Coronavirus Brings the Film Industry to a Halt

It seems like it was just yesterday that reports of coronavirus first appeared across headlines, yet we’ve found ourselves in a global pandemic just a few weeks later. The majority of businesses, schools, and public events have been canceled, but how exactly is the film industry coping with the crisis?

Major movie productions have been suspended across the globe including The Batman, Red Notice, the sequels to Avatar, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Rings, Jurassic World: Dominion, and countless others.

With the outbreak quickly spreading, local movie theaters are bound to close their doors sooner than later. As society retreats indoors to self-quarantine and stay healthy, Universal Pictures’ announced their decision to provide a home video release of their current theatrical movies. Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal stated, “Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable.”

Regal Cinemas Closed; Photo from Reuters

As soon as March 20th, The Hunt, Emma, and The Invisible Man will be available to rent through iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and FandangoNow. Moving forward, select Universal movies will become available through video on demand (VOD) the same day as their theatrical release date.

The decision was made soon after Disney revealed Frozen 2 would debut on Disney+ on March 15th, three full months ahead of schedule in an effort to bring entertainment to homebound viewers.

Warner Brothers quickly followed in their footsteps and announced the digital release of Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn on March 24th.

This solution has many wondering if this temporary change will permanently impact TV and film in the future. It’s no secret that the majority of consumers have moved away from traditional theaters and turned to streaming services; now, they can experience the convenience of viewing new releases directly in their own home. Additionally, film studios will have the opportunity to prove how much they can profit from early digital releases without pushback.

Despite speculation, movie theaters have played a valuable role within cinema and for this reason, major studios have postponed certain release dates altogether. For example, Walt Disney Co. has delayed the release of Mulan and the future release of Black Widow, The Personal History of David Copperfield, and The Woman in the Window. Universal Pictures has also delayed the release of F9 (also known as Fast and Furious 9) until further notice.

While there’s no telling when life will return to normal, I think I can speak for the majority when I say I am thankful that the entertainment industry is working to accommodate consumers during this difficult time. Film is a great way to escape the dreadful feeling of “cabin fever” and we can now experience VOD like we have never before. As we begin to practice social distancing, what new releases do you plan to take advantage of?

The Best of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The 2020 Sundance Film Festival held it’s award ceremony on February 1st, after a ten day exhibition that featured over 100 independent films. This is one of the most anticipated and exciting film events held in Utah each year.

This was a big year for Sundance, with major public figures including Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton, and Lin-Manuela Miranda joining the scene. The awards ceremony was marked by the announcement that Tabitha Jackson would be taking over John Cooper’s role as director of the festival, the first female director in Sundance history. The festival received a record high of 15,100 submissions and hosted the most diverse lineup of films and talent yet.

This event is a chance for aspiring indie filmmakers to showcase their work and launch their careers. Recognized as the mecca for discovering breakout documentaries, it’s an authentic opportunity for independent storytellers to come together and share the ideas that are inspiring and shaping cinema today. 

Sundance Film Festival, Park City Utah; Photo from Flickr

Here are the most memorable films from the festival that you should keep an eye out for in 2020:

The winners of the Four Grand Jury Prizes include Minari, Boys State, Epicentro, and Yalda, A Night For Forgiveness. Minari won two of the highest honors, the U.S Dramatic Prize award and the Audience U.S. Dramatic award. This autobiography tells the heart-wrenching story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to adjust to rural Arkansas and live the American dream. The film was secured and funded by A24 prior to Sundance, and was among the most well-reviewed entries this year.

Boys State won the U.S. Documentary Prize, another honorable film bought by A24 and Apple for a record-breaking $12 million. This coming-of-age documentary follows a group of Texas high school boys who attend politics camp and create their own mock government over the summer. The premier struck a chord with viewers because it gives a first-hand look into the cut-throat nature behind American politics and the struggle for these teens to come together, rather than let their views divide them. An entertaining yet emotional parallel of the challenges our country faces today, this film shouldn’t be missed.

Audience-Voted Awards went to Minari, Crip Camp, The Reason I Jump, Identifying Features, and I Carry You With Me. The Festival Favorite Award went to Giving Voice, which follows six high school students competing in the August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York City. Other notable premiers included The 40 Year Old Version, Kajillionaire, The Killing of Two Lovers, Palm Springs, Shirley, Zola, and Time. What movies are you excited to see from the festival?

#GoldOpen Launches Advisory Council, ‘Golden Rider’ to Promote Diversity in Film

Gold House, a nonprofit collective dedicated to bringing diverse stories to film, is launching an entertainment advisory council made up of industry leaders to incentivize inclusive representation in film. 

Through their global movement, #GoldOpen, the council — whose members include Albert Cheng (COO & head of TV, Amazon Studios), Abhijay Prakash (president, Universal Film Entertainment Group), Kim Yutani (Sundance Film Festival) and Franklin Leonard (The Black List) — will advise on which films will receive #GoldOpen support in the form of theater buyouts for screenings, social media, and press campaigns and global distribution opportunities (see the full list of Advisory Council members). Movies that have received such support since the venture’s inception in 2017 include “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Parasite” and “Just Mercy.” 

Kim Yutani, Franklin Leonard and Albert Cheng; photo from The Hollywood Reporter

The organization announced that #GoldOpen films will need to sign the Golden Rider, an educational agreement that acknowledges the significance of multicultural audiences. Gold House’s first initiative focuses on Asian films. To qualify for a future #GoldOpen, films will have to have “at least one authentically-portrayed Asian Lead and/or an Asian Director who has helmed a film that’s critical to another multicultural community.” 

