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Maoyan Entertainment Announces Interim Results for the First Half Year of 2020

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BEIJING, Aug. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Maoyan Entertainment (“Maoyan” or the “Company”, 1896.HK), a leading platform providing innovative Internet empowered entertainment services in China, today announced its unaudited consolidated results for the first half year ended June 30, 2020.

First Half Year 2020 Financial Highlights

  • Revenue was RMB203.1 million, compared with RMB1,984.6 million in the first half year of 2019.
  • Gross loss was RMB20.6 million, compared with a gross profit of RMB1,186.8 million in the first half year of 2019.
  • Selling and marketing expenses decreased by 72.0% to RMB170.8 million from RMB610.7 million in the first half year of 2019.
  • Loss for the first half year of 2020 was RMB430.7 million, compared with a profit of RMB257.4 million in the first half year of 2019.
  • Adjusted EBITDA[1] was negative RMB283.6 million, compared with positive RMB511.7 million in the first half year of 2019.
  • Adjusted net loss[2] was RMB307.1 million, compared with an adjusted net profit of RMB380.4 million in the first half year of 2019.

[1] In the first half of 2020 and 2019, the Company defined EBITDA as operating (loss)/profit for the period adjusted for depreciation and amortization expenses. The Company added back share-based compensation and listing expenses to EBITDA to derive adjusted EBITDA.

[2] In the first half of 2020 and 2019, the Company defined adjusted net (loss)/profit as net (loss)/profit for the six months adjusted by adding back share-based compensation, net losses of convertible bonds classified as financial liabilities at fair value through profit or loss, listing expenses and the amortization of intangible assets resulting from business combinations.

BUSINESS REVIEW AND OUTLOOK

In this announcement, “we”, “us” and “our” refer to the Company.

1.  Company Business Highlights

Although the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a heavy blow to the Chinese and even global movie industries in the first half of 2020, thanks to the highly effective disease containment measures implemented by the Chinese government, cinemas in mainland China have begun to resume operations in an orderly manner since July 20, 2020.

As a major player in the Chinese pan entertainment industry, we have firmly upheld our social responsibilities, engaged in close collaborations with our industry partners, proactively taken innovative measures to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic, and made meaningful contribution to the revival of the movie industry. In addition, we remain committed to the continuous improvement of our products, enhancement of our services, acceleration of our online-offline integration, and consolidation of our value propositions to China’s pan entertainment industry.

Our Pandemic Response Measures

As soon as cinemas in China started to close at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak during the Chinese New Year holiday, we promptly announced “unconditional refund” for all Maoyan users. We also advanced cash to our cinema partners to help them expedite their refund process. Within three days of our announcement, we had processed full refunds for more than 5 million tickets totaling over RMB 200 million.

In addition, we thought out of the box and provided our industry partners with a variety of innovative assistance as follows:

  • Helped cinemas salvage their sales of consumables during lockdown by connecting them with Meituan’s home delivery services.
  • Leveraged Maoyan Research Institute’s analytical prowess to provide our industry partners with insightful research reports, online training seminars, and business idea exchanges.
  • Upgraded our cinema service solutions, including social distance seating and real name verification, to expedite the reopening of cinemas and other offline entertainment venues.
  • Launched a “Safe Cinema” label for those cinemas compliant with pandemic containment procedures including staff testing, mask wearing, and premise disinfection.
  • Provided our industry partners with supply chain financing solutions to alleviate their capital constraint.
  • Organized discounted or free movie-viewing events across the country in partnership with various local governments and institutions to encourage consumers to return to cinemas and to ease the movie industry’s way back to normality.

Besides helping our partners, we also give our top priority to protecting the health and safety of our employees. Consequently, we adopted flexible work practices and stocked up sufficient disease prevention supplies for our employees. At the same time, we implemented strict cost control measures. 

Our Preparation for the Post-Pandemic Industry Revival

As cinemas in China started to resume their operations since July 20, 2020, we proactively prepared for changes in market dynamics post pandemic. Building on the foundation we have laid during the pandemic, we launched a series of new products including “Safe Cinema” to support movie theaters’ speedy reopening. We also made timely adjustment in our ticketing and settlement systems to stay compliant with business resumption protocols mandated by local authorities. In addition, we further strengthened our collaborations with the relevant ticketing system operator and broadened our ticketing system’s interface with cinemas. We plan to continue our investment in technologies to improve our ticketing system’s compatibility and functionality.

In preparation for the new entertainment trends post pandemic, we fortified our technology advancement in smart stadiums, upgraded our smart ticketing capabilities, and accelerated our offline venue partners’ digitization process at low costs. We also contracted a number of large-scale offline concerts performed by leading artists to expand our reservoir of post-pandemic live entertainment events. We will release those live events in a methodical manner as the pandemic further subsides. Meanwhile, we are actively exploring new business models related to online entertainment performances. For example, we recently acted as the exclusive ticketing agency for “Rocket Girls 101”, a live concert event done by the popular music group backed by Tencent Video.

Because we firmly believe that consumers are naturally drawn to high-quality entertainment content, we have devoted substantial resources to developing premium movie and TV content both through self-production and in collaboration with partners. Having built up an abundant reserve of content in the first half of 2020, we plan to pace our market release of those contents as the pandemic comes under further control.

For offline cinemas, we have participated in the production or distribution of dozens of movies, including but not limited to Back to The Wharf, which was nominated for the Golden Goblet Awards in the 23rd Shanghai International Film Festival, On Your Mark, Moses on The Plain, and Game of Genius. In addition, we are the co-producer or co-distributor of several notable movies such as the Rescue, G Storm, One Second, and Warriors of Future.

