‘The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug’ Breaks Box Office Record Down Under

By | Thursday December 26, 2013 @ 3:25pm PST

tauriel-kicks-ass-in-new-tv-spot-for-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-watch-now-149430-a-1385366847The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is off to a smash hit start in Australia having opened on Boxing Day (December 26th) — a national holiday observed by most of the country. The sequel, which dominated the box office with a 60% market share of the top 5 films, grossed an estimated $4.9M in U.S. dollars from 629 screens. It holds the distinction as the second-biggest Boxing Day opening of all time, finishing 7% behind The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It also ranks as the biggest Thursday opening in Australia. Warner Bros’ Desolation Of Smaug opened about 10 days earlier in New Zealand (where Peter Jackson is making the Hobbit trilogy) with a four-day gross of $1.85M from 201 screens. That also logged a 10% higher box office gross than An Unexpected Journey’s record-breaking showing a year earlier. Smaug also gave the studio its biggest-ever weekend opening in Russia and opened in the top spot there with an estimated $18.8M from 2,115 screens, tracking ahead of the original. It has been No. 1 in Germany and has been outperforming the original Hobbit there and in France. The total take in the UK alone is more than $32M.

Related: Christmas Day Box Office: ‘Hobbit’ No. 1, ‘Wolf’ Gives Chase Read More »

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‘Mythbusters’ Producer, Oz’s Seven Network Open LA-Based Venture 7Beyond

By | Monday October 21, 2013 @ 3:44am PDT

Australia’s Seven Network and MythBusters producer Beyond Productions are partnering in 7Beyond, a new venture to create programming initially designed for the North American market. Michael Krupat, formerly SVP Development and Branded Content at … Read More »

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Eric Bana To Distribute Focus Features Thriller ‘Closed Circuit’ In Australia

By | Monday October 7, 2013 @ 8:22am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Actor Eric Bana is making his first foray into film distribution. Before the shakeup at Focus Features last week, Bana met with and got the company’s top executives James Schamus and Andrew Karpen to agree to sell him the Australian distribution rights to Closed Circuit, the John Crowley-directed paranoid thriller that stars Bana and Rebecca Hall as defense lawyers representing a terrorist charged with blowing up London’s Borough Market. The former lovers realize a conspiracy is afoot and their lives are in danger. Jim Broadbent, Julia Stiles and Ciaran Hinds also star. They plan a December 5 theatrical release.

The film opened to mixed reviews in the U.S. in August and grossed $5.7 million, with marketing that played up timely subjects like hi-tech surveillance and government leakers. Bana has teamed on the deal with Robert Connolly, who directed the Julian Assange pic Underground, and produced and was second unit director on the Bana-starrer Romulus, My Father. “We share an office and bounce idea off each other all the time, but this is the first time since Romulus we connected on something,” Bana told me. “We thought there was no reason we couldn’t look at distributing boutique releases in our backyard. Robert has navigated those waters before with his company Cinema Plus, and has been extremely involved in securing cinemas and has longstanding relationships with exhibitors here. I have logged many years on the publicity trail, and the relevant outlets know me and I know them. On paper, it’s fresh waters, but in reality it isn’t really. We can have a level of control, and to us it makes a helluva lot of sense and is something I wish I had done earlier. I have a great relationship with Focus, presented the offer in New York, and James and Andrew liked the idea.” Read More »

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‘The Bible’ Bows To Heavenly Ratings On Australia’s Channel 9; Encore Planned

By | Thursday July 18, 2013 @ 4:06am PDT

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett‘s The Bible debuted Down Under on Tuesday with a faithful following that gave Channel 9 top ratings for the night. The first episode of the 10-part miniseries was No. 1 during … Read More »

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Wizards From Oz: What’s Up With Aussie Actors’ Proliferation Of Pilot Season?

By | Wednesday April 10, 2013 @ 3:24pm PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Yesterday, Deadline posted a Funny Or Die video made by American actor Brian Guest in response to the proliferation of Australian actors being cast in broadcast pilots this season. His “agent” tells him at one point in the video, “You’re doing great work, you’re just not Australian.” As Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva pointed out, this has been a sore topic for Hollywood talent agents and their American-born clients this season as the nets bet heavily on actors from Down Under. So what’s all the hubbub about?

