As I reported on Monday, the China Film Association has formed the International Communication Committee of the China Film Association. At an event held Tuesday in Beijing, the ICCCFA was unveiled to address critical issues facing the Chinese film industry. DMG Entertainment, whose president Wu Bing was named as VP of ICCCFA, helped organize the event. The ICCCFA’s focus will be to educate and engage the global film community, particularly Hollywood, to enhance the development of the Chinese film industry by establishing best practices for partnering with China’s established and proven film companies to access the market. One of the major questions addressed was whether the Chinese film industry should support Hollywood studios making Chinese films or Chinese studios making Hollywood films. DMG’s Dan Mintz said the industry is “collectively agreeing on the latter as the correct agenda.” Along with the heads of many of China’s most influential state-backed film organizations, DMG escorted former Skydance COO Paul Schwake and screenwriter Evan Daugherty to the forum. Talking about the long-term goal of global film and cultural balance, Schwake said: “Though Hollywood isn’t a perfect system, it is an industry that has benefited from 100-plus years of trial and error and adaptive evolution. It’s important for the governing entities in China to support their own industry leaders so that those entities can catch up to the U.S. studios and perhaps even surpass them some day.” Said Daugherty: “Yes, it takes a great story to make a great film, but to complete that journey takes a system that excels at development, finance, production, marketing, and distribution. Otherwise that great story just lays on a shelf.” Via the ICCCFA, the Chinese government has put an emphasis on building China’s cultural industries. Kang Jianmin, Secretary-General of the China Film Association, noted: “The mission of the Chinese film industry should not only focus on content, even though content is king. It should also nurture a solid foundation of new technology, creativity and talent – in other words, focusing on industry development at-large. This macro-strategy, if successfully implemented, will most rapidly create a world-class film industry.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: China Forum Held On Sino-U.S. Cooperation; Simon Cowell Named Mipcom Personality Of The Year; ITV Drama Lineup; More
China Briefs: Beijing Forum To Address Sino-U.S. Film Cooperation; Local Producers Eye ‘Avatar’ Rival
A forum to be held this week in Beijing will address critical issues facing the Chinese film industry, especially as they regard cooperation with the U.S. The state-backed China Film Association has created the International Communication Committee of CFA in an effort to educate and engage the global film community, particularly Hollywood, in how to partner with China’s film entities to access the market. As Hollywood increasingly seek to establish ties to China, some thorny issues have crept up. Recently, Transformers: Age Of Extinction has faced criticism from sponsors over their portrayal, while the Chinese are understood to be concerned about foreign press coverage of reported extortion attempts on the set in Hong Kong last year. I hear folks expected to attend the forum include top execs from SAPPRFT, China Film Group, Huaxia Films, the CFA and DMG. Also expected to attend panels and presentations are former Skydance COO Paul Schwake and screenwriter Evan Daugherty (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent).
With Avatar the 2nd highest-grossing film in Chinese history, local producers are looking to cash in with their own rival take. The state-backed Xinhua news agency reports that Beijing Chinese Century Media Company is prepping 3D fantasy film Bainiaoyi to shoot in May 2015 in Hengxian County for release at the end of 2016. The tale based on Zhuang folklore follows a young …
Q&A: Peter Jackson On His Middle Earth Exit, How The Beatles And Stanley Kubrick Nearly Did LOTR, And A Disguise That Let Him Haunt Comic-Con
Peter Jackson is coming to the end of a stay in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth that has dominated a quarter of the 53-year-old director’s life, right into middle age. The result: three Lord Of The Rings films and two installments of The Hobbit that have grossed $4.89 billion in worldwide box office.
By the time The Battle Of The Five Armies, the finale to The Hobbit trilogy, plays out, Jackson’s six films may reach $6 billion, and better the current hardware haul of 17 Oscars including Best Picture for Return Of The King, and 35 other noms. Unless James Cameron has something to say about it with his new Avatar trilogy, we may never see anything again in our lives to match Jackson’s cinematic accomplishment, all done with the same creative team.
