The UK emerged in 2013 as an increasingly attractive location destination with new and expanded tax credits – but can it stand the bulge? Hollywood has cozied up to Britain, not only bringing its films there to shoot, but now its TV programs while it also continues to plumb it as a source of original drama to be remade in the U.S. Across the Channel, after a wake-up call in the waning days of 2012 by France‘s influential Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch, the local industry spent 2013 debating its rich subsidy system that’s spent big (too big?) on talent. Germany‘s local share of the box office is expected to be down for 2013, only slightly, but it’s been fertile ground for the studios working in local language. Meanwhile, Olympics host Russia is seeing its star rise while Italy and Spain are still undergoing financial woes. And yet, nothing seems rotten in the state of Denmark where the box office is top heavy with local films and a new drama series could be the Danes’ answer to Downton Abbey. Here’s a look back at 2013 and some glimpses of what 2014 may hold:
The British government has strongly backed the film and television business by increasing tax breaks this year. But in so doing, has it backed the industry into a corner? Arguably one of the biggest stories out of the UK in … Read More »
Silvio Berlusconi Expelled From Italian Parliament
Italy’s senate on Wednesday expelled former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from his parliamentary seat over his August conviction for tax fraud. This will be the first time the Mediaset chief will not hold an elected office in about 20 years. The New York Times notes that without the protections afforded to lawmakers, Berlusconi is now more vulnerable in other legal cases against him. Reuters quoted Berlusconi as saying to his Forza Italia party, “We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy.”
MGM International TV Distribution Inks Deal With Turkey’s D-Smart
Turkish digital platform D-Smart, a subsidiary of Dogan TV Holding, has inked a multi-year first pay deal with MGM International Television Distribution. The exclusive deal gives D-Smart access to new releases and library titles. The package will include the Hobbit trilogy, Carrie, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Four Weddings And A Funeral and the Pink Panther movies, among others. In addition to linear distribution, D-Smart will also offer the films via SVOD through its digital service, D-Smart Blu. Read More »
Here’s the latest in Deadline’s series of reports touching on the people, projects and polemics buzzing around the globe. This week, Scotland follows looks at Japan, Italy, India and France.
Last summer, Scotland got its own Disney heroine in the form of Brave‘s Merida. This summer, Scotland is hot again, and it’s not just a late-breaking heatwave that has the mercury rising. Every August, the capital city of Edinburgh becomes a hub of festival activity from the Edinburgh International Festival to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Television Festival, but this year there’s more reason to consider England’s neighbor to the north (especially as it readies a 2014 referendum on independence from the UK). Attention turned to Edinburgh last week as Kevin Spacey spoke at the TV fest to deliver a timely take on issues facing the business. Meanwhile, four movies partly funded by Scotland are on their way to Toronto, and next month sees the Starz series Outlander settle in for 38 weeks of shooting from a base near Glasgow.
Back in the late 90s when Trainspotting and Braveheart “made Scotland hip” there was “an opportunity to capitalize and lure people” to the territory, Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald tells me. But now might really “be the moment,” he says. Macdonald produced Sunshine On Leith, the Toronto-bound Dexter Fletcher-directed movie based on the stage musical that was inspired by the music of cult Scottish pop-folk band The Proclaimers. (Their 1988 song ‘I’m On My Way’ was featured on the soundtrack of DreamWorks’ Shrek.) The film follows the stories of Davy and Ally after their return home from serving in Afghanistan. Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks star in the DNA Films production. Shooting took place in Edinburgh and the movie received £300,000 in funding from Scotland’s arts body Creative Scotland. Just this month, Focus Features International boarded for worldwide sales. Macdonald is a Scotsman (he’s also the brother of helmer Kevin Macdonald), but director Fletcher is English. This didn’t stop Creative Scotland, which is coming off of a bumpy 2012 that saw a management shake-up, from investing. The org’s Caroline Parkinson, head of creative development, tells me that there is a cultural test to access the £4M pot from which the outfit draws, but the idea is to be “flexible” and not rule out what can be “fantastic films for Scotland.” Read More »
UPDATE, 12:50 PM: Italy’s Supreme Court has upheld the tax fraud verdict and one-year prison sentence for billionaire Italian politician/media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, but because of his age (he’s 76) it’s unlikely he’ll go to jail, the BBC reports. The court did order a review of a five-year ban on public office that was part of the original sentence. Berlusconi faces house arrest or community service according to the report. The ruling today by Rome’s Court of Cassation came after a three-day hearing.
