Former MoviePass executives settle FTC allegations that they ‘took steps to block subscribers from using the service’

MoviePass
MoviePass shut down its subscription service in September 2019.

  • An FTC complaint alleged MoviePass execs Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth “took steps to block subscribers.”
  • The FTC obtained emails from the execs about a “deceptive” plan to limit user access to the service.
  • The complaint substantiated Insider’s reporting on how subscribers were blocked from the service.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday announced that it has settled with the top executives of MoviePass, the defunct movie ticket subscription startup, over allegations that they “took steps to block subscribers from using the service” and also “[failed] to secure subscribers’ personal data.”

Under the settlement, former MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth, former CEO of MoviePass parent company Helios and Matheson, are “barred from misrepresenting their business and data security practices” in the future, according to the FTC press release outlining the settlement.

“MoviePass and its executives went to great lengths to deny consumers access to the service they paid for while also failing to secure their personal information,” said Daniel Kaufman, the FTC’s Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the release.

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Mitch Lowe, left, and Ted Farnsworth were both named, along with their companies, in an FTC complaint.

The FTC complaint, which was reviewed by Insider, alleged that both Lowe and Farnsworth “knew of, ordered, or helped execute” a “password disruption program” that limited the ability of frequent MoviePass subscribers to use use the service.

The complaint cited an April 2018 email it obtained from Farnsworth’s personal email that was sent to Lowe and others at the company. The email proposed a notice that falsely “informed subscribers that their account passwords were required to be reset due to ‘suspicious activity or potential fraud.'”

The complaint alleged that both Lowe and Farnsworth were aware of the program’s “deceptive nature,” noting that despite one executive’s warning that “there is a high risk this would catch the FTC’s attention,” Lowe went forward.

“Ok I get it,” Lowe responded via email, according to the FTC complaint. “So let[‘]s try this with a small group. Let[‘]s say 2% of our highest volume users.”

The FTC complaint substantiates Insider’s reporting in its rise and fall story of MoviePass, which detailed how Lowe ordered that heavy users of MoviePass – also known as “power users” – be blocked from seeing “Avengers: Infinity War.”

From the story:

Per Lowe’s orders, MoviePass began limiting subscriber access ahead of the April release of the highly anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War,” according to multiple former employees. They said Lowe ordered that the passwords of a small percentage of power users be changed, preventing them from logging onto the app and ordering tickets.

Insider contacted Lowe and Farnsworth’s attorney for comment but did not get a response.

FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a tweet on Monday that because MoviePass is now out of business, having shut down in September of 2019, “the agency was unable to obtain restitution for Lowe’s and Farnsworth’s victims.”

Last week, Lowe and Farnsworth agreed to a $400,000 settlement with four California District Attorneys’ offices that had alleged “unlawful business practices.”

MoviePass surged in popularity in the summer of 2017 after Helios and Matheson bought the service and drastically lowered the price to $10 a month to see a movie per day. But MoviePass burned through hundreds of millions of dollars and failed to find a business model that didn’t lead to massive losses.

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‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is now available to all Disney Plus subscribers without an extra fee – here’s how to watch at home

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

raya and the last dragon disney plus
  • Raya and the Last Dragon” is now available to all subscribers on Disney Plus.
  • The movie is also available to purchase without a subscription through VOD services like Vudu.
  • Disney Plus costs $8/month or $80/year, and bundles with Hulu and ESPN+ start at $14/month.

Monthly Subscription Service (small)“Raya and The Last Dragon” (small)

Dragons, warriors, and the mystical land of Kumandra are ready to take the Disney universe by storm in “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

The action-adventure film starring the voices of Kelly Marie Tran and Awkwafina debuted on Disney Plus as a Premier Access title on March 5. As of June 4, the film is available to all subscribers for no additional cost. You can also buy the movie through VOD services like Vudu, Prime Video, and FandangoNow for $20.

Raya and the Last Dragon” focuses on Raya (Tran), a warrior who embarks on a quest to defeat an evil force plaguing her land. In order to restore peace, Raya must find the last dragon. The film comes from director Don Hall, known for his work on “Moana,” and director Carlos López Estrada, whose previous work includes “Blindspotting,” a dramedy starring Daveed Diggs.

How to watch ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ on Disney Plus

Raya and the Last Dragon” debuted on Disney Plus on March 5 as a Premier Access title. Though it originally cost an extra $30 to unlock, the film became available to all subscribers for no additional fee on June 4.

