Monday, January 11, 2016

2015 Exceeds 12,000 New DVD And Blu-ray Release For the 12th Consecutive Year

For the 12th consecutive year new DVD and Blu-ray product release have exceeded the 12,000 mark.   

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
With some stragglers certain to boost the final totals, new DVD SKUs for calendar year 2015 currently stand at 10,017 (that’s down from last year’s count of 10,902, representing a decline of 8.12 percent).   As for the Blu-ray format, the first-blush number is 2,134 new releases (a 3.95 percent jump over last year’s total of 2,053 new product offerings) — that’s a format record, eclipsing the 2013 high water mark by 34.   

Roughly 83 percent of the decline in new DVD releases (on a year-over-year basis) is centered in just three categories — Direct to Video Feature Films, Special Interest and Movies Made For Television (MOWs).   These three groups account for 734 of the overall drop of 885 new DVD SKUs.

The Direct to Video category had something of a release “bubble” during 2013 and 2014, rising to 1,483 and 1,427 new releases respectively from a very stable eight-year average of 1,210 new Direct to Video Features Films releases making their way to DVD.  The 2015 count of 1,259 is more in line with the 2005 to 2012 average, as opposed to a sudden drop in demand for this non-theatrical staple.

The decline of 18.7 percent in the Special Interest category seems to be directly related to the rise of DVD-R usage among independent suppliers.   Amazon tends to dump a hundred or more DVD-R releases into the product mix each week and it appears that more and more independents are being squeezed into joining that parade.   It’s a tough road (competitively-speaking) to go through the process of having product professionally manufactured in the face of Amazon’s weekly product dumps of dubious origin.

The MOW decline seems certain to be related to the exhaustion of library elements.  
On the bright side, Theatrical Catalog (movies released theatrically prior to 1997), showed a robust 42.8 percent jump over the 2014 output — much of this growth having to do to with the release of newly-restored titles that have gone out of print.   

New Theatrical releases also showed a modest gain of eight percent.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
As for the Blu-ray format, 66.4 percent of all release activities is confined to the various Feature Film categories — New Theatrical, Theatrical Catalog, Foreign Language and Direct to Video.   Basically, outside of the Music, New TV Series and Anime groups, the balance of the product categories (some very popular with DVD) — Special Interest, Fitness, Magic and Religion are simply not used for Hi-DEF releases (DVD works just fine).

While the move from VHS to DVD was earthshaking, the addition of the Blu-ray format — beginning in 2006 — has never registered quite the same on the home entertainment Richter Scale.  The SKU count has been hovering around the 2,100 annual release mark for the past 36 months; remarkably stable, but hardly anything to write home about.

Feast And Famine Mark 2015 New Theatrical Release Crop

2015 was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

2015 was a record-shattering year for theatrical films at the box office with over $11 billion in ticket sales.   The first time that has happened!!!

And, it was also the worst year since 2004 and 2007 for the number of new theatrical releases that grossed in excess of $25 million.    Go back a dozen years, or more, and you’ll find that 2015 churned out just 93 movies that reached this golden circle (and that includes films that opened at the end of the year and are either just getting to that threshold or will certainly arrive at that level before long).    2004 delivered 95 such films and 2007 went one better with 96.   

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Last year, there were 102 films of that caliber, which is the average for the past 11 years … 2015, however, was a year of feast or famine with films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World pulling in record-setting receipts while other films failed to find an audience — any audience.

There’s a battle between technology and the movies, with more and more theatre-goers becoming very selective in what they shell out for when it comes to heading over to the local multiplex for a movie.   In ever growing numbers, they (collectively speaking) wait for other viewing options, especially digital which has become the tail that wags the dog.   They know that it will be there soon, so why pay the premium!

So why is it so important that a film achieve at least $25 million in ticket sales?   To get to even that number (which may or may not yield a profit), a new theatrical release needs three things — enough screens (places to put bodies), a PR and marketing budget that drives customers and enough of those customers to keep the film playing on as many screens as long as possible.   When any of these three elements fall apart — especially in these times — that film production is doomed.

These are the films, those that gross in excess of $25 million, that consumers become aware of.   That had a wide break and a PR and marketing to drive awareness.   That is the winning combination.

When only 93 such films reach that level, gaps are created in the flow of product from theatrical venues to the home entertainment market place.   So just 93 is a problem.
Compounding this even further, the window between when a film opens theatrically and it subsequently arrives on either DVD or Blu-ray is being squeezed.   

In 2004, for example, it took on average 145.8 days to make the cycle.   In 2015 this window was squeezed down to 114 days.   Fewer films to work with and tighter windows … simply put, that’s not healthy.