PREVIOUS, Tuesday: Italy’s Supreme Court will deliver its verdict in the tax fraud case against billionaire Italian politician/media mogul Silvio Berlusconi either tomorrow evening or on Thursday, his attorney said today. The court started hearing the case today and is the last stop on the appeals circuit for the Mediaset chief. He was sentenced in October last year to four years in prison and a five-year ban from politics for having inflated prices paid for broadcast rights to U.S. movies and TV shows via offshore companies controlled by his Fininvest holding company. Berlusconi and other execs were then alleged to have skimmed off part of the money to create illegal slush funds. Mediaset has benefited from an essentially free pass in terms of antitrust and other rules thanks to Berlusconi’s place in politics. But if the mogul were no longer allowed to stand for office, the conglomerate could be subject to any number of unfavorable new laws. Shares in Mediaset and other companies controlled by Fininvest were all up in trading today. Read More »
Here’s the latest in our series of reports touching on the people, projects and polemics buzzing around the globe. This week’s report follows articles on France, India and Italy. The series will be taking a break for the next few weeks and return in August.
Japan lost its standing as the world’s No. 2 movie market when it was outpaced by China in 2012. At No. 3, it still enjoyed a slight increase in box office with $2.4B compared with 2011′s $2.3B. While China’s local market share dropped in 2012 (to rebound strongly thus far in 2013), Japanese films consistently have been dominant at home since 2008 and hit a 47-year high of 65.7% in 2012, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Tastes have changed, say watchers, as Japanese moviegoers seek lighter fare and films that better represent themselves. “Japan is very insular,” a distribution exec says. “They have a hard time exporting and importing films.” The studios are not necessarily suffering on a local level, however. Warner Bros and Fox have had success in Japan recently, working with films based on well-known manga series and TV animations. Added to that, Fox just shot part of The Wolverine locally and Warner Bros in September will release a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
Japan is a complex place to do business. For one, the lack of a mechanism designed for foreign shoots can make filming a challenge. The Wolverine did it, and it’s expected that could help at the box office since it’s a film that represents the Japanese and their culture. But reception in Japan won’t be clear until September 13 when the movie opens there after rolling out most everywhere else in late July and early August. Japan has little trouble with piracy, so day-and-date releases are not the rule.
Also opening on September 13 is Warner Bros’ remake of Unforgiven. Directed by Sang-il Lee, the movie stars Ken Watanabe. (One of a handful of Japanese actors who works in Hollywood and at home, he’ll also star in Martin Scorsese’s Japanese-themed passion project Silence, which starts shooting next year in Taiwan.) The Unforgiven remake was developed for over a year with Lee writing the script. The arc of the story is akin to the original, but samurai are replacing cowboys. It’s set in late 19th century Japan and has Akira Emoto in the Morgan Freeman role. The wisdom of remaking an Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood film could be questioned, but a non-Warner exec opines that “most people won’t know it’s a remake.” The most recent U.S.-to-Japan studio remake was 2010’s Ghost transfer, Ghost: In Your Arms Again, which grossed about $10M locally. (In 2010, there was also indie Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, a sort of companion sequel to Oren Peli’s original micro-budget hit.)
Related: Studios Translate Local Language Movies Into Lucrative Global Business Read More »
Following France and India, this is the latest installment in Deadline’s series of reports on the people, projects and polemics that have folks buzzing in various overseas territories.
Italy’s movie business continues to get slammed harder and harder as part of the country’s overall economic crisis. Lately, a kerfuffle over production tax credits threatens to further stymie growth while the country’s government may be on the brink of collapse given media mogul/former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s legal troubles. And, the lack of a strong VOD offer continues to bedevil an industry plagued by piracy. There have been some bright spots this year including Giuseppe Tornatore’s Warner Bros.-produced The Best Offer which was well-received by audiences and awards bodies and managed to travel some. Meanwhile, local comedy Il Principe Abusivo is currently the No. 2 film at the box office for the year with over $18M in receipts, but that’s a drop from high-performing comedies of recent years. Italian industry execs are not entirely glum, and some are taking the optimistic view that crisis can lead to renewal, but caution still dominates.
Although Rai acquired Sean Penn starrer The Gunman from Studiocanal in Cannes this year – the first straight buy its made in a year – watchers say this doesn’t mean a complete shift. With traditional film partners pulling back on investing, a local distributor says, “It’s almost impossible to finance a movie today. Even if you’re lucky enough to get TV, the amount of money is a lot less than it used to be. Most Italian movies don’t travel” so they “have to make money back inside the territory.” If a movie “ends up getting recognition abroad, that’s icing. It can’t be part of your plan.”
