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.
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
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 …