Owners of the DVD and Blu-ray Disc of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s The Wolverine can now access an augmented reality app, letting fans battle Yakuza on a speeding bullet train, and post photos of themselves with claws to social media sites.
Dubbed Fox 4D, the app opens up the augmented reality experience when an enabled mobile device is pointed at The Wolverine cover art or one of the 12,800-plus displays at retail or online advertising the film.
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.
Hollywood’s ongoing effort to convince consumers to rent higher-margin digital movies (than discs) through their multichannel video program distributor, including cable, satellite and telco, doesn’t appear to be gaining traction, according to a new study.
Nearly 73% of 3,177 consumers surveyed in the third quarter in the U.S. and Canada by Digitalsmiths said they have never rented a movie from their MVPD. About 27% of respondents order one (13.3%) or more (6.7%) movies a month. The data supports a similar finding from Frank N. Magid Associates that found less than 10% of Internet users opt for transactional video-on-demand through a broadband service.
Transactional VOD (and later iVOD) has been at the forefront of home entertainment strategies ever since Warner Bros. became the first studio to offer digital access to new release movie rentals the same day as their retail release.
“While [27%) may be a small portion of the overall audience, when multiplied by millions of subscribers, there is a significant revenue impact,” said Digitalsmiths. “However, there is clearly still work to be done to keep these numbers increasing.”
Principal complaints about transactional VOD is finding a movie, especially catalog. Nearly 26% of respondents cited searching for a title as problematic — up from 23.4% in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, more than 48% of respondents said they use subscription OTT services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, with more than 57% of this group spending between $6 and $11 a month. Netflix alone saw an even higher increase in adoption than all other services, according to the report. Other services included Hulu Plus (9.4%), Redbox Instant (2%) and Blockbuster (1.8%).
Redbox kiosks remain the clear leader in the disc rental space, but iTunes and Amazon also saw increases in iVOD adoption. More than 51% of respondents said they spend $3 to $11 per month renting discs or digital content from sources such as YouTube (1.3%), Vudu (1.2%) and CinemaNow (0.8%).
The report said 60% of respondents cited convenience as the top reason for using third-party video services such as kiosks. Indeed, more than 61% of respondents who use Redbox do so because of convenience. Another 48% said third-party video services are cheaper than those offered by MVPDs.
“This contradicts the perception of the cost in time and money of driving to the store, possibly waiting in line, and then having to go back again to return the rental. This is a far greater time investment than simply accessing a VOD title directly from one’s TV,” read the report.
The study suggests MVPDs make VOD options more prominent with easier search functions, similar to what Netflix, Hulu and Amazon employ, thereby enabling consumers to find titles which were once buried and previously overlooked.
“In an era of intuitive touch screens and voice navigation, scrolling through a long list of titles and having to go to numerous screens via a remote control is not the answer,” read the report.
Finally, the Digitalsmiths found 23.4% of respondents favor video services that allow portability of content to connected devices, notably on tablets. The report said it is “crucial” MPVDs offer these TV Everywhere options, in addition to making subscribers aware of these services through a combination of digital marketing and more traditional methods. Similar to video viewing, awareness is built through marketing across multiple channels.
Indeed, 28% of respondents said they watch movies on a tablet, followed by 22% who watch repurposed TV shows, and content previews. From 20% to 26% of those surveyed said they watch 1-2 hours of TV programming or movies per week on a tablet. Interestingly, more than 36% watch TV shows on demand on a smartphone, while another 30% watch movies — with 37% viewing 1-2 hours a week.
File-sharing site Hotfile.com has been ordered to pay $80 million for violating studio copyrights and will be shut down if it doesn’t employ copyright filtering technologies going forward, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled Dec. 3.
The ruling effectively closes the book on Hotfile’s file-sharing service, and ends litigation Disney, Fox, Universal, Sony Pictures and Warner took against the site and its chief executive, Anton Titov, in March 2012. The studios were successful in shutting down file-sharing service MegaUpload in January 2012.
