Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
An editorial written by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval has whipped up a mini-storm within the French film industry. The exec, who’s had a hand in such films as The Artist, The Wrestler, Pan’s Labyrinth, Fahrenheit 9/11, City Of God and March Of The Penguins, blasted the current state of French cinema, calling 2012 a “disaster”. France enjoys possibly the world’s most generous subsidy system which relies in part on investment by local TV networks, but Maraval says “even the biggest commercial successes lose money” with budgets inflated by above the line costs. Calling France “the world record holder for the average cost of production” after the U.S., Maraval says “French actors are rich from public funds and from a system that protects the cultural exception.” Maraval cites such talent as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and Audrey Tautou and asks why they would “be paid from €500,000 to €2M ($655K to $2.62M) for a French film limited to the French market but when they shoot an American film, whose market is worldwide, they’re happy with €50,000 to €200,000 ($65.5K to $262K)?
Global Showbiz Briefs: Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, $1.6B In UK Digital Entertainment Sales, Alki David And Quickflix & More
Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
Quickflix To Expand Into New Zealand
Finally, a spot of positive news for Quickflix. The Australian online DVD rental and subscription streaming service just emerged from a trading halt in its shares after the departure of several board members amid a restructuring entailing job cuts and slashing advertising. Today Quickflix trumpeted a deal with New Zealand’s Freeview to launch its film and TV streaming service via a HD channel with a potential reach of 500,000 Kiwi households in 2013. Owned by free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ, Mediaworks, Maori Television and Radio New Zealand, Freeview is available in 86% of TV homes and competes with the News Corp-controlled pay-TV platform Sky. Quickflix will offer a combination of subscription movies and PPV.- Don Groves.
The Amazing Race Sprints North To Canada
CBS’ The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan announced tonight that viewers north of the border can look forward to their own The Amazing Race Canada that will air on Canada’s CTV, which has licensed format rights from Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The Amazing Race Canada will launch in Summer 2013. Competition will take place within Canada, which features a variety of rugged, challenging terrain. Insight Productions will produce with the support of Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri’s Profiles Television. Casting, host, and other information about the show will be announced during the coming months.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s struggling online DVD rental and subscription streaming service Quickflix revealed today it has slashed staff by one-third in a restructuring aimed at stemming the outflow of company cash which averaged $A1M ($1.04M) per month in fiscal 2012. Its shares, which last traded at 5.6¢, have been suspended since November 13 while it seeks a new strategic investor or capital infusion. Quickflix, in which HBO bought a 15.7% stake for $10M in February, is burning through cash and had $2.2M in the bank at the end of September, when it had just 115,592 paying customers. HBO’s rep Henry McGee quit the board along with two other directors and chief executive Chris Taylor is leaving in March as executive chairman Stephen Langsford takes over that role. Among other cost-saving measures, the company is ceasing advertising, streamlining the organization into DVD and digital operating divisions, and lowering the cost of acquiring customers which had ballooned from $31 to $60 per customer. The company said talks are continuing with Australian and international investors, it has retained investment advisers in the U.S., and it expects to provide an update on funding arrangements next week.
The CEO and two board members of Australian online DVD rental and streaming service Quickflix are leaving the company. Quickflix last week requested its stock be temporarily suspended from trading in Australia, pending an announcement of a new strategic investor. That suspension was expected to be short-lived but will now remain in effect until late next week. Today, the company announced CEO Chris Taylor had resigned and will leave in March 2013. Founder and exec chairman Stephen Langsford will assume the role of CEO at that time. Also, non-executive directors Justin Milne and Susan Hunter are resigning from the board, although Hunter will remain as company secretary. HBO paid $10.7M for a 15.7% stake in Quickflix in February, but the service took a $1.87M operating loss in the quarter ending September 30 as its cash reserves dwindled to $2.28M. The company has 115,592 paying subscribers.
