Sunday, January 4, 2015

New Theatrical-To-Home Entertainment Windows Hold Steady For Third Straight Year

How do you talk, reasonably, about theatrical windows in an environment that seems hell-bent on making such “important” things largely irrelevant?   

On the surface there seems to be a certain degree of stability right now; an equilibrium.  For three years running the “window” between a “hit” film’s initial theatrical release and its subsequent debut as DVD and Blu-ray product offerings has been locked in at an average of 115.7 days.   

We finished 2014 with 115.5 days.   It was 116.1 days in 2013 and an average of 115.7 days in 2012.   Those numbers seem pretty stable.

Back when The DVD & Blu-ray Release Report was launched 17 years ago we needed to come up with a fancy term for this “window” between the theatrical market and the home entertainment arena.   The Asset Rollover Rate, or ARR, seemed like a pretty good shorthand, so that’s what it is … the ARR measures the time (in days) between when a hit film (a box office take in excess of $25 million) opens theatrically and then heads home as DVD and Blu-ray SKUs.

It is updated and monitored each week.   There’s an ARR chart in the report each week … it shows wild “seasonal” swings around a fairly stable annual trend line … at least for now.
Why $25 million?   Why that number?   There’s probably some really “smart” number out there, but this one seems to work.   To get to that level of box office performance a theatrical release needs three things.    

These are: 

1.     Sufficient screens to provide enough seats during a relatively small period of time to provide a platform for ticket sales.   A film must score reasonable numbers during the opening weekend to hold those seats … failure to do that means the film is shifted down the hall to a smaller seat venue.

2.     Sufficient theatre-goes must have a desire to see the film.   Word of mouth is a strong motivating factor.

3.     Sufficient advertising and PR support to drive consumers to their local multiplex during the opening weekend.  

It comes down to money, seats and acceptance to make a film a “hit” for the home entertainment market place.   It has nothing to do with a film’s budget.   Studio accounting is a mystery anyway … so don’t believe a word about profit and loss or critical acclaim as being the defining factors as to what makes a home entertainment release a hit.

If you look at the trend of the ARR averages over the past ten years for these “hit” theatrical releases, they have “stepped down” from 139.5 days to roughly 127 days (paused), then to 120 days (paused) and now to 115 days.  

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

The ARR appears to be stable.   But, for how long will this detente last?   At what point to the studios once again squeeze the ARR down?   Is there a point where exhibitors begin to scream?   Is it 105 days?  90 days?   There must be a point where such a squeeze will start a war of survival.

Frankly, a case could be made that there is something of a death wish at play in the movie-making business these days.   The seeds being sown of shorting the ARR from over 130 days to 115 days — and perhaps to another step down ­— coupled with the steady erosion of theatre consumers (for various social and economic reasons), seems to be putting the so-called “Hollywood” studios into something of a box.   
DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey 
The number of films generating the necessary $25 million threshold has dropped below the 100 mark for two years in a row.   Overall box office in 2014 was down sharply.   Are they letting an unreasonable love affair with the world of digital kill time-tested distributional models?   Will 2015 see more of the same; is this the so-called canary in the cage?   Cough, cough, choke … the beginning of a big, big problem?

Shorter windows and fewer hits … is there a cause and effect relationship?   If you expand viewing opportunities through various platforms — and then crush them all together into ever-shortening windows — are the studios creating an environment where consumer behavior is directed away from theatrical venues to the point where the definition of “hit” has to be completely redefined?

Theatrical hits have traditionally been the driving force of the home entertainment business.   The studios are the source for such hits.   It is their game, so let’s see how 2015 shapes up in terms of ARR averages and the total number of “hit” films.   If you look at these two components right now, the entertainment industry is teetering right on the edge.  

Well Go U.S.A. Tabs Mar. 3 For The DVD And Blu-ray Debut Of Director Scott Foley's Let's Kill Ward's Wife

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Actor, director, writer and, oh yes, producer, Scott Foley might just have made the funniest film of 2015.   

O.K., the year is just starting and the film doesn’t open theatrically until Jan. 8, but the early buzz for Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife is that this wicked black comedy is out-and-out laugh-your-ass-off funny.