On the television front, we have co-produced a number of TV series, including but not limited to the already released titles such as Inside Man and Shichahai. One of our co-produced series, the Legendary Tavern, has won multiple awards at the 26th Shanghai TV Festival. We are also in the midst of active co-productions with Tencent Video for TV dramas such as Miss Crow and Mr. Lizard  as well as Babel. In addition, we have increased our self-production of TV series and are in active production of titles such as Defense Out of Court and Chess Prodigy.

Anticipating the shift in consumer preference of entertainment formats, we increased our investment in movie streaming and other types of online content. To date, we have already co-produced or co-distributed several streaming movies in genres ranging from action to suspense, historical drama, thriller, science fiction, and many more. In addition, we laid the groundwork to form a movie-TV soundtrack value chain, entered into an exclusive partnership with Tencent Music Entertainment Group (“TME”) for soundtrack copyright, and developed original soundtracks for various movies and TV series in collaboration with top-tier producers and musicians. During the period, for example, we have reached an exclusive copyright sharing agreement with TME regarding the original soundtrack for Shichahai, a popular TV series broadcasted on CCTV 1, Tencent Video, iQIYI, and Youku and exclusively distributed by Maoyan.

The pandemic has exacerbated the movie industry’s need for advanced promotion and distribution capabilities, which is our strong suit. As a validation of our competitive strengths, the combined box office of those movies that we have promoted and distributed accounted for over 90% of China’s total box office. In the first half of 2020, we further expanded our online promotion and distribution capabilities by integrating data analysis, technology automation, and advanced services. As a result, we have developed a highly integrated, one-stop, online-offline marketing solution that encompasses the entire lifecycle from strategy formation to promotion execution, channel marketing, and smart distribution. In addition, we introduced several new promotion and distribution products, including Maoyan Online Chat, Fast 24 Hours, and the Story Behind the Movie: Please Answer. In July 2020, we launched in Maoyan Pro a new feature suite called “Smart Promotion and Distribution”, which included 33 functionalities in 8 different categories.

Recognizing that data is the lifeblood of smart distribution and precision marketing, we continue to augment our data platform and expand our data sources. In April, we launched in Maoyan Pro a TV-Movie rating list by TikTok so that our users can improve their promotion and distribution efficiency by accessing and analyzing extensive platform data. Through our fortified alliance with the Tencent Group, Maoyan Pro officially interfaced with Tencent Video in June to exchange data about online movie revenue split between partners. Thus we became the first platform in China that have integrated access to the online movie box office data from Tencent Video, iQIYI, and Youku. In July, under the “Tencent and Maoyan Alliance”, Maoyan Pro launched the “Uni Chart” by Tencent Music, which syndicates data on movie MV lists, movie soundtrack lists, TV series MV lists, TV series soundtrack lists, and variety show soundtrack lists.  

On the advertising front, we further advanced the synchronization between pre-screening advertising and offline entertainment advertising. Through a portfolio marketing approach that combines ticket promotion with on premise advertisement and pre-screening advertisement, we have integrated advertising into all major entertainment formats including movies, live performances, and other contexts for entertainment consumption. We are able to showcase advertisements through the entire closed loop of entertainment consumption cycle including ticket purchases, ticket claims, and in-person viewing. As movie theaters reopen and their audiences gradually return, we believe that our unique competitive advantages in integrated marketing and advertising will become further accentuated.

2.  Company Outlook

As the slew of economic stimulus from the Chinese government took effect, the Chinese movie industry has shown remarkable resilience. Since the reopening of cinemas in late July, daily box office has been growing steadily, and weekly box office surpassed the RMB 100 million mark within the first week of reopening. Such rapid recovery in box office not only reveals the potency of pent-up consumer demand for offline movie watching, but also instills strong confidence in movie industry participants.

Besides cinemas, other offline entertainment activities are also gradually coming back to life. For example, we are acting as the exclusive general ticketing agency for the “2020 Honor of Kings World Final Championship Cup”, which is scheduled to take place in August.

As the leading pan entertainment portal, and as the mainstream platform for entertainment distribution, data, and products, we will continue to adhere to our “Cat Claw Strategic Model”. We plan to upgrade our content capabilities, enhance our internet-native advantages, expand our online business model, refine our online-offline promotion and distribution services, strengthen our ticketing platform, and deliver more supply chain financing solutions and related services. We firmly believe that the winter of Covid-19 pandemic will pass and that the spring of entertainment industry revival is sure to follow. We will stand side by side with our partners, support our users, accelerate the recovery of the pan entertainment industry, and blaze a trail to a brighter tomorrow for all.

About Maoyan Entertainment

Maoyan Entertainment (1896.HK) is a leading internet platform providing innovative services in China’s comprehensive entertainment industry. Since its inception, Maoyan has grown from an online movie ticketing service provider to an innovative one-stop platform for entertainment services. Maoyan has a comprehensive strategy to become a leading platform servicing the entire entertainment industry in China.

This strategy is supported by its five key platforms: its comprehensive entertainment ticketing platform, product platform, data platform, marketing platform, and financing platform.

Non-GAAP Financial Measures

To supplement the consolidated results of the Company prepared in accordance with IFRS, certain additional non-GAAP financial measures (in terms of, operating profit, operating margin, profit for the period, net margin, profit attributable to equity holders of the Company, basic EPS and diluted EPS), have been presented in this press release. These unaudited non-GAAP financial measures should be considered in addition to, not as a substitute for, measures of the Company’s financial performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. In addition, these non-GAAP financial measures may be defined differently from similar terms used by other companies.