Global Showbiz Briefs: More BBC Fallout, Quickflix Trading Halt, Lachlan Murdoch On Ten, Screen Australia Funds New Pics
BBC Probe: “Unacceptable” Journalistic/Management Failures
More senior BBC staff could leave the corporation as an internal report into the Newsnight fiasco that cost former director general George Entwistle his post draws damning conclusions. The investigation by BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie concluded that “unacceptable” journalistic and management failures caused the broadcast of false claims against a senior political figure. Newsnight aired the allegations of child sexual abuse in its November 2 program, but didn’t name the man, later revealed to be Lord McAlpine. As a result, it didn’t offer the retired adviser to Margaret Thatcher a right of reply as BBC editorial guidelines mandated, and it was subsequently revealed that the victim had mistaken the identity of his attacker. “Basic editorial checks were not completed,” the report said.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BBC Probe, Keshet Sells ‘Fair & Square’, ‘Father’s Day’ Banned, Quickflix Seeks Quick Cash
BBC Inquiry To Ramp Up Next Week
As incoming New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson is given the going over by staff at the newspaper who have questioned his involvement in the Jimmy Savile scandal, the BBC’s internal inquiry in the contentious cancellation of its Newsnight investigation will start interviewing key players next week. They include the editor of the program, Peter Rippon, who killed a probe into Savile’s impropriety that was set to air in December last year. He reported to Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, and George Entwistle, the new BBC director general who was head of television at the time. Both are expected to face tough questions from Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News who is in charge of the inquiry. They’ll be joined by the Newsnight journalists who led the investigation into Savile, some of whom blew the whistle on the odd decision-making in a report on BBC current affairs program Panorama last week. Meanwhile, rival broadcaster ITV, which aired a program finally revealing the allegations against Savile at the start of October, is planning further revelations about the late Top Of The Pops host. A second report will be fronted by Mark Williams-Thomas, the former detective who led the original show. It’ll air at the end of November, as the Pollard inquiry is expected to be publishing its findings. – Joe Utichi
UK Broadband Cos Team With BBC, ITV On YouView
UK broadband companies BT Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group have partnered with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to form YouView, a TV service that allows consumers to watch movies and shows anytime. BT will begin selling the YouView set-top boxes with speed guarantees next month, Bloomberg reports. The service offers more than 70 digital channels and a seven-day catch-up service for BBC, ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4 shows in the UK. The set-top box can be purchased through a retailer for about $400. Those who sign up through TalkTalk can get the box for free. The devices go on sale at BT on October 26.
Goldman Sachs Preps Debt-To-Equity Scheme For Nine Entertainment
Goldman Sachs is putting together a deal for a group of U.S. hedge funds to take control of Australia’s debt-laden Nine Entertainment Co., according to the Australian Financial Review. The plan involves the hedge funds converting part of the media company’s $A3.8 billion ($3.9 billion) debt into equity. Goldman manages mezzanine debt funds owed around $1 billion by Nine. Private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific bought Nine Entertainment, which includes the Nine Network, Australian News Channel, Ticketek, the Allphones Arena and a 50% stake in NineMSN, from James Packer for $5.5 billion in 2007. Last week the firm sold its publishing division ACP Magazines to Germany’s Bauer Media Group for a reported $500 million. Under Goldman’s plan Nine would retain $1.25 billion in debt through a new five-year facility. The paper said Goldman was due to put its proposal to Nine Entertainment’s lenders including hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management. -Don Groves
Australian Exhibitor Hoyts Enters VOD Biz
Launching in the first quarter of 2013, Hoyts will be the first major Australian exhibitor to offer a VOD service offering new releases day-and-date with DVD, plus classic movies and TV content. Monikered Hoyts Stream, the service aims to tap into Hoyts’ customer base which includes 547,000 members of its loyalty programs and 200,000 people who regularly use its DVD rental kiosk business Oovie. The initiative will put Hoyts Stream in direct VOD competition with Foxtel on Demand, Quickflix, iTunes, Big Pond Movies, Fetch TV, Google Play and Xbox. Nearly every Hollywood film and most indie titles are now available simultaneously on VOD and DVD in Australia. Neither of Hoyts’ major exhib rivals, Village Roadshow and Event Cinemas, has indicated any intention of entering the VOD business. Crispin Tristram, Hoyts chief marketing officer, who will run Hoyts Stream, said the firm is in advanced negotiations with U.S. majors and leading independents to acquire VOD rights. He declined to reveal pricing but said fees would be competitive. A subscription service for library film and TV content is to be introduced later in 2013. Hoyts chairman David Kirk said the company recognizes a need “to provide our customers choice for how they consume filmed entertainment from Hoyts, be it on the big screen, small screen or now any screen.”
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s only combined online DVD rental and subscription streaming service, Quickflix is striving to emulate Netflix while avoiding the U.S. company’s missteps last year in pricing and strategy. The publicly-traded Quickflix, which launched its streaming service in Australia in November 2011 and in New Zealand this March, has a pretty wide berth in which to fulfill its goal, but is limited in what it can pay for content. Still, Oz’s SVOD market is far less competitive than the U.S., with pay TV penetration at 30% and no indications yet that Netflix, Hulu or Amazon’s Lovefilm will enter the market. Unlike Netflix, Quickflix has been prudent with pricing, charging $A24.99 per month ($US26.24) for four DVDS plus unlimited streaming and $A29.99 ($US31.49) for unlimited DVDs and streaming. Through June 30 Quickflix reported it had just over 111,000 customers, of whom 28% are SVOD subscribers. Revenue for the quarter to June edged up by 3% to $5.1M.