If he’s feeling the weight of that, he wore it well at Comic-Con. Mostly, he battled jet lag after the long trip to San Diego from New Zealand, where the last film waits for him to finish. He’s tired enough when I enter his hotel room that he suggests I get in bed next to where he’s resting. Then he thinks better, unsure he can stay awake unless upright. I tell him I had the same problem the night before at a very funny live Chris Hardwick-hosted game show my son was desperate to see, only to nudge me again and again for snoring too loud. Our chat started with middle-age sleep apnea and moved to Middle Earth, how close The Beatles came to doing The Lord Of The Rings with Stanley Kubrick, and how Jackson will handle leaving Middle Earth, a place he almost didn’t get to visit at all.
JACKSON: So you almost ruined your son’s time by snoring? I once flew coach class from New Zealand to London, and my friends informed me they’d gotten a ticket for the theater at the West End stage. My friend had to elbow me because not only could they see me from the stage, they could probably hear me as well. When I worked as a newspaper photo engraver in the only job I ever had, many years ago, I’d get the train home to Pukerua Bay where I was staying with my parents. An hour ride, 16 stops and almost always I’d have automatic wake-up, seconds before we pulled into my station. Travel makes you tired more than anything, and Friday was my daughter’s 18th birthday and we celebrated here.
DEADLINE: One of those tiny gorgeous kids we watched grow up in glimpses during Lord Of The Rings films?
JACKSON: She was 3 when we made The Fellowship Of The Ring. Katie and Elijah Wood were talking today and they figured out she was 3 when he first met her. She’s 18. Kids, more than anything in life, chart time for us.
DEADLINE: Movies and sports do it, too. It’s easy to be cynical, but I am so charmed by these Comic-Con people and how the proceedings bring out the child versions of themselves. Total lack of cynicism. Do you get to appreciate that still?
JACKSON: There’s a certain reality to me going out now. I’d get six paces, no further, and it would be selfies, and nothing else. In the old days, people asked you to sign something, and half would be too nervous to ask. Now, there’s an aggression to it, like they want you as a trophy on their web page. It’s a social coup to nail you on their cell phone. It changed everything. I get six paces and then can’t walk another. But I went anyway, yesterday, found a way to walk all the way around the convention center.
DEADLINE: How did you manage that?
JACKSON: Oh, I got myself a secret identity. I became the Evil Jester. You can look at the photos on my Facebook page.
While a dispute with Transformers: Age Of Extinction sponsor Pangu Investments was swiftly resolved around the time of the film’s release, the folks at the Wulong Karst National Park are not relenting. Earlier this month, the tourism group said it was going ahead with legal action against the producers of the highest-grossing film of all time in China. Unhappy with its portrayal in the film, the UNESCO World Heritage site has now filed a lawsuit at Chongqing No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court, accusing Paramount Pictures and Beijing-based 1905 Internet Technology, of violating their contract. The State-owned Xinhua new agency reports the court has accepted the suit. Wulong says its name was due to be featured on screen announcing the locale, but is not in the finished film. There also is concern that because the scenes immediately following take place in Hong Kong, it mistakenly gives the impression the two are nearby. Wulong is understood to be seeking 4M yuan in losses for the days the park was closed for filming, compensation of expected profit losses of 12M yuan and the return of 4.8M yuan of a contract payment. This despite reports that there’s been a hike in visitors since the movie came out. Paramount has not previously commented on the Wulong issue, but the head of 1905′s M1095 earlier told local press that Wulong delayed payment to Paramount for five months which resulted in a squeeze on production time and a misunderstanding …
This weekend’s domestic box office was off a whopping 28 percent, which has people wondering why. Could it be the quality is just not there? “Yeah, what the hell is going on, right?” said one distributor when I asked. “It’s content driven. We’re in a slump at the moment, but next year will be better. This year, I don’t think it’s any indication that problems are anything but the content.” As in quality, or lack thereof, and I think that most Deadline readers would concur that though this summer has seen some gems (like The Fault in Our Stars, Apes, Heaven is For Real), they’ve wrapped around some real stinkers (A Million Ways to Die in the West, Moms Night Out).