The Company’s management believes that the non-GAAP financial measures provide investors with useful

supplementary information to assess the performance of the Company’s core operations by excluding certain noncash items and certain impact of M&A transactions. In addition, non-GAAP adjustments include relevant non-GAAP adjustments for the Company’s material associates based on available published financials of the relevant material associates, or estimates made by the Company’s management based on available information, certain expectations, assumptions and premises.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements relating to the business outlook, forecast business plans and growth strategies of the Company. These forward-looking statements are based on information currently available to the Company and are stated herein on the basis of the outlook at the time of this press release. They are based on certain expectations, assumptions and premises, some of which are subjective or beyond our control. These forward-looking statements may prove to be incorrect and may not be realised in future. Underlying the forward-looking statements is a large number of risks and uncertainties. Further information regarding these risks and uncertainties is included in our other public disclosure documents on our corporate website.

Investor Relations Contact
Maoyan Entertainment
Email: [email protected]

ICR Inc.
Xinran Rao
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +1 (212) 517-4035

SOURCE Maoyan Entertainment

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13 Horror Movies Perfect for Halloween Coming Out This Fall

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13 Horror Movies Perfect for Halloween Coming Out This Fall

Many people out there might be sad to see Summer come to an end and the weather drop as Fall sets in. For others, however, it is a different story. Horror fans around the world tend to rejoice as we enter the Halloween season and what is typically the busiest time of year for horror movie releases and 2021 looks to be no different. From new additions to classic franchises to insanely unique and quirky new offerings, put out your Jack-o’-lanterns, grab your candy and check out the 13 best horror movies set to be released this Fall.

Horror movies are coming out in October 2021

Bad Candy

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Bad Candy – September 2021

Bad Candy is written and directed by Scott B. Hansen and Desiree Connell and stars cult favourites Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame and Corey Taylor from the masked heavy metal band Slipknot. As an anthology based film, the movie will tell a number of separate spooky stories based on a Halloween theme in the vein of 2007’s holiday favourite Trick ‘r Treat directed by Michael Dougherty. Bad Candy follows local Halloween stories based on both myths and lessons learned in the community of New Salem. With its annual Psychotronic FM Halloween show, re-enactment radio DJs Chilly Billy (Taylor) and Paul (Galligan) weave the tales of the supernatural of years gone by, and if the trailer is anything to go by, this is certainly not a movie for the faint of heart. In the Corey Taylor narrated trailer, which lasts just under two minutes, our senses are bombarded with an assortment of evil imagery including zombies, blood splattered walls, an evil clown and some sort of horned demon creature that looks to be straight from the deepest depths of hell.

  • Bad Candy
  • Release date: September 10
  • Format: September 10 (VOD), September 28 2021 (Blu-Ray)
Addams Family 2

Addams Family 2 – October 1, 2021

Following the, somewhat surprising, success of 2019’s Addams Family animated reboot, it was quickly announced that a follow up would be going into development. This time, it looks like they’re going with something a little different. We’re going to be following the whole family on a road trip around the United States. Morticia and Gomez have become distraught that their children are growing up, skipping family dinners and slipping away from them, so they organise the trip in an attempt to bring the family together for one last family vacation. While not the scariest entry on this list, expect lots of pitch black comedy and supernatural hijinks a plenty in this star studded affair featuring the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Kroll, Javon Walton, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, and Bill Hader.

There's Someone Inside Your House

There’s Someone Inside Your House – October 6, 2021

Netflix have certainly upped the chill factor this year with their horror release slate. There’s Someone Inside Your House might not be among the most talked about Netflix releases this year but it certainly seems to be one of the most horrifying. Based on the 2017 Stephanie Perkins novel of the same name, the film follows Makani Young, who has moved from Hawaii to a remote town in Nebraska to live with her grandmother and finish high school. If that’s not stressful enough, students at said high school are, one by one, being stalked and gruesomely murdered. To top it off, the killer is committing these murders whilst wearing ultra realistic masks of the victims. It definitely sounds like a must watch for all the ‘die’ hard slasher fans out there.

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Muppets Haunted Mansion – October 8, 2021

Okay, so this isn’t technically a movie, it’s more of a special but I couldn’t leave it off the list because… well, it’s the Muppets! Earlier this year, Disney announced that ‘The Great Gonzo – world famous daredevil artiste’ who ‘has done it all, seen it all, and survived it all’ will be taking on the greatest challenge of his life this Halloween night by spending one very daring night in the most grim grinning place on Earth …The Haunted Mansion. Inspired by the iconic Disney Haunted Mansion theme park attractions, expect a whole plethora of puppet paranoia from all of your favorite muppets as well as a slew of celebrity cameos and three new original songs, ‘Rest In Peace’, ‘Life Hereafter’ and ‘Tie The Knot Tango’.

Lamb

Lamb – October 8, 2021

This little Icelandic flick looks as if it’s definitely going to sit on the more left field side of the horror spectrum. Being distributed in the US by A24, a company that has never shied away from unique and offbeat horrors, the movie is about a couple who, upon coming across an abandoned baby on their farm, decide to take it home and raise it as their own. The twist? The baby appears to be some sort of mutant human-lamb hybrid creature. Other than that, not much else is known about the plot but it’s sure to be one hell of a ride. This supernatural horror stars Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason and marks the feature-length directorial debut of Valdimar Jóhannsson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Sjón.

  • Lamb
  • Release date: October 8, 2021
  • Format: In theaters
Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills – October 15, 2021

What better way to kick this list off than with the latest sequel to the granddaddy of all Halloween horrors. Halloween Kills is a direct sequel to 2018’s box office hit Halloween which itself was a direct sequel to the 1978 classic of the same name. Jamie Lee Curtis will once again be back reprising her role, playing the totally badass protagonist Laurie Strode facing off against notorious masked mad man Michael Myers, one the world’s most iconic villains. Director/co-writer David Gordon Green will again be helming the project which precedes next year’s Halloween Ends, which is reportedly the final installment in this trilogy. Halloween Kills is expected to will pick up immediately after the previous movie left off with Laurie, her daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson.