Following a recent content licensing agreement, HBO is to take a 15.7% stake in Australian VOD service Quickflix. Under the terms of the deal, HBO will invest $10 million and appoint a representative to the Quickflix board, subject to shareholder and Australian Stock Exchange approval. Quickflix, which offers DVD and Blu-ray rental by mail as well as instant streaming, has approximately 94,000 paying subscribers. In December, the company announced a licensing deal for streamed content with NBCUniversal International Televsion Distribution.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, goes the old saying. While the studios continue trying to crack the nut of getting Hollywood films into China, many of the majors also have a wider global strategy that’s proving lucrative both there and elsewhere: Local-language production. Hollywood’s involvement in the area is not new. But, increasingly, movies that are co-produced or distributed by the majors in such places as China, India, Germany, Italy, Spain, Korea and Latin America are finding themselves reaping strong returns.
The markets “are huge,” especially where local box office rivals that of Hollywood pictures. Homegrown films in China, for example, generally snag about 50% of the annual market share and are currently widely outperforming Hollywood films – this week’s Iron Man 3 notwithstanding. In India, the indigenous share of a $2B market can be as much as 90%. There’s an argument to be made that Chinese or Indian films don’t cross cultural borders, but with those kinds of numbers, “Why would the film need to travel?” posits an exec.
Richard Fox, EVP International for Warner Bros., says the studio is looking to develop relationships to make Chinese-language films. “There are a lot of moving pieces in assessing which countries to focus on,” but, “if it doesn’t recoup in the country of origin, we don’t get involved,” he says. Warner recently bet well in Mexico where its comedy Nosotros Los Nobles smashed records with the second biggest opening ever for a non-animated local film.
Another studio exec says local language production “is all relatively opportunistic.” It can be a distraction to try and stay abreast of local material, but “paying attention to local markets, filmmakers and stories around the world gets you more educated in terms of worldwide taste and emerging filmmakers.” Plus, “the minute you have a hit, it’s ‘How much money are we making? Why don’t we up this business?’” Here’s a look at how the studios are speaking in various tongues:
Organic Marketing To Split Marketing & Publicity
UK-based marketing and publicity company Organic Marketing will split into two along those lines, with its publicity department operating as a standalone division, it announced today. Emma McCorkell will head the new publicity wing as managing director, with Nick Leese remaining in charge of its marketing arm in an expanded role. The Target MCG company has seen growth in its publicity offering since the popular McCorkell came over from Rogers & Cowan’s UK arm in January 2011, carving a key slice of theatrical, international and online publicity. It recently expanded into production, hiring Harry Potter unit publicist Vanessa Davies and folding in her company, Romley Davies. Organic currently holds accounts for Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, Universal’s Kick-Ass 2 and StudioCanal’s Alan Partridge Is In Alpha Papa, which recently got a new teaser trailer.
Digital Film And TV Downloads Surge Down Under
Digital revenues for film and TV content jumped by 36% to $A127.8 million ($132.3 million) in 2012, according to the first ever study of that sector by the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association. VOD movies accounted for 56% of revenues, TV EST repped 23% and movies EST 21%. Digital sales are worth a bit more than 10% of the $1.174B home entertainment industry, which declined by 9% last year, said AHEDA CEO Simon Bush. The org said …
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.
Gérard Depardieu Embraces Russia Citizenship Offer
Actor Gérard Depardieu has hailed Russia’s decision to grant him citizenship following a tax spat with the government of his native France. In an open letter broadcast on Russian TV Depardieu said, “I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia — its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence.” The actor said he had spoken to French President Francois Hollande and told him Russia was “a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby” — referring to how French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Depardieu’s decision to leave the country. Depardieu’s tax feud began last year after Hollande moved to raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than €1M ($1.6M). The actor accused the new socialist government of punishing “success, creation and talent” and announced in early December he would move to Belgium. Wonder how he feels about Wild Bunch film sales exec Vincent Maraval’s remarks accusing French actors of abusing the nation’s generous film subsidy system and getting “rich from public funds”.