By the way, Paramount’s Transformers:Age of Extinction has made $659.1M internationally and around $228M to date domestically, is on track to become the 19th picture ever to move past the $1B mark and could end up in the Top Ten all-time worldwide grossers. But others have fallen flat. As we’ve noted in the past, it’s a cyclical business. Some of the pictures from 2014 moved to 2015 to avoid having to deal with the World Cup. Next summer looks more promising: the April 3rd release of Fast and Furious 7, followed in May by the highly-anticipated The Avengers: Age of Ultron and then The Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, Ted 2, Minions and Terminator.
But here’s the question: When will the industry see a movie that will go four consecutive weekends in a row at No. 1? (see chart below, courtesy of Rentrak). And could Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy do it?
Update: Intl Box Office: ‘Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes’ Awakens To $31.3M Overseas; ‘Transformers’ Adds $100M+ To Crash Past $500M Barrier
UPDATE, Monday 5:30 PM: Updates are in from Fox and Universal which had the films everyone wanted to know about in the domestic marketplace this weekend as well — Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and the indie favorite Boyhood. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ Transformers: Age of Extinction took in a little less than the $102M estimate, but nonetheless grossed $100.3M from 12 markets, according to the studio, to sail past the $500M market in just three weeks of release. The international cume is now $540.6M. Added with the domestic gross and the go-bots are hitting on all cylinders with $713.4M worldwide.
All other numbers are updated below for those two films as well as for X-Men: Days of Future Past, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Other Woman, Neighbors, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and The Fault in Our Stars and newcomer Rico, Oskar Und Die Tieferschatten. Just received Warner Bros. and Disney final international grosses so more updates below on Tammy, Jersey Boys, Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow, Blended, and Godzilla. Sony has come in at 3 PM with its numbers for 22 Jump Street, Deliver Us From Evil, Heaven is For Real and Think Like a Man Too.
The movie adaptation of the Melissa Marr novel Wicked Lovely has conjured up a second wind. Originally set up at Universal by Wild West Picture Show Productions, the project is now freed up and WWPSP has brought in indie production house Pukeko Pictures to produce and oversee special effects, and Weta Workshop for design and physical effects. They will set a director shortly and then CAA will shop the project.
WWPSP’s Vince Vaughn, Valeri Vaughn and Peter Billingsley are producing with Pukeko’s Martin Baynton and Adam Fratto, and Richard Taylor is exec producing. The project was grabbed back from turnaround by WWPSP, and it rears up again at a time when there is a strong market for female driven YA adaptations, after Divergent and The Fault In Our Stars. Marr’s book series has a global following and has been published in 26 languages. The script was written by Caroline Thompson, the scribe behind Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. In the novel, a teen girl who has seen dangerous faeries her entire life much suddenly go against everything she was taught to confront a world she was raised to fear.
Pukeko Pictures is co-owned by Baynton, Tania Rodger and Taylor, the latter an Oscar and BAFTA Award winner. New Zealand-based Weta has The Lord Of The Rings and Avatar among its credits. CAA brokered the book deal for Marr with Writers House, and the agency reps WWPSP and Pukeko Pictures.
After 12 days of release (and a bit of confusion over official numbers), Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction now has the distinction of passing Avatar as the highest-grossing film ever in China. With $225.1M (1,396M RMB), the movie has bested James Cameron’s record of $221.9M that was set in 2010. On Tuesday, Chinese research firm Ent Group reported that the Autobots had overtaken the Na’vi as of July 6 with $222.74M, but Paramount has just weighed in with its official numbers. Because of currency fluctuations, the yuan renminbi figure was key. Avatar was worth about 1.39B during its life in the Middle Kingdom. TAOE has been dogged somewhat by local sponsors who have griped about their placement in the movie. But audiences have embraced it willingly, encouraged by all the Chinese elements — including actors, locations and storyline.