Exacerbating the financing issue is the current production tax credit crisis. Plans are not entirely set in stone, but the government is expected to push forward with a massive cut to the annual 90M euro ($117.6M) fund that gets doled out on a first-come-first-served basis. The credits are expected to be extended for the next three years according to local sources, but the war chest will drop severely to 45M euros or less per year. Italian unions have understandably been up in arms, but an exec tells me, “Given the overall circumstances – everybody has tax cuts – I would say it’s very coherent with what’s happening in the country.” New measures should be entered into the law later this year.
What the cuts mean in reality is that “a lot of movies aren’t going to get made.” In turn, insiders believe that will impact the emergence of new talent. “Up-and-comers are having a very difficult time because fewer films are being produced, and the ones that are being produced seem to be from surefire auteurs. A lot of would-be new talent isn’t getting a shot,” I’m told. Read More »
Mediaset chief and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is racking up the jail sentences. In March, he was handed a one-year jail term over an illegal wiretap, and in 2012 received a four-year sentence over fraudulent movie rights deals. He is appealing both. Today, a Milan court sentenced him to seven years in jail for paying for sex with a minor and then using his political powers to cover up the incident. The minor in question, a former teenage nightclub dancer who went by the stage name “Ruby the Heartstealer,” attended the infamous “bunga bunga” sex parties at Berlusconi’s home near Milan, Reuters notes. Berlusconi is likely to appeal and will not serve any jail time until all appeal attempts are exhausted.
Silvio Berlusconi To Appeal Wiretap Verdict
Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was handed a one-year jail term today by an Italian court over an illegal wiretap. It’s highly unlikely the Mediaset chief will do any time as he has appeals available to him and, under Italian law, isn’t expected to go to prison until all appeal attempts are exhausted. Berlusconi is already appealing a four-year sentence that was handed to him in Milan last year over fraud on movie rights deals. Today’s punishment comes for making public the taped contents of a confidential phone call in a case related to a 2005 banking scandal, Reuters reported. Berlusconi has oft been in court before over his business dealings, but he’s always been cleared or seen the statute of limitations expire.
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BBC Comedies Vie For Commissions At Salford Sitcom Showcase
The BBC is taking a shot at remaking It Takes A Village, the 2010 ABC pilot by Casey Johnson & David Windsor that starred Leah Remini. Whether the UK version actually goes forward, however, will be in the hands of a live studio audience next month. For the second year in a row, the BBC is testing a crop of potential shows in front of a live audience at the Salford Sitcom Showcase, a three-day event during which six comedy pilots are performed onstage to a packed house as execs take notes. The first edition spawned commissions for family sitcoms Citizen Khan, which BBC One just picked up for a second season, and Hebburn which debuted on BBC Two this month. On deck at this year’s showcase with It Takes A Village are the battling-neighbors show 1987, from Sherlock producers Beryl and Sue Vertue; Just Us, about a couple forced to downsize from London that’s exec produced by Don Taffner for DLT Entertainment and stars Downton Abbey‘s Samantha Bond; The Gatekeeper, from exec producers Gareth Edwards and Saurabh Kakkar about a 40-ish man who works the nightshift as a security guard; the Pete Thornton exec produced Chain Gang about life in a Bristol coffee bar and family show Homeboys from exec producer Mario Stylianides for Lucky Giant. This year, the Salford Showcase runs from Nov 21-23.
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Angry Berlusconi says “There Will Be Consequences”
A day after receiving a jail sentence for tax fraud, Italian media mogul and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he feels “obliged” to stay in politics to “reform the justice system so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to other citizens”. He’s expected to appeal his conviction and four-year prison sentence for inflating the price of distribution rights bought by his Mediaset group to avoid paying taxes. He’s also barred from holding office for five years. He says his court ordeal was “intolerable judicial harassment” by left-leaning judges in Milan. “There will be consequences,” he said in an interview today on TG5, one of the TV channels owned by his conglomerate Mediaset.