Larrikin Entertainment Boards Australian Thriller ‘The Reckoning’
Greg Coote’s LA-based Larrikin Entertainment has boarded its first Australian film, The Reckoning. Callan McAuliffe, who plays the young Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, is set to star. Writer-director John V. Soto’s thriller focuses on a detective racing to find two teenage runaways who have video of a murderer. Filmscope Entertainment’s Deidre Kitcher tells Deadline pre-production will start in Perth in February, and with the rest of the cast to be announced later this month. Lightning Entertainment has worldwide sales rights excluding Australia. Coote and Larrikin partner David Calvert-Jones and exec Robert Lundberg will serve as exec producers. Kitcher raised funds from Screen West, private investors, the 40% producer offset and Lightning. Soto’s most recent pic Needle was released in the U.S. by Lionsgate. – Don Groves
Makers Of ‘Rake’, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ Feted
Australia’s Essential Media and Entertainment, producers of TV legal drama The Rake and Saving Mr. Banks, the film about Australian author P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, has been named Independent Producer of the Year. The award was made by the Screen Producers Association of Australia. Essential and Sony Pictures TV are planning a U.S. pilot remake of Rake for Fox Broadcasting starring Greg Kinnear. Headed by Chris Hilton, Ian Collie, Sonja Armstrong and Carmel Travers, Essential Media’s slate also includes the Jack Irish crime drama telemovies starring Guy Pearce for Australia’s ABC, My Brother, the Serial Killer for Discovery Channel, and Raising The Curtain, a celebration of Australia’s history of live theater. - Don Groves
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
EXCLUSIVE: Using its clout as Australia’s dominant pay-TV platform, Foxtel is trying to drive a hard bargain with Warner Bros., Disney, Village Roadshow and independent distributors as it negotiates new movie deals. Foxtel is seeking to slash license fees by as much as 40%, Deadline has learned, as it pursues its aim of owning, producing and managing the movie channels on its platform. Buying films direct from the studios and indies, as sister company Sky does in the UK, will enable Foxtel to significantly lower its programming costs after years of paying over-the-odds in output deals negotiated by the two major local platforms, Showtime and The Movie Network.
Sony, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Fox and Liberty Media have agreed to sell the Showtime channels to Foxtel, effective October 31. Showtime’s contract wasn’t due to expire until the end of 2013 but the studios were persuaded to terminate that deal so they could obtain preferential terms as the four majors with which Foxtel is allowed to do exclusive deals under an agreement with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Ending output deals also means Foxtel can refuse to buy sub-standard TV movies and direct-to-DVD titles that were part of those arrangements, further lowering its costs. Foxtel is also negotiating with The Movie Network (co-owned by WB, Disney, Village Roadshow and MGM), whose contract runs out December 31 and is unlikely to be renewed.
Taxpayer-Funded Screen Australia Backs Anti-Murdoch Project
Rupert Murdoch seems unlikely to be bothered that unabashed left-wing writer Bob Ellis is co-writing a movie about the publisher entitled The News of the World. Murdoch might, however, ask why Australian taxpayers’ money is being spent to develop the project. Funding agency Screen Australia is giving money to Ellis and his co-writer Stephen Ramsey to support development. No Australian distributor is involved yet. Ellis told Mumbrella the biopic will trace Murdoch’s career from his purchase of the Sydney Daily Telegraph in the 1960s to his buying the now-defunct The News of the World and becoming a U.S. citizen so News Corp could own U.S. TV stations. Ellis’ blog regularly accuses Murdoch of using his media outlets to champion his causes. After penning the screenplay of Newsfront in 1978, Ellis had a burgeoning career in the 1980s with films such as Fatty Finn, Cactus, Man of Flowers and Goodbye Paradise. But his last produced feature screenplay was Ebbtide in 1994, according to IMDb.com. Deadline previously reported that David Williamson is writing a stage play based on Murdoch entitled Rupert for the Melbourne Theater Co. which is due to open next August. – Don Groves
Cambodia Submits First Oscar Entry In 18 Years
The country’s Oscar selection committee voted unanimously to submit Chhay Bora’s historic drama Lost Loves. The movie chronicles the experiences of a middle-class woman during Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Bora and his wife Kauv Sotheary, both university professors, used 15 years of personal savings to finance the film, according to Screen Daily. Bora directed and produced while his wife plays the leading role. Rithy Panh’s 1994 The Rice People was the only other Cambodian film submitted for Oscar consideration.
Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s Foxtel is poised to tighten its control of the nation’s pay-TV industry after the takeover of the other significant provider Austar, which may result in a restructuring of movie deals with Hollywood studios. The $A1.9 billion deal creates a national subscription TV service reaching 2.2 million households. That’sabout 34% of TV homes, but CCZ Statton Equities analyst Roger Colman forecasts likely penetration of 70%-80% by 2017, driven by broadband rollout and growth of Internet TV services. Colman notes Foxtel (co-owned by News Corp., telco Telstra and James Packer’s Consolidated Media) faces miniscule competition from Fetch TV and Quickflix, although Google has acquired Australian pay-per-view rights to movies from Disney, Sony, Columbia, Icon, Lionsgate and Village Roadshow. The Movie Network (co-owned by Warner Bros, Disney and Village Roadshow) pact with Foxtel expires December 31, and the Premium Movie Partnership (Universal, Sony Columbia and Fox) expires at the end of 2013. With its stronger position, Colman predicts Foxtel will not renew either deal but will negotiate directly with the studios. Foxtel now pays about $160M per year for studio movies, he estimates.