Paramount Chairman and CEO, Brad Grey, said this morning, “We’re honored by the deeply passionate response from Chinese audiences – and audiences throughout the world – to Transformers: Age Of Extinction and the unique storytelling of Michael Bay. The many new relationships we have built with members of the creative community in China is a source of great pride and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future.” Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore acknowledged the “great work of China Film Group in the distribution of Transformers” and thanked partners Jiaflix, China Movie Channel, M1905, China Movie Media and Hua Hua.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines yin and yang as “opposite sides, elements, or extremes,” while other definitions add that the two are complementary forces that can’t exist without each other. Given the events of the past month, Chinese philosophers might have a field day applying the concept to the case of Transformers: Age Of Extinction and its run on the mainland. The film is exploding at the local box office, while at the same time it’s becoming a magnet for legal threats raised by Chinese sponsors.
Last Thursday, representatives of the Wulong Karst National Park located in Chongqing said they were mulling legal action against producers of the film. This followed calls for edits by another sponsor, Pangu Investments, which made headlines just before the movie’s release. The latter matter was swiftly resolved. But at a press conference on Monday, Wulong confirmed it is going forth with a suit, local reports say. The move comes as Chinese research firm Ent Group reports that TAOE has overtaken James Cameron’s Avatar as the top-grossing movie ever in the territory. Paramount has yet to weigh in, reporting late yesterday that the Michael Bay film had earned $52M in the market over the weekend with total box office at $212.8M. But Ent Group says that as of July 6, the film had taken $222.74M. Avatar earned $221.9M in 2010. I had previously heard that the milestone would likely not be reached until Wednesday. Because of currency fluctuations, the yuan renminbi …
Update: Intl Box Office: ‘Transformers’ Adds $52M In China Weekend; ‘Dragon 2′ Fires Up $30M; And How’s ‘Tammy’?; ‘Maleficent’ Dethrones ‘Frozen’ In Japan; More
5TH UPDATE, TUESDAY AM: Paramount came in with numbers late on Monday evening showing a slight bump in the overseas cume for Transformers: Age Of Extinction‘s 2nd frame. It was worth to $96.6M, the studio said, although the total overseas figure to date was unchanged at $400.9M. China‘s gross lifted to $52M from the previous $50.9M estimate. That was good for a total box office in the market through Sunday of $212.8M. There is some confusion over the tally, however, as local websites are reporting it had $222.74M through Sunday. That would push it past Avatar as the highest-grossing movie ever in China. We’re working to get the exact figures nailed down. All other figures for TAOE are updated in the copy below.
4th UPDATE, MONDAY, 4:00 PM PT: Paramount Pictures is the only studio that has not reported, and it has, of course, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, which is pounding it way across international markets. So we have finals for everything but the No. 1 pic internationally. The studio is still on holiday in the states. But Sony, Disney, Fox, Warner Bros and Universal have weighed in with updated numbers for their international releases this weekend.
The titles we have final updates for include 22 Jump Street, Deliver Us From Evil, Maleficent, Frozen, The Fault In Our Stars, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, The Other Woman, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Edge …
Lost in a long and sleepy holiday weekend’s ennui, we couldn’t help ourselves: We’ve pulled together lines culled from the funniest/worst movie reviews so far this year, pulling out some jewels. Here’s what we came up with:
Tammy (Opened July 2, 27% Rotten Tomatoes Score)
Melissa McCarthy‘s film sees her once again working the schtick as an in-your-face femme, this time on the road with her just-as-crass granny (Susan Sarandon). Given that the film seems to be headed into a ditch after a weak open, one can’t help wondering whether the Bridesmaids thesp’s routine is aging fast.
