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It Was A Good Week For... Universal. Again…
It Was A Bad Week For… Those VPN companies reckon they can get round any restrictions that Netflix puts on its different territories…
Universal’s dominance of the charts continues apace, as the studio looks set to notch up another number one, following hot on the heels of its big January 11 release Straight Outta Compton. For, according to the Official Charts Company’s midweek bulletin, the company is in contention with itself, as this week’s biggie from the major, looks set to depose the rap biopic at the top of the charts come Sunday January 24. The mountaineering tale, which is also available in a 3D Blu-ray SKU in addition to more traditional versions, had shifted some 43,000 units in its first few days in the shelves, enough to dislodge Ice Cub, Dre and co. There’s movement in the fitness world too, as 
Meanwhile, showing strongly in its first few days on sale is a title from another company which enjoyed a strong showing last year and has begun 2016 as it means to go on, Signature. The independent’s big release on January 18, Momentum (would that the now departed company had still been around to release a film bearing its name), has also enjoyed a strong start, appearing at number three in the Official Charts Company’s midweeks, with only Universal’s two biggies ahead of it. Commenting on the release, Signature’s junior product manager Sara Kali said: “We are delighted with Momentum’s performance and are extremely enthused by the midweek numbers. Following a successful premium vod release in November we were very excited to launch the title across physical and digital platforms. A first class action movie, an extraordinary PR campaign fully endorsed by the talent and a bold advertising campaign meant our partners were fully on board and supported Monday’s release with fantastic positioning leading to, what is set to be, a top three title.”
We touched last week on the tragic death of David Bowie and the spike in sales of Labyrinth following his unexpected passing. The film has soared into the top 20 of the Official Charts Company's midweek chart and with The Man Who Fell To Earth back in the charts, expect more Bowie sales to come. His film career may not have been as vast as his music catalogue - his albums now dominate the Official Charts LP listing - but it's quality not quantity that counts here. HMV's Andy Anderson, himself a massive Bowie fan, and one of the first people to get in touch with us after his death, reminiscing about the life-changing Top Of the Pops performance (Starman, 1972) and live gig (Stafford Bingley Hall, 1978) that helped shape his life and career, said: “We've racked Labyrinth alongside all the CDs and vinyl and it's selling really well. Sony has done a great job in turning it around and has managed to get more in stock quickly."

As he rather fraught Q4 and the final weeks of 2015 fades into the distance, there's a feeling that some stability has begun to return to the industry in 2016, with a relatively good start to the year and titles not performing to woefully off their targets. Straight Outta Compton last week and Everest this week have done decent numbers and, with two of the biggest theatrical releases of recent years, including the UK's biggest theatrical hit ever in the shape of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there's a new sense of purpose among some in the business. "January has been good so far," said HMV's Andy Anderson. "We're reinvigorated for the new year and it seemingly looks like the market could over-perform in some of the weeks ahead. We're now looking forward to titles such as Spectre, the Mother’s Day releases, Suffragette and Brooklyn and also Hunger Games in the coming weeks."
Meanwhile, ahead of those other titles, Monday January 25 sees the arrival of another huge release in the shape of Legend. We’ve already devoted an entire special issue of The Raygun to the Tom Hardy tour de force about the Kray twins, but it’s worth offering an update on this, one of the year’s most home entertainment friendly releases (just think of the numbers Signatures Rise Of The Krays did towards the end of 2015 if you don’t believe us). So, here’s Studiocanal’s Will Attard updated us on the Legend campaign: “With fantastic support across the full retail base including a full POS suite, Legend is well set up to dominate the market next week.  We kicked off the media campaign with high profile sport programming TV spots and our bold outdoor campaign along with heavy online and social activity.  The social buzz is at fever pitch with Tom Hardy’s growing profile as one of Hollywood’s top leading men.”
Last week we discussed the year-end enjoyed by Arrow Films and sister label Arrow Video, and the former has got off to a busy start to 2016 with plenty of activity. This week saw a good start for its feature length take on the epic 1864, with support from two of the big supermarkets. February 29 sees the release of Backtrack as a premium vod and theatrical release, followed by, a month after that, its first big DTV title of 2016, the ever-dependable Richard Gere in The Benefactor. It's also putting its plans together for the forthcoming Men & Chicken. Commenting on its busy start to the year, the company's Jon Sadler said: “2016 is looking to be a great year at Arrow Films and, as usual, we have our fingers in lots of pies, including some premium cast-led DTVs, the very best in international crime TV series, plus some theatrical releasing too – with some films also playing in key festivals. It's great to be able to represent so much talent across our schedule and to be confident in the support we receive time and time again from the trade. I think the retailers and platforms we work with understand our ongoing commitment to quality and the consistency of our sales results.”