“This judgment by the court is another important step toward protecting an Internet that works for everyone,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. “Sites like Hotfile that illegally profit off of the creativity and hard work of others do a serious disservice to audiences, who deserve high-quality, legitimate viewing experiences online.”
Hotfile attempted to defend itself from the allegations by claiming safe harbor protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a stance the court rejected. The court ordered Hotfile to use copyright filtering tools if it wishes to continue doing business online.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Nov. 26 launched digital movie gifting on Walmart’s Vudu.com platform — including first-ever virtual gift wrapping for digital movie purchases.
Sony’s Movie eWrap, which launched last year, this season has expanded to include Vudu’s catalog of movies and TV shows — many with UltraViolet functionality. Dubbed “eGift on Vudu powered by Movie eWrap,” consumers can now purchase an UltraViolet digital movie and send it as a gift to family or friends.
Gift recipients receive an email with their gift and swipe or click to see and hear decorative digital ribbon and wrapping paper virtually “tear off,” revealing a digital movie. Recipients can access and play UltraViolet digital movies across many connected devices, including the iPad Air, Xbox One and PS4.
The digital movie gift is designed to enhance and personalize the generic gift card, making giving a digital movie feel more like getting a physical present.
“Rolling out Movie eWrap on the Vudu adds another level of digital interactivity and convenience for movie lovers,” said Richard Berger, SVP of global digital strategy and operations for SPHE. “Movies have always made great gifts, and now with eGift on Vudu, consumers can gift a specific movie complete with an interactive, unwrapping experience.”
eGift on Vudu is compatible with tablets and computers and optimized for touch interfaces. Shoppers can also gift digital movies using Movie eWrap from the Sony Pictures Gift Store, choosing from more than 500 UltraViolet movies available.
Vudu is a supporter of UltraViolet, the industry initiative that allows consumers to purchase and store movies and TV shows in a cloud-based digital library. The recently introduced Vudu Extras+ also offers “Enhanced Scene Search,” “Clip & Share,” deleted scenes, featurettes and movie trivia, available in the cloud with UltraViolet purchases.
Sony Pictures Gift Store and Movie eWrap are optimized for use on Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS computers, along with Android and iOS devices.
Redbox recently began renting indie mystery thriller Vanished from Osiris Entertainment, about fourth months after its July 30 street date. The delay wasn’t due to any embargo, but rather the result of an increasingly crowded content field beset by myriad distribution channels.
Vanished marked another title in Redbox’s ongoing relationship with the Los Angeles indie packaged-media distributor, which like any other, including major studios, is trying to navigate a changing home entertainment market where physical product is progressively deluded in a digital world.
“Title slots in a Redbox kiosk can fill very quickly,” said Evan Crooke, owner and CEO of Osiris. “[Redbox is] capable of moving a title on the distribution shuffleboard by two or three months in either direction.”
Upcoming new releases for Osiris in 2014 include Bottled Up, with Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Josh Hamilton and Marin Ireland; Matt’s Chance, starring Edward Furlong; romantic comedy A Big Love Story; and horror thriller Bloodline.
Osiris’ portfolio of 600 third-party DVDs (no Blu-ray), with production budgets ranging from $30,000 to $4 million, underscores the emergence of new distributors (Inception Media, Random Media, etc.) that compete with studios selling and licensing content in a fractured network of digital and physical platforms. While these channels offer unprecedented options to consumers, for distributors, ubiquitous access doesn’t guarantee the financial returns of the past.
“Netflix is a great account, but it’s highly unpredictable. You never know on the digital side if they are going to order something, because [content licensing is] driven more on [recommendation] queue, demand matrix and demand algorisms, as opposed to human desire to pick up [the DVD] and rent or buy it,” Crooke said.
The CEO said that unlike studios that license catalogs of movies and TV shows to digital platforms, indie distributors often cope with their selections being judged on a title-by-title basis.
“Every title has its own [distribution] life,” Crooke said. “You never know for sure which direction a title is going to take. It comes down to the right titles. There’s a lot of competition. You try to anticipate it, but it’s not an exact science.”