“The good news is that Tammy is not a crappy remake of the 1957 Tammy movie with Debbie Reynolds that spawned three sequels and a TV comedy series. The bad news is that this one is much worse… It’s about as funny as a liver transplant.” — New York Observer’s Rex Reed, who already had a bone to pick with McCarthy last year.
UPDATED: Digital Domain Says Its Ownership Is Unchanged; As VFX Consolidation Continues As Reliance Capital Takes Stake In Newly Merged Prime Focus
UPDATED, July 3, 6:15PM: Digital Domain issued a statement today to clarify any misconceptions about its ownership in the wake of the deal: “A press release issued on July 2, 2014 announcing the purchase of a 30.2% stake by Mumbai-based Reliance Media Works in Prime Focus Ltd. implied that Prime Focus now has access to or control over the visual effects house Digital Domain 3.0. This transaction had no effect on the management and control of Digital Domain 3.0, which remains unchanged. Digital Domain Holdings Limited in Hong Kong continues to be the majority owner of Digital Domain 3.0.”
PREVIOUSLY: The deal, announced in India overnight, is Prime’s latest move to build a globe-girdling VFX and media-services company, and it comes just days after Prime Focus World merged with Oscar-winning UK effects house Double Negative. The newest deal will merge Reliance Capital subsidiary Reliance MediaWorks’ film and VFX operations — which also include Lowry Digital, a 30-percent share of Digital Domain and 1M square feet of production and post-production facilities in Mumbai — to make what the companies called the world’s largest independent VFX and animation house. Money from the Reliance buy-in, an infusion of about $40 million, will finance the Double Negative merger and further expand operations, the companies said in a release. In return, Reliance Capital will get a 30-percent stake in the merged company, which will headed by Prime Focus executive Chairman and CEO Namit Malhotra. Reliance previously held a stake in Prime Focus, but exited after Prime went public in 2006.
The former CEO of Dune Entertainment and Village Roadshow chief died today of cancer in Los Angeles. Greg Coote was 72. He was a key player in the emergence of the Australian film industry, starting in the mailroom at Aussie distributor Village Roadshow and working his way up to Managing Director. “Greg was a champion of Australian films from the early 1970s, and he continued being a great supporter of Australian filmmakers,” said Screen Producers Australia president Brian Rosen. After a stint at Ten Network during which its ratings soared, Coote relocated to LA as President of Columbia Pictures’ international division, where he oversaw worldwide distribution, acquisitions and marketing. He later became the founding President and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures in Los Angeles, and the company helped finance films including The Matrix. Later, when Coote was Chairman and CEO of Dune Entertainment, the company co-financed dozens of movies including Avatar, which went on to be the top-grossing film in history.
Warner Bros./New Line released a full-length trailer for their Aug. 8 title Into the Storm and amid the onslaught of franchise films bowing that weekend (Lionsgate/Summit‘s Step Up All In and Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) this is one of the more underrated spectaculars on the summer release schedule. Clips were shown at Wondercon, and the film, helmed by Avatar VFX supervisor Steven Quale, literally puts the audience in the middle of the film’s small town, Silverton, that’s being beaten up by a series of twisters. Richard Armitage plays a single father trying to shield his teenage son from this bad weather day. Matt Walsh (Veep), changing his comedy hat for action, plays an obsessed stormchaser who along with his meteorologist associate portrayed by Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), cuts through the puddles like butter in their armored Titus vehicle as seen here. Though it looks like a tank from G.I. Joe, the Titus is based on an actual stormcashing vehicle and was constructed for the film out of an old Dodge pickup truck.
The Oscar organization has unveiled its annual invitees list for 2014. Check out the release below:
LOS ANGELES, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is extending invitations to join the organization to 271 artists and executives who have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures. Those who accept the invitations will be the only additions to the Academy’s membership in 2014. “This year’s class of invitees represents some of the most talented, creative and passionate filmmakers working in our industry today,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “Their contributions to film have entertained audiences around the world, and we are proud to welcome them to the Academy.”
