‘Arthur Christmas’ Slays ‘Em In The UK
Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman’s Arthur Christmas jumped to the top of the UK box office this weekend – in its fourth week of release. This bit of holiday magic came courtesy of a £1.9 million weekend take for a cume of £11.5 million. The film has been holding steady in second place since it bowed on November 11 and this weekend faced off against Happy Feet Two for the family audience. Largely positive notices and the British voice cast — including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton — have no doubt been a local draw. Sony Pictures Releasing UK’s Peter Taylor said: “Opening a movie at No. 1 in such a competitive market as the UK is difficult enough, but to reach the top of the chart in the fourth week of release is almost unprecedented. We are all delighted.”

Tom Hooper Decides Against 3D For ‘Les Miserables’
Although director Tom Hooper flirted with the idea of filming the new movie version of the hit stage musical Les Miserables in 3D, the Oscar-winning helmer of The King’s Speech has decided to stick with 2D. Hooper told the BBC he had been “very tempted” to use 3D but worried that some audiences might “physically struggle” with the format. Not to worry, purists. “I can definitely announce it’s good old-fashioned 2D,” Hooper said at the British Independent Film Awards. “I wanted to make a film that would touch everyone. I believe the story is so strong, 3D is not essential.” Hooper added that the casting of Eponine and Cosette would be announced soon. “I’ve never done a film where big star actors are as obsessed with being in it as this.” Starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert, it begins shooting in March with a targeted release date of December 2012. The cast includes Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Hooper’s King’s Speech stars Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are also said to be attached to Les Miserables.

New UK Lottery Schemes To Benefit Emerging Countryside Talent
Creative England, a British Film Institute delegated body that supports creative sectors in the English regions (i.e., outside London), has two new funds to disperse. The £250,000 Development Fund is now accepting applications from writers, directors and producers (individuals or teams) for aid with their projects with awards ranging from £2,500 to £25,000. The Film Networks Fund, on the other hand, is open to networks and organizations whose work supports and promotes filmmaking activities in the regions. The £150,000 fund will make awards from £2,500-£25,000. Creative England’s Chris Moll noted: “We’re targeting our development funds at those unique regional voices with great new stories to tell, combined with the skill to drive their project forward both creatively and commercially. We’d like to hear from applicants from all around the country, so that we can reflect the real diversity that is out there in the regions.” A micro-budget program is also planned next year. More info on the funds is here.

Cartman Goes To Africa
MTV Networks Africa will launch Comedy Central in 47 territories in sub-Saharan Africa tomorrow, the group has announced. The 24-hour English-language channel will kick off with a Jeff Dunham stand-up special, September’s Charlie Sheen roast and two brand new episodes of South Park. The channel will be available on the DStv platform and will include other Comedy Central fare like The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

Screen Australia Invests $17M In Features And TV Drama
Screen Australia investment of $17 million in 14 projects is expected to trigger $97 million in production, according to Encore. Productions include The Grandmothers, written by Christopher Hampton (A Dangerous Method) and director Anne Fontaine (Coco Avant Chanel) and starring Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville in the adaptation of Doris Lessing’s novel. Also on the list is The Mule from co-writers/co-producers Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson with Tony Mahony directing the black comedy about a drug mule caught by police. Additionally there’s the telefilm Underground about a teenage Julian Assange hacking computer systems, from Matchbox Pictures, written and directed by Robert Connolly.

Quickflix Signs With NBC Universal For VOD Rights
Quickflix has contracted with NBCUniversal International Television Distribution for its movie streaming service. The contract secures Quickflix subscription and transactional VOD rights in Australia for a broad selection of current and catalog feature films. Quickflix has already secured licenses to product fron Sony Pictures Television, Lakeshore Entertainment, Pinnacle Films, Warner Bros international and Content Media Corp.