Disney Plus costs $8 a month or $80 for an annual plan. You can also pair Disney Plus with ESPN+ and Hulu to watch sports and tons of additional shows and movies. The bundle costs $14 a month, which saves you about $6 a month compared to buying all three services on their own.

The Disney Plus app is available on popular media devices such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and most smart TV brands.

How to watch ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ without Disney Plus

Though “Raya and the Last Dragon” was initially exclusive to Disney Plus, the movie is now available to buy through other streaming retailers, including Vudu, Prime Video, FandangoNow, Google Play, Microsoft and Apple TV.

“Raya and The Last Dragon” (button)

The digital purchase costs $20 and does not require any additional subscription fee. Once you buy the movie, you’ll be able to watch it as much as you like through the platform you choose. The film is available in up to 4K with HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos through select apps.

If you don’t need to own the movie, however, it’s cheaper to sign up for one month of Disney Plus ($8/month) to watch “Raya and the Last Dragon.” Plans also give you access to thousands of titles from Pixar, Disney, Marvel, and more.

What other brand-new movies can I watch at home?

Disney isn’t the only studio streaming new movies that were originally planned for theaters. Warner Bros. announced that it will release its entire 2021 movie lineup in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time. For instance, you can watch “In the Heights” when it premieres June 10 on HBO Max.

Other studios, like Sony, Universal, Lionsgate, and Paramount also offer streaming rental or purchase options for select titles that were originally planned for theaters. “In-theater” digital rentals or purchases can be made through a variety of services, including Apple TV, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Google Play.

For more information about digital rentals, check out our guide to streaming rental services.

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Movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse says it’s reopening 5 US locations just 3 months after filing for bankruptcy

alamo drafthouse
An Alamo Drafthouse location in 2016.

  • Alamo Drafthouse furloughed employees in 2020 and said in March it would close struggling locations.
  • Movie theaters were hit hard by the pandemic and were shuttered from March to August 2020.
  • But theaters appear to be bouncing back – cinemas had their best performance yet over the weekend.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Specialty movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse said it is opening five US locations, just three months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The new theaters will be in Manhattan and Staten Island, two in Washington DC, and one in St. Louis, according to a press release shared with Insider. Alamo Drafthouse’s specialty is serving food and cocktails to customers in their seats while they watch the movie.

Alamo Drafthouse CEO Shelli Taylor said in the press release that “we’re so thrilled to be reopening theaters across the country and welcoming back audiences for an unparalleled moviegoing experience with films we’ve been eagerly awaiting for over a year now.”

The theater industry was slammed by health protocols and shutdowns during the pandemic as people were driven into their homes and turned to streaming entertainment. US theaters were closed from March to August 2020, and Alamo Drafthouse furloughed its workforce.

The Austin, Texas-based company said in March that its bankruptcy filing was part of a sale of “substantially all its assets.” The company runs more than 40 locations across the country and said in March that it would close some that were struggling.

But cinemas appear to be bouncing back as vaccines are distributed and restrictions are loosened. Warner Bros. released “Godzilla vs. Kong” in April, and the movie earned $48 million in its opening weekend, signaling hope for cinemas.

Read more: China’s box-office dominance was accelerated by the pandemic and it has big implications for Hollywood’s future

US movie theaters saw their best performance over the four-day Memorial Day weekend since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The country’s largest chains – AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, and Regal Cinemas – announced just before the weekend kicked off that they wouldn’t require vaccinated movie-goers to wear masks.

Domestic box offices raked in $84 million over the long weekend, sales that were largely driven by “A Quiet Place Part ll.” The movie is now the biggest US box office hit since the pandemic began.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Hate going to the theater? Here’s how theaters are ruining the movie-going experience

  • Movie theaters aren’t doing enough to ensure that their audience is seeing a movie the way it is meant to be seen.
  • Many theaters have little quality control over things like screen masking and projector brightness, and it has begun to hurt the moviegoing experience.
  • We talked with two projection experts to help us understand what is going on inside the booth.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Which looks better? This, or that? Well, what if I told you that you may have been paying a premium to see the worst version.

