EXCLUSIVE: Although Amour, which is also one of the rare Foreign Language nominees also to be simultaneously nominated for Best Picture, is a heavy betting favorite to be named this year’s Best Foreign Language Film, the field is a rich one with the final five coming from a record 71 entries from around the world. Norway’s Kon-Tiki, Chile’s first-ever nominee No, Denmark’s A Royal Affair and Canada’s War Witch also provide for a varied and exciting blend of some of the best international cinema 2012 had to offer. Standing out as perhaps the most unique entry is War Witch because there is hardly anything on the surface that is obviously Canadian about it. From Quebec-based director Kim Nguyen, it tells the story of a young 12-year-old girl who is kidnapped by African rebels, forced to kill her parents at gunpoint and then fight as a child soldier against the government. With an extraordinary central performance by Rachel Mwanza that won her the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival, the film will open in NY on March 1st through Tribeca Films and expand after that. First, it is going to the Oscars. Here’s an exclusive featurette.
Ross Lincoln is a Deadline contributor.
In both the U.S. and Canada, the Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year. But unlike Americans, a 2012 poll showed that more Canadians planned to watch the ads rather than the game itself. Unfortunately most of the big-budget commercials in Sunday’s game aren’t available to Canadian viewers. The result, according to CBC, is a yearly rush on TV antennas by Canadians living close to the US-Canada border. In the Great White North, stations pay a fee for the right to air the Super Bowl in individual markets. That fee doesn’t include the right to air ads from the U.S. broadcast (due to royalties issues, regional ad strategies and the way media is segregated between different countries). These stations sell their own ad time at a much cheaper rate. While the U.S. ads quickly appear online, Canadian regulations have created what Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos called “almost third-world access” to the Internet. Extremely low data caps and huge fees for exceeding them make streaming video dicey for Canadians. The best option for people living close to the U.S. is to get a pair of rabbit ears and catch the signal from U.S. TV stations.
“This is the most comprehensive effort to modernize our copyright laws in over a decade,” James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, said about the country’s controversial new Copyright Modernization Act. The new law — also known as Bill C-11 — aligns Canada more closely with the World Intellectual Property Organization. The country’s long reluctance to update its anti-piracy laws made it a regular on the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual Priority Watch List. In February the International Intellectual Property Alliance said that Canada’s effort to combat piracy “falls far short of what should be expected of our neighbor and largest trading partner, with ineffective border controls, insufficient enforcement resources, inadequate enforcement policies, and a seeming inability to impose deterrent penalties on pirates.” Canada’s new law includes a provision that the U.S. strongly supported that makes it illegal for consumers to break so-called digital locks, including copy protection mechanisms on CDs and DVDs. It also increased the penalties for infringment:
The U.S. Trade Representative’s annual list of the countries on America’s official piracy radar was released today, with Spain and Malaysia dropping off the roster and Ukraine coming aboard. The highest Priority Watch List includes thirteen countries: Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela. The report says online piracy is “rapidly supplanting physical piracy in many markets around the world” and nowhere more so than in China, where 99% of all music downloads are illegal. Streaming sites with pirated content also have become the preferred venues to watch TV shows, movies, and live sports events. “Strong copyright protection and enforcement are vital to our industry’s ability to create U.S. jobs, grow our own economy, and expand U.S. exports,” MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said today in commending the Special 301 report.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) and the National Film Board of Canada are going to have to make do with 10% less. That’s the amount Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s budget cut Tuesday from the public broadcaster and the documentary agency. The CBC will lose $115 million, in Canadian dollars, from the $1.1 billion it currently receives from the Canadian government. Telefilm Canada will also see a 10% reduction in its budget.
The initial CBC cuts will take place over two years, with $27.8 million lost in 2012-2013 and then $69.9 million in 2013-2014. After 2014, $115 million will come out the broadcaster’s annual taxpayer subsidy. Government funding currently makes up 60% of the CBC’s overall revenue.
The NFB will lose $6.7 million a year until 2015. Telefilm Canada will lose $10.6 million.
While he made no reference to the CBC or NFB cuts in his budget speech, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did say that, in aiming for a balanced budget by 2016, “we will implement moderate restraint in government spending.” The government is cutting $5.2 billion annually overall from its current expenditures of $276.1 billion.