  • Halloween Kills
  • Release date: October 15, 2021
  • Format: In theaters, streaming on Peacock the same day.
Antlers

Antlers – October 29, 2021

Partly due to the many Covid related delays it has gone through and partly due to the nail-biting trailers that have been released so far, the Guillmero del Toro produced Antlers is definitely one of most anticipated horrors of the year. Guilmero de Toro is never one to stick to the beaten path and judging by what we know so far, Antlers promises something absolutely deranged. Based on the short story ‘The Quiet Boy’ written by Nick Antosca, it follows a school teacher and her police officer brother in a small Oregon town where they become convinced one of her students is harboring a man eating supernatural creature. The film stars Keri Russell, Jesse Plemons, Jeremy T. Thomas, Graham Greene, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, and Amy Madigan and is directed by Scott Cooper (Black Mass (2015) and Hostiles (2017).

  • Antlers
  • Release date: October 29, 2021
  • Format: In theaters
Last Night In Soho

Last Night In Soho – October 29, 2021

Renowned director Edgar Wright is known to have flirted with horror genre frequently throughout his career, most notably with the terrifyingly funny Cornetto trilogy (made up of Shaun Of The Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013)). Last Night in Soho, however, marks Wright’s first foray into pure horror. The time-bending thriller stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise Turner, a young woman with a passion for fashion design. Somehow Eloise finds herself inhabiting the body of an iconic club performer named Sadie and is now living back in 1966 London. While as Sadie, she pursues a romantic relationship with a man named Jack, played by Matt Smith. She soon realizes, however, that Sadie’s life in the Swinging Sixties is not as glamorous as it appears to be and both past and present begin to fall apart with horrifying consequences.

Shepherd

Shepherd – November 5, 2021

Shot in ‘one of the most beautiful, remote and less filmed parts of Britain’, there seems to be a certain mystique surrounding the Russel Owens directed Shepherds. The plot centers on a man who, dealing with the grief following the mysterious death of his wife, takes a job as a shepherd in the remote UK countryside. While out there, he encounters a malevolent supernatural force. Soon his rural retreat becomes a heart pounding race to save his sanity and his life. Owens has been quoted as saying that the movie “allows its audience to decide for themselves the motivations behind (and the fate of) its protagonist by not giving its true foundations away,” only adding to the mystique. Bring on November.

  • Shepherd
  • Release date: November 5, 2021
  • Format: In theaters
Ghostbusters Afterlife

Ghostbusters Afterlife – November 11, 2021

After the mixed reactions and poor box office performance of the 2015 Ghostbusters reboot, fans of the series have been clamoring for some sort of redemption and it looks like that might be arriving this fall in the shape of the highly anticipated Ghostbusters Afterlife. The film certainly ticks a lot of boxes; it is a sequel to the original films set thirty years after and is directed by Jason Reitman – son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman. It even sees Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts reprising their roles from the original films, joining newcomers Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace and Paul Rudd. The plot is reported to revolve around a supernatural phenomena somehow connected to those seen in the original movie. This time round, though, it’s up to the original ghostbuster’s grandkids, along with their family and friends, to solve the mystery of their grandfather’s relocation and use the Ghostbusters’ equipment and, become their successors.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City – November 24, 2021

After an impressive six movie run starring Milla Jovovich, starting from 2002’s Resident Evil and finishing with 2016’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Sony Pictures have now rebooted the video game come horror movie sensation. The zombie survival flick stars Robbie Amell, Kaya Scodelario, Tom Hopper and Neal McDonough and has been directed by Johannes Roberts. The film is reportedly set in the abandoned wasteland of Racoon City. A group of survivors seeking the dark truths and secrets surrounding the town and the ‘Umbrella Corporation’ will have to make it through the night without being eliminated by an unspeakable evil that has been unleashed from below the surface.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – TBA, 2021

The new Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie is going to be a reboot in the same vein as the 2018 Halloween movie in that it will be rebooted in the form of a direct sequel to original 70’s classic, whilst ignoring the numerous sequels, spin-offs and reboots that have come in between. The movie will be directed by David Blue Garcia from a screenplay by Chris Thomas Devlin from a story that Don’t Breathe’s Fede Álvarez was involved in. While the exact date has yet to be announced, we do know that it is set to come out this year and fans of the original will be glad to hear that, like the first, it will be R-rated and the monstrous Leatherface will be definitely be rearing his (or his victims’?) ugly head once again.

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Release date: TBA, 2021
  • Format: Streaming on Netflix
Jeepers Creepers: Reborn

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn – TBA, 2021

The Jeepers Creepers franchise has become somewhat of a cult sensation amongst horror fans, so it’s hardly surprising that it is amongst the horror franchises making a return this year. Currently in post-production, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn is set to be the beginning of a new trilogy for the franchise and follows a woman named Laine and her boyfriend as they attend a creepy horror attraction event. Laine begins to experience disturbing visions associated with the town’s troubled past and the notorious ‘Creeper’. Naturally, we expect the horror event to descend into blood soaked carnage. Exact information regarding the film’s release is still scarce but we know that it should be released by Screen Media Films later this year.

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‘Bachelor in Paradise’ returns with new hosts, ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ gather on Hulu, Hugh Jackman has a ‘Reminiscence’ machine and the best in pop culture the week of Aug. 16, 2021

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'Bachelor in Paradise' returns with new hosts, ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ gather on Hulu, Hugh Jackman has a ‘Reminiscence’ machine and the best in pop culture the week of Aug. 16, 2021

The It List is Yahoo’s weekly look at the best in pop culture, including movies, music, TV, streaming, games, books, podcasts and more. Here are our picks for Aug. 16-22, including the best deals we could find for each. (Yahoo Entertainment may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.)