For the past four years — 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 — the window from a film’s theatrical debut to its arrival in the home entertainment arena has been fairly consistent at 114.7 days (2012), 115.1 days (2013), 115.5 days (2014) and 114.0 days (2015).  

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
As 2016 gets under way there are some pretty important issues that have to be resolved.   Will the world of digital continue to erode theatrical attendance to the point that we see only a few big, big winners and an ever-growing circle of under-performers?   Does that benefit anyone?   

Will the distribution windows be squeezed even further?   Does theatrical exhibition get to keep the window opened long enough to make any money — remember, the split on box office revenues are front-loaded with 90/10 – 70 percent deals during the first weeks of a film’s run.    Only if a film has “legs” does an exhibitor begin to see share tip over to their favor.

And, at what point does the current equilibrium between theatrical exhibition and home entertainment come unglued?   

As Bette Davis once famously observed, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”   That could be 2016 in spades.

Icarus Films Selects Mar. 22 For The DVD Debut Of Dreams Rewired

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Documentary filmmaker Manu Luksch made the statement that “Every age thinks it's the modern age.”   

She then proceeded to team with fellow filmmakers Martin Reinhart & Thomas Tode to deliver the documentary titled Dreams Rewired, narrated by Tilda Swinton, which makes excellent use of archival film footage from as early as the 1880s through the 1930s to make that exact point.

Icarus Films announced this past week that Dreams Rewired will be making its DVD debut on Mar. 22.

Director Bradley W. Ragland’s Looking For Lions Heads To DVD From FilmWorks Entertainment On Mar. 22

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
FilmWorks Entertainment announced this past week that director Bradley W. Ragland’s Looking for Lions, the feature-length remake of his 2012 critically heralded short film, Savage, will be making its DVD debut on Mar. 22.

As with the original, Chelsea Gilligan (as Teri in the TV series Star-Crossed) and Todd Julian (as Scott in the TV series Twisted, plus such films as A New York Heartbeat and The Truth About Angels) reprise their roles as Mia and Ray, while the short film writer, Norman Lesperance, flushes out the script elements here and also returns as the other central character to the piece, Emmett.

Ray is something of a free spirit, who has attracted the love and affection of Mia, an artist of sorts, who is actually more grounded than Ray — she just needs to catch a break to launch her career.   They seem perfect for each other, which makes their ultimate plight all the more compelling.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph TribbeyEmmett is the other half of this story and his desperation — without giving too much away — makes his part in this drama just as compelling as that of Ray and Mia; even heartbreaking.

Ray lands a terrific job, which seems to solve their short-term financial issues.  There is just one little problem with his “courier” job — he doesn’t seem to be the right candidate, with the right work ethic for such a gig.   The perfect patsy, well, that’s another story … and he’s a good “fit” for that.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph TribbeyMeanwhile, Emmett needs a certain delivery from this rather shady “courier” company and sure as God made little green apples, Ray finds a way to screw that up.  That sets in motion a series of events that will bring these otherwise decent protagonists to dark places that you would never expect them to go.

Looking for Lions is a taught thriller that has you invested in the fates all three of the main characters, even though they are often at odds in their motives; survival motives.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

VCI Entertainment Preps A Blu-ray Edition Of The City Of The Dead For Delivery On Mar. 29

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
VCI Entertainment announced this past week that director John Moxey’s 1960 horror classic, starring the iconic Christopher Lee, The City of the Dead, will be getting a Blu-ray push on Mar. 29.

Released domestically in 1961 as Horror Hotel, this tale of witchcraft has a 17th Century witch by the name of Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) — who is burned at the stake during the opening prologue — who has returned from the dead to exact her revenge.    She just needs a fresh sacrifice for the forthcoming Candlemas Eve ceremony to continue her reign of terror.

Kindly college professor Alan Driscoll (be suspicious, be very suspicious as he is played by none other than Christopher Lee) sparks the interest of one of his students, Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson), into investigating the legend of Elizabeth Selwyn during the holiday break.   

So off poor Nan goes to the village of Whitewood — somewhere in New England (but actually one of the last productions to be filmed at the famed Nettlefold Studios in Walton-on-Thames, England … they closed up shop the following year) — where she begins her research, which ultimately leads her to her fate.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph TribbeyVCI Entertainment will be including both versions of the film with this restored Blu-ray edition — the original British release, The City of the Dead, and the domestic theatrical version of Horror Hotel; the former clocks in with an additional two minutes worth of footage.

Other bonus nuggets are three commentary tracks — the first is a vintage commentary by the late Christopher Lee, the second features director John Moxey and the third is a newly prepared one featuring actor, writer and author Bruce G. Hallenbeck — two vintage video sessions with Christopher Lee are also included here as is one with actress Venetia Stevenson.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

Wolfe Tabs Mar. 8 As The DVD Release Date For Writer/Director Jim Hansen's You're Killing Me

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Wolfe has tabbed Mar. 8 for the DVD debut of writer/director Jim Hansen’s mixed-genre comedy, You’re Killing Me.