Another company enjoying a busy start to 2016 is independent horror specialist 88 Films, the boutique label releasing a wealth of classic gore, splatter and more. Next week sees it releasing DTV horror fare in the shape of the cunningly titled Paranormal Activity: The Haunting, which has got grocer support and will be appearing on the shelves across retail. Following hot on its heels, on February 8, comes a lavish box set for the three Children Of The Corn films on Blu-ray. Commenting on the releases, 88 Films’ James Blower said: “We had a few real highlights in 2015, including our critically acclaimed American Ninja Collection, so we are thrilled to present another box set of bloody brilliant thrills: Children Of The Corn. This is one of our favourite Stephen King page-to-screen adaptations so we have tried to give the set a stunning new lease of life and accompanying this package will also be a new full length documentary feature, The Life, The Legacy And Legend Of Don Borchers. As the title suggests this labour of love undertaking focuses on the charismatic and frequently unrecognised genius producer behind this series and other B-movie classics such as Beastmaster and many more. Developed and produced by Calum Waddell and Naomi Holwill of High Rising Productions, and directed by Jim Kunz, this feature production is sure to appease anyone curious about the challenges of creating quality low budget genre cinema [one of the company’s documentary extras, Eaten Alive: The Rise And Fall Of The Italian Cannibal Film just won best extra of the year from Home Cinema Choice, the second year running 88 has picked up this gong]. We also have Paranormal Captivity on the horizon. It’s another step forward for us helping indie filmmakers get their name out there. As well as great support in the charts from HMV, we do also have the backing of the supermarkets, so it is a really exciting time for us right now.”
One big DTV release out this week comes in the shape of Kill Kane, released through 4Digital. It's directed by Adam Kelly, a film writer turned filmmaker and someone we at The Raygun have been speaking to through Twitter for some time. The film is perfect home entertainment fare, starring Vinnie Jones as a man seeking revenge from an underworld gang after they wipe out his family. Commenting on the release, director Adam Kelly said: “It’s great to finally see the film on the shelves. We had no money and just nine days to shoot Kill Kane, which is truly absurd. It was crazy at the time, but looking back now it’s even crazier. I’m not entirely sure how we managed to cross the finish line. There’s certainly no shortage of British gangster films, but I hope people find something they enjoy about our little revenge movie. It’s rough around the edges, but considering what we were up against I’m proud that the cast and crew and I were able to achieve a feature with high production values."
Kaleidoscope is gearing itself up for some interesting martial arts action ahead with the release of the latest instalment in the Donnie Yen chop-socky saga IP Man. IP Man 3 was released last weekend at cinemas in a special limited outing and impressed, scoring a particularly high screen average. After its theatrical outing, the independent is now preparing for the home entertainment bow. The company’s Adam Sergeant said: “We are releasing IP Man 3 on April 25 – the final instalment of the Donnie Yen starred martial arts series, charting the life of Bruce Lee's legendary mentor. Obviously having myself worked on IP Man and IP Man 2 in years gone by, it's great to be getting back to my roots to bring this four and five star rated film to market. Coming on DVD, BD and also a special edition Steelbook Collector's Edition BD, we are looking forward to giving fans of the genre, fans of Donnie and also more mainstream movie enthusiasts plenty of purchase options. There will also be an IP Man 1-3 Box Set available on both DVD and BD, released in conjunction with our partners at Trinity Film. We are excited by the potential of the film, given it has just been released theatrically in selected cinemas and is on course to return a screen average in excess of £6,000. Add to that a very enthusiastic response from genre critics, support from both Mike and Donnie for home entertainment release, and we think we have a perfect package to get Q2 off to a strong start.”