At least 23 Aussies have been cast in pilots this season, an unprecedented number. Some are unfamiliar commodoties Stateside like Luke Mitchell, Bob Morley, Chris Egan, Lincoln Lewis, Rick Donald and Luke Bracey, who were all regulars on the Seven network’s long-running TV soap Home And Away. Others are established names like Miranda Otto, Jacki Weaver, Toni Collette, Melissa George, Rachael Taylor and Anthony LaPaglia.

One factor driving the upsurge is that U.S. producers are tapping Australian-based casting agents to source talent. Kirsty McGregor, hired this year by 20th Century Fox TV to work on all its drama pilots, was instrumental in casting Donald in Fox’s CBS comedy pilot Friends With Better Lives. Another is the growing trend of Aussies to submit audition tapes online without the need to go to Los Angeles to try out in person. “Technology allows Australian actors to self-test and be seen by American casting directors with little time delay, so they can be considered for projects whilst often being in Australia or another country,” says Morrissey and Associates’ Mark Morrissey, whose clients include Bracey, Lewis, Morley and film actors Jai Courtney and Chris and Liam Hemsworth. Read More »

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Oz Government Gives Disney $22.5M To Lure ’20,000 Leagues’ Shoot To Australia

By | Tuesday April 2, 2013 @ 2:38am PDT

In the largest inducement it’s ever offered to a Hollywood production, the Australian government has confirmed it will give Disney a one-off payment of $22.5M to shoot 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Captain Nemo in … Read More »

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Global Showbiz Briefs: Bollywood Star Prison Term; Stone Roses Documentary; Greg Dyke & English Soccer; Oz Media Reforms; ‘Jews In Egypt’

By | Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 10:26pm PDT

Bollywood Actor Ordered To Prison For Role In Mumbai Attacks
India’s Supreme Court has ruled that Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt must return to prison for his connection with the 1993 Mumbai blasts. The actor has been on bail since 2007 when he appealed his sentence of 6 years. Today the Supreme Court reduced it to 5 years. Dutt was convicted in 2006 of buying weapons from bombers who attacked Mumbai. He spent 20 months in jail. The serial bombings killed 257 people and wounded 713 others. The actor and producer has figured in some of the biggest Hindi-language films of the past three decades and the sentence comes as there are reportedly anywhere from $37M-$65M at stake on projects in which he is involved. Among them are understood to be Peekay, Policegiri, Ungli, Zanjeer – a remake of the 1970s blockbuster that starred Amitabh Bachchan — and the latest in the popular Munnabhai crime caper franchise, although some are said to be near completion. Dutt is best known for playing gangsters, thugs and police officers in action movies. He was also the host of the fifth season of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother, in 2011. He has 3½ years remaining to serve on today’s sentence and four weeks to surrender. He is expected to file to have the verdict reviewed. Read More »

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Australian Government Finds An Extra $20M To Attract Offshore Production

By | Wednesday March 13, 2013 @ 1:42am PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

Unveiling the government’s National Cultural Policy on Wednesday, Oz arts minister Simon Crean disappointed the industry with the news that Australia will not be raising its location rebate from 16.5% to 30% for foreign films wanting to shoot locally. However, he did announce one measure which was unexpected: new funding of $A20M ($20.6M), which will be used to attract productions to Australia. Crean said the new money is separate from ongoing negotiations with the Disney to persuade the studio to shoot David Fincher’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: Captain Nemo Down Under. Last month, Crean said the government would give Disney $12.2M as a one-off payment that would boost its rebate to 30%. Disney has signaled it needs the support of the Queensland and New South Wales governments before committing to shoot in Oz. Last year the government gave Fox $12.8M to secure The Wolverine for Sydney’s Fox Studios. Crean said the $20M in new funding is a precursor to raising the location rebate “should the (local) dollar remain high” but did not specify when that would happen, evidently because he hasn’t yet secured the approval of the Treasury. Read More »

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‘King’s Speech’ Producers & Sunstar To Film Man’s Quest To Find His Mother

By | Wednesday February 6, 2013 @ 9:30pm PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

Indian-born Saroo Brierley spent 25 years searching for his birth mother, from whom he was separated at age 5. He found her last year and has penned an autobiography to … Read More »