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Italian media mogul and erstwhile Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was handed a four-year jail sentence by a Milan court today, although it’s unlikely he’ll serve the time. Berlusconi and other executives at his Italian media conglomerate Mediaset were alleged to have inflated prices paid for broadcast rights to U.S. movies and TV shows via offshore companies controlled by Berlusconi’s holding company Fininvest. The accused were then alleged to have skimmed off part of the money to create illegal slush funds. The deals in question were worth 470M euros and occurred between 1994 and 1999, according to Reuters. The judge gave the controversial mogul a slightly longer sentence than the 3 years and 8 months prosecutors were seeking and also levied a fine of $12.96M. Berlusconi is expected to appeal the verdict in a case that began more than six years ago. Read More »
Italian broadcaster Mediaset has sold 6% of senior debt in Big Brother producer Endemol. The amount equals the total of its remaining stake in the Dutch TV giant. In a brief statement, Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset announced it had sold the stake “on the market.” Mediaset did not provide financials in its statement, but a Reuters source pegged the value at about $96 million. Last year, shortly after Time Warner made an unsolicited $1.4 billion bid for Endemol, Mediaset made a joint offer for the company with private equity group Clessidra. Endemol didn’t publicly entertain the bids and instead focused on restructuring some 2 billion euros worth of debt. In January, the company said it had reached agreements in principle with more than two-thirds of its lenders on a debt-for-equity swap that would bring the 2 billion euros in debt down to about 500 million. Mediaset’s stake in Endemol was diluted in the January agreement that handed control to creditors and, the thinking goes, the company wanted to get out.
Although the financial crisis worsened in Europe this year, a bright spot emerging is the region’s film financing. I’m told that European investors who have become increasingly skittish about putting money into the markets are more seriously eyeing film investment as a safer bet. At the same time, producers and studios want to let outsiders in to mitigate risk. In recent high-profile deals, France’s StudioCanal which is riding high with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy among other projects has signed a $200 million slate financing pact with London-based private fund Anton Capital Entertanment. But on a down note for France, the end of the year has been marked by upset in the post-production sector with the financial turmoil at Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries and the future of dozens of films in jeopardy. The next year will see much hand-wringing over a sector that has moved to digital at a breakneck – some would say reckless – pace. Buyers were in fine fettle at the Cannes Film Festival with many deals concluded and a sense that smart money and realistic prices have returned. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cannes’ persona non grata Lars von Trier and his controversial “Nazi” remarks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannes this year saw the debut of such award darlings as The Artist and Palme d’Or winner Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life. Cannes programmer Thierry Frémaux in 2012 faces the daunting challenge of coming up with a better selection than his 2011 vintage which found favor with the typically harsh Riviera audience.
In Germany in December, the oft-morphing Senator entered a long-term strategic partnership with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity which also took a significant stake in the producer-distributor. In other German news, there were troubles at Degeto, the film acquisition arm of broadcaster ARD whose chief, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan, was let go in November following revelations that the company had overspent its budget. German independent producers were particularly anguished given Degeto’s position as a prime co-production partner. The situation remains somewhat tenuous and will likely be a hot topic at the Berlin Film Fest in February.
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EXCLUSIVE: Abel Ferrara and screenwriter Christ Zois are indeed working on a feature script partly inspired by this summer’s sex scandal surrounding former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval has confirmed it. Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani are circling characters based on the scandal-plagued former IMF chief and his wife Anne Sinclair. They’ve met with the director. But Maraval says the project is still a long way from active development.
The idea for a film came about on a lark when Ferrara was making 4:44 Last Day On Earth with Wild Bunch earlier this year. Per Maraval, it was suggested that the DSK sex scandal would be a good fit for Ferrara given the filmmaker’s penchant for themes of addiction. Maraval says Ferrara and sometime collaborator Zois are now writing a script which could include elements inspired by the lives of other politicians like Bill Clinton and Silvio Berlusconi along with Strauss-Kahn. But, despite earlier reports in the French press, he stresses it’s too early to say anything definitively. “One thing we do know is that there’s a real common desire amongst Depardieu, Adjani and Ferrara to work together. But like every day in this business, we have to see if there’s a film there. Today, the only reality is that they are writing something inspired by Strauss-Kahn that will focus on addiction and politicians. It’s more … Read More »
Golden Globes TV: New Series Bring In Fresh Blood
69th Golden Globe Award Noms: Scorecard
69th Golden Globe Award Nominations
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association loves their stars. And that’s why there were really no surprises in their nominations for the Golden Globes this morning. There were also no major embarrassments like last year, when they nominated The Tourist for Best Picture, Actor and Actress. Damn, that was fun.