Filmmakers can put their projects forward for #GoldOpen consideration by visiting the movement’s website. There you can also view a list of past films that have received the honor.

Gold House is steadily amplifying the voices of storytellers from across the Asian diaspora and starting a multicultural movement. This cross-industry collective of prominent storytellers, entrepreneurs and icons have all come together with a shared sense of purpose: to be authentically seen and heard and to accelerate the societal impact of diversity.

“We’ve been in awe of the #GoldOpen community’s passion and impact; change on the ground has created changes at the top that will accelerate the stories our community has been searching for. We now know #GoldOpen can have a profoundly positive impact on a film’s opening weekend success,” Gold House’s #GoldOpen directors, Yao King and Josh Jun, said in a statement. “The #GoldOpen Advisory Council ushers the movement’s next phase by enhancing its transparency and amplifying its cross-industry impact for both artfully independent and big-budget blockbusters. Further, the Gold Rider helps to educate the broader industry about our community’s imperative consumption.”

YouTube Joins Streaming Wars

As traditional cable services see declining revenue due to online streaming services a new question has emerged – which streaming service will come out on top? Familiar faces, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, remain tough competition for newcomers like HBO and CBS All Access, and most recently, YouTube. YouTube is best known as a platform for users to share amusing videos, media reviews and educational materials, however, it recently announced that it will be providing free access to full length films on the site, with ad breaks, to consumers.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Many attribute YouTube’s decision to offer feature films for free as a way for the platform to compete with other streaming services while still bringing in revenue through ads. The free to watch movie selection includes cult classics and past blockbuster hits including many Rocky films, The Terminator, and Legally Blonde. Expansion plans are in the works, according to the to Rohit Dhawan, the director of product management at YouTube.

“Eventually, there could be a way for advertisers to pay to sponsor individual movies, giving user complimentary views and exclusive screenings,” Dhawan told Ad Age. “However that all pretty much depends on how studios evolve their businesses to account for these new digital streaming windows that are opening up.”

More feature films are expected to be added to the free to stream service soon, but the current list of free movies is available here.

Since 2005, YouTube has brought videos to viewers around the world, with more than 5 billion videos being watched on a daily basis. Over the years YouTube has experimented with several paid membership options, including Music Key, YouTube Red and most recently YouTube Premium. Music Key was a short lived program that offered members ad-free music videos. In 2015, YouTube revised the Music Key platform to make all videos ad free for paid members under a new program called YouTube Red.

File:YouTube Premium logo.svg

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Just this year YouTube rebranded the program once again to YouTube Premium. On June 18, YouTube Premium launched alongside a re-launch of Music Key, now known as YouTube Music. Little changed in terms of product offerings with this launch, other than the price — increasing $2, though previous subscribers were grandfathered in at the old cost — and expanding the services to other countries.


Eagles Take Super Bowl LII

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On February 4, the Philadelphia Eagles took home the Super Bowl LII trophy at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, M.N. They defeated the New England Patriots 41-33, marking the team’s first Super Bowl win.

The team also appeared at the Super Bowl in 1981 against the Oakland Raiders and in 2004 against the Carolina Panthers.

In the fourth quarter with just two minutes left of the game, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz scored the game-winning touchdown with a pass from Nick Foles. Foles, the backup quarterback, stepped into the starting lineup after Carson Wentz suffered an ACL injury earlier in the season. He sure didn’t disappoint and emerged as the Super Bowl MVP.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, John Powers Middleton is a Philadelphia sports fanatic with a strong passion for the Phillies and Eagles. He posted on Instagram after the game, saying, “I grew up in the 700 Level at the Vet. Never missed a game. Like most Eagles fans, I thought Super Bowl championships were something reserved for other cities. What happened February 4th was surreal. 34-years-old, and, so far, twice in a lifetime. No city or fans have ever been more deserving. Thank you, @philadelphiaeagles, for some of the happiest months of my life.”

John was in attendance with his girlfriend, Joanna.

John Powers Middleton Superbowl

Haverford School is No. 1 in the Super 25

The Haverford School is located in Philadelphia, PA. It is a nonsectarian college preparatory day school for boys.

In 2015 the boys lacrosse team finished as the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Team of the year as a Super 25 national champion. In 2016, the boys team starts No. 1 in the Super 25 Preseason rankings. The No. 2 ranked team is from The Hill Academy in Vaughan, Ontario.

John Powers Middleton
Photo: Casey Vock,

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Billy Joel to return to Citizens Bank Park

On January 21st, The Philadelphia Phillies and Live Nation announced that recording artist Billy Joel will perform at Citizens Bank Park this summer. Billy Joel performed at the ballpark in 2014 and 2015. The show is set for July 9th and it will be his 5th show at the park.

“We have some exciting news, as the Piano Man is returning to our world-class ballpark,” said Phillies executive vice president Michael Stiles. “This will be the fifth time that legendary artist Billy Joel will take to the stage, where he will once again have the distinct honor of performing at Citizens Bank Park more often than any other entertainer.”

Billy Joel has announced other concerts: May 14th at Petco Park in San Diego, July 1st at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, August 18th at Fenway Park in Boston, and August 26th at Wrigley Field in Chicago, with other dates to still be announced.

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