Well Go U.S.A. has tabbed Mar. 3 as the street date for the release of both DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film.     
Stacy (Dagmara Dominczyk — Mentor, They, The Immigrant, etc.) is hell on wheels.  A nag.  A bitch.  Demanding.   She’s married to Ward (Donald Faison — perhaps best known as Dr. Christopher Turk from the comedy series Scrubs) and his life is miserable … made all the more so because he can’t hang out with his upwardly mobile, callous and very shallow friends.

For this film to work (as a comedy), Foley (who is making his feature film directorial debut here) had to accomplish two things in the set-up.  First, Stacy had to be written as an unsympathetic monster … a witch of the first order.   Second, Ward’s friends have to be detached, self-absorbed and basically immoral, but not like serial killer or psychopaths.   It’s a fine line and he absolutely nails it!
DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

David (Patrick Wilson — The Phantom of the Opera, Insidious: Chapter 2, The Conjuring, etc.) is the ringleader of the little group, who becomes fixated on doing away with Stacy, the irritant.   He’s does the research and “pitches” the idea to his golfing buddies as a sort of “what if” scenario.   It’s a good idea, but it needs a little work.

The thought of murdering Stacy is sort of hanging out there, but when the perfect moment presents itself it is Tom (Scott Foley), not David, that seizes upon the opportunity to kill her.   Remember, this is not a horror film, but a comedy.   So his murder attempt goes embarrassingly awry, but works anyway.   

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
With a little coaching, the rest of the gang, which includes Ronnie (James Carpinello), Geena (Amy Acker) and Amanda (Veronkia Dominczyk), are able to play their roles and be properly mortified (and mock-sad) that poor Stacy has died of an “unplanned” accident.  Now, it is only a matter of disposing of her body.

Ward, sad that his wife has died, but not too sad, goes along with the plan — calling 911 is never a serious option — even after it dawns on him that the accident was no accident at all.
The writing is devilishly good, the timing of the ensemble cast is pitch-perfect, the pacing is swift (no padding here) and the result is a black comedy that will certainly offend more than a few, but in the end Let’s Kill Ward’s Wife works.   Well Go has a hit here … Mar. 3 can’t come soon enough!!!

Filmmaker Jason Konopisos’ The Waiter Heads To DVD From Indican Pictures On Jan. 27

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Indican Pictures announced this past week that writer/director Jason Konopisos’ award-winning thriller, The Waiter, will be making its DVD debut this coming Jan. 27.

He is known as “The Waiter” (played by Konopisos — Rogue Assassin), a former soldier with battlefield experience in The Gulf, who earns his living these days as a professional hit man … a “corporate cleaner.”   His clientele are far removed from the sands and backwater villages of Iraq and Afghanistan … they are far more comfortable in a corporate boardroom, attending parties and riding in limos.   

They are, however, just as deadly and when they get to fighting among one another it is the job of “The Waiter” (and people of his ilk) to deal with these corporate types when negotiations and deal-making have run their course.   He’s good at what he does, matter of fact in his job performance; laconic even … but inside he is a powder keg that is about one hit away from coming apart.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Konopisos’ The Waiter is loaded with action, it’s violent and graphic.  It delivers what is promised, well-produced and it is also populated with what must be at least a dozen well-known character actors (many of whom must be friends of Konopisos for him to recruit so many for an indie production).   These include twice-nominated for as Best Supporting Actor Oscars, Charles Durning (in his final screen appearance), along Dan Braverman, James Handy and Glenn Morshower.

Olive Films Picks Feb. 24 As The Street Date For Five New-To-Blu-ray Releases

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Olive Films has tabbed Feb. 24 as the street date for five new Blu-ray releases (DVD SKUs will also be available on that date).

Leading the charge is director Zalman King’s 1989 erotic journey (filmed on location in Brazil), Wild Orchids, starring Mickey Rourke, fashion model Carre Otis (who would become Mrs. Rourke in 1992) and Jacqueline Bisset.   