WATCH IT: Bachelor in Paradise returns with some familiar faces — and new hosts

It’s been two years since our favorite castoffs looked for love in Mexico, but after a pandemic-filled hiatus, BIP is back. ABC is flipping the Bachelor in Paradise format on its head after the departure of the franchise’s longtime host, Chris Harrison, with the introduction of a rotating schedule of hosts including Lance Bass, Tituss Burgess, Lil Jon and David Spade for the upcoming season. The Aug. 16 premiere will also mark the show’s postpandemic debut and feature castmates from various seasons past who continue to look for love. Season 7 features a lot of men from Katie Thurston and Clare Crawley-Tayshia Adams’s seasons of The Bachelorette, while many of the women previously competed for Matt James’s and Peter Weber’s hearts. There are some old fan-favorites (Becca Kufrin! Grocery Store Joe!) returning, too. And similar to seasons past, the show will have no shortage of drama, including a disruption from producers who are seen announcing, “It’s no longer safe for you guys to stay in Paradise,” in the show’s trailer. — Kerry Justich and Taryn Ryder

Bachelor in Paradise premieres Monday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

WATCH IT: The Smartest Kids in the World puts the U.S. school system under the microscope

Even before the coronavirus pandemic changed the face of American education, students were already facing immense challenges within the current system. Journalist Amanda Ripley addressed some of those challenges in her 2014 book, The Smartest Kids in the World, which serves as the launching point for Tracy Droz Tragos’s absorbing new documentary of the same name. Filmed before the pandemic and premiering Aug. 19 on the Discovery+ streaming service, the film profiles four high school students who travel overseas to countries like Finland and South Korea to find the kind of educational opportunities that are missing at home. This exclusive clip from the film profiles 16-year-old Sadie, who finds herself adrift and alone in her public high school in Maine. During the course of the film, she spends a year abroad in Switzerland, and discovers there’s a better way for her to go to school. — Ethan Alter

The Smartest Kids in the World premieres Aug. 19 on Discovery+.

WATCH IT: Nick Broomfield revisits Biggie and Tupac murders with Last Man Standing

In 2002, British provocateur Nick Broomfield released Biggie and Tupac, an unsettling, eye-opening deep dive into the murders of the revered hip-hop icons. Nearly 20 years later, Broomfield is back with what equates to a documentary sequel, Last Man Standing. The impetus? With Death Row Records chief Suge Knight — who’s long been whispered to be connected to Biggie’s death but never implicated — now behind bars for a long time, a lot more people are willing to talk about Knight’s alleged role in it all. Broomfield shifts the focus to Knight for Part 2, and it’s another whopper of a doc. Check out an exclusive clip from the film above. — Kevin Polowy

Last Man Standing opens in theaters and on-demand Aug. 20.

WATCH IT: You’ll feel the heat of the California wildfires in Lucy Walker’s documentary, Bring Your Own Brigade

Released in the midst of California’s wildfire season, Bring Your Own Brigade chronicles how the nation’s most populous state got to this increasingly perilous present moment — and what can be done to address it. Director Lucy Walker speaks with the survivors of the deadly 2018 fires that devastated multiple California communities, as well as the men and women who are combating the flames on the ground or in the lab. The film also features searing on-the-ground footage of the wildfires swallowing up homes and forests, forcing residents to flee for their lives. In this exclusive clip, some of Walker’s subjects explain why climate change alone isn’t responsible for why California’s fires have gotten more destructive in recent years, and why that doesn’t make them “climate change deniers.” — E.A.

Bring Your Own Brigade premieres Aug. 20 on Paramount+ and CBSN.

STREAM IT: Henry Golding draws crazy rich praise as Snake Eyes hits digital

G.I. Joe fans have been waiting for a Snake Eyes spin-off for years, and they finally got their wish with the July actioner released in theaters. While reviews for the film were mixed, there was one element almost everyone agreed was golden: Crazy Rich Asians breakout Henry Golding as the eponymous lone fighter recruited into the secretive Arashikage Clan. Check out an exclusive clip above of Golding breaking down his costume as Snake Eyes hits digital this week. — K.P.

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins premieres on digital and on-demand Aug. 17.

WATCH IT: Get to know crusading Congresswoman Barbara Lee in the documentary Speaking Truth to Power

For 22 years and 12 terms, Congresswoman Barbara Lee has served California’s 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently the highest-ranking Black woman in Congress. Abby Ginzberg’s new film, Speaking Truth to Power, puts Lee’s public service career in the spotlight, illustrating how she was inspired by leading Black political figures like Shirley Chisholm to enter the political realm. Lee made her mark early in her tenure when she gave an emotional speech explaining why she was voting against the authorization of military force following the 9/11 attacks — the only congressional representative to do so. As she recounts in the film, that choice earned her praise, as well as death threats. This exclusive clip features political commentator Van Jones and Sen. Cory Booker sharing their thoughts about why Lee’s voice in Congress matters more than ever. — E.A.

Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power premieres Aug. 20 in theaters and on VOD services, including Prime Video.

WATCH IT: The surrealistic animated thriller, Cryptozoo, is like X-Men meets Jurassic Park

After its award-winning premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Dash Shaw’s wildly inventive, fantastically surreal and definitely R-rated carton feature, Cryptozoo, is finally available to the general public. Destined to be a future midnight movie favorite, the hand-drawn film combines X-Men, Jurassic Park and The Last Unicorn into a wild ride. Lake Bell heads up an all-star vocal cast as Lauren, a dedicated seeker of “cryptids” — mythical and magical creatures that society at large either ignores or exploits. Although she hopes to keep these beings safe at the titular refuge, the outside world has other, more violent plans. This exclusive clip from the film shows off Shaw’s beautifully stylized animation, and the “human vs. cryptid” action that could give Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs a run for their money. —E.A.

Cryptozoo premieres Aug. 20 in theaters and on most VOD services; visit Fandango for showtime and ticket information.

