Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed on Tuesday night that the UK’s relationship with Star Wars will continue. The MP was at Pinewood – where JJ Abrams’ Episode VII moved onto soundstages about 10 days ago – and tweeted, “On set of Episode VII tonight, can announce another #StarWars film will be made in UK. A #LongTermEconomicPlan in a galaxy far far away.” The Conservative politician caught a lot of flack on Twitter for the latter remark, but by and large the Star Wars movies, and other big Hollywood projects, are bringing a flood of money into the UK which has very lucrative film tax breaks. The currently filming Episode VII is due for release on December 18, 2015 and the standalone Star Wars Osborne referred to last night will also be shot next year. The spinoff is being directed by Gareth Edwards. Per local reports, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid added last night, “Given Lucasfilm’s decision to film another Star Wars movie in the UK, it is clear that the Force is strong here.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff Makes Date With Pinewood; India’s ‘Holiday’ Travels Well; Nordisk Film TV Appointment
In one of his first key hires as Banijay Group President and CEO, Banijay Studios North America, David Goldberg has tapped his former Endemol colleague Caroline Baumgard as Chief Creative Officer, Banijay Studios North America. Based in the company’s Los Angeles office and reporting to Goldberg, Baumgard will be responsible for developing original content for the company across multiple genres for the North American market, which will roll out globally through parent Banijay Group. Her position takes effect immediately. In her previous role at Endemol USA, Baumgard was responsible for all non-scripted development for the U.S. marketplace. She worked with Goldberg until he exited as chairman-CEO of Endemol’s North America operations late last year. He took on his new role at Banijay last month.
In October last year, Banijay International requested an injunction against Dutch producer Eyeworks on the grounds that there were “approximately 100 similarities” between its eight-year-old format Stars In Danger: High Diving and Eyeworks’ newcomer Celebrity Splash. A Dutch court has now poured cold water on Banijay’s claims, but both sides say they are considering further legal action.
Banijay, the group behind the original Stars In Danger: The High Dive and owner of Bunim/Murray Prods., has acquired 50% of Italian TV producer Ambra Multimedia. That company was recently founded by Marco Bassetti who has just been named Banijay Group CEO. Bassetti founded Endemol Italy in 1997 and was eventually appointed president of Endemol Group, taking over CEO responsibilities before stepping down in April 2012. Bassetti will be responsible for the international development of Banijay Group which is present in 12 countries in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. At the same time, Banijay EVP François de Brugada has been promoted to COO.
China’s 2012 Box Office Up 30% To $2.74B
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has released updated box office figures for 2012 with sales hitting $2.74B for a 30.18% increase over last year. SARFT said the nation produced 893 total films last year including 745 features and 33 animated pictures, the Xinhua news agency reported. On its way to an estimated 16,000 screens by 2015, the country is adding 10.5 screens a day. As noted last week, however, those screens are increasingly drawing crowds for foreign films which have eaten into the local share. Imports took $1.4B in box office for 51.54% of the market in 2012. Still, homegrown hit Lost In Thailand recently became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time with nearly $190M in less than a month of release.
Niklas Lagergren Leaves MPA For News Corp’s Brussels Office
News Corp. has named Niklas Lagergren as SVP government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Lagergren joins the company from the Motion Picture Association where he was most recently VP for EU affairs, working closely with the Hollywood majors at the European level. He will start the job on March 1, based at the company’s new Brussel’s office. Lagergren, who has been with the MPA for over 10 years, said, “I have been both professionally and personally committed to representing the public affairs interests of media companies and I am now fortunate to be able to take my efforts to a new level by joining the leader in global media.” News Corp. also appointed Benjamin King director of government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa, reporting to Lagergren. He was formerly public affairs manager for News International.
German Producers Plan Pope Benedict Biopic
The Odeon Film company said German producers Marcus Mende and Peter Weckert have acquired film rights to an upcoming biography of Pope Bendict XVI by journalist Peter Seewald. The bio is to be published in early 2014, Reuters reported. Seewald, who has signed on as a consultant for the film, previously authored three book-length interviews with Benedict – two as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and one as pope. Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul was the subject of a dozen documentary films around the world and two major television movies in the United States.
In one of two recent format disputes, the Banijay Group has won a ruling to stop broadcaster SBS and The Voice creator Talpa Media from using the title The Next Popstar for an upcoming Dutch talent show. Banijay objected to the name, saying it too closely resembled its own format, Popstars. That show, which has spawned versions in more than 50 countries, ran for three years on SBS’ SBS6, the same channel that The Next Popstar was targeting in the Netherlands. In its decision, the District Court of The Hague prohibited Talpa and SBS from using the name going forward based on an article of the Paris Convention relating to well-known trademarks. Banijay recently acquired a majority stake in Australian production company Screentime, which in 1999 created the Popstars format that served as a precursor to the Idol series of singing competition shows.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
“In this era of consolidation you either have to be part of something that’s a great deal bigger or run your business from home,” says Bob Campbell, managing director of Oz TV producer Screentime. Terms of Banijay’s acquisition of the company, which also operates in New Zealand and Ireland, were not disclosed. But, Campbell and Screentime exec chairman Des Monaghan will continue at the company, “until we’re 140,” Campbell tells Deadline. Both remain shareholders along with Charles Curran’s Capital Investment Group. Banijay will launch a new version of Screentime’s talent show format Popstars at MIPCOM in October and look to exploit other formats. Screentime is producing the sixth series of popular crime drama Underbelly for Australia’s Nine Network. The company’s other credits include reality show R.B.T., and dramas Cloudstreet, Brothers In Arms, Crownies and Beyond The Darkland.