Last week, an event was held in Hong Kong where, among other things, it was said that a second distribution license to import and release movies in China is being issued to the China National Culture & Art Corporation (CNCAC). Such a license could spell the demise of China Film Group‘s exclusive grip on Mainland revenue-share releasing — and create another potential partner for Hollywood. While there has been talk that a new government-approved distributor could emerge, a number of China-watchers have remained cautious on the timing, and just who the involved parties would be. One told me recently, “Many believe they can in due course obtain a second license.” Now, reported comments from an official at the Chinese state watchdog, and the revision of an announcement by Hong Kong-based China Railsmedia, which held the press conference and has business connections with the CNCAC, seem to confuse things even further.
Super Bowl XLVIII: total bust as a game, middling year for ads – though outrage was tearing up Twitter by the time the game sputtered to a close over a Coke commercial in which “America the Beautiful” was sung in many languages over images of people of many ethnic and religious backgrounds spending quality time with family and friends. Rants ranged from :
“Nice to see that Coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language. Way to go Coke. You can leave America”
“Glad to see the that #boycottcoke thing. That way we can clearly spot every bigot, racist and moron in the country & keep them from our kids.”
The ad, ironically, called “It’s Beautiful,” also marked the first time a gay couple had been included in a Super Bowl ad, according to GLAAD, but that kind of got drowned out in all the mud-slinging under the banners #SpeakAmerican and #BoycottCoke.
The game started strong with Joe Namath, in a fly 70′s fur coat, botching the coin toss, which we didn’t think could be done. Namath’s coat went on to bigger and better things, becoming a hashtag phenomenon on Twitter. Despite high prices paid for A-list celebrity endorsements, it was Rob Riggle who seemed to get the most career mileage out of this year’s crop of game ads — including screen time in both a faux movie trailer, Escape to East Rutherford, and a Ford Fusion …
This year’s group of independent screenwriters and their projects chosen for Sundance Institute‘s January Screenwriters Lab hail from the U.S., Latin America, Europe and China. Led by Artistic Director Howard Rodman, the Fellows will work with filmmakers including Dustin Lance Black, Naomi Foner, John Gatins, Michael Goldenberg, Erik Jendresen, Patty Jenkins, Kasi Lemmons, Tobias Lindholm, Walter Mosley, Marti Noxon, Jon Raymond, Susan Shilliday, Zach Sklar, Peter Straughan, Quentin Tarantino, and Bill Wheeler. Sundance Institute Feature Film Program fellows who have recently been recognized with awards for their work include Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda), Andrew Dosunmu (Mother Of George), David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) and Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox). The lab runs from January 10-15 at the Sundance Resort in Utah. Here is the full list:
There was a helping of good news for the French box office on Wednesday when local comedy Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table! (Me, Myself And Mum) sold 69,342 tickets to become the strongest debut of the week. It also had the fifth best opening (79,636 admissions including previews) of any French film in 2013. The French box office has had a rough year of it so far: Overall admissions are down 5.5% and French market share has dropped from 42.9% to 32.3%, according to the latest figures from local watchdog the CNC. It looks likely that when January 1st rolls around, there will be only one French film (comedy Les Profs) amongst the top 10 of the past 12 months. That’s a rare occurrence indeed after 2012 closed with three French titles in the top 10 and 2011 boasted not only the No. 1 and No. 2 overall films – The Intouchables and Rien A Déclarer – but also the Oscar-winning The Artist. This year, Intouchables studio Gaumont has Les Garçons, giving it something to crow about after the disappointment of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young And Prodigious Mr Spivet. Les Garçons is a virtual one-man show that is written and directed by Guillaume Gallienne in his helming debut. He also plays the two lead roles. It debuted in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight this year where it was a prize winner. Gallienne, who hails from …
Long Island City, New York (October 29, 2013) – Aereo, Inc., today announced plans to launch its groundbreaking online television technology in the Denver metropolitan region on November 4. The Denver metro area includes 67 counties across Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming and more than 3.4 million consumers. Aereo’s announcement follows its expansion earlier this year to the Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas and Detroit metropolitan areas. Aereo plans to announce additional launch dates for its expansion cities throughout the remainder of the year.
With Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color ineligible for submission as France’s entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar race, the local committee has turned to a decidedly different type of film. Gilles Bourdos’ Renoir debuted in Cannes in 2012 in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired it at the time and released it in the U.S. in March to about $2.2M in box office. Although the film has been around for a while, it fits within the necessary criteria of a release between October 1st, 2012 and September 30th, 2013. Its French theatrical release was on January 2nd this year. Conversely, Blue‘s is not until October 9th, meaning it will miss the September 30th cutoff. Renoir is set on the Côte d’Azur in 1915 and centers on Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Jean Renoir and the woman who becomes the painter’s model and the filmmaker’s lover. Veteran French actor Michel Bouquet stars with Vincent Rottiers and Christa Theret. Fidélité Films produced the movie that was sold internationally by Wild Bunch — incidentally also the sales company on Blue. French film body the CNC rounds up a committee each year to select the Oscar entry. It’s made up of two permanent judges — Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and the CNC’s Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens — and …
Iran Reopens Its Film Industry Body After 20 Months
Iran has reopened the House of Cinema, its main film industry guild. The move comes nearly two years after it was closed, the BBC reported, citing state news agency Irna. Per the report, Deputy Culture Minister Hojatollah Ayoubi said the decision indicates new President Hassan Rouhani’s support for films. The January 2012 closure of the body was decried by prominent filmmakers, including Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi (A Separation). At a reopening ceremony, Ayoubi reportedly said, “When a cultural issue — like the one about the House of Cinema — becomes a political one, that is (because) the situation was not managed properly.”
UPDATE, 7:35 PM: Time Warner Cable says that it will give a credit to Showtime and TMC subscribers “based on the number of days those channels are not available to them.” It won’t extend the policy to broadcast and basic cable services, though, “because the whole package continues to provide value.”
PREVIOUS, 2:07 PM: CBS and Time Warner Cable negotiators failed to reach an agreement in their retransmission deal negotiations. Shortly after 5:00 PM ET some 3.5M TWC customers in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas lost programming from their CBS-owned local stations, and all 11.7M TWC subscribers lost Showtime, TMC, FLIX, and Smithsonian. Los Angeles customers also lost CBS-owned independent station KCAL, which broadcasts some Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games. TWC customers who turn to CBS will see a graphic saying that “CBS has demanded an outrageous increase for programming that CBS delivers free over the air and online.” It tells viewers that they can use an antenna to see CBS, and “as a courtesy, we will provide replacement programming from Starz Kids and Family on a temporary basis beginning shortly.” (See the screen shot at left.) In New York, the graphic tells viewers that they can watch CBS on streaming service Aereo.
CBS counters that it didn’t require TWC to take the channels down, and the blackout of Showtime is “a wholly punitive measure.” It urges TWC customers to consider switching to a competitor such as DirecTV, Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-verse. The cable company “has conducted negotiations in a combative and non-productive spirit, indulging in pointless brinksmanship and distorted public positioning — such as the fictional and ridiculous 600% increase CBS supposedly demanded — while maintaining antiquated positions no longer held by any other programming distributor in the business.” The broadcaster adds it wants “fair compensation for the most-watched television network with the most popular content in the world. We will not accept less.”
The smart money on Wall Street is betting that CBS will prevail, ultimately walking away with a big price increase. The companies haven’t discussed proposals in detail, but RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank says the broadcaster was lobbying for as much as $2 per subscriber each month, more than twice the current rate the cable company pays. But today BTIG’s Richard Greenfield urged TWC to dig in its heels which “most likely means an extended multi-week blackout.” If it doesn’t, then “Time Warner Cable will have virtually no leverage in battles with other broadcasters that occur at the end of 2013/early 2014….Simply put, this is a ‘Once-in-a-Cable Lifetime Opportunity’ to battle retrans.”
This is the first in a planned series of reports on the people, projects and polemics that have folks buzzing in various overseas territories.
Each year following the Cannes Film Festival the French film industry falls into semi-hibernation as execs recover from months of build-up, the box office gives way to Hollywood tentpoles and attention turns to tennis and weeks-long vacations. Some years, it seems like the industry doesn’t even really wake up again until the fall festivals hit. But in this past month since Cannes ended, there’s been quite a bit keeping the industry buzzing. Among the issues are what France’s Oscar entry will be, vagaries at the local ratings board, a renewed push to allow film advertising on television and the fight to preserve the Cultural Exception. France led the charge on the latter, winning in its bid on June 14 to keep the audiovisual business out of a negotiation mandate for trade talks between the U.S. and Europe. This was a fight that got a lot of traction in Cannes with even Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg coming out in favor of the Cultural Exception as a means to maintain the diversity of European cinema.