WATCH IT: The mother-daughter drama, Confetti, provides an emotional immigrant story

Following the critical and commercial success of last year’s Oscar-winning Minari, Hollywood’s door is open for more films about the Asian American immigrant experience. Enter Confetti, which stars Cloud Atlas star Zhu Zhu as Chen Lan, a young mother who brings her dyslexic daughter Meimei (Harmonie He) to New York City in search of a school that can help her. Moving in with a wheelchair-using author named Helen (Amy Irving), the two find themselves caught between underfunded, overpopulated public schools and private institutions that come with a huge price tag. Meanwhile, Chen Lan fights to hide her own learning disabilities at the expense of her mental and emotional health. This exclusive clip finds Chen Lan and Helen escorting Meimei to the neighborhood school, where they immediately realize that getting the help she needs will be a bigger challenge than expected. — E.A.

Confetti premieres Aug. 20 in theaters; visit Fandango  for showtime and ticket information

STREAM IT: Hulu’s star-studded Nine Perfect Strangers puts mystery into healing

Can’t get enough of HBO’s The White Lotus? Hulu’s got you covered. The similarly sharp and entertaining comedic drama Nine Perfect Strangers follows that many privileged if tortured or broken souls to a ritzy health and wellness retreat where they face off against Nicole Kidman’s enigmatic Russian guru. Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Bobby Cannavale, Samara Weaving, Michael Shannon, Luke Evans and Tiffany Boone help round out a stellar cast. – K.P.

Nine Perfect Strangers premieres Aug. 18 on Hulu.

HEAR IT: Yo! The Smithsonian raps

America’s most popular musical genre finally gets the Smithsonian package treatment it deserves, as the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings team up for the nine-disc, 129-track, four-decade-spanning boxed set Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. The ambitious project, part of the Smithsonian African American Legacy Series, ranges from the influential work of early innovators like the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa to current superstar MCs like Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Drake, and it comes with a 300-page coffee table book. To quote Boogie Down Productions, you must learn and pick up this box. – Lyndsey Parker

Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap is available Friday, Aug. 20 to purchase on Amazon.

WATCH IT: Kevin Bacon is the cherry on top of Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones

The judges sample a contestant's work on
The judges sample a contestant’s work on “Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones.” (Food Network)

Ice cream lovers will want to indulge in their favorite pint of Ben and Jerry’s — or at least their current fave — during the four episodes of this new Food Network show, which features six ice cream makers from all over the country competing to create an original flavor for the delightfully hippie brand. (You know, your future favorite!) On each installment, the contestants will work at the brand’s ice cream lab in Waterbury, Vt., to “capture the essence of a celebrity or pop culture icon in a new and innovative ice cream flavor,” with the directions coming from the celebrity themselves. First up is ubiquitous actor Kevin Bacon, who challenges the chefs to craft a flavor with, yes, “6 degrees of ingredients.” Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and two of Food Network’s own stars, pastry chef Duff Goldman and baker Buddy Valastro, will serve as celeb inspirations on later episodes. — Raechal Shewfelt

Ben & Jerry’s: Clash of the Cones premieres Monday, Aug. 16 at 9 p.m. on Food Network; it’s available to stream on Discovery the same day.

HEAR IT: Lorde shines brighter than ever

After a more than four-year hiatus, Ella Yelich-O’Connor is finally back with her third album, Solar Power. Although the album does reunite her with frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, the New Zealand singer-songwriter seems to have abandoned the goth-pop moodiness of her previous efforts — Pure Heroine and the Antonoff-produced Album of the Year Grammy nominee Melodrama— for feel-good beachy vibes, judging by the winsome “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” the sunshine-soaked title track and that famously internet-breaking album art. — L.P.

Solar Powerby Lorde is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.

BUY IT: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth celebrates 35th anniversary with 4K release

(Sony Home Entertainment)
(Sony Home Entertainment)

If you were a ’70s or ’80s baby, chances are your childhood included being enchanted by Labyrinth, the Jim Henson-directed, George Lucas-produced fantasy classic starring a young Jennifer Connelly, rock god David Bowie, and a colorful ensemble of puppet creations. The film now gets a 4K UHD upgrade in honor of its 35th anniversary, with an exciting cache of new special features including over 25 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes and screen tests for teen heroine Sarah that include Molly Ringwald and Growing Pains star Tracey Gold. — K.P.

Labyrinth releases on 4K UHD Aug. 17. Buy it on Amazon.

HEAR IT: You just can’t shake Debbie Gibson’s love

Before Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish, there was Debbie Gibson — who still holds the Guinness World Record as the youngest female artist to ever write produce and perform a Billboard No. 1 single (a feat she accomplished in 1987, at age 17). Now she’s back with her 10th album, The Body Remembers, her first studio release with original songs since 2001. But there’s one flashback track, a duet remake of her 1989 hit ballad “Lost in Your Eyes,” which features her peer Joey McIntyre of New Kids on the Block. Electric youth springs eternal! — L.P.

The Body Remembers by Debbie Gibson is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.

WATCH IT: Hugh Jackman has a memory machine in sci-fi thriller Reminiscence

Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy makes her feature film directorial debut with this clever blend of throwback film noir and futuristic sci-fi set in a post-apocalyptic Miami submerged in water. Hugh Jackman stars as a veteran of a seismic global war who now oversees a machine allowing weary residents to escape the darkness of their modern-day life by reliving happy memories — that is until his world is turned upside down by the arrival of Rebecca Ferguson’s femme fatale. Come for Jackman getting his Philip Marlowe on, stay for Joy’s striking visuals. — K.P.

Reminiscence opens Aug. 20 in theaters and on HBO Max. Get tickets on Fandango.