The $3.4B deal, which includes debt, is one of the largest media mergers Canada has ever seen – and will significantly strengthen BCE’s clout in Quebec. With Astral, Canada’s top telecom company will add to its collection of pay TV channels (including The Movie Network and HBO Canada). Astral’s also the largest radio station owner, with 83 in 50 markets. And it’s the No. 3 billboard company. Astral’s shares, which trade in Toronto are up 34% at mid-day. Here are the terms:
MONTRÉAL, March 16, 2012 – BCE Inc. (Bell) today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Montréal-based Astral Media Inc. (Astral) and its leading specialty and pay television channels, radio stations, digital media properties and out-of-home advertising platforms in Québec and across the rest of Canada. Greatly strengthening Bell’s competitive position in the important Québec media marketplace, this transaction directly supports Bell’s strategy of investment and innovation in broadband networks and content.
The French Canadian film that lost to Iran’s A Separation at last month’s Oscars, got partial compensation when it took home six Genie Awards Thursday night in Toronto, including best picture, best director (Philippe Falardeau) and best supporting actress (Sophie Nélisse). Monsieur Lazhar premiered domestically on January 20 at the Sundance Film Festival and is getting a limited release here on April 13. Vanessa Paradis took home best actress for Café de Flore, Viggo Mortensen took supporting actor honors and Howard Shore won for original score, both for A Dangerous Method, at the awards celebrating Canadian films.
The full list of winners:
Apple has approached Rogers Communications and Bell Canada Enterprises to determine their interest in becoming partners for a north-of-the-border launch of the much-rumored but still unconfirmed iTV, The Globe And Mail reports. One of the paper’s unnamed sources …
EXCLUSIVE: The Kansas City-based exhibition chain accounts for about 6% of Canada’s box office revenues — but I’m told that its eight theaters, with 184 screens, are a tough sell because they’re hemorrhaging cash. Cineplex Entertainment (with 66% of Canada’s box office) and Empire Theaters (a subsidiary of a supermarket chain that has 13%) are said to be kicking the tires on some of the properties, which collectively generated $70.3M in revenue in the year that ended in April 2010. But AMC’s huge multiplexes have expensive leases, and some are in competitive film zones where the stronger chains have an easier time landing the most popular new releases. AMC may find a bad deal for the venues better than the status quo. The company’s owners — several funds led by J.P. Morgan Partners and Apollo Management — are said to be desperate to recoup their investments.
Did Kremlin Have Its Hands On Russia’s Choice For Oscars?
Russian critics are blaming the Kremlin and lamenting the country’s choice for the best foreign-language film entry at the Oscars. The most expensive film in the nation’s history — Burnt by the Sun-2: Citadel — was chosen despite being a box-office bomb. It was directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, a close friend of prime minister Vladimir Putin. Even the selection panel’s chairman, Oscar-winning director Vladimir Menshov, refused to sign off on the vote in protest. “The decision was unfair,” he told a correspondent from the UK’s Telegraph. “It was extremely badly received by critics, its box office receipts collapsed and it had no international festival success.” There were at least two other films that were more deserving, he added. Citadel is a three-hour take on the Red Army’s battle against the Nazis starring Mikhalkov himself and is the third installment of an epic saga. The first film in the trilogy, Burnt by the Sun, won an Oscar for the best foreign-language film in 1995. But Mikhalkov raised eyebrows by then making a two-part sequel over a period of eight years at a combined cost of $54M.
CBS chief Les Moonves has said that his company would work with Netflix in other countries. Still, this deal confirms “CBS’ ability to successfully monetize its library,” says Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker, who forecasts it will add 6 cents to CBS’ earnings per share beginning next year.
NEW YORK and BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – July 27, 2011 — CBS Corporation [NYSE: CBS.A and CBS] and Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] today announced a two-year, non-exclusive international licensing agreement that will enable certain television shows from across CBS Corporation to be streamed instantly to Netflix subscribers in Canada and Latin America. The agreement follows a separate domestic deal announced between the two companies in February. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Beginning in September, and for only $7.99 a month, Netflix members in Canada will be able to enjoy both the current and complete back seasons for CW hit “90210,” as well as past seasons of critically lauded fan favorites from SHOWTIME such as “Californication,” “Dexter,” and “The United States of Tara.” Canadian members will also have access to a broad range of CBS library programming, including “Numb3rs,” “Sleeper Cell,” and “Twin Peaks.”