The 2014 invitees are:
UPDATE: Well, my bad on this one. Robert Stromberg has a ways to go before his camp can claim the first timer worldwide gross record. Right now, that resides with Seth MacFarlane, whose feature debut Ted grossed $549 million worldwide. They can call me back if he eclipses the mark as his reps had claimed. I forgot about MacFarlane.
With Maleficent reaching $521 million, Robert Stromberg has set the global box office record for the biggest-grossing live-action directing debut. He has toppled Joseph Kosinski, whose first outing Tron Legacy grossed just slightly more than $400 million worldwide. Stromberg far outpaces Rupert Sanders, who came up just short of passing Kosinski when he directed Snow White And The Huntsman, which grossed $396 million. In setting his record, Kosinski beat JJ Abrams, whose Mission: Impossible III grossed $398 million.
Now, people still dispute whether the $170 million Tron Legacy was a hit or not, and some might feel that with today’s escalating budgets that breaking the first-timer record is no big deal. I’d argue it’s quite an accomplishment. Consider the other highly touted first time shooters who didn’t fare nearly as well. Wally Pfister made his directorial debut after a long career as an ace cinematographer for such filmmakers as Chris Nolan. He helmed Alcon’s Transcendence, the Johnny Depp film that was a colossal flop, costing $100 million and grossing only $78 million worldwide. The other big debut came from Carl Rinsch, the commercials wiz who helmed 47 Ronin. Another massive flop, it cost $170 million and grossed $151 million worldwide for Universal.
EXCLUSIVE: Bestselling author Steve Hamilton has signed a near-seven-figure deal with St. Martin’s Minotaur for North American rights to his next four books. The new deal calls for two more titles in Hamilton’s Alex McKnight series, which currently spans 10 books, and two novels that will launch a new, untitled crime series. St. Martin’s is high on the new series and is keeping the storyline under wraps. Hamilton is one of only two authors to win Edgars for Best First Novel and Best Novel. He also has written two New York Times notable books of the year. The Lock Artist is the rare book to win the Edgar in America, the CWA Steel Dagger for Best Thriller in the UK, and an Alex Award – given out by the American Library Association to books that successfully cross over from the adult market and appeal to young-adult readers. The Lock Artist currently is under option by Avatar 4 scribe Shane Salerno. Editor Peter Joseph made the deal for St. Martin’s Minotaur, and Hamilton was repped by The Story Factory, which will shop the four titles internationally shortly.
Reporting from Barcelona…
Studio executives and international exhibitors are gathered this week in Barcelona for the annual CineEurope conference. Akin to CinemaCon, the event is an occasion for studios to tubthump their upcoming slates through the rest of 2014 and into 2015. On the ground are reps from DreamWorks, Warner Bros, Universal, Fox, Paramount, Disney, Sony, Mister Smith, Studiocanal and eOne. There are also representatives of some Chinese, and other non-European, companies on the trade show floor as international box office increasingly expands. Year-on-year, the overseas box office is up about 5% from January to May. The top market increases are estimated to be China (+17%), France (+17%), Brazil (+16%), Mexico (+8%), Russia (+5%) and Italy (+3%). Still, with seemingly every week a new record broken in China, and the growing impact of markets like Brazil, Russia and Korea, folks say Europe nevertheless continues to be the major overseas driver for Hollywood.
“The UK, Germany and France remain a critical part of our business,” says a studio exec. Like the U.S., they are mature and not growing in the same way as the emerging markets, but are “hugely important to our overall international business, if not more important.” Because emerging markets will eventually mature as well, I’m told the studios can’t “afford to rely” on them alone. “We need to focus on making our movies work in these mature markets, so they remain strong consumers of our movies.”
Importantly, another studio …