way they had the previous decade. They are differentiated on service. If you go into one of their stores, the service is good and better than what you traditionally got in Currys and Comet. But they did not communicate their point of difference well enough." Retail analyst Neil Saunders on Best Buy's plans to close its UK stores, all of which had DVD and Blu-ray departments…
The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn continued atop the UK box office, it has now taken more than £10 million at UK cinemas. New entries included In Time, which took almost £1.9 million, Tower Heist, behind it at number three with £1.45 million, and Machine Gun Preacher with £331,578.
Perhaps the most interesting story of the week concerns Peccadillo's Weekend. The LFF hit was bettered only in its per screen average by the aforementioned Tintin. The company's Tom Abell said: "Peccadillo Pictures is overjoyed by the overwhelming success of Weekend by Andrew Haigh. We had expected the film to do well despite the usual struggle of getting what are conceived as being small independent films into cinemas, so to get virtually full houses everywhere is a huge success. The fact that our screen average was second only to Tin Tin shows that there is a hungry audience for good quality British cinema that reflects on realistic portrayals of lives that are typically portrayed in mainstream by cliché and stereotype. The DVD and Blu-ray are already ranking high on Amazon despite the home entertainment release being four months away on March 5. Weekend will be one of the major independent home entertainment releases of 2012."
We've long been big fans of world cinema and music operation Mr Bongo, a Brighton-based label that offers up a wilfully eclectic range of titles in its catalogue. And the operation has just launched a new website,, showing off its wares as well as having a mail order offering. It has been put together following exhaustive research among both developers and consumers. The label's founder and md David Buttle said: "For a long time now, we have wanted better communication with our customers, and to be able to offer them world exclusives and interesting products from a secure and inspiring web site. We chose to work with Hatched London, who in our opinion are one of the finest creative companies in the UK, to design the site and develop a rich, intuitive user experience. We have found that the website instantly engages visitors and provides an efficient, easy to use experience with accurate, popular recommendations."

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New trailer for Arthur Christmas, which is posting some really strong UK notices ahead of opening this weekend over here…
More grown-up children's fare, with horror in a Coraline style…
What's Thor doing in a fairytale? This, however, looks excellent… 
The Rock takes on the Doug McClure-style role… And that's a good thing… 
Due from Momentum in 2012, this is the latest blend of Soderbergh credibility and straight up action… 
Should be required viewing for everyone in our industry

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