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Aussie Producer Options U.S. Author Jessica Brody’s ‘The Fidelity Files’

By | Monday January 7, 2013 @ 10:49am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

EXCLUSIVE: Neophyte Australian producer Bella Le spotted The Fidelity Files in a bookshop during the Melbourne International Festival and closed a deal late last week for the book and its … Read More »

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Spate Of U.S. Remake Deals Leaves Oz Producers Mulling Future Of TV Format Sales

By | Wednesday December 12, 2012 @ 3:22am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

A significant group of Australian TV dramas and comedies, plus the film Animal Kingdom, have been the subject of U.S. remake deals in the past year. There are more in the offing and the growing trend has Oz producers considering strategies for the future of format sales. “Format deals deliver longer term, and less certain returns,” notes Nicky Davies Williams, CEO of DCD Rights, which handled global sales of The Slap, an Oz drama that NBC is prepping for an eight-episode limited series. Producers usually can’t sell remake rights up front because they need the higher license fees from local and international broadcasters to finance their productions. “You hope that everything you do is remakeable, but ultimately what you’re aiming for is that the original version gets screened in other territories,” says Matchbox Pictures’ Tony Ayres who’ll be an exec producer on the remade Slap. The original was an award-winning success at home in 2011 and also went out in such territories as the U.S., the UK and Israel. Read More »

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Australian Producers Angry Over New Broadcast Content Quota

By | Friday November 30, 2012 @ 1:08am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Australia’s free-to-air TV networks will get a permanent 50% reduction in the license fees they pay to the government in return for a local content quota imposed on their multi-channels. While that may be welcome news for broadcasters, Australian producers have reacted angrily to today’s announcement. “There is little incentive to encourage new Australian content on the multi-channels under the new rules…which fail to address the increasing amount of foreign content on our screens,” says Screen Producers Association of Australia executive director Mathew Deaner. Deaner contends the networks can now meet their obligations by showing repeated Australian content on their multi-channels and that there is no imperative to create new Australian content. Read More »

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Australian Government Stalls On Increasing Film Location Rebate And TV Offset

By | Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 2:17am PST

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Australia’s Arts Minister Simon Crean hoped to curry favor with screen producers when he announced a new $A20M ($20.7M) interactive games fund to support global development over the next three years. But attendees at the annual Screen Producers Association of Australia conference were disappointed that Crean gave no commitment to raise the location incentive for big budget film and TV productions from 16.5% to 30%. That’s despite his comment earlier this week that he’d look at hiking the rebate. Execs at major Oz studios including Fox Australia recently warned that Oz won’t attract large-scale international productions unless the credit is lifted to 30%. Crean acknowledged the Oz dollar has appreciated against the greenback by 60% in the past four years but said, “We’re not in a position to change the location offset just yet.” The government is reviewing the incentive as part of a new national cultural policy. Read More »

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VOD Vs. DVD Battle Goes Day-And-Date In Australia

By | Tuesday September 4, 2012 @ 1:15am PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

September marks a new watershed in the fight for home entertainment dollars in Oz. Nearly every Hollywood film, including new releases The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Men In Black 3 and The Five-Year Engagement, and most indie titles, will be available simultaneously on VOD and DVD. The collapsing of windows has been driven by the U.S. majors looking to boost VOD revenues to help compensate for the contracting DVD business. The strategy has been welcomed by Oz’s many VOD services who say it’s resulting in a lift in buy-rates. Brendon Moo, general manager of Foxtel On Demand and Pay Per View, says subscribers per capita buy four times as many movies as those who subscribe to Britain’s BSkyB.

The gap between DVD and VOD releases was originally 90 days. In the past few years that was shortened to 60 days and progressively to 45 and 30; now it’s zero except for independent distributors like Anchor Bay and Eagle Entertainment. The first simultaneous DVD/VOD release was The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button in 2010. Sony Pictures began releasing its films day-and-date earlier this year and Tim Harris, director digital & acquisitions, says, “We expect revenue to grow as the consumer embraces the convenience and quality of the format.” Home entertainment retailers are keen Read More »

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Frank Cox Exits Hopscotch/Entertainment One