Netflix announced in early July that it would be launching in 43 countries across Mexico, South America and the Caribbean later this year. Under this new deal with CBS, previous seasons of series, including “90210,” “Medium,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Californication” and “Dexter,” will be available for Latin American members to watch instantly, as will a broad range of library titles, including the original “Star Trek,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Charmed,” and “Twin Peaks.”
Santa Monica, CA, Vancouver, BC, and Montreal, Quebec (June 23, 2011) – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, and Alliance Films, a leading Canadian distributor of motion pictures and television programming, announced that the Alliance group has agreed to purchase Lionsgate’s Canadian distributor Maple Pictures for approximately $38.5 million subject to a working capital adjustment. The announcement was made by Lionsgate President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Steve Beeks and Alliance President Charles Layton and remains subject to approval by Canadian regulatory authorities.
The Alliance group will acquire Maple and its film library and will assume responsibility for Maple’s exclusive five-year output deal with Lionsgate for Canadian distribution of Lionsgate’s motion picture and television product and Maple’s exclusive long-term arrangement for distribution of Lionsgate’s prestigious filmed entertainment library in Canada. Maple founders and Co-Presidents Laurie May and Brad Pelman will join the Alliance team.
In August, New York State’s Film Production Tax Credit Program was extended and expanded to $420 million per year. Several months later, pilot production in the Big Apple is back in a big way. Nine broadcast drama pilots are filming there now, including such high-profile entries as NBC’s Prime Suspect and Smash, ABC’s Pan Am and CBS’ Susannah Grant. That is up from zero last year. (The pilot for CBS’ New York-set Blue Bloods only shot some footage there.) The giant leap puts New York almost on par with the traditional location leader, Los Angeles, which houses 11 of the 42 drama pilots ordered by the broadcast networks this season. That extends the continuous decline of the number of drama pilots shot in L.A. over the past decade. (Last year, 14 of the 43 broadcast drama pilots were filmed in there.) But with virtually all comedy pilots shooting in Los Angeles this season (ABC’s Bad Mom is the only one filming elsewhere, in Orlando), and the overall number of broadcast pilots creeping down every year, the percentage of all broadcast pilots (drama and comedy) produced in L.A. this year, 60%, was up a tick for a second straight year (59% in 2010, 57% in 2009).
Meanwhile, fewer pilots, six, are being filmed north of the border this year (a seventh, Fox’s Alcatraz, shot in San Francisco and Vancouver). Last year, that number was nine. The most dramatic reverse of the runaway production trend is at the CW, which traditionally films pilots and series in Canada. Last season, the network shot five of its six pilots in Canada and one in Thailand. This year, half of its six pilots are being produced in the U.S., with the others in Canada. For the bigger-budget drama pilots at the Big Four networks, shooting in Canada this year is tied mostly to creating elaborate settings, like the magical worlds in ABC’s Once Upon a Time and NBC’s 17th Precinct and 1840s Boston in ABC’s Poe.
Part of the reason for more TV studio executives to consider keeping drama pilot production in the U.S. is that the current currency exchange rate makes production in Canada less appealing than in years past. But also key are tax incentives offered in the states. On a standard hourlong pilot budget of $3 million, 10%-25% in tax rebates represents a nice saving. For instance, two of the three CW pilots shooting in the U.S., Hart of Dixie and Cooper & Stone, are being produced in states with tax incentives, North Carolina and Illinois. The locations also happen to fit the settings of the shows, which producers always wish for but only get when economics allow.
The Illinois incentives put in place by ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich made Chicago the hottest pilot location last year with five projects filmed there: dramas Ride-along (now The Chicago Code), A.T.F., Pleading Guilty and Matadors and comedy Friends with Benefits. This year, that number is two, both shows set in the Windy City: NBC drama pilot Playboy and CW’s Cooper & Stone. Other pilots whose setting and filming location match this season include Fox’s Bones spinoff The Finder (Miami), NBC’s Prime Suspect and Smash (New York) and ABC’s Good Christian Bitches (Dallas).
Sure, the Toronto International Film Festival is about the jockeying of high-profile pics that starts Oscar season, but hey, it is held in Canada. The September 9 opener? The world premiere gala presentation of Score: A Hockey Musical, a film about a teen hockey phenom who realizes the Canadian …