You know those black bars you sometimes see on the top, bottom or sides of a movie? They occur because movies are filmed at different frame sizes, or aspect ratios. “Lady Bird”, shot in widescreen should appear differently than “Star Wars”, which was shot in Cinemascope. A Cinemascope movie on your TV will have black bars on the top and bottom, while a movie theater masks the frame with retractable curtains. These curtains at Night Hawk Cinema in Brooklyn absorb the light and create a frame around the projected image. But take away the curtains and…

Chapin Cutler: When you don’t have masking what happens is you’ve got this gray area of screen which isn’t reflecting picture, it’s not reflecting the image. It just sort-of sits there and looks ugly. There is a move afoot by some theater circuits, I guess in order to save money, that have decided that, that’s a waste of money and they’re not gonna do it.

Narrator: That’s Chapin Cutler. He’s been working in the projection and theater business for over 40 years. The empty screen space can be distracting and takes away from the immersive experience of seeing a movie on the big screen.

Another problem? Projector brightness, which can be affected by the age and cleanliness of the bulb, along with any dirt or smudges that may be on the window of the projection booth. Some “Solo” attendees reported seeing extremely dark almost unviewable projections with a few saying that they had to struggle to see what was on screen.

Chapin Cutler: If the standard that’s been established for the amount of light that is supposed to be on the screen isn’t there, then not only does the picture look dark but you don’t see anything that goes on in the shadows. All of that information disappears.

Narrator: And if there was a 3D showing in the theater before a standard 2D showing a lens meant only for 3D movies may still be on the projector making the image two thirds darker than it should be.

Joe Muto: Showing something like that with a very low light level is gonna take away from it. If that’s the experience you walk away with that’s going to impede your positive judgment of the film, and that’s just gonna ruin it for you.

Narrator: Hurting both the team behind the movie and its viewers, and possibly creating customers who may not come back to that theater for a sub-par experience.

The issues aren’t limited to “Solo.” The past few years have seen numerous reports of theaters not doing enough to ensure quality screenings. Standard 2D movie tickets average about $9.00 in the U.S. And almost twice that in places like New York City. But is the price of admission worth seeing a movie that is not being shown the way it is meant to? You can get a full 4K movie for 15 bucks. Why bother with what may be a questionable theater presentation if you can get cinema-like quality at home?

The picture may be bigger, and the sound may be better but if you’re having a bad theater experience, take note. If a theater has a dark blurry picture or leaves empty areas of the screen unmasked try a different theater. Many are still working hard to bring you the best picture possible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2018.

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How ‘Saw’ became a $1 billion horror franchise after nearly going straight-to-DVD, and what the producers have planned for the future

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  • The recently released “Spiral” has pushed the “Saw” franchise past $1 billion at the global box office.
  • Insiders detailed how it got there after the first movie almost went straight to DVD.
  • The franchise’s producers say they have more movies in mind and aren’t ruling out TV.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The story of “Saw” has as many twists and turns as the horror franchise itself.

When the first movie, directed by James Wan, was released in 2004, it was a box-office hit, grossing $56 million in the US and $103 million worldwide off of a measly $1.2 million budget.

Seventeen years and eight sequels later, including the recently released “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” the franchise – which is about a serial killer named Jigsaw who sets up elaborate traps for his victims – has hit $1 billion in total global box office. (“Spiral” has grossed $24 million worldwide and is getting an early digital-rental release on June 1.)

It’s an impressive feat considering that first entry was almost sentenced to the void of straight-to-DVD movies.

“You don’t know how close ‘Saw’ was to never getting a theatrical release,” said producer Mark Burg, cofounder of Twisted Pictures, which has produced every “Saw” movie.

Burg and Twisted cofounder Oren Koules liken themselves to James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, in the sense that they’ve been among the few constants in the nearly two decades of the “Saw” franchise. Like Broccoli with Bond, they are the keepers of “Saw.”

The duo, along with other “Saw” insiders, spoke with Insider about how the franchise has sustained itself over the years and what’s to come, including a prequel movie, “Spiral” sequel, and maybe TV down the line.

“When you have a concept and a world that is as developed and rich as ‘Saw’ is, there are endless possibilities,” said Jason Constantine, the Lionsgate president of acquisitions and coproductions, who has been involved with “Saw” since the beginning.

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Chris Rock in a scene from “Spiral.”

Lionsgate has distributed every movie from 2004’s “Saw” to this year’s “Spiral,” but its devotion to “Saw” got off to a rocky start, according to Burg and Koules.

After an initial research screening of “Saw” just outside of Los Angeles that Burg and Koules said “tested through the roof,” Lionsgate set up another test screening in Las Vegas in March 2004. But Lionsgate didn’t tell the producing duo exactly where it was until the day of.