We mentioned films named after distributors and labels earlier on when talking about the success of Momentum, released by Signature. Our favourite announcement of the week, however, concerns a film called Eureka, due for release on March 28. Why? Well, Eureka is being released by Eureka, through its Masters Of Cinema imprint. As the label’s Ian Sadler said: “Nicolas Roeg is one of the most revered figures in modern cinema, so we’re extremely proud to be releasing Eureka. The film was barely released at the time of its making and overlooked by critics, but now, three decades later we are happy to be relaunching this wonderful film for a new generation to appreciate. Headlined by an exceptional cast including Gene Hackman, Theresa Russell, Rutger Hauer, Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke, Eureka is as powerfully acted, formally audacious, thematically layered and emotionally complex as any of Roeg’s work. The special edition dual format release will be laden with new and exclusive special features including Interviews with key members of cast, an extensive interview with Roeg, and booklet containing vintage and contemporary writing. It's a shame Ron didn't get to see it released, I think it would have given him an extra smile.”
It had to happen. Even the those present at the high profile trial of the Hatton Garden raiders knew that a film adaptation of the audacious robbery was on the cards, so much so that the elderly gang behind the crime were referred to at one point as the “Enfield Expendables”. Well the feature film version of the safety deposit box raid which took place over the Easter weekend in 2015 is now set to become a reality. Canny Metrodome is producing the film, which has DVD hit written all over it, with a view to shooting in March – around the same time the gang of elderly robbers are scheduled to be sentenced. Metrodome’s Jezz Vernon said: “We're currently deep in the legal process to find out what we can and can't include in the film. There are a lot of allegations on both sides of the law about additional involvement and wrongdoing that are not in the public domain, and probably never will be so we're going through the final stages of legal advice as we speak. It's an incredible story and the aim is to make the raid contextual in the broader landscape of London's criminal history.” Things moved up a notch when Michael Caine, doing press for Youth, said he’d be interested in the film, Metrodome and producers Mark Harris and Ben Jacques are said to be in contact with the star, as well as the likes of Ray WInstone. Worth keeping an eye on…
Good to see that even with test cricket on his mind, England bowling ace Jimmy Anderson found time to remind his followers on Twitter that Warriors, the cricket documentary following Maasai tribesmen playing the game that he helped produce, was due on DVD and digital HD, courtesy of Verve. The film arrives on Monday January 25 on the back of a host of strong reviews. It has has also been announced that the film, which brings in subjects such as FGM and the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa, will benefit from special UN screenings in the summer ahead of the Olympics, its key message of peace through sport chiming in with the UN’s beliefs. Commenting on the release, director Barney Douglas said: “To see such positive reactions from cinema audiences has been a huge boost. The diversity in those audiences has been the most exciting thing - from MCC cricket members, to social activists, FGM survivors and a Sierra Leone women's group. Lots of young women as well. To now be releasing digitally and on DVD means a global audience can be reached, and we've already had a lot of interest & pre-orders. Essentially we feel proud of the Maasai that their story is connecting so many people from different walks of life, that gender equality is at the forefront and that sport has been a genuine catalyst for change."
The Sundance film festival is on as we write this and one of the key documentaries due to air there this year, Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures, has been signed for UK distribution and inter national sales by Dogwoof. The film looks at the life of controversial and acclaimed photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and, like his portraits, it’s filmed in black and white. Commenting on the deal, Dogwoof’s Vesna Cudic said: “[Directors] Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato deliver a devilishly entertaining feature on one of the most controversial art icons of the 20th century. With the World Premiere at Sundance and a European Premiere in Berlin, Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures is destined to be one of our most commercial titles, and a must-see art doc of 2016.” The company has also signed a similar deal to acquire and look after another documentary looking at a creative figure in the shape of Richard Linklater, dream is destiny (the lower case is the film’s decision, not our error). The film, also due to premiere at Sundance, follows his career and its release ties in with his eagerly awaited Dazed And Confused sequel, Everybody Wants Some. 