I had a conversation with a publicist last night and we predicted almost this entire list. HFPA members often share their opinions, and you know going in that even if George Clooney’s The Ides Of March has not turned up in any significant way in other awards contests so far, the HFPA was going to give it a boost. One Italian member told me last week it was the only movie this person really loved even though it is a film about American politics. Even Clooney (who between writing, directing and Best Motion Picture Drama noms for this and a best actor-drama nod for The Descendants got a personal haul of four nominations) seemed to sense he was going to score big with this when I asked him about it an interview last week. “It’s a funny thing. The Globes folks really like this a lot,” he said. “It was interesting to go to that (HFPA) press conference because internationally everyone sort of related to it on their own. In Italy, they think it’s about Berlusconi. It’s funny to see how things play in different arenas.” And it also helps to be George Clooney, who scored this exact scenario in 2005 when he was thrice nominated for writing, directing and picture on Good Night, And Good Luck and Best Supporting Actor for Syriana — winning for the latter and going on to get the same kind of Oscar recognition for those films. Whether this very specific boost for Ides Of March — well-reviewed (85% at Rotten Tomatoes) but until today awards-challenged — results in a similar scenario remains to be seen.
In recent years, the correlation between Golden Globe winners and Oscar winners has been dwindling. In fact, since 2004 the Globes Best Motion Picture-Drama has matched the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner only once — for 2008′s Slumdog Millionaire. In 2004, the Globes went with The Aviator over Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby. In 2005 Munich, Capote and eventual Oscar Best Pic choice Crash first all failed to get even the equivalent Globe nomination (Brokeback Mountain won at the Globes). In 2006, Babel won the Globe over eventual Oscar victor The Departed (although the latter’s director, Martin Scorsese, took both). In 2007, the HFPA went with Atonement over Oscar choice No Country For Old Men. In 2009, the Globes went big for Avatar only to see that as the film’s last big awards hurrah before Oscar crowned The Hurt Locker. And last year, Sony’s The Social Network achieved a Globes victory only to be run over by The King’s Speech in every subsequent contest. At the Globes after-party for the Weinstein Company, a defiant Harvey Weinstein predicted this was only the “beginning” and that his film would eventually triumph, Of course, he turned out to be right. Read More »
The amount is the same as Time Warner’s previous offer for the reality TV producer. But the entertainment giant now tells Endemol that it’s willing to pay all cash — not a combination of cash and debt — if the company wants. Endemol execs had made no secret of their disdain for Time Warner’s previous bid, which one insider referred to as “rock bottom.” The revised offer comes as Endemol approaches its December 13 deadline for a debt-for-equity swap designed to reduce the company’s debt to $670M from $3.7B. Once that happens, the company could be put up for auction. But the situation is complicated: One of Endemol’s biggest shareholders — Italy’s Mediaset, controlled by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — is also interested in buying the producer of shows including Big Brother, and Deal Or No Deal. It has said that it would not participate in an auction. Apollo Management, Centerbridge, and Providence Equity Partners and banks including Barclays and RBS are among Endemol’s biggest creditors.
Just days after Silvio Berlusconi left Italian politics, he’s already on the hunt for Big Media. Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Italian private equity firm Clessidra have entered a joint bid for Dutch reality TV giant Endemol. “We have presented our offer with Clessidra,” Mediaset vice chairman (and the former prime minister’s son) Pier Silvio Berlusconi confirmed Thursday, according to reports from Milan. No terms were disclosed. But earlier this month Mediaset’s CFO said the company would invest more money in Endemol if there were a “clear strategy” for the company.
When queried about the Mediaset/Clessidra bid, Endemol spokesman Charlie Gardner told Deadline, “Our focus is on the restructuring of our debt. Those discussions are progressing well and we’re confident of a positive outcome soon.” Mediaset currently owns around a third of Endemol, whose other owners are Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners and John de Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte. Time Warner recently made a $1.4 billion unsolicited offer for Endemol which the target put on hold as it proceeds with a debt restructuring.
The creditors of Endemol — the Dutch reality TV company whose series include Big Brother – are hoping that they can elicit a higher bid following a restructuring. They’ve set a December 13 deadline for a planned debt-for-equity swap designed to reduce the company’s debt to $670M from $3.7B, Italy’s La Repubblica says. Apollo Management, Centerbridge, and Providence Equity Partners and banks including Barclays and RBS are among Endemol’s biggest creditors. Company officials made no secret of their disdain for the Time Warner offer, which one insider referred to as “rock bottom.” It values the company at seven times its expected $192M earnings this year before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) — far less than the 12 times EBITDA multiple that Rupert Murdoch paid for his daughter Elisabeth’s Shine Group. Endemol founder John De Mol’s investment vehicle Cyrte is said to have wooed Ronald Goes, head of international TV production at Warner Bros, into making the bid; the Dutch Time Warner executive used to be COO of Endemol. Cyrte and the other leading shareholders — former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Goldman Sachs’ Capital Partners — are exploring several options for the company. For example, Mediaset has tried to persuade UK broadcaster ITV to buy it.