Meanwhile, the jury that Spielberg chaired in Cannes gave its top honor to a coming-of-age love story between two women, Blue Is The Warmest Color. Many people have posited that Blue will be France’s Oscar entry this year, but I’m told that it will not. It’s generally accepted that films that win the Palme d’Or end up representing their country — the last time a French film won, The Class, it indeed was the submission.
Despite the difficulties of trying to woo some Academy voters with a lesbian love story with explicit sex scenes like Blue, the main reason I’m told it won’t make the cut is because French distributor, Wild Bunch, is not releasing it in time. The Oscar rep selection committee at French film body the CNC requires that a film go out nationally in France before September 30 and Wild Bunch has set an October release. Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval calls the rule “stupid” but tells me they believe October is best for the picture. It’s my understanding that Sundance Selects will release Blue unrated later this year in the U.S. Blue is expected to get a French rating that bars only kids under 12 because, Maraval says, “There are only positive values and love in the film, no violence or drugs.” When I asked him if he thought drugs were regarded more damaging than sex by the ratings board at the CNC, he said “Well, I hope sex is less serious than drugs, no?”
Fox Rebrands Sports Channels In The Netherlands
Fox International Channels is rebranding the home of the Dutch national soccer leagues, Eredivisie Live, to Fox Sports Eredivisie and also is launching Fox Sports in the Netherlands. The switch to Fox Sports Eredivisie goes live on August 1 followed by the launch of Fox Sports on August 17. Fox Sports, will become the Dutch destination of top international soccer, including the Premier League, Série A, the FA Cup, the League Cup, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Europa League. The Fox Sports launch in the Netherlands follows a recent announcement of FIC’s plans to launch Fox Sports in Italy.
Mendes’ ‘Charlie’ Adds Six Months To Run
Sam Mendes’ Charlie And The Chocolate Factory just opened Tuesday night on London’s West End, but it’s already adding six months to its run. The adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s story will be performed until May 31, 2014, The Guardian reports. Reviews have been somewhat mixed, but already the show was seen by more than 70,000 during previews. Tony and Olivier Award winner Douglas Hodge plays Willy Wonka with songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. A New York transfer for the Warner Bros. Theatrical Ventures production is still uncertain.
Global Showbiz Briefs: China’s Pay-TV Revenues Surge; French Film Production Up, Investment Down; Hat Trick & Plum
China Is Now World’s 2nd Biggest Pay-TV Market: Report
China has done it again. Last week, the MPAA’s Theatrical Statistics Report confirmed that China’s box office had outpaced Japan’s to make the nation the world’s number-two movie market. A new report from UK-based Digital TV Research finds that China is also the leader in pay-TV revenues outside the U.S. Amid massive growth in the Asia Pacific region, the report’s author, Simon Murray, said China overtook Japan to become “the most lucrative pay-TV market in 2012.” Revenues from pay-TV across Asia Pacific are expected to reach $43.9B in 2018. In 2013 alone, the report estimates the subscription and on-demand pay-TV business will grow by $2.1B to $33.9B. In Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, revenues are expected to more than double by 2018, although a drop is foreseen in Hong Kong and South Korea where penetration is expected to be almost 100% by then. Digital penetration should hit 90% in 2018 across the region, but opportunities for growth will remain in Indonesia and the Philippines. China is expected to have 313M pay-TV households by 2018 and India will have 158M.
While the French film industry has recently been polarized at home – spurred on by a Le Monde editorial penned by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval – there was good news from abroad this morning. Foreign admissions hit a record high in 2012 with French films selling 140M tickets, an 88% uptick over 2011, for 875M euros ($1.17B) in receipts. Export body Unifrance says today that the figures for 2012 are doped by the extraordinary performance of a handful of films including Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s The Intouchables, Olivier Megaton’s Taken 2 and Oscar-winner The Artist, which rep 65% of overseas sales. Intouchables, which was shortlisted for the Foreign Language Oscar but failed to make the final nominations, is the most successful French-language film ever internationally at 29.6M tickets sold while the Luc Besson-produced Taken 2 is the most successful French film ever outside the home territory with over 46M admissions. Other films hitting high marks abroad include Michael Haneke’s multiple Oscar nominee Amour, comedy Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia, Bibo Bergeron’s animated A Monster In Paris, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone and Pathé’s What’s In A Name. Western Europe consumed French films in record numbers and Asia had the strongest progression. North American audiences bought 32M tickets to French movies for a 45% jump on 2011.
