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It Was A Good Week For… Riddick, off to a Diesel-powered start

It Was A Bad Week For… The Daily Mail, going for an 80s BBFC-bashing nostalgia trip…

After some recent (relatively) good news across the industry, it was heartening to see  some good news continuing, particularly in a week when the press, or at least sections of  it (we’re looking at you Daily Mail) turned their beady eyes onto the entertainment business and tried to give it a kicking. Step forward then, eOne, which has kicked off what is arguably the biggest quarter in its history with a strong initial showing for Riddick, the Vin Diesel starrer that has shot away from the starting grid. It is well above initial forecasts and should end up with a more than healthy conversion rate for eOne. Commenting on its success, the company’s Jeff Suter said: “We are delighted with the performance of Riddick this week. Sales have surpassed all expectations. Our media and PR campaigns have helped deliver a campaign of epic scale and with all aspects of this running through the weekend we are hoping for the strong sales to continue over the next few days.”
Meanwhile, after more than a year’s worth of work, taking up the best part of 2013, and involving speaking to more than 10,000 members of the public, the BBFC this week issued its new guidelines. The research showed just how important the organisation is to many people, 95 per cent of parents with children under 15 years old said they check classification before watching films and almost nine out of 10 said it was important. The research involved both grown ups, parents and their children, with scores of titles being sent to them to garner feedback, as well as focus groups and questionnaires. The guidelines will be coming in to force next month and will see the BBFC looking more at tone and themes in films, especially for 12 and 15 certificates. When it comes to horror films, the BBFC will also be looking more at the psychological impact of the genre, as well as gore content. And when it comes to swearing there were too key findings – the BBFC needs to get tougher on language in U certificate films, but should be more flexible around the 15 certificate, paying more attention to content and not just how often people utter expletives. Other red flags included imitable behaviour such as self-harm and drug abuse, while the s*xual content and s*xualised behaviour (asterisked for firewall purposes) aimed at an increasingly younger audience is also a concern for parents. Commenting on the research, BBFC director general general David Cooke said: ““Regular public consultation is crucial to continued public trust in what we do.  Our new Classification Guidelines reflect explicitly concerns raised by the public during the 2013 consultation and will, I believe, ensure that we continue to be in step with what the public wants and expects in order to make sensible and informed viewing decisions. There is also room for continued improvement. Although it is 12 years old this year, the 12A rating remains confusing for a significant minority, with up to 27 per cent of consumers unable to describe accurately what 12A means.  We and the film industry will work during 2014 to improve understanding of this very important rating as well as raise awareness of BBFCinsight information, which is vital in helping parents decide if a 12A film is suitable for their child.”

So what of reaction to the new guidelines? Well, many film buffs and those on the more liberal side of the debate were tutting about a “clampdown” on horror. But, more worringly, the Daily Mail saddled up on its high horse and worked itself up into a fury about what it saw as a “surrender on film swearing”. The new guidelines, well-thought and well-researched and reflecting the BBFC’s admirable openness and transparency, were met with the Mail outrage reminiscent of the post-Bulger furore against video or the original nasties campaigns from the newspaper. A front page lead, running on to page six, with a further comment, railed against the BBFC and that old favourite, the “liberal intelligentsia”. There was the frankly sidebar story about how The Wolf Of Wall Street “could” get a 15 certificate under the new guidelines (as we noted on Twitter, it’s like us saying we “could” fly to the moon – and about as likely). Thankfully the Mail’s fury seemed to be a one-off and was not joined by the rest of Fleet Street. If anything, its opprobrium served as a reminder that we must always remain vigilant, as the Mail is always ready to pounce… We’ll have more on the new Guidelines, as well as a look at the BBFC’s role in the digital world, on our website shortly…
In case you hadn’t noticed, awards season is now well and truly underway, following hot on the heels of the Golden Globes ceremony, the Oscar nominations were announced this week (come on, surely you must have seen them). We won’t bore you with all the details again, as most people who had any interest in the assorted nods must have been glued to any of the number of live blogs or live tweets unveiling the all-important nods. But it was interesting to see one or two of the categories and the nominations there – for example, Artificial Eye capped off a great week for The Great Beauty, released on Monday just after its Globes win, with a nod in the best foreign film category from the Academy. Also nestling neatly in there was The Square, released by independent Kaleidoscope. It’s the first time one of the label’s films has been nominated for an Oscar, the film about the Egyptian revolution picking up a nod in the documentary category. The company’s Spencer Pollard said: “We are delighted with the Oscar nomination for The Square. It’s fully deserved for what is an astonishing piece of filmmaking. With three sold out screenings last week and bookings into March already, plus the West end expansion from today, we hope the film gains every plaudit and award it fully deserves.” It’s due out in stores in the summer.