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph TribbeyAn interesting cult film from 1986 is to be found among the Feb. 24 new-to-Blu-ray selections from Olive Films.   This is director Albert Pyun’s Dangerously Close.   A rock-out soundtrack, which includes The Smithereens, Van Halen, Robert Palmer and Fine Young Cannibals, dominates this whacked-out tale about high school “eliteness” taken to the extreme (murder the losers).   John Stockwell and Carey Lowell star.

Also making a Blu-ray debut is auteur filmmaker William Friedkin’s 1968 comedy tribute to the world of burlesque, The Night They Raided Minsky's, which counts among its cast members Bond girl, Britt Ekland, Jason Robards, Elliott Gould, Bert Lahr, Denholm Elliott, Norman Wisdom and Forrest Tucker.

Rounding out the Feb. 24 new-to-Blu-ray selections are director Ang Lee’s Oscar-nominated film (Best Foreign Language, 1995) Eat Drink Man Woman and 1989 Sicilian family saga, Blood Red, starring Eric Roberts, Dennis Hopper, Burt Young and Giancarlo Giannini.

Eagle Rock Entertainment Tabs Feb. 10 For DVD And Blu-ray Editions Of Shania: Still The One

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Eagle Rock Entertainment has patiently waited for Shania Twain’s record-breaking run at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to wrap-up its two year, 105 performance showcase.   Now that the party is over, it’s time for fans to re-live the experience with either DVD or Blu-ray presentations of her elaborate stage show.

On Feb. 10 Eagle Rock will be sending home Shania: Still the One, which features a 17-strong music set that includes the likes of “I'm Gonna Getcha Good!,” “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” “Any Man of Mine,” “You Win My Love,” “You're Still the One" and “From This Moment On.”

Writer/Director Will Bakke's Believe Me On DVD And Blu-ray Mar. 3 Via Virgil Films And Entertainment

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Virgil Films & Entertainment has selected Mar. 3 for the release of both DVD and Blu-ray editions of a unique faith-based film.

Filmmaker Will Bakke teams once again with co-writer and friend Michael B. Allen for their first non-documentary film, Believe Me.   It is important to understand the source material of this work to have a better understanding of where the film — and the filmmakers — are coming from.

Back in 2009 Bakke and Allen, along with friends Lawson Hopkins and Austin Meek, combined for the documentary One Nation Under God and then re-teamed in 2011 for a second documentary, Beware of Christians.   The two films followed the four Christians as they tested their faith on the road in a crisscross journey of the United States … and then internationally.

Using the experiences of the two road trips, Bakke and Allen have fashioned a dramatic-comedy work — a fictional story — about how a college student named Sam Atwell (played by Alex Russell — Unbroken, Carrie, The Host, etc.), who is desperate to come up with the necessary funds to complete his college degree, takes to the road with three of his frat brothers to con Christians into contributing to a fake charity that they’ve conjured up.

They join what is basically a travelling road/tent revival show and quickly learn the “lingo” of what moves their audiences to give money to their made-up cause.  They are the God Squad … and the money comes rolling in.  
DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

So the message of Believe Me comes down to the point of view that Christians are shmucks?    The answer is no.   

Although played for laughs — and Believe Me is indeed very funny, especially for a faith-based film — there is a message.   Question, test, ask … don’t just blindly follow.   The story elements all ring true, and that has quite a bit to do with Bakke and Allen’s own experiences in living through their documentaries One Nation Under God and Beware of Christians.

The film worked the festival circuit and then went the indie distribution route for theatrical play dates in selected venues around the country.   Virgil Films mainstream distribution to the home entertainment market place will dramatically widen the audience reach for this well-written satire … a satire with a message.   Believe Me is well-worth a look-see when it heads home on Mar. 3.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment Targets Feb. 17 For A Blu-ray Release Of Director Robert Wise's The Andromeda Strain

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Director Robert Wise’s 1971 film adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel, The Andromeda Strain, starring James Olson, Arthur Hill, David Wayne and Kate Reid, will be getting a Blu-ray push from Universal Studios Home Entertainment on Feb. 17.   No word, just yet, on any bonus goodies that might be included with this release.

Also from the film library on Feb. 17 Universal will be releasing both Sneakers, teaming Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell and River Phoenix, and director Steven Spielberg’s Munich.