“They thought we brought in 200 of our closest friends because they didn’t think there was any way it could test so well,” Burg said.

That screening “tested even higher,” Constantine said.

“That was the turning point to realize it could really be a theatrical movie,” he said.

“Saw” was ultimately released in the UK that September and made $11 million before it even hit North American theaters on Halloween weekend in October, a weekend the franchise would own for some time after.

“It crushed and gave everybody a lot more bravado about putting the movie in theaters and spending more money” on advertising, Koules said.

Since then, every “Saw” movie except the sixth has grossed more than $100 million globally. The highest budget for a “Saw” movie before “Spiral” (which cost $40 million to produce) was $20 million for the seventh entry. Every other “Saw” cost $11 million or less, not counting marketing costs.

Burg and Koules credit the franchise’s main antagonist Jigsaw, played by Tobin Bell, with why audiences keep coming back for more.

“It’s a weird dynamic where people cheer and root for Jigsaw, but he’s not a vigilante,” Koules said.

“We always want to make sure that Jigsaw succeeds when the movie’s over,” Burg said.

“Yet we’re the two idiots that killed him in ‘Saw III,'” he added with a bit of self-deprecation.

That clearly didn’t stop fans from returning to theaters or scooping up home-video releases. Since 2004, only a handful of horror franchises have hit the coveted $1 billion mark, according to data from the research company Comscore, including “Resident Evil,” “It,” and “The Conjuring,” if we include the spinoffs of the latter. And Koules said that the “Saw” franchise has likely hit closer to $2.5 billion after accounting for home-entertainment sales.

“Hitting the $1 billion mark in global box office is a huge deal for any franchise, but in the horror genre it’s almost elusive,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst. “The ‘Saw’ franchise clearly struck a chord with audiences around the world.”

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The first “Saw” was released in 2004.

Sequels and ‘Spiral’

Nobody was thinking about sequels to “Saw” in 2004; not Burg and Koules, not Lionsgate, and not even writer/director Wan and his cowriter Leigh Whannell (who also plays Adam in the movie and has since directed thrillers of his own like “Upgrade” and “The Invisible Man”).

“I think James and I were thinking more of the first ‘Saw’ film as a demo reel for our next film than anything,” Whannell told AV Club in 2010. “Far from thinking of what should the sequels be about, we thought that we would probably make the film and then be carting that around on a DVD trying to get people to watch it. So we just really didn’t think ahead.”

As for Burg and Koules: “We just wanted to get our money back,” Burg said.

They did get their money back and then some. The pair struck down several offers from Lionsgate, including $5 million, before settling on a deal where they wouldn’t take an advance, but pay Lionsgate a distribution fee of “roughly 18% to 20%” and keep the rest. “Saw” cost just over $1 million to make and it grossed more than $100 million.

“It was more money than I’d every dreamed of in my life,” Burg said.

Despite the film’s success, Lionsgate was cautious. Burg and Koules made seven “Saw” movies in seven years, but Lionsgate never greenlit a sequel until after the previous movie was released. They were also producing the sitcom “Two and a Half Men” during those years.

“Some of it is kind of a blur to us,” Koules said.

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Chris Rock in “Spiral.”

“I don’t think any of us knew when ‘Saw II’ came out what it would do,” said “Spiral” director Darren Lynn Bousman, who also directed “Saw II,” “III,” and “IV.” “It wasn’t a franchise at that point. It wasn’t until ‘Saw II’ made money that the intensity started.”

“Saw II” made $153 million worldwide off of a $4 million budget, showing that the first film wasn’t a fluke.

“You can’t have a franchise unless the second movie works,” Constantine said.

While the franchise hit its stride with the early films, it hit a slump with “Saw VI,” which underperformed compared to the previous entries with $72 million globally. The next film in 2010 was dubbed “Saw: The Final Chapter” – but turns out, it wasn’t. The seventh film got the series back on track with $136 million, but the franchise took a hiatus until the eighth movie, “Jigsaw,” in 2017.

After “Jigsaw,” the producing duo were developing a “Saw” prequel of sorts with Bell, the Jigsaw actor, when Chris Rock pitched his idea for what would become “Spiral.”

“With the first movie we tried doing a a lot more psychological horror, like ‘Seven,'” Koules said. “As the movies went on they got a lot more rough. Then Chris came along and said he wants to do ’48 Hours’ meets ‘Seven.’ We were really excited because we wanted to get back to the psychological aspect.”

Rock’s pitch was intriguing enough to lure Bousman back to direct.

“‘Spiral’ was a completely different beast for me,” he told Insider. “It’s been 14 years since I made a ‘Saw’ movie. My hope was that we would do something that was unique. With people like Chris and [Samuel L.] Jackson attached, we didn’t want to just rehash the same movie.”

“Spiral” has topped both weekends at the domestic box office it’s been in theaters, but the pandemic has held it back.

“The pandemic forced every distributor to think about multiple options for every movie on their release slate,” Constantine, the Lionsgate exec, said. “We wanted the opportunity for Spiral to be in theaters for an exclusive amount of time, but we’re also still living in a period of time where some aren’t vaccinated or not ready to go to a theater or their local theater isn’t at full capacity.”

The movie finally arrived exclusively in theaters on May 14 after a year-long delay and has earned $17 million domestically. The movie will hit premium video-on-demand services on June 1, much earlier than anticipated. It will debut on Lionsgate’s streaming service Starz in October.

“From a financial standpoint, it’s been nerve-wracking,” Bousman said. “It’s one of the first movies to usher people back. It’s been surreal.”

He added: “I don’t think the success of ‘Spiral’ will be apparent until after it’s out in the home … Going to a theater is almost a religious experience for me. It’s cathartic, especially after the last year. That said, over the last decade, home entertainment has gotten so much better. People are now more comfortable [watching movies] in their own homes.”

Koules and Burg said they are proponents of the theatrical experience, but are happy that more viewers who may not be comfortable returning to a theater will now be able to see the movie.

“We’re grateful for the people coming out for ‘Spiral’ but if certain people aren’t comfortable and want to watch it at home, that’s great,” Koules said.

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Tobin Bell as John Kramer aka the Jigsaw Killer.

‘Saw’ isn’t over

Just because “Spiral” is finally out in the world doesn’t mean Burg and Koules have stopped thinking about the future of the franchise.

They still plan to make that “prequel,” which they described as a Jigsaw origin story that would be set “somewhere in the early ‘Saw’ movies where Jigsaw is still alive,” after the first film but before the third.

“We don’t want to say too much about it because ultimately we may do another ‘Spiral’ before that movie,” Burg said. “That decision will get made when we sit down with Lionsgate [this summer] and ask the best way to satisfy our fanbase.”

They expect that both movies will eventually get made (though Lionsgate has yet to officially greenlight anything). But is “Saw” a strictly cinematic experience? Maybe not quite. The producers are open to exploring TV.

“We’ve talked about for at least the last 10 years doing TV,” Koules said. “I think the evolution of TV has got us thinking. If we could figure out a way to do a great show, it’s something we would do and that would be something else from the ‘Book of Saw.’ We’ll probably do an OG ‘Saw’ or another ‘Spiral’ and then talk about TV.”

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The 10 biggest Netflix original movies of all time

army of the dead
“Army of the Dead.”

  • Netflix has shed some light in recent years on its most popular original titles.
  • Its biggest movies include “Extraction,” “Bird Box,” and now Zack Snyder’s zombie-heist movie “Army of the Dead.”
  • Netflix measures a view if an account watches at least two minutes of a show or movie.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
10. (tied) “Army of the Dead” – 72 million

zombies army of the dead

Description: “After a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries takes the ultimate gamble by venturing into the quarantine zone for the greatest heist ever.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 70%

What critics said: “Snyder understands the tonality of a modern zombie film. Like Dawn of the Dead, it’s where his trademark snark shines best.” — Polygon

10. (tied) “The Midnight Sky” (2020) – 72 million

the midnight sky

Description: “In the aftermath of a global catastrophe, a lone scientist in the Arctic races to contact a crew of astronauts with a warning not to return to Earth.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 50%

What critics said: “The Midnight Sky is a good example of a movie that sells itself short by trying to be one thing — serious, heavy, emotional — when, by all available indicators, it should be more of a thriller, or more ridiculous, or at the very least more fun.” — Rolling Stone

8. “Project Power” (2020) – 75 million

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Description: “An ex-soldier, a teen and a cop collide in New Orleans as they hunt for the source behind a dangerous new pill that grants users temporary superpowers.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 61%

What critics said: “A film built on the thrill of the now, the hyper-modernity on show in hip-hop trappings, tricks lifted from gaming and yes, the availability of the whole thing at the push of a button in the palm of your hand.” — Financial Times

7. “Enola Holmes” (2020) – 76 million

enola holmes
Millie Bobby Brown stars in “Enola Holmes.”

Description: “While searching for her missing mother, intrepid teen Enola Holmes uses her sleuthing skills to outsmart big brother Sherlock and help a runaway lord.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 91%

What critics said: “‘Enola Homes’ is the kind of movie that the preteen set will surely delight in and watch over and over. I know I would have.” — Associated Press

6. “The Old Guard” (2020) – 78 million

the old guard

Description: “Four undying warriors who’ve secretly protected humanity for centuries become targeted for their mysterious powers just as they discover a new immortal.”

Rotten Tomatoes critics score: 80%

What critics said: “The Old Guard asks some existential questions that leave the audience wanting more.” — Vox

5. (tie) “Murder Mystery” (2019) – 83 million

murder mystery

Description: “On a long-awaited trip to Europe, a New York City cop and his hairdresser wife scramble to solve a baffling murder aboard a billionaire’s yacht.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 44%

What critics said: “Every Adam Sandler comedy abides by a trope as hoary as ‘the butler did it.’ At some point in the shenanigans, Sandler’s schlub has gotta get a chance to prove he’s the bravest boy in the world.” — Variety

5. (tie) “6 Underground” (2019) – 83 million

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Ryan Reynolds in “6 Underground.”

Description: “After faking his death, a tech billionaire recruits a team of international operatives for a bold and bloody mission to take down a brutal dictator.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 36%

What critics said: “This is a terrible action movie that utilizes Michael Bay’s worst instincts and none of his best.” — Newsday

3. “Spenser Confidential” (2020) – 85 million

spenser confidential

Description: “Spenser, an ex-cop and ex-con, teams up with aspiring fighter Hawk to uncover a sinister conspiracy tied to the deaths of two Boston police officers.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 37%

What critics said: “An ending that teases the possibility of sequels, with Wahlberg’s Spenser tackling more cases of police officers and emergency personnel who have been falsely accused of crimes, should elicit nothing but groans.” — AV Club

2. “Bird Box” (2018) – 89 million

Bird Box
Directed by Susanne Bier.

Description: “Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a survivor and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 63%

What critics said: “Bird Box’s pieces feel forcibly screwed together, a movie marionetted by strings of data code. There’s good scenes and smart ideas, but overall, the movie mostly clomps.” — Guardian

1. “Extraction” (2020) – 99 million

extraction

Description: “A hardened mercenary’s mission becomes a soul-searching race to survive when he’s sent into Bangladesh to rescue a drug lord’s kidnapped son.”

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 67%

What critics said: “The fight scenes are plastic and glossy. Hargrave mistakes gore for cool and technical prowess for choreography, deploying overlong one-take shots that look like ‘Call of Duty’ outtakes.” — New York Times

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Disney’s ‘Cruella’ marks the company’s third PG-13 release this year as the company moves away from G and PG-rated films

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Emma Stone in “Cruella.”

Hello! This story is from today’s edition of Morning Brew, an awesome daily email publication read by 2.5 million next-generation leaders like you. Sign up here to get it!

Today, Disney’s live-action “Cruella” arrives in theaters and on Disney+. But if you’re looking forward to cute puppies, you might be surprised by this dark origin story of the iconic villain. While the 1996 version of “101 Dalmatians” was rated G, this retelling is rated PG-13.

Nobody wants a G. “Cruella” is Disney’s third PG-13 release in a year, according to the WSJ. And if family-friendly Disney is leaning into “extended violence and smoking,” you know the rest of the industry is trending that direction…and has been for a while. By the 2000s, PG-13 movies were raking in most of the box office revenue.

  • Between 2010-2019, PG-13 movies grossed $54.6 billion. In the same time span, PG movies earned $24.3 billion; R movies, $26.5 billion; and G movies, $2.7 billion, according to Comscore.

Bottom line: PG-13 has become the sweet spot for Disney to appeal to a broader audience interested in violent Marvel films, live-action remakes of its classics, and new projects like “Hamilton.”

This story is from today’s edition of Morning Brew, a daily email publication. Sign up here to get it!

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‘Cruella’ stars Emma Stone as the infamous Disney villain – here’s how to watch on Disney Plus

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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Emma Stone in “Cruella.”