Sticking with the awards season and one studio is aiming to capitalise on its rich heritage of Oscar-friendly titles by promoting its catalogue. Paramount has launched the Red Carpet Event, highlighting its Oscar and award-winning and nominated titles, ranging from more recent outings such as Dreamgirls through to classics such as Breakfast At Tiffany. It’s been speaking to online and press outlets, offering up numerous competition prizes and editorial advice and is also using its busy social media channels to push the wealth of catalogue titles. The studio is also planning activity around The Godfather, which is, remarkably, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The company is again using PR and social media channels, offering up copies of the definitive Blu-ray version of the film.
The Raygun is steeling itself for a tough task on Monday night as we take on teams from around the industry at a special quiz night to mark the 20th anniversary of studio boutique arm Fox Searchlight. The specialist division of Fox was formed in 1994 and has been behind a raft of hits, taking in movies as  diverse as 28 Days Later and The Full Monty, Sideways and Sunshine, as well as, more recently, Black Swan and the forthcoming Grand Budapest Hotel. The quiz will see The Raygun and assorted contributors taking on journalists and writers, among others, with the evening hosted by the minds behind the popular You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat nights. It kicks off a year’s worth of activity including a media partnership with Empire magazine which launches #SearchlightSundays on January 26, a weekly twitter driven competition to win a Digital HD download code for a Searchlight title and a Hungry House takeaway voucher with all winners throughout the year being entered into a prize draw for a trip to Sundance 2015. Fox publicity manager Eve Ragout said: “Over the last 20 years Fox Searchlight has become synonymous with quality and originality supporting great directors and great actors to tell great stories. Monday’s epic quiz night is a fun and interactive way to herald the anniversary and remind our media audience of all the movie gems that should be a part of everyone’s film collection.”

To some forthcoming events now and Arrow is set to host its second Nordicana event promoting, among things, its Nordic Noir imprint, at the start of February. It comes just eight months after the first event, which was a huge success, but its timing has been carefully planned to coincide with the end of the second series (or season, if you’d rather) of the rather excellent The Bridge, currently airing to rave reviews on BBC4 (we reckon it could well be better than the first outing). As Arrow’s Jon Sadler explained: “After taking the rather unusual, not to mention, ambitious undertaking - as a distributor, to stage a brand new two-day expo in June to celebrate and broaden our Nordic Noir brand, we decided to capitalise on the positive feedback from the first event by doing another less than eight months later. Securing the two lead actors [from The Bridge], Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia, was key but we have also been blessed to secure some of the biggest names within the genre - both on the TV and books side - including the lead actress from Borgen, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Wallander himself, Krister Henriksson. We have also swapped venues to The Old Truman Brewery and ramped up the schedule of talks and screenings. Other additions include a wider range of branded merchandise and a fun baking competition which we have named The Great Scandinavian Cinnamon Bun-Off.”
Arrow’s carefully timed Nordicana plans see the end event ending on Sunday February 2 and, just a few hours later, the big release of the current series. As Jon Sadler continued: “The Bridge Season 2 comes out on DVD and Blu-ray the day after the show finishes on February 3, along with a season 1 and 2 box set on both formats plus the series is available as a season pass to download with episodes being available the day after the BBC4 transmission. Having the cast over has also led to some great promotional opportunities, including an appearance on BBC breakfast so we are hoping for an even bigger result than we had on season one.”
Talking of Arrow, another of its imprints, the Arrow Video label, features heavily in our year-end round-up of the best sleeves and theatrical artwork of 2013. We asked our friends at Film Poster Art, the store set up by industry legend Alan McQueen and his business partner Richard Barrett, what they thought were the finest designs of the past 12 months. They’re up on our site as part of a whole host of 2013 coverage, from sales charts and box office reports through to film critics’ and bloggers’ best of charts from the year.

 And while we’re on the subject of year-end figures, back to 2013 and let’s just think ourselves lucky we’re not in France: the physical market fell by a hefty 16.7 per cent in value last year, with volume sales down a touch over 14 per cent. Having said that, the market is still worth almost €930 million.
We‘ve already looked at the RLJ-owned Acorn operation’s move into the DTV sector with the launch of its Image imprint and the company is now finalising the impending bow of a quartet of titles, due to kick off on January 27 with sci-fi actioner Scavengers, and, on February 3, with the excellent Michael Keaton starrer Penthouse North, moving in to March with Bloody Homecoming and Black Water Vampire. The Raygun has been chatting to the company’s Paul Holland about the forthcoming titles and accompanying activity. He said: “We’re very excited to add a line of DTV to the spread of titles RLJ Entertainment distributes. This allows us to explore areas hitherto unexplored by the TV on DVD world of Acorn Media. On the press and publicity front we have Debbie Murray of Aim Publicity, well-versed in the down and dirty world of genre movies,  exploring a wide variety of specialist outlets in search of news and reviews.  For Scavengers, nicely timed to reap the benefit of Gravity’s pull, she’s been working with the sci-fi sites and blogs all of which are committed to exploring their expanding universe.  Penthouse North, a strong action thriller starring Michael (soon to be seen in RoboCop) Keaton is at the high end of this field, and so AIM are hitting the national press and more traditional outlets.  Then Bloody Homecoming and Black Water Vampire coming in March really open the doors for us into the world of horror zines, blogs, sites and more. Bizarre magazine’s Billy Chainsaw has taken on both these horror flicks for his ‘Cut’ Screenings, and in addition, all four of our first releases will be featured in the Nuts magazine Film Club benefiting from their in-house reviews and additional advertising support both online and in print. Digital marketing will be a key driver as it provides a fantastic platform to showcase our trailers.   Working with some of the best cutters in the business, we’re created some high-octane trailers that we feel confident will deliver the necessary punch in the market place. We’ll be actively increasing our presence on Facebook and Youtube with promoted trailer posts, pre-rolls and more.” We’ll have more on RLJ and Image shortly on our website.

One company thriving in the DTV sector is, as often mentioned here previously, Signature and the label has this week announced a raft of acquisitions, with the fruits of its deals due to arrive in 2014 and beyond. It follows what the company said was a “bumper” year. The new titles will also see Signature returning to the theatrical fray, with what it describes as its biggest ever release at cinemas with The Legends Of Oz: Dorothy Returns, a big budget animated title, due to arrive in May 2014, followed by a home entertainment bow. Other signings include Made In America, Ron Howard directed film following Jay-Z’s  Made In America music festival; The Dying Of The Light, starring Nicolas Cage, directed by Paul Schrader and executive produced by Nicholas Winding Refn; Generation Iron, which promised to be a Pumping Iron for a new generation of bodybuilders and Child Of God, directed by, and starring, James Franco. Commenting on the additions to its already bulging slate, Signature’s Marc Goldberg said: “Our 2014/15 slates are looking outstanding. To have such quality product across a wide range of genres is very exciting for me and my team. Working with projects that involve Oz, Ron Howard, Jay-Z and Nicolas Cage shows how far we have come as a business. We look forward to working with our theatrical, video, TV and digital partners with all of our upcoming product.”
One of the big homegrown theatrical hits of 2013 was the rather excellent Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth, which offered up a fine starring turn from James McAvoy as a bent copper. After its success at cinemas, Lionsgate is now readying itself for the home entertainment bow. Commenting on its impending release, the company’s Susie Bould said: “The marketing campaign for Filth is shaping up to be as fun, controversial and engaging as the film itself! Our objective is to ensure there is an 'event' feel to the release - getting audiences buzzing, excited and desperate to be part of the action.  As such, we are supporting with a heavyweight TV campaign utilising the hilarious and shocking AV, London Underground activity to tease the audiences with our dazzling artwork alongside fun press ads.  Building upon traditional formats, we are also creating a series of innovative Vines which really push the boundaries, building an engaging social media campaign offering users highly sharable controversial content! In addition, we have an extremely impressive PR campaign lined up with Noble PR and we're anticipating support from Irvine Welsh and James McAvoy to ensure strong presence across a broad range of media.  The shining star of the campaign will be the product itself which  we have meticulously developed to achieve an outstanding fluorescent effect which will demand attention when it hits the shelves in February.”
Also due from Lionsgate, and being marketing alongside Filth, is a film we thoroughly enjoyed, Machete Kills, an exploitation flick that positively revels in its B-movie status and, alongside star Danny Trejo, offers a wealth of guest appearances, from as diverse big names as Lady Gaga and Mel Gibson. The company’s Grace Alexander said: “Machete Kills is the jaw-dropping, gun-wielding, high-action thriller from visionary director Robert Rodriguez, with a dazzling all-star cast including Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Lady Gaga. And for the home entertainment release, we're going to showcase the incredible cast and brilliant wackiness of the film with a TV, Press and online campaign. The TV and Online spots will capture some of the most raucous clips from the film, and press will be joint with our very own Filth, because the two titles are a match made in (dirty) heaven. The PR campaign will complement all this, with a huge review push and some brilliant interviews with Danny Trejo, along with upcoming pieces in Total Film, Front and Shortlist. We'll also have some great prizes placed with Kerrang and the lads’ mags plus some incredible merchandise for competitions and press mailers including t-shirts drawn up by a hot young designer. On top of all that, we're holding a free entry hipster screening at The Alibi bar on release day. And, having already run the fantastic Empire Steelbook artwork competition, Machete Kills is sure to stand out with the incredible fan-designed artwork on the Steelbook and a truly eye-catching lenticular on the DVD and Blu-ray.”
Appointments now and word comes from blinkbox, which has appointed a new md to its movie and TV offering. Adrian Letts, who co-founded the company in 2006, will take on the role. In a statement, the company said: “Together with founding partner and blinkbox CEO Michael Comish he has continued to support its growth as the service expanded into music and books. In his new role Adrian will be focusing on driving the movies and TV service as well as continuing to support Michael Comish as blinkbox Group COO, responsible for the finance, commercial and business development functions of the broader blinkbox business. In his capacity as Group Digital Officer at Tesco, Michael Comish continues to serve as CEO of blinkbox, but will focus more time on group initiatives including developing the user experience of Tesco’s online services.”
And we’ll end where we began, with eOne and one of its forthcoming titles which could well follow in the wake of the hugely successful Riddick. The Mortal Instruments is a fantasy adventure based on a bestselling series of books (sound familiar) and should follow in the footsteps of a whole raft of book to film bestsellers. Commenting on the January 27 release, the company’s Tim Westbey said: “With high levels of fan engagement across social media, strong pre-orders and the above the line campaign still to go live, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is well placed to deliver a good result.”

"Unless Blu-ray Disc prices stabilize and box-office performance stays high, as it might with sequels to The Avengers and The Hunger Games on the table, another year of Blu-ray unit growth that is slight at best could yield a downward turn in spending for the format in 2014. While many factors have contributed to the nearly decade-long fall in consumer video disc spending since the market peaked at $21.9 billion in 2004, one long-term issue is consumers’ rising interest in alternative diversions, including streaming digital video, video games, mobile devices, apps and Internet offerings like YouTube.” 
Michael Arrington, IHS senior analyst, talking about the US market…

It might not be the ideal date movie, but the sheer quality and power of 12 Years A Slave triumphed, propelling the film to number one in the UK box office chart, with an opening haul of more than £2.5 million. The only other new entry was The Railway Man with an impressive £1.2 million.
And here’s this week’s comic book news: almost definitely happening is the casting of Michael Pena in Ant-Man, the next in the ongoing Marvel production line. Definitely confirmed is Michael Douglas in the same film. Still just rumour and more likely wishful thinking is the story that Johnny Depp has discussed playing magician Doctor Strange in another Marvel adaptation…
It must have been a good few weeks since we had any Avatar news, so let’s rectify that with the fact that both Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana have been officially confirmed as reprising their roles in the forthcoming sequels to James Cameron’s biggest film ever.
This week we’ve been tweeting our thoughts on the new BBFC guidelines as we trawled through the document, and also live-tweeted all the people live-tweeting the Oscar nominations. Follow us at…
This week’s biggest trailer was not for a film, but a TV show. Yup, it’s Game Of Thrones…
And the fact that Metrodome has announced a UK home entertainment bow (at the end of April) for this, gives us an excuse to repeat one of our favourites of 2013…
The Walk Of Shame, now a film and not just a thing…
A classic slice of horror unearthed by Eureka…

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