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Johnny Depp’s Scandal-Plagued ‘City of Lies’ Is the Recipe for a VOD Hit

The crime drama about the Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. murders sat in limbo for nearly three years, but on VOD it can finally make its mark.

“City of Lies”

Blend one well-known name with scandal; add an appealing subject. Bake in theatrical visibility and fold in home-friendly pricing. Best served with stale alternatives. With this well-tested recipe for VOD success, the long-delayed “City of Lies” stands out this week.

The troubled 2018 film stars Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker as Los Angeles detectives investigating the murders of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Open Road filed for bankruptcy shortly after it acquired the film. Legal and pandemic issues followed, and then Saban stepped in. A March 19 theater release roused $565,000; two weeks later, it debuted on VOD. It’s a trajectory similar to the one recently enjoyed by the disgraced Armie Hammer, who stars opposite Gary Oldman in another VOD hit, “Crisis.”

Priced at $6.99, “City of Lies” took first place at AppleTV, #4 at GooglePlay (both ranking by number of rentals) and an impressive fourth place at FandangoNow (which lists by revenue earned). The lagging Spectrum chart doesn’t yet include it; otherwise, it likely would have made all four.

“Wonder Woman 1984,” also $6.99, is #1 at both GooglePlay and Spectrum. At $29.99, “Raya and the Last Dragon” is an easy #1 at FandangoNow, #5 at AppleTV, and #7 at GooglePlay. It’s unavailable on Spectrum.

The Tom Hanks Western “News of the World” also made all charts at $6.99. “Promising Young Woman” and “The Croods: A New Age” remain on three charts, long after their initial releases.

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH, Daniel Kaluuya (left), as Fred Hampton, Dominique Fishback (center), 2021. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Judas and the Black Messiah”

Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” now available at $19.99 after its HBO Max play, placed 10th at FandangoNow. Despite its strong Oscar placement, the film has fallen short compared to other post-HBO Max releases.

Star power propelled “Thunder Force” at Netflix to an immediate #1 this weekend. Starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as a pair of unusual superheroes, and directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, it’s in the vein of prior Netflix hits starring Adam Sandler. Random sighting: Penelope Spheeris’ “The Little Rascals” is #2. The modest 1994 hit is one of the rare pre-21st century titles to make an impact at a site that favors titles made in the last decade. On that note, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 “Saving Private Ryan” also ranked at #8.

Apple TV

Ranked by number of transactions, with position as of Monday, April 12

1. City of Lies (Saban) – $6.99

2. Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) – $5.99

3. Promising Young Woman (Universal) – $5.99

4. Synchronic (Well Go) – $0.99

5. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) – $29.99

6. News of the World (Universal) – $5.99

7. Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar (Lionsgate) – $5.99

8. The Vault (Saban) – $6.99

9. Central Intelligence (Warner Bros.) – $3.99

10. The Illusionist (Freestyle) – $3.99



Ranked by revenue accrued not transactions, for April 5-11

1. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) – $29.99

2. Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) – $19.99

3. Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

4. City of Lies (Saban) – $6.99

5. The Little Things (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

6. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run (Paramount) – $19.99

7. News of the World (Universal) – $5.99

8. The Croods: A New Age (Universal) – $5.99

9. Every Breath You Take (Vertical) – $19.99

10. Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.) – $19.99


Google Play

Ranked by number of transactions, with the daily position as of Monday, April 12

1. Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

2. The Croods: A New Age (Universal) – $5.99

3. Monster Hunter (Sony) – $5.99

4. City of Lies (Saban) – $6.99

5. Promising Young Woman (Focus) – $5.99

6. News of the World (Universal) – $5.99

7. Raya and the Last Dragon (Disney) – $29.99

8. Chaos Walking (Lionsgate) – $19.99

9. Willy’s Wonderland (Screen Media) – $3.99

10. Greenland (STX) – $5.99



All priced $6.99 except where noted

1. Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

2. News of the World (Universal)

3. The Croods: A New Age (Universal)

4. The Little Things (Warner Bros.) – $19.99

5. SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run (Paramount) – $19.99

6. The Vault (Saban)

7. Monster Hunter (Sony)

8. Promising Young Woman (Focus)

9. The Seventh Day (Vertical)

10. Six Minutes to Midnight (IFC)


Netflix Movies

Most viewed, current ranking as of Monday, April 12; originals include both Netflix-produced and -acquired titles

1. Thunder Force (2021 Netflix original)

2. The Little Rascals (1994 theatrical release)

3. Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2017 video release)

4. Legally Blonde (2001 theatrical release)

5. What Lies Below (2020 VOD release)

6. Concrete Cowboy (2021 Netflix original)

7. The Stand In (2020 VOD release)

8. Saving Private Ryan (1999 theatrical release)

9. Two Distant Strangers (2021 Netflix original)

10. Friends With Benefits (2011 theatrical release)

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