Endemol has entered an exclusive first-look development and distribution deal with UK drama producer Mam Tor Productions Limited. The Big Brother producer will provide development funding and deficit financing during the three-year deal in return for exclusive first-look distribution rights to Mam Tor’s output. Mam Tor was founded in April by former film and TV agent Tally Garner who previously ran Curtis Brown’s in-house production company Cuba Pictures. Her credits include BAFTA winning drama Boy A with Andrew Garfield, and Rufus Norris’ feature Broken. She also exec-produces BBC One’s adaptation of Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Endemol Pacts With Mam Tor; Cannes Looks East; ‘For The Dogs’ Becomes ‘Hunter’s Prayer’
U.S. shares of China’s Bona Film Group are up 7.7% this morning after the distributor announced two deals that help to consolidate ownership: Its founder and CEO, Yu Dong, agreed to pay $71.4M for the 19.3% stake owned by 21st Century Fox. Separately, Bona plans to sell a 13.3% interest to a Chinese investment group, Fosun Group, which already owns 7.5% of Bona. When the dust settles, the Bona chief will own about 32.3% and Fosun will have 20.8%. Fosun’s deal follows its agreement last month to invest in Jeff Robinov’s Studio 8.
Fox (in its earlier incarnation as News Corp) bought its stake in Bona in May 2012 and later that year announced a multi-picture agreement to co-produce Chinese language films. The companies say today that Fox’s sale of its Bona stake “has no effect on the five film co-productions … or on the robust pipeline.” One of their co-productions, Bride Wars, began principal photography last month. It’s “the first of our five co-production projects with 21st Century Fox, and we are confident it will be a tremendous success, as it will appeal to the fast growing younger Chinese audience, one of the most important audience groups that we want to capture in today’s market,” Bona’s Yu says.
After 12 days of release (and a bit of confusion over official numbers), Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age Of Extinction now has the distinction of passing Avatar as the highest-grossing film ever in China. With $225.1M (1,396M RMB), the movie has bested James Cameron’s record of $221.9M that was set in 2010. On Tuesday, Chinese research firm Ent Group reported that the Autobots had overtaken the Na’vi as of July 6 with $222.74M, but Paramount has just weighed in with its official numbers. Because of currency fluctuations, the yuan renminbi figure was key. Avatar was worth about 1.39B during its life in the Middle Kingdom. TAOE has been dogged somewhat by local sponsors who have griped about their placement in the movie. But audiences have embraced it willingly, encouraged by all the Chinese elements — including actors, locations and storyline.
Paramount Chairman and CEO, Brad Grey, said this morning, “We’re honored by the deeply passionate response from Chinese audiences – and audiences throughout the world – to Transformers: Age Of Extinction and the unique storytelling of Michael Bay. The many new relationships we have built with members of the creative community in China is a source of great pride and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future.” Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore acknowledged the “great work of China Film Group in the distribution of Transformers” and thanked partners Jiaflix, China Movie Channel, M1905, China Movie Media and Hua Hua.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Nigerian Censor OKs ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ Release; ‘My Man Can’ Headed To France; More
Nigerian Censor OKs ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ Release
Nigeria has given a greenlight to the distribution of Chiwetel Ejiofor starrer Half Of A Yellow Sun. The drama will be released August 1, after being certified by the National Film and Video Censors Board. It previously was due to open in April, but some scenes were deemed objectionable at the time, the BBC notes. Thandie Newton also stars in the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s best-selling novel. Set in 1960s Nigeria, the story brings audiences into a country torn apart by civil war and shows how the interwoven lives of four central characters intersect during a struggle to establish an independent republic of Nigeria. Biyi Bandele is the director. In a statement, Shareman Media and FilmOne Distribution thanked Nigerians for their “patience and support”.
‘My Man Can’ Game Show Headed To France
French television network NRJ 12 has ordered a local version of Red Arrow International’s game show format My Man Can. The premise sees four women gamble with the abilities of their partners, putting their man’s courage and skills to the ultimate test. It’s been sold to more than 30 countries worldwide. In France, Enibas Productions will produce it under the moniker, Cheri T´es Le Meilleur (Sweetie, You’re The Best).
Two Weeks In, Conan O’Brien Has 3M Hits In China
Hollywood is eager to take a bite out of the Chinese market which can provide fast and huge box office numbers – even if studios are only recouping 25% with no ancillaries. But the learning curve on doing business there can be steeper than a ride up Hong Kong’s Peak Tram. Paramount‘s Transformers: Age Of Extinction, which through the first five days of release earned $134.5M in the Middle Kingdom, has certainly been aided by the deep ties TAOE has to China on the production side. But that hasn’t stopped transactional headaches from surfacing. The latest hiccup comes over the Wulong Karst National Park located in Chongqing. