Redbox Strikes Back Against Disney Lawsuit

There wasn’t a lot of direct movie news this week. Most of the news revolved around Disney as a corporation. Still, there is plenty to chew on as Redbox responded to Disney’s lawsuit over copyright infringement. Also, the Disney Board will no longer have representatives from Facebook and Twitter due to conflicts of interests. On the Star Wars front, we realized we have four months left until Solo: A Star Wars Story and we have yet to see a poster or a teaser. This begs the question, does Star Wars actually needs marketing?

Redbox Responds To Disney’s Lawsuit

Back in Episode 159 — when we briefly discussed Disney’s lawsuit against Redbox — this seemed like an open and shut case. Redbox was buying Disney Blu-Rays and DVD’s and offering the accompanying digital download codes at a significant discount. Redbox does not have a distribution agreement with Disney. so it is forced to buy the movies to fill its kiosks. The download codes are just a bonus.

Disney sued in December to stop Redbox. The suit said Redbox is violating the terms of sale of the combo packs, which usually include a warning that “Codes are not for sale or transfer.” Case closed, right? Not even close.

Redbox Strikes Back

Redbox struck back this week arguing that the codes should not be treated any differently than the physical discs. Redbox is entitled to distribute the DVD’s and Blu-Rays just like Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and any other video rental business was. But the real power in Redbox’s argument comes with the “first sale doctrine.” This states that a copyright owner cannot prohibit a purchaser from reselling a copy of a work, such as a used book.

Redbox argues that customers are simply redeeming the copy of the film that has already been sold to Redbox – a copy that Redbox says it can do whatever it wants with. Redbox also says it can’t be overlooked that Disney is starting its own streaming service that will contain many of the movies Redbox is selling.

It’s a very strong argument and could form a precedent for the way digital files are treated. I recently cleaned out some of DVDs and plan to donate them to a used bookstore, but there are no (legal) used bookstores for internet movies. If someone gets me a digital copy of The Good Dinosaur, I just have to sit and endure it for the rest of time.

What Could Go Wrong?

As much as I want Redbox to win this lawsuit, the alternatives terrify. Disney could stop including digital download codes with its Blu-Rays and only provide digital copies through its new streaming service. It’s not terribly likely, but it’s also not terribly unlikely. Similar to Adobe, Disney could run its intellectual property off a subscription model, where the user is tied to the company and not the product. Physical discs could become a thing of the past as Disney moves to put a stranglehold on your wallet.

Twitter, Facebook Out On Disney’s Board

Disney is tying up the loose ends in its business as it prepares to enter the world of streaming. It started this week with an announcement that Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are stepping down from the Walt Disney Company’s board of directors. 

In a statement, Disney said, “Given our evolving business and the businesses Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Dorsey are in, it has become increasingly difficult for them to avoid conflicts relating to board matters.”

Over the past few years, Twitter and Facebook have bid on and won the rights to stream live sporting events, which directly conflicts with ESPN and the BAMTech sports streaming network Disney will be launching this year.

Securing the Future of BAMTech

Speaking of which, Disney’s BAMTech Media hired former Apple and Samsung executive Kevin Swint to launch the new service. Swint will serve as General Manager of the Video on Demand service and ultimately run the company’s upcoming Netflix competitor.

Most recently, Swint worked as VP product/content & services for Samsung and before that, he worked at Apple, heading the worldwide iTunes movie business. Swint has a large task ahead of him, but it’s good to know that he is comfortable in the digital arena. His hiring also shows that Disney is struggling to find digital media expertise inside its own walls. That inexperience could rear its ugly head when the platform launches, but Disney is trying to get experience promoting a new network.

Leaving YouTube to go to Twitch

Disney is pulling four of its biggest creators from YouTube to give exclusive content to Twitch. The creator partners — Markiplier, Jacksepticeye, LuzuGames and Strawburry17 — are under a multiyear pact with Disney Digital Network. Each creator will broadcast live and create exclusive on-demand content.