By | Monday September 3, 2012 @ 4:52pm PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Nearly 18 months after selling the Australian distribution company he co-founded to Entertainment One for more than $A20 million ($20.5 million) Frank Cox has stepped down as president of Hopscotch/Entertainment One. Cox leaves on a high as Hopscotch/eOne’s Australian hit The Sapphires has raked in nearly $10 million after its fourth weekend in Oz and seems headed for $15 million-plus. Hopscotch/eOne will continue under managing director Troy Lum and marketing and acquisition director Sandie Don, who co-founded Hopscotch Films with Cox in 2002. A 33-year veteran of the distribution business, Cox launched New Vision Films in 1983 and its library was later folded into Hopscotch. Cox said his decision to leave is “bittersweet”, adding, “I’m very proud of the Hopscotch team and grateful for the truly amazing work they’ve done to attract and showcase Australian talent over the past 10 years”. Read More »

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Bullish Outlook For Entertainment And Media In Australia As IPTV Takes Off

By | Monday July 30, 2012 @ 1:41pm PDT

Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

Australian entertainment and media revenues will grow by 22% during the next five years, fractionally ahead of the U.S., UK, France, Germany and Japan which will see a 21% rise. But overall, today’s PwC Entertainment and Media Outlook 2011-2015 finds the Asia-Pacific group of economies, which includes Australia, are projected to leap by 38.6%. “If we are to draw any conclusions from this it is that Australian entertainment and media companies are slow to leverage our geographic advantages,” says David Wiadrowski, PwC head of technology, information, communications and entertainment. “Consumer spending on entertainment and media products and services will reach $248B by 2015 in the Asia-Pacific region. It is time for Australian businesses to think about how best to share in the boom taking place on our doorstep.” PwC forecasts Australian entertainment and media revenues will hit $37.2B by 2015, averaging an annual compoundgr owth rate of 4.1%, despite continuing declines in print circulation and advertising. Total Australian entertainment and media spending grew by 6.5% in 2010, faster than the global average of 5.3% and significantly higher than 2009’s 1.3%. The report suggests Foxtel’s stranglehold on the subscription TV market could be threatened by the rapid expansion of IPTV subscription services, which it predicts will achieve a market share of 27% of homes by 2017, close to the current 30% penetration of pay TV. Read More »

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Agencies Get Leg Up On Talent Down Under As Oz Wave Builds

By | Friday June 15, 2012 @ 11:21am PDT

Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney

Australian Actors AgentsThere’s a record number of Aussie actors and directors toiling in Hollywood — and more on deck. One of the reasons: US and Oz agents are networking more … Read More »

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Lachlan Murdoch Accused Of Possible Breach Of Oz Broadcasting Laws

By | Tuesday May 15, 2012 @ 5:50pm PDT

Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney.

Another day, another media controversy for the Murdoch clan. Rupert Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan has been accused of a possible breach of Australian broadcasting laws. Avaaz, a New York-based global campaign organization that boasts more than 14 million members, today called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to launch an investigation into Lachlan’s Australian media holdings. Avaaz claims more than 300,000 members in Australia. It wants ACMA to determine whether the Murdoch scion is in a position to  exercise control of News Corp.’s Australian arm News Limited,  as he is a director of News Corp. The group contends that it would create an “unacceptable three way control situation” in breach of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which forbids anyone from controlling a commercial radio licence, a commercial TV licence, and a newspaper  in the same licence area (in this case, Sydney). Murdoch is the chairman and a major shareholder in Network Ten and in the DMG Radio Australia network. News Limited controls 70% of Australia’s newspapers including the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the national broadsheet The Australian and owns 25% of the dominant pay-TV provider Foxtel.
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Australian Federal Budget Is Good To TV, Leaves Film At Status Quo

By | Wednesday May 9, 2012 @ 3:16am PDT

Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney.

Australia’s free-to-air commercial broadcasters and the Special Broadcasting Service were among the few entertainment sector winners in the government’s budget delivered Tuesday night. Film producers hoping for a hike in federal funding and an increased tax credit scheme, however, were left empty-handed. The budget did confirm the $A12.8M grant to persuade the producers of 20th Century Fox’s The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, to shoot at the Fox Studios in Sydney. That’s on top of the 16.5% refundable tax offset for the production of big‑budget international films. But, Screen Producers Association of Australia president  Brian Rosen argues the offset must be raised  to 30% if “Australia is to be competitive with other jurisdictions.” Read More »

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