HEAR IT: Wanda Jackson throws one last party

The 83-years-young original queen of rockabilly announced her retirement in 2019, but she’s not quite done yet. Her final (and 32nd!) studio album, Encore, features fellow badasses like Elle King, Angaleena Presley, Candi Carpenter, Lori McKenna, and — as both a duet partner and producer — even the almighty Joan Jett. Jett’s imprint label, Blackheart Records, is also co-releasing Encore with Big Machine Records. The album is a fitting last hurrah for a legend like Jackson, whose trailblazing career began in 1954 when she was only 16 years old. — L.P.

Encore by Wanda Jackson is available Friday, Aug. 20 to download/stream on Apple Music.

—Video produced by Anne Lilburn and edited by Jimmie Rhee

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Suicide Squad, Vivo, and 8 new movies you can now watch on Netflix and at home

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Suicide Squad, Vivo, and 8 new movies you can now watch on Netflix and at home

This weekend the standalone follow-up to 2016’s Suicide SquadThe Suicide Squad — releases in theaters. If you don’t feel like going on to see it, you’re in luck; the film is also available to stream on HBO Max, along with a ton of our great films on video on demand. We’ve got Michael Sarnoski’s Pig starring Nicolas Cage, the animated musical comedy Vivo starring Lin-Manuel Miranda on Netflix, the Val Kilmer Documentary Val on Amazon Prime Video, along with several other new releases.

To help you get a handle on what’s new and available, here are the movies you can watch on video on demand and streaming this weekend.


The Suicide Squad

Where to watch: In theaters and available to stream on HBO Max

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Warner Bros.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad features returning stars Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Joel Kinnaman (The Killing), Viola Davis (Widows), and Jai Courtney (Terminator Genisys) joined by series newcomers Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), John Cena (F9: the Fast Saga), David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), and a whole bunch of others. Set an indeterminate amount of time after the previous movie, the new Suicide Squad finds itself dispatched to the South American island of Corto Maltese on a covert mission to ensure national security to shave a few years off their prison sentences. A giant starfish may say otherwise. From our review,

Comparing The Suicide Squad to Guardians of the Galaxy is a bit hard to avoid, especially since Gunn has such a well-defined sensibility that has now been applied to make unlikely crowd-pleasers across two mega-franchises at competing studios. Mostly, as above, the comparison is favorable — but other times it isn’t. The Suicide Squad is at its best when it’s doing things that Marvel Studios will not: R-rated action comedy, setpieces that prioritize performers over computer effects, and a story that isn’t afraid to gesture at real-world geopolitical conflict. It’s at its weakest when it embraces a Marvel-style ending, filing away its rough edges to deliver a sentimental finish that leaves the status quo more or less intact for potential future projects.

 

 

 

 

 

HBO Max

Prices taken at time of publishing.

On top of new WB releases in 2021, HBO Max brings together HBO, DC , Cartoon Network, and Criterion libraries.

Pig

Where to watch: Available to rent for $6.99 on Amazon Prime Video, Apple, and Vudu

 

 

 

Nicolas Cage as Rob, the truffle-hunting hermit, eating breakfast with his prized pig in Pig.

 

 

 

 

Photo: Neon

 

Nicolas Cage (Mandy) stars in Michael Sarnoski’s revenge drama Pig as Rob, a former chef-turned-reclusive truffle forager living deep in the forests of Oregon with his prize hog. When Rob is assaulted and his pig is stolen, he’ll have to embark on tense journey back to his past stomping grounds in order to retrieve. Though the casting of Cage alone and the premise alone may lead one to suspect that this is just the latest in a long string of John Wick riffs, the film turns out to be anything but. Based on our pals at Vulture’s review, Pig is a tense, soulful, drama following a man as he parses through the regrets of his past and cuts anyone standing in his way down to the bone with nothing save a word.

Vivo

Where to watch: Available to stream on Netflix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony Pictures Animation

 

Hamilton producer Lin-Manuel Miranda stars in Sony Pictures Animation’s comedy Vivo as a lovable, music-obsessed kinkajou who forms a bond with the elderly Andrés. When tragedy befalls the duo, Vivo embarks on a quest to deliver a message to Andrés’ former partner Marta Sandoval; a love letter written to her in the form of a song. Features gorgeous settings and several new songs written by Miranda himself, Vivo looks like it’ll be a sincere feel-good time. From our review:

Miranda’s songwriting skills are still stellar, but the best part of Vivo happens when the music and animation work in tandem to elevate the story, playing with the visual style to highlight the music, so it all meshes together in a beautiful symphony. Andrés sings about his memories with Marta, and the movie shifts into a retro concert-poster style, with bright blocks of color and soft edges. When Gabi sings an anthem to being unapologetically weird, it becomes a neon techscape. These moments are transcendent, a testament to both the strength of the music and the creativity of the animation production design.

John and the Hole

Where to watch: In select theaters and available to rent for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video; $6.99 on Apple, Vudu

 

 

 

Charlie Shotwell as “John” in Pascual Sisto’s JOHN AND THE HOLE.

 

 

 

 

Photo: IFC Films

 

Based on a short story by Birdman screenwriter Nicolás Giacobone, Pascual Sisto’s American psychological thriller John and the Hole stars Charlie Shotwell as a 13-year-old who traps his family in a mysterious hole buried near his home. The film co-stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) as John’s parents Brad and Anna, as well as Taissa Farmiga (The Final Girls) as John’s older sister Laurie. From our review,

John and the Hole doesn’t hit like Lanthimos’ surrealist larks or Lynne Ramsay’s portrait of a school killer, We Need to Talk About Kevin, but it does ask provocative questions about modern children and their modern parents. (I guess what I’m saying is that it’s the good version of Modern Family.) Risks emerge as society becomes more attuned to the complexity of young people, and respects them as more adult than previous generations. Kids are still kids, and not every young person is on the same developmental track. Money, privilege, and personal philosophy all challenge the evolving norms. Why would a kid push their parents into a hole? Why wouldn’t they? Few movies ask the question, to be honest.