"The independent world will also have to adapt but does not deserve to have the heart ripped out of its business, which gives local audiences local product and also the exotic and unusual product." The year-end figures saw digital soar to new heights, with both svod and EST leading the way. With the former, including the ruthlessly ambitious Netflix aiming for world domination and global deals for its services across numerous territories and, in the case of EST, Sky's Buy and Keep, where does that leave traditional distribution models? And with worldwide deals and the Digital Single Market both squeezing out the independents, wither the indies in 2016 and beyond? The complex relationship between physical, svod and EST, the changes wrought by the growth in the digital market in 2015 and the future for the business is assessed in depth in a new feature on our website by Lucy Savage. The former Studiocanal, Kaleidoscope and Revolver staffer is now acting as a consultant and has penned a piece for us on our site looking at distribution in all its myriad forms. It's highly recommended and you can see it here
All of which leads us nicely on to our svod news of the week. There’s been plenty on Netflix’s plans to crack down on VPN users, ironically in the same week the company further revealed its global ambitions. It unveiled figures for the last part of the year, showing its subscriber base to have grown to 75 million. Much of the growth came from international subs, its US sign-ups having slowed. Its share price soared almost 10 per cent on the news… 
Meanwhile, boutique svod service MUBI is fast becoming one of the most talked about providers in the UK, this week unveiling another exclusive deal. The company has followed its recent spate of exclusives by inking a deal to add another one. The American Dreamer is a long-lost documentary charting Dennis Hopper at the height of his powers – and nuttiness, it must be added – in the early 1970s. The film has a perfect appeal for MUBI’s film savvy crowd and arrives for the standard 30 day period on February 13. MUBI UK programmer Chiara Marañón said: “The American Dreamer is a fascinating and deeply personal glimpse into the mind and creative processes of Dennis Hopper, one of Hollywood’s most hypnotic and charismatic stars. The documentary has been virtually unseen for 45 years and we’re very pleased to now be able to bring it to wider audience. This follows on from a recent strand of exclusive releases we've had on MUBI, such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Junun, Michael Nyman's War Work, Corneliu Porumboiu's The Second Game or Albert Serra's Story of My Death. We look forward to bringing film fans much more exciting film content throughout the year.”
And a quick diary date for you: our next get together for independent labels and other interested party has been pencilled in for February 10, in a room above a West End pub. More details will be sent out to interested parties shortly, to get involved with independent labels, meet up with the BVA and other industry figures and just have a chat and social with like-minded souls, email Tim Murray at the usual address… 

“Netflix has had to maintain a delicate balance between showing the content holders that they are serious about restricting their content, and at the same time giving their customers what they really want. [Netflix’s] comments about blocking VPNs seem to be more about appearances than a serious shift in how they restrict their content.”
David Glance, University of Western Australia, on Netflix’s plans to block users in some territories from getting round regional restrictions using VPNs
“You don’t have to worry.”
VPN provider TorGuard to its users

The Revenant, boosted by a slew of awards nominations, exceeded many industry observers’ expectations with its hugely impressive opening frame, taking some £5.24 million in its first weekend, helping it to the top slot. Creed took £2.22 million in its first weekend, whir another awards-friendly film, Room, made its debut with £674,033. Star Wars: The Force Awakens added a further £3.1 million over the weekend to make its total just shy of £114 million. 
Strangest film news of the week surrounds Stan & Ollie, which has this week unveiled the stars set to play Laurel and Hardy. In a nod to the northern, British roots of the former, Steve Coogan will star as the skinny one, aka Mr Laurel, while the role of his portly comedy partner will be taken by John C Reilly. The film, directed by Filth helmer Jon S Baird (lots of Johns with middle initials involved here), charts a trip to the UK made by the duo during their twilight years. The film is being backed by BBC Films and the news was welcomed by diehard Sons of The Desert aficionados. As regular readers and casual acquaintances of The Raygun will know, we’re big fans too and wholeheartedly welcome the news, not least in that it could help bring L&H back in the public eye…
The rumour mill has gone into overdrive this week as a bunch of forthcoming blockbusters, some as far away as two or three years, all shifted release dates. Avatar 2, originally slated for December 2016 (ie, later this year) had slipped a year to the end of 2017, but now it’s disappeared from the slate altogether. The next in the ongoing Star Wars saga, Episode VIII, has slipped from May 2017 to a December slot in the same year. The revived Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, in the form of Dead Men Tell No Tales, will now fill that May slot for Disney. Sony’s revived Spider-man and Jumanji brands are set to reappear in July 2017. And the next in there Terminator franchise has disappeared from the 2017 slate too…
We mentioned Labyrinth earlier on and guess what news is now emerging? A sequel is apparently being planned to the film… Seems like it could be a bit too late, in some respects…
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Red Band alert, Seth Rogen sequel business…

More Red Band, includes gangsta pet too…

Pee-wee’s back, looking the same age too…

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