  • Cruella” offers a look at the early years of the infamous Disney villain from “101 Dalmatians.”
  • The live-action film stars Emma Stone as the title character.
  • Disney Plus subscribers can buy “Cruella” for an extra $30 Premier Access fee.

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Disney’s latest live-action film, “Cruella,” offers a fresh take on one of the studio’s most infamous animated villains. The film focuses on Cruella de Vil from the “101 Dalmatians” franchise and tells the story of how she became the character audiences have come to know on screen.

Cruella,” starring Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone, is now in theaters and on Disney Plus on May 28 via Premier Access. Premier Access requires subscribers to pay an extra $30 one-time fee in order to watch a movie at home while it’s still playing on the big screen.

The film is set in 1970s London and follows a young woman, Estella (Emma Stone), whose “flair for fashion” earns the attention of Baroness von Hellman, according to the film’s official synopsis. But the relationship between the two spurs Estella to “embrace her wicked side” and become the “raucous, fashionable, and revenge-bent” Cruella de Vil.

How to watch ‘Cruella’ on Disney Plus

Cruella” arrived on Disney Plus as a Premier Access title on May 28. Disney Plus subscribers will have to pay a one-time $30 fee to unlock the film on that date.

As long as you remain a Disney Plus member, you’ll be able to stream the movie whenever you want. You can get the film with Premier Access through July 30. The film is then set to become available to all Disney Plus subscribers, without the extra fee, on August 27.

Disney Plus costs $8 a month or $80 a year. You can also bundle Disney Plus with ESPN+ and Hulu Basic for $14 a month, a savings of about $6 a month compared to purchasing the three streaming services on their own.

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You can watch Disney Plus on a number of media players including Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, and most smart TVs. You can find a full list of devices that support Disney Plus here.

How to watch other ‘101 Dalmatians’ films and shows

In addition to “Cruella,” the “101 Dalmatians” franchise includes the original animated film, an animated direct-to-video sequel, two live-action movies, three made-for-TV films, and two TV series.

All of the below titles are available to watch with a Disney Plus subscription:

You can also order most of these titles through video-on-demand (VOD) streaming providers such as Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, and more.

The ’60s animated classic “101 Dalmatians” is available on a number of VOD streaming services. Most platforms will let you rent the film for $4, purchase the film in standard definition (SD) for $15, or purchase the film in high definition (HD) for $20.

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Why the James Bond franchise could be complicated for Amazon after buying the MGM film studio

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Daniel Craig as James Bond in “No Time to Die”

  • Amazon said Wednesday that it would buy MGM, the film studio that releases the James Bond movies.
  • But producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson still have final say on the direction of the Bond franchise.
  • There won’t be a Prime Video Bond TV series without their approval.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon is expanding its film exploits.

The company announced on Wednesday that it would buy the MGM film studio, whose assets include the James Bond movies, for $8.45 billion. But the rights to the long-running franchise are more complicated than they might initially appear. MGM only owns half of Bond.

The other major players in the background of the Bond franchise are the half-siblings Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who oversee the franchise’s creative direction and own Eon Productions and its parent company Danjaq LLC.

Danjaq and MGM, which distributes the Bond movies domestically, co-own the copyright to the films. But Broccoli and Wilson are the ones with final say on the direction of the franchise. They inherited the series from Broccoli’s father, Albert Broccoli, who cofounded Eon in 1962.

In a rare interview in January 2020, Broccoli told Variety that her and Wilson were the “custodians of this character,” referring to Bond.

“We take that responsibility seriously,” she said.

Eon has produced 24 Bond movies, starting with 1962’s “Dr. No.” The 25th Bond entry, with star Daniel Craig in his final outing as the character, hits theaters in October after a long delay due to the coronavirus pandemic (it was originally scheduled for release in April 2020). Universal is handling international distribution.

Amazon’s purchase of MGM comes at a transitional period for the franchise with Craig exiting the role after 15 years and five movies.

The biggest Bond question after the MGM sale is whether Broccoli and Wilson would go along with an expansion of the Bond franchise outside of the main film series, such as a TV spinoff. As long as they’re the keepers of the franchise, it won’t be as easy as buying MGM for Amazon to capitalize on the prospects of that universe.

In other words, there won’t be a Prime Video Bond TV series unless Broccoli and Wilson want it, and they aren’t strangers to overruling ideas. The duo once nixed an idea for a “‘Smallville’-like television series that would have followed a teenage Bond at Eton,” according to Variety.

