My Two Cents
Monday, 10 August 2020 16:55

Breaking: WarnerMedia layoffs begin with Home Entertainment heavily impacted, plus the Paramount Consent Decrees fall

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Well, the new week is here. And unfortunately, in the wake of our post on Friday about Walt Disney Home Entertainment’s catalog 4K plans (or lack thereof), the news today isn’t good either...

Per Deadline this morning, WarnerMedia has begun a round of layoffs and restructuring meant to help the company survive the pandemic and its resulting economic downturn. Jeffrey R. Schlesinger (President, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution), Ron Sanders (President, Worldwide Theatrical Distribution & Home Entertainment and EVP, International Business Operations), and Kim Williams (EVP and Chief Financial Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment) are all “exiting” the company per this arrangement. Ron Sanders has been with the company for almost thirty years, going all the way back to the early days of DVD. So his departure is a big deal. (Our friends at Media Play News have a good profile on Sanders up today here.)

But here’s the rub from the linked Deadline piece... “about 600 employees across multiple divisions are expected to be let go, starting today. Warner Bros Entertainment is believed to be heavily impacted.[Read on here...]

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And THAT is not good. Warner Bros. has been a bright spot in physical media in recent years with their support of 4K remastering, 4K and Blu-ray catalog releases, and especially the Warner Archive Collection.

What all this means for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment plans going forward is unclear. The company did just recently form a ten-year joint venture with Universal to “distribute Blu-ray, DVD and 4K UHD for new releases, library titles and television content in U.S. and Canada and combine sales, retail marketing and distribution ops for both majors.” You can see our report on that here at The Bits from back in January.

So it’s possible this move is meant to streamline the company’s efforts. But of course the pandemic has thrown everything for a loop since that time. In terms of Warner’s existing slate of titles, the Warner Archive Collection, and home entertainment plans going forward, we don’t yet know what this might mean... except that it can’t not be somewhat disruptive.

Meanwhile, another bit of industry news broke last week but with all the chaos we didn’t even have time to mention it: A Federal judge has issued a ruling effectively ending the Paramount Consent Decrees. You can read about that here at Deadline, and you can read our own coverage on the topic here at The Bits from last year.

Essentially, the Paramount Consent Decrees are a set of anti-trust regulations that have governed the film industry since the 1940s, following the 1948 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Paramount Pictures. Specifically, they regulated how the movie studios can distribute their own films to theaters. The Hollywood studios at the time controlled nearly every aspect of the film industry, from having their own contract creative talent (actors, directors, etc) to their own theater chains for exhibiting their movies. The government then was concerned that this was essentially a monopoly, so they set regulations in place that forced the studios to give up their theater chains. The rules also made block booking illegal (forcing theaters to show a group of films—essentially to take the bad with the good) and disallowed studios from setting minimum ticket prices, among other things.

The Justice Department now believes that time and technology have made these rules unnecessary, and they hope eliminating them will lead the way to even more consumer-friendly innovation. But removing the rules could make a few things possible. For one, companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Apple could purchase their own theaters to expand their distribution. You might also see different independent theater chains catering to different markets with different types of films. But it could also once again allow major studios to force theaters to carry underperforming films if they want access to the blockbusters. It might also force indie studios and producers to scale back production for lack of available screens to show their films (as they get crowded out by blockbusters)—something that’s already a problem. This would essentially force more and more of the indie filmmaking industry into streaming

And keep in mind that all of this was set into motion before the pandemic. Now, theater chains are seriously pinched. And this ruling essentially gives the Hollywood studios even more of an upper hand in dealing with them. What all of this shows is an industry that’s in significant turmoil right now, clearly at a turning point in terms of how it produces and distributes films and home entertainment product. How all of it going to settle out is anyone’s guess.

All right, we do have a little bit of regular release news to report today as well...

First, Lionsgate has just officially announced Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream for release on 4K Ultra HD on 10/13 in honor of the film’s 20th anniversary. Newly remastered in 4K in a process supervised by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, the disc will include Aronofsky’s Director’s Cut version of the film, with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. You’ll also get a mix of new and legacy special features.

Newly-produced extras on the 4K disc will include 4 featurettes (On Set: 1999, Transcendent Moments: The Score of Requiem for a Dream, Ellen Burstyn on Requiem for a Dream, and Through Their Eyes: Revisiting Requiem for a Dream), along with legacy audio commentary by director Darren Aronofsky, and a second legacy commentary by director of photography Matthew Libatique. To this, the included Blu-ray disc will add 2 legacy featurettes (The Making of Requiem for a Dream and Memories, Dreams, & Addictions: Ellen Burstyn Interviews Hubert Selby, Jr.), Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Aronofsky, and a Marketing Gallery. You can see the cover artwork below.

Also, Shout! Factory has just announced that Ivan Reitman’s Twins (1988) is coming on 11/17 as a new Shout Select Blu-ray release. Extras are TBA.

Meanwhile, Scream Factory has just revealed that Terence Fisher’s 1960 Hammer Films title The Brides of Dracula will be released on Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on 11/10, along with the IFC Midnight title Relic on 11/17.

Here’s a look at the cover artwork for three of these titles, with Amazon links if available (we will add links for the two Shout! titles as they go live)...

Requiem for a Dream: Director's Cut (4K Ultra HD) Twins (Blu-ray Disc) Brides of Dracula (Blu-ray Disc)

All right, that’s enough for one day. I need to wrap my brain around all this news and try to make a few phone calls to see who’s survived at Warner Bros. and who hasn’t. We’ll post updates as we can.

Stay tuned...

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)



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