This is a good deal for Twitch because it gives them the firepower of Disney. Honestly, who even knows what Twitch is? For Disney, the net gain is much more subtle. They get a chance to extend the reach of digital talent beyond YouTube, sure. But they also get a chance to see what it takes to make a streaming network successful when it has a fraction of the size of YouTube. I imagine Disney will be taking copious amounts of notes that it can apply to its own streaming service when it launches in 2019.

Does Disney Need to Market Star Wars?

Consider these two facts.

  1. Solo: A Star Wars Story will be released in less than four months. 
  2. There hasn’t been a public trailer or poster released for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Despite all of the troubles for Solo – and there have been many – you’d think Lucasfilm would be able to come up with at least a one-line teaser that pairs old footage from Star Wars with one line by the new Han Solo, Alden Ehrenreich. Instead, all we have is a vague synopsis.

Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the ‘Star Wars’ saga’s most unlikely heroes

By this point in Rogue One’s marketing cycle, we’d already had the first teaser trailer and poster, even though it had several rounds of reshoots. 

Even with some critics providing a positive reception to early footage, Disney should be cautious on banking on a nostalgia that it destroyed in The Last Jedi.

A Lesson From China

What’s more, Star Wars may be a much more American franchise than Disney might have hoped. The Last Jedi seriously bombed in China, becoming the worst-performing blockbuster in China since Disney’s The Lone Ranger. (Coincidentally, The Lone Ranger has a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes, though there is no way The Last Jedi is worse than that pile of hot garbage). Roughly 10 percent of Chinese theaters have kicked Star Wars off their schedule after just a 15-day run.

In an article from the South China Morning Post, cultural commentator Luo BeiBei summed the flop up to Disney being tone deaf on the Chinese culture. We are surfing on the same internet, but living in two completely different worlds,” she said.

Disney and Lucasfilm may be displaying that same tone deafness with fans now. Solo is a nostalgia play. It needs the fans who built the franchise to make it successful.

Younger moviegoers have plenty to see in 2018 including Avengers: Infinity War – which comes out three weeks before Solo – and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – which comes out two weeks after Solo. Both of those opening weekends will easily approach or eclipse $200 million. Disney will need to get its act together by the Super Bowl and move faster than the Millenium Falcon in the Kessel Run for Solo to have an outing that moves the needle.

Fast Flicks

Here are a few official synopses of upcoming filmes:

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin is stuck in a job where he is overworked, underpaid and facing an uncertain future. He has a family of his own, but his work has become his life, leaving little time for his wife and daughter, and he has all but forgotten his idyllic childhood spent with a simple-minded, honey-loving stuffed bear and his friends. But when he is reunited with Winnie the Pooh, now tattered and soiled from years of hugs and play, a spark is rekindled, and he is reminded of the endless days of childlike wonder and make believe that defined his youth, when doing nothing could be considered something. Following an unfortunate mishap with Christopher Robin’s briefcase, Pooh and the rest of the gang including Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger, step out of the forest and into London to return the crucial possessions…because best friends will always be there for you.

“Disney’s Christopher Robin” is directed by Golden Globe® nominee Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”) and written by Oscar® winner Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”), Alex Ross Perry (“Golden Exits”) and Oscar nominee Allison Schroeder (“Hidden Figures”) based on characters created by A.A. Milne.

Incredibles 2

Everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2” – but this time Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) is in the spotlight, leaving Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) at home with Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) and Dash (voice of Huck Milner) to navigate the day-to-day heroics of “normal” life/ It’s a tough transition for every one, made tougher by the fact that the family is still unaware of baby Jack-Jack’s emerging superpowers. When a new villain hatches a brilliant and dangerous plot, the family and Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) must find a way to work together again – which is easier said than done, even when they’re all Incredible.

Phallic Costuming in Ant-Man and The Wasp

The internet is gonna do what the internet is gonna do. And recently the internet saw the costume of The Wasp in Ant-Man and The Wasp and thought it looked like a penis. Personally, it looks like every other super heroin costume I’ve ever seen. I can see what they are talking about, but I doubt it deserves the attention it’s getting. Take a look for yourself below or click the play button listen to this week’s Podcast to get our thoughts on all this week’s news.