They haven’t entirely ruled out TV, though. Broccoli told Variety that they would be open to expanding the franchise to streaming.

“We make these films for the audiences,” Broccoli said. “We like to think that they’re going to be seen primarily on the big screen. But having said that, we have to look to the future. Our fans are the ones who dictate how they want to consume their entertainment. I don’t think we can rule anything out, because it’s the audience that will make those decisions. Not us.”

Amazon has placed a big TV bet on another established franchise, “The Lord of the Rings.” That will cost $465 million for just one season, including $250 million for the rights, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Perhaps Broccoli and Wilson would be more open to the idea of a prestige Bond series with a movie-level budget, if Amazon is willing to drop such a pretty penny.

Still, Shawn Robbins, the chief analyst at Box Office Pro, reiterated that much of Bond’s value comes from the shared theatrical experience.

Potential complications aside, the Bond franchise is a lucrative one, with $7 billion at the worldwide box office over the 24 Eon-produced films. 2012’s “Skyfall” was the first to make more than $1 billion globally and its followup, 2015’s “Spectre,” earned $880 million.

“As long as Amazon remains committed to the franchise’s roots and willing to work with its creative custodians to ensure that particular integrity remains at the series’ core, regardless of other storytelling branches the series might take, it should prove to be a highly lucrative relationship,” Robbins said.

He added that the relationship should evolve “as theatrical and streaming releases prove their ability to coexist.”

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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is back on HBO Max, and you can also buy it from Amazon, Vudu, and other VOD streaming services

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

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“Wonder Woman 1984” is Gal Gadot’s fourth film as the titular character.

  • “Wonder Woman 1984” is back on HBO Max ($15/month) after premiering on the service in December 2020.
  • The movie is also available to buy through VOD services like Amazon and Vudu for $20.
  • HBO Max subscribers will get access to more brand-new Warner Bros. movies throughout 2021.

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“Wonder Woman 1984” is back on HBO Max, the same streaming service it premiered on in December 2020. The movie was the first in a series of Warner Bros. films made available for streaming the same day they hit the big screen.

Director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine return for “Wonder Woman 1984.” The action picks up 40 years after the conclusion of 2017’s “Wonder Woman.” Kristen Wiig plays Cheetah, a villain who can match Wonder Woman’s superhuman abilities, and “The Mandalorian” star Pedro Pascal plays nefarious businessman Maxwell Lord.

HBO Max subscribers were given one month of exclusive access before “Wonder Woman 1984” was removed from the service and made available to buy from other providers, like Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play. “Wonder Woman 1984” was added back to the HBO Max library in May 2021 alongside other DC films like “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and “Batman v Superman.”

Warner’s decision to debut its theatrical releases on HBO Max has already helped bring millions of new subscribers to the streaming service, and could influence other studios to pursue a similar course. Data from research startup Antenna showed that HBO Max signups increased 4.3 times during the weekend “Wonder Woman 1984” premiered.

How to watch ‘Wonder Woman 1984’

“Wonder Woman 1984” is currently available to all HBO Max subscribers; the streaming service costs $15 a month for commercial-free access to its library. A $10/month ad-supported plan will launch in June.

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“Wonder Woman 1984” is also available to buy through video-on-demand (VOD) services, including Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNow, Microsoft, Google Play, and Apple TV. The movie costs $20 to own, and it’s offered in up to 4K Ultra HD quality. A rental option is not currently available. You can access your digital copy via the VOD service you select on various media players and smart TVs.

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If you want to purchase a disc copy of the film, the “Wonder Woman 1984” Blu-ray ($22) and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray ($28) were released on March 30.

Does ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ support 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos?

“Wonder Woman 1984” was the first movie on HBO Max to stream in 4K with support for high dynamic range (HDR). The film is available in HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos on supported devices, matching the maximum quality typically seen on Netflix and Disney Plus.

The VOD version also offers Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos playback though streaming services that support those features, including Vudu and Apple TV.

What other Warner Bros. movies are coming to HBO Max?

The next scheduled Warner Bros. release on HBO Max is “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” the third entry in the popular horror franchise. Other major releases set to arrive on the streaming service throughout 2021 include “The Matrix 4,” “The Suicide Squad,” “Space Jam” and more.

HBO Max subscribers can currently stream “Those Who Wish Me Dead.”

You can see a full list of upcoming Warner Bros. movies scheduled for day-and-date releases in theaters and on HBO Max here.

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