Self-centered George (Jeffery Self — who co-wrote the script) has fallen in love with Joe (Matthew McKelligon — Interior. Leather Bar. and as Jeremy in the Eastsiders series), who has actually been secretly stalking George (he spotted him online in a goofy webcast series).   Now our boy George has many problems, Joe, however, just seems to have one … he’s a serial killer.

Love is blind and the clueless George is more than eager to share his new love with his friends, who take Joe’s blunt honesty as being an active serial killer as something of a joke.    

He can’t really be serious?   Gay men are sensitive, right?   He’s as serious as a heart attack, especially when George’s friends begin to disappear!!!   Besides, they needed to be done away with, they’re nosey and irritating.

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
You’re Killing Me is part comedy, part horror tale, part love story, with all of these elements cleverly blended together with a not-so-subtle helping of social commentary; insights.
Too many people live in a world of their own and literally can’t see the forest for the trees.  Even when one of his friends cautions him, “When people tell you who they are, believe them,” George is utterly in the dark about that.  

Wild Eye Releasing's DVD Debut Of Writer/Director Jason Hawkins' The Devil Knows His Own Will Take Place On Mar. 8

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Writer/director Jason Hawkins, who gave us All American Bully and Finding Oblivion (among others), will see his 2013 film, The Devil Knows His Own, make its way to DVD on Mar. 8 courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing.

The Devil Knows His Own is a well-crafted haunted house thriller that is packed with jolts … the kind generated by mood, suggestions and settings, rather than by “things” jumping out of the shadows.

Their grandmother was a monster, there’s no getting around that.   Siblings Jessica (Dara Davey — a Hawkins’ regular, having starred in both All American Bully and Finding Oblivion) and Ethan (Patrick D. Green — Forgotten Hero) grew up in her house, which was pretty much like living in the lair of a deranged predator.   She did unspeakable things to little Jessica (sexual in nature) and Ethan, among other things, was tortured with a hot poker … and both were forced to wear masks in her presence.   Monster, yes monster!

Well the good news is that granny is dead and the two, along with their respective partners, have inherited the place and have arrived back there for something of a family reunion 20 long years after their last visit to this nightmare land of their childhood.  They are there to claim this rather dubious inheritance — the land, the house … everything (and that’s the scary part).   
DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey

Jessica is gay and has married her partner, Lacy (Natasha Timpani — Finding Oblivion), while Ethan is a recovering drug addict who has the lovely Melanie (Alicia Rose — yes another regular from Jason Hawkins’ All American Bully and Finding Oblivion) in tow, a young woman with a similar affliction. 

The Devil Knows His Own is a turning of the screws horror flick … granny is dead, but the quartet soon discover that a presence, perhaps her spirit, remains and that those horrors of the past have now arrived back with them full circle.   Hide you eyes!

007 Returns In Spectre On Feb. 29 As DVD And Blu-ray Edition Courtesy Of 20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment, in conjunction with MGM Home Entertainment, has tabbed Feb. 9 as the retail-ready street day for the latest 007 thriller, Spectre.   Stand alone DVD and Blu-ray editions are in the works for that date.

The ARR is a quick-to-market 95 days and ticket sales currently stand at a tasty $197.8 million — not as robust as Daniel Craig’s previous entry in the 007 series, Skyfall ($304.4 million), but ahead of both Quantum of Solace ($168.4 million) and his debut film, Casino Royale ($167.4 million).

This film sets up perfectly for a sequel, but whether Daniel Craig returns for a fifth outing as Bond, James Bond, is a bit up in the air right now.   Although the film was uneven, Christoph Waltz was a nice touch as long-time 007 nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

As to bonus goodies, there are seven featurettes — called “video blogs” — included with both the DVD and Blu-ray SKUs.   Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the featurette titled “SPECTRE: Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence.”

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment To Release The 33 On DVD And Blu-ray On Feb. 16

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is moving quickly to clear its slate of 2015 theatrical releases that weren’t quite there in terms of their anticipated performance levels at the box office.   

Pan got shuffled off to the home entertainment market place with a stunningly-fast ARR of 74 days —Katy Perry: Part of Me and Pan are the only two new theatrical releases in the history of either the DVD or Blu-ray formats, with a box office gross of at least $25 million, to make the transition from nationwide multiplexes to home entertainment that quickly.

Pan cost a pretty penny, didn’t generate the ticket sales hoped for … and it appears that Warner Bros. decided to book that loss in Q4’15 with the ultra quick to market DVD and Blu-ray push on Dec. 22.