He said advantages to a distributor like Redbox is that it remains one of the few accounts where he can move up to 50,000 units of a title — numbers typically unheard of for indie fare.
Crooke said the downside to technological advances in distribution means that while it’s easier to make and distribute video fare (think YouTube), the resulting glut of content deludes value and margins.
“Anybody can make a movie with today’s technology. Grandma can be [Martin] Scorsese, or think she’s Scorsese,” he said. “It’s a volume business now. It’s a very different equation.”
Michael Pachter, analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, counters that digital distribution is better for content holders and worse for physical retail. Finding content, however, remains an advantage for brick-and-mortar stores.
“It’s not clear that people are aware that titles are available for digital download and purchase,” Pachter said.
Crooke said that while the arrival of Hulu Plus, Redbox Instant and Target Ticket underscores the fact that DVD is on the decline, packaged-media distributors such as Redbox, Walmart and Best Buy still provide content holders a great deal of cash that he said is “almost guaranteed.”
“If you get a title with 16,000 or 20,000 units in Walmart, you can guarantee X number of dollars,” he said, adding that the revenue can range from $70,000 to $200,000 per title. “The problem with VOD or digital is you don’t have a guarantee. It’s all over the map.”
Crooke said the transformation of home entertainment to digital distribution has not included the relative safeguards packaged media enjoyed at retail — notably select shelf space and foot traffic. He said the plethora of content selections on digital platforms means individual indie titles can easily get lost in the crowd.
“DVD, while it’s going away or being hidden under a rug, hasn’t been replaced by anything substantially sufficient,” he said. “There’s too much competition in too many places.”
Indeed, when YouTube in 2012 launched its 100-channel subscription video-on-demand platform, content holders were subjected to revenue-sharing agreements, which meant they would only share in the revenue when a user pushed the “monetize” button. With 72 hours of content reportedly uploaded to YouTube every minute of every day, the likelihood of an individual channel being noticed diminishes exponentially.
And, according to BusinessWeek.com, rates that advertisers pay to be on popular online videos have fallen by about one-third since 2012.
“You don’t know if a 1,000 people are going to download the movie or 1 million will download it,” Crooke said.
Regardless, Eric Wold, analyst with B. Riley & Co. in Los Angeles, believes the continued advancement of digital distribution is a boon for smaller, indie studios and titles. He said indie distributors dependent upon retail stores to bring attention to their titles is risky.
“Indie studios and distributors need to have a diverse distribution strategy and not be dependent on any one channel,” Wold said.
The analyst said that was the main reason Cinedigm acquired New Video last year and Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment this year was to provide indies with a combination of physical, VOD and SVOD distribution strategies that can be tailored to each individual title.
“If consumers are interested in indie titles, you are more likely to have the recommendation engines work in your favor for those titles digitally than if we were still in a physical-only world,” Wold said.
DirecTV has updated its TV Everywhere app for the iPhone and iPad, increasing the number of live streaming channels available.
DirecTV subscribers can now access as many as 100 in-home channels and 30 out-of-home channels, including HBO, Starz and Cinemax.
The updated iPhone app now also serves as a remote control for a DirecTV set-top, while the updated iPad app also brings updated DVR capabilities.
Redbox Instant by Verizon is now available on Nokia Lumia smartphones running Windows 8, and will soon be available for all devices running Windows 8, the companies announced.
Redbox Instant by Verizon combines disc rentals at Redbox kiosks with unlimited streaming for $8 a month.
“By collaborating with Microsoft and Nokia, Redbox Instant by Verizon has the opportunity to reach an important segment of the mobile user market and offer a destination for movies that’s deeply integrated with the unique Windows Phone 8 design principles and user interface,” said Shawn Strickland, CEO of Redbox Instant by Verizon. “As mobile phones transform into entertainment hubs for consumers, we want to ensure they have instant access to a great selection of movies.”
Todd Brix, GM of Windows apps and store for Microsoft Corp, added: “Apps come to life on Windows Phone, thanks to features like Live Tiles. Redbox Instant by Verizon takes advantage of these features to enable users to enjoy their favorite movies on the go.”
