Sky to Offer Original Films Day-and-Date in U.K.

Courtesy of Sky
'Monster Family'

The first titles are the animated 'Monster Family,' with the voice cast including Emily Watson, Rob Cohen's 'Hurricane Heist,' a sci-fi thriller with Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried and 'Final Score' with Pierce Brosnan.

Building on its investment in original series, European pay TV giant Sky on Thursday unveiled the launch of Sky Cinema Original Films, adding movies to its originals strategy in the U.K.

The company, in which 21st Century Fox owns a 39 percent stake, with a deal to buy the rest still under review, said it would invest in "brand new films, which will be available to customers on the same day as [the] cinema release."

The first film in the strategy will be animated comedy Monster Family on March 2, starring the voices of Emily Watson, Nick Frost and others. In the film, an evil witch turns a family into monsters, with the mother (Watson) becoming a vampire, the father (Frost) Frankenstein’s Monster and the kids (Jessica Brown Findlay, Ethan Rouse) into a mummy and a werewolf. They must go on an adventure chasing the witch (Catherine Tate) around the world to return them to their human selves, with Dracula (Jason Isaacs) providing another challenge.

That will be followed by disaster action movie Hurricane Heist, directed by Rob Cohen, creator of franchise The Fast and the Furious in April; Anon, a sci-fi thriller starring Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried in May; and British production Final Score, starring Dave Bautista and Pierce Brosnan, later in the year.

Further day-and-date films will be unveiled later, with Sky Cinema group director Ian Lewis saying the number could reach "at least six or seven this year and will probably grow that in the future."

"We start off from the premise that Sky Cinema already has, by a mile, the best movie proposition in the market. We got the output deals with all of our studios partners," Lewis said. "We have over 1,000 on demand. We guarantee our customers a premiere every day, which means we buy hundreds of films from independents as well as studios." When Sky Cinema users are asked what they would want, "they tell us there are certain genres they would love to have even more content from, both British and American movies, particularly in the mainstream spaces."

That is why animated/family, action-adventure, disaster, heist, comedy and sci-fi films are among the first crop of titles. Lewis said the decision to invest in these movies doesn't take movie away from the company's other content spending. While he didn't detail the size of Sky's investment in them, he said the films' budgets were in the £5 million ($7.1 million) to £35 million ($49.7 million) range. 

"We would want to really contribute, sometimes that will just be acquiring all rights for the U.K.," Lewis said about the goal of the original movies pushes. "Increasingly, that is going to involve us as at least as a co-production partner or a co-financier of the movie. With each individual project, we will decide what the right budget for the movie is and what the right involvement from Sky is." He added: "Particularly on the British side, too many great stories that are out there have not come to fruition, because the producers are struggling to find the right money."

Continued Lewis: "We are also looking to evolve this industry in a way that benefits not just our customers, but the industry overall. We could have just invested in these additional movies and just shown them to Sky customers. Instead, all of our marketing will drive people to the cinema as well as to Sky. This is about trying to engage not just those customers already into movies, but also about bringing more people in." 

He said the number of people regularly going to the cinema or subscribing to a movie service is below other markets. Sky said each original film would be supported "by a heavyweight marketing campaign to create awareness and footfall to cinemas," while also being made available on Sky Cinema day-and-date at no extra cost to Sky Cinema subscribers. 

The original films strategy is being driven out of Sky's U.K. and Ireland markets. But the company is also talking to their colleagues in Italy and Germany/Austria about possibly getting them involved in some movies.   

Sky Cinema costs £10 ($14.21) per month in the U.K. for Sky customers and is also available on demand and via Sky's streaming-only service Now TV.