The same holds true for We are Your Friends (an ARR of just 81 days), Our Brand is Crisis (95 days) and Water Diviner (also 95 days).   

Just because they under-performed at the box office doesn’t mean that these are bad movies — geeze, just look at Sony Pictures’ The Walk, one of the best movies of 2015, but it was a dud at the box office (perhaps too many people intimidated by extreme heights).

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
So when word arrived this past week from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment that director Patricia Riggen’s film adaptation of writer Hector Tobar’s “Deep Down Dark” — retitled for the screen as simple The 33 — was heading to DVD and Blu-ray on Feb. 16 it came as no surprise that the ARR was once again 95 days.

The harrowing tale — based on actual events — recounts the plight of 33 Chilean miners trapped in the San José copper mine located near Copiapó, Chile back in 2010.  Even with the film presented in English and with Antonio Banderas in the lead, The 33 only managed to pull in $11.9 million in domestic ticket sales (less than half of its reported production budget).

As to bonus goodies, there is one featurette common to both of the DVD and Blu-ray SKUs, “The 33 The World Was Watching.”   Exclusive to the Blu-ray edition is the featurette titled “The Mine Collapse.”

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Also announced this week for the DVD market is director André Singer’s resurrected and restored Night Will Fall will be available on Jan. 26.

As the Allies rolled across Europe on their way to victory over the Nazis in the spring of 1945 they came across camps — concentration camps — crammed with the dead and dying.   For soldiers who had fought in war, who had experienced the horror of combat first hand, the nightmare visions of these acres of barbed wire hell were beyond the pale.   

General Eisenhower ordered that these atrocities be documented and thus the “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey” was launched under the supervision of Sidney Bernstein, co-founder of the London Film Society.   His job was to recruit the talent necessary to document what took place at the various death camps (Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald and more).   To that end he recruited his life-long friend Alfred Hitchcock to supervise the direction.

The footage was shot — the hell on earth recorded — and quietly shelved.   Discovered after 70 years, it is now available in his wrap-around documentary directed by André Singer and co-produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner.

Bonus features include a video session with historian Rainer Schulze and two short films from the period — Death Mills (1945, directed by Billy Wilder) and Oświęcim (circa 1945 by Soviet soldier Zinowy Tolkachev).

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph TribbeyIn other release news this week, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has gone to the vaults for some long-awaited DVD debuts.    Streeting on Jan. 12 are a quartet of Westerns: The Younger Brothers (1949, directed by Edwin L. Marin, starring Wayne Morris, Bruce Bennett and Robert Hutton, with Geraldine Brooks and Janis Paige), Wild Bill Hickok Rides (released in January of 1942 — right after Pearl Harbor — directed by Ray Enright and co-starring Bruce Cabot and Constance Bennett), Station West (1948, directed by Sidney Lanfield, teaming Dick Powell with Jane Greer … others in the cast include Agnes Moorehead, Burl Ives and Raymond Burr) and Roughshod (1949, directed by Mark Robson, with Robert Sterling, John Ireland, Martha Hyer and Gloria Grahame).

Arriving on Jan. 19 is the rare Lucille Ball and Jack Oakie double-feature, The Affairs of Annabel and Annabel Takes a Tour (both released in 1938).

And Feb. 2 will see the DVD debut of a trio of classic action films from the early 1950s — Arctic Flight (1952, from Monogram Pictures, with direction by Lew Landers and teaming Wayne Morris and Lola Albright with Alan Hale Jr.), Desert Pursuit (also 1952 and again starring Wayne Morris, who is joined by Virginia Grey in a tale loosely based on Hi Jolly’s southwest camel experiment) and Mexican Manhunt (1953, directed by Rex Bailey, starring George Brent and Hillary Brooke).

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment's Bridge Of Spies Heads Home As DVD And Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Product Offerings On Feb. 2

DVD & Blu-ray Release Report, Ralph Tribbey
Running a little late to party for the promotion of its Blu-ray and DVD products, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has once again waited until long after retail and distribution outlets had begun taking orders to put forth an official press release for director Steven Spielberg’s Cold War spy thriller, Bridge of Spies

Perhaps it was a result of CES activities, Star Wars overload or other factors that may have become overwhelming during the Christmas holidays, but Feb. 2 has nevertheless been revealed — officially — as the street date for both DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack editions.

The ARR works out to 109 days and the domestic box haul currently stands at $70.3 million.

There are four featurettes included as bonus materials with the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack SKU — “A Case of the Cold War: Bridge of Spies,” “U-2 Spy Plane: Beale Air Force Base,” “Spy Swap: Looking Back On The Final Act” and “Berlin 1961: Recreating the Divide”