Unifrance this week has been hosting the annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema which gives international buyers a look at upcoming French films on the slates of local sales companies. Next week, it will be back to business and to the debate over how French films are financed.
Phone-Hacking Allegations Hit Mirror Newspapers
Until yesterday, phone-hacking claims had been limited to papers owned by News Corp.’s UK press arm. Now, Britain’s Mirror Group Newspapers may be brought into the scandal as four individuals line up cases against its titles. Among those seeking damages are former manager of the English soccer team, Sven Goran Eriksson; a former nanny to David Beckham’s children and a TV soap actress. Eriksson’s claims against the Daily Mirror are believed to stem from a period when CNN host Piers Morgan was editor. Morgan gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics late last year at which time he said he had no knowledge or reason to believe there was any phone hacking at the paper during his tenure. The claims against Mirror papers allege “breach of confidence and misuse of private information,” in relation to the “interception and/or misuse of mobile phone voicemail messages and/or the interception of telephone accounts.” The attorney for the claimants, Mark Lewis, said no particulars had been filed, but that relevant dates relating to alleged activity were submitted to the court, The Guardian reports. A spokesman for MGN parent, Trinity Mirror, said: “We have no comment. We are unaware action has been taken at the High Court.”
Downton Abbey Hits New Season High In UK Overnights, Debuts In NZ
Downton Abbey was up again Sunday night on the UK’s ITV. The sixth episode of Season 3 hit an overnight ratings high of 9.69M viewers during the 9pm hour. That score, a 36.6% share, beat the season’s previous top performer which drew 9.66M viewers in the overnights on Oct. 1. Factoring in Sunday’s delayed viewings, Downton drew just over 10M viewers. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, season 3 of the show kicked off this weekend on free-to-air web Prime drawing top ratings with just over 350K viewers.
François Hollande bested incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday to become France’s first Socialist president since François Mitterrand. Hollande will be inaugurated by mid-next week, just in time for the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, where there’s certain to be discussion about what his ascension will mean for the business. Issues like anti-piracy legislation, runaway production and who’ll be the next culture minister are likely topics, but for now, execs I’ve spoken with don’t seem too concerned. Pyramide Distribution’s Eric Lagesse tells me, “No one is expecting a big impact.”
Patrick Lamassoure of FilmFrance, the body that promotes France as a filming location, echoes that to a degree, saying, “France has always had a strong film policy whether it’s the left or the right in power.” That’s true. France has one of the most generous subsidy systems in the world with a national cinema center that boasts a 750M euro budget with roughly 230M euros earmarked as selective state aid in 2011. By law (one decided when Mitterrand was president), broadcasters are also required to invest in local and European film production with Canal Plus, for example, ponying up 182.5M euros last year. In TV programming, 4,830 hours received state funding in 2011.
A panel of industry experts led by former culture secretary Lord Chris Smith published its highly anticipated recommendations on revamping UK government film policy today. The panel, which included Sony’s Michael Lynton, Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Optimum Releasing founder Will Clarke, made suggestions with the intent of increasing audience choice and growing the demand for British films both at home and abroad. With calls for regulated film investment from broadcasters like BSkyB and ITV, the review also seems to be taking a cue from its neighbors across the Channel on certain points. Within the 56 recommendations that aim to boost the British film brand are a handful of proposals that, if heeded, would make the UK business more closely resemble the French model.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron made headlines last week when he called for British filmmakers to make more “commercially successful pictures.” The remarks left the local industry in a bit of a huff, with director Ken Loach telling the BBC: “If you knew what was going to be successful before you made it then we’d all be millionaires.” (It’s worth noting that Loach’s last several films have been made with French backing). Despite Loach’s initial take on Cameron’s comments and as some industry folks I spoke to late last week suggested, the review that’s been released today is not quite so incendiary as the prime minister’s statements led people to believe. After Cameron’s quips, Fellowes last week said, “At the moment it’s being presented as if there’s a sort of polarity, you either support mainstream films or minority pictures. That isn’t what this is about at all. It’s about broadening the base, so that money goes into all kinds of films.” Supporting Fellowes’ comments, the report’s first recommendation is that major organizations must recognize that a key goal is to connect the widest possible audiences with the broadest and richest range of British films. In comments today, Lord Smith noted that between inward investment that’s helping to boost the local economy (think lavish Hollywood pics shooting in Britain) and a run of strong local films at the box offrice (The King’s Speech, The Inbetweeners Movie), British film is in a strong place. But, “we need to sustain that.” The report notes that although the average Briton watches over 80 films a year on big and small screens, UK indies made up only 5.5% of box office from 2001-2010.