Val

Where to watch: Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

 

 

 

Val Kilmer in the documentary Val.

 

 

 

 

Photo: A24

 

Featuring behind-the-scenes footage spanning Val Kilmer’s entire life shot by the actor himself, Leo Scott and Ting Poo’s documentary Val centers on the daily life of the actor through the trials and triumphs of his professional career, his personal life, his struggles with cancer, and his dedication to the craft of acting and storytelling. Val looks like it’ll shape up to be an exceptional and unique documentary of one of the most iconic screen presences of the late 20th century.

And here’s what dropped last Friday:


F9: The Fast Saga

Where to watch: In theaters and available to rent for $19.99 on Amazon Prime Video, Apple, and Vudu

 

 

 

Dom (Vin Diesel) crouches on one knee as car debris blows up around him in F9

 

 

 

 

Image: Universal Pictures

 

F is for family that does stuff together! In F9: The Fast Saga, the (supposedly) penultimate chapter in the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, that “stuff” involves Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his ride-or-die crew of civilian stunt drivers turned clandestine super-spies being pitted in a race (pun intended) against time to stop a devastating super-weapon from falling into the wrong hands. Things get even more complicated when Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) shows up to throw a wrench in the works, pitting the two Toretto siblings in a deadly battle of wills as they hash out their baggage. Oh yeah, Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) go to space in this one. From our review,

F9 counteracts any character development by devoting a grating amount of time to meta-commentary on its own ridiculousness. On this lap of the franchise, Roman confronts the existential nature of the family’s inability to be harmed. How do they never get shot? How do they survive every car crash? Have they been chosen? If these were the incoherent mutterings of a man in constant action, it might be the perfect seriousness-deflating banter to cap any given action set-piece. But there are entire dialogue-driven scenes unpacking the possible supernatural forces at work in the Fast franchise. If the asides are setup for the series’ eventual crossover with Diesel’s Last Witch Hunter universe (c’mon, it’s good!), then the film isn’t taking the magical element seriously enough. If it’s just comic relief, it’s padding that falls flat — but not as flat as the five-minute gag about which Star Wars character Charlize Theron’s villain Cipher would be, the moment F9 goes full cringe.

Jungle Cruise

Where to watch: In theaters and available to stream on Disney Plus Premier

 

 

 

Dwayne Johnson in a hat and Emily Blunt look off their ship in Jungle Cruise

 

 

 

 

Image: Walt Disney Pictures

 

Choo choo, all aboard the Jungle Cruise! The latest effort in Disney’s ongoing effort to spin every one of its notable theme-park rides into a sustainable theatrical franchise, Jungle Cruise stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Frank “Skipper” Wolff, a riverboat captain hired to transport Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) into the heart of the exotic jungle in search of the Tree of Life. It’s not exactly Fitzcarraldo or The Lost City of Z, but it does have zombie snake-men and CG-animated leopards, plus Jesse Plemons as a German aristocrat in a submarine. From our review,

Jungle Cruise is beholden not just to the antiquated tropes of archaeological adventure movies, but also the ride’s own problematic legacy. To their credit, the filmmakers do their best to subvert that legacy. The choice to have the coveted treasure be part of the natural world, instead of the ruins of an ancient civilization already helps. But the best adaptation is that the indigenous people of the jungle are civilized, and they’re Frank’s buddies — they only attack the tourists because they have an agreement where he pays them to scare the travelers for extra thrills. The leader of the tribe — the infamous Trader Sam, originally an outdated park character — is a woman in the movie. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and is more of an Easter Egg than a woman of color with a story of her own, but at least the filmmakers are acknowledging the ride’s past and considering how to modernize their thinking.

Twist

Where to watch: Available to rent for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video; $6.99 on Apple, Vudu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Saban Films

 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An action-packed crime-thriller remake of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist that reimagines the rosy-cheeked orphan with a heart of gold as a wayward teenage graffiti artist with a gift for parkour. No? Well, that’s what Martin Owen’s Twist is, in a nutshell. Rafferty Law (Repo Men) stars as Oliver Twist opposite Michael Caine (The Dark Knight) as his criminal mentor Fagin, with Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) rounding out the principal cast as Twist’s nemesis Sikes. Admittedly, this whole premise sounds odd and seems more than likely to fall flat, but at least it’s unique.

Enemies of the State

Where to watch: Available to rent for $5.99 on Amazon Prime Video; $6.99 on Apple, Vudu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: IFC Films

 

Matt DeHart, an Air National Guard veteran turned whistleblower, working with the online hacktivist group Anonymous, fled to Canada in 2013, alleging that he had inadvertently stumbled across information so sensitive that the FBI wanted him detained … or worse. The FBI paints a different story, alleging that DeHart was an online child predator and that he sought asylum to evade the consequences. Sonia Kennebeck’s documentary Enemies of the State delves into the labyrinthine drama implicating DeHart and his family, poring through reams of legal documents and interviewing agents and suspects connected to the case in order to unravel the truth and its possible implications.

Ride the Eagle

Where to watch: Available to rent for $6.99 on Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Vudu

 

 

 

Jake Johnson as Lief in Ride the Eagle

 

 

 

 

Photo: JTJ Films

 

Jake Johnson (New Girl, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) stars in Trent O’Donnell’s Ride the Eagle as Leif, a pot-smoking conga-band drummer who leaves his life in the city to move out to a picturesque cabin in Northern California bequeathed to him by his estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon). Before he can actually move in, however, he’ll have to complete a to-do list left behind by his mom as a part of his conditional inheritance. So it’s like the 12 labors of Hercules, only instead of a quest to become a god, it’s about transferring real estate and growing into an emotionally mature, self-sufficient adult. Also, it’s a comedy!

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