The Blockbuster store will soon be history. Not so for the brand.
Dish Network, which acquired Blockbuster and its licenses in 2011, has big plans for the rental icon — except they don’t involve packaged media.
In a Nov. 12 fiscal call, Dish CEO Joseph Clayton said the recent decision to shutter all remaining corporate-owned Blockbuster stores (and put Blockbuster Mexico up for sale) underscored the reality that, according to him, the American consumer today is largely receiving his or her content electronically, as opposed to physically. And Clayton said the original Blockbuster business model was predicated primarily on the physical distribution of video.
As a result, Dish is retaining all licensing rights to the Blockbuster brand as well as other key digital assets, including the company's significant video library and digital technology.
“We continue to see value in the brand as we expand our digital offerings,” Clayton said without elaborating.
Specifically, Dish is keeping its nascent Blockbuster @Home streaming movie service fully functioning. With 15 linear channels and a large number of digitally streamed movies (reportedly 25,000 titles), Clayton characterizes @Home as an add-on service to Dish’s satellite TV multichannel video program distribution platform — not dissimilar than HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz and Comcast’s Xfinity Streampix.
“We charge $10 a month for it. And we give it away free for 90 days when you purchase a Hopper (DVR), one of our better programming packages,” Clayton said. “It is an important part of our programming mix. And we'll look to improve upon that service as we go forward.”
M-Go, the transactional video-on-demand entertainment service backed by Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation, Nov. 5 said U.S. owners of LG Smart TVs are now able to access M-Go's library of new-release and catalog movies and TV shows that can be streamed directly into their living rooms.
M-Go new releases include We're the Millers, Grown Ups 2, The Heat, Monsters University and White House Down, among others. Titles can be rented (from $4.99) or purchased (from $10.99).
For 2013 and 2012 LG Smart TVs, M-Go is preloaded on the device’s homepage. LG's "magic remote" control enables users to find, organize, purchase movies and TV shows.
Current LG Smart TV users can try out M-Go with a special offer of two free rentals of standard- or high-definition movies by typing in the code "LGTV" and hitting apply at the point of purchase. The promotion, which requires an M-Go account, is valid through Dec. 31.
M-Go’s partnership with LG was first announced in September.
"Consumers want new home entertainment experiences and easy access the entertainment that matters most to them," said James Fishler, SVP of marketing with LG Electronics USA. "M-Go combines an open platform with a user-friendly interface that seamlessly integrates with the LG Smart TV platform."
In addition to a "digital directory," M-Go offers up to six profiles per account and has a "watch list" feature (similar to Netflix) so that each member of the household gets tailored recommendations and his or her own list of movies and TV shows to watch later.
M-Go also offers movie trailers, critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, cast and crew images, and filmographies.
“By working with LG, we're proud to remove obstacles to finding the best entertainment, helping consumers get one step closer to enjoying their entertainment on their big screens at home,” M-Go CEO John Batter said in a statement.
Paramount Pictures will offer consumers the opportunity to watch Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, starring Will Ferrell, two days ahead of its Dec. 20 theatrical launch with the purchase of a premium-priced “SuperTicket.”
The promotion, which consumers can register for at www.anchormanmovie.com/superticket, enables users who purchase a “SuperTicket” through Fandango the ability to watch the sequel comedy early at AMC Theaters nationwide. Pricing for the “SuperTicket” has not yet been released.
The original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy generated $85 million at the domestic box office in 2004.
Indeed, the promotion mirrors Paramount’s “SuperTicket” campaign in June for Brad Pitt zombie thriller, World War Z, which enabled consumers to watch the 3D movie early for $50. The price also included a customized pair of 3D glasses, T-shirt, movie poster, popcorn and a drink, in addition to digital access with UltraViolet functionality of the title when it's released at retail from Paramount Home Media Distribution.
Parmount is again involved in the Anchorman 2 promotion.
The World War Z campaign, which was done at five Regal Cinema locations through Fandango, was credited with driving Pitt's highest-grossing box office title.