With a large portion of Paris’ post-production facilities facing liquidation, French film body the CNC today expanded a task force to help stem potential losses. The difficulties at Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries, which notably includes lab LTC and visual effects specialist Duran Duboi, have led some producers and distributors to fear for projects they have underway at the companies. I reported last week that copies of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo had recently been held hostage at LTC when workers protested the liquidation. This week, technical industry lobby group FICAM laid out a list of 36 films whose future it said was endangered by the financial turmoil. The org feared creditors would seize servers at Quinta’s labs, resulting in the loss of film sequences and millions of euros worth of work. FICAM’s report included Fidélité’s big budget Asterix And Obelix 3D: God Save Britannia whose effects were being handled by Duran Duboi. But ahead of the crisis meeting, producer Marc Missonnier told me the film was not at risk. “We have a copy of all of the rushes,” he said adding that the extra costs incurred will be “absorbable.” Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, who is handling sales on Asterix, played down the issue when I spoke with him. The flurry of French press and TV reports claiming the film could be in trouble “gave me like 700,000 euros worth of free publicity,” he said. Maraval also confirmed The Artist star Jean …
It’s not just the UK movie business that is suffering from draconian budget cuts because of the global financial crisis. Europe has an enormous hangover, too. And other European film industries are also suffering as EU governments scramble to reduce their debt mountains:
France’s cinema unions say the French Senate finance committee’s plan will have “catastrophic consequences” for French film and TV funding. That’s because France’s government wants to divert €128 million ($175 million) of revenue away from state film agency Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animee (CNC) into its own coffers. This won’t actually be a cut in CNC funding, just limiting next year’s funding increase to a 7.6% improvement on this year’s €575 million ($800 million) budget. The CNC is funded through a levy on cinema admissions – which are estimated to hit 210 million this year, the best for 20 years — as well as a levy on DVD sales, a levy on broadcaster income and a levy on internet service providers. “Internet providers and VOD services are also now paying into the CNC coffers for the first time,” says Franck Priot, deputy head of inward-investment agency Film France. The CNC had been expecting an extra €171 million in income next year.
The government is also making its Sofica tax scheme – which raises money for film production through wealthy individuals – less attractive from an investor’s point of view. Last year 98 French films were financed through Sofica, which …
From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: Copenhagen cinemagoers are paying up to 20 euros ($28) a ticket to see Avatar, compared with an average Danish ticket price of 10 euros. Slovakian cinemagoers are paying 8 euros per ticket to see the James Cameron technopic, compared with an average of 4 euros. And the average Avatar ticket price in Europe is 7 euros. One unintended consequence of the amount of money Avatar is making is that it’s speeding up digital cinema conversion across Europe. According to consultancy Dodona, Europe currently has 1,688 digital screens. The push is on to convert – and quickly. Before Avatar, French chain UGC had been holding out until the cost of digital projectors came down. Now it has no choice but go digital. Claus Hjorth, a senior adviser to the Danish Film Institute, told me, “The 3D wave has got more energy now. Avatar has proven that 3D works right across Europe.”
This month a big confab took place in Barcelona about how to pay for European digitization. The French competition authority has just blocked the government’s scheme to pay for digital conversion. In the UK, Taxpayers Fund 3D For UK Cinema Chains. But the CNC, the French cinema agency, had wanted to establish a fund to pay for all cinemas. Now it appears as if the French will subsidize only the smaller chains. That’s what’s happening in Denmark, too. The Polish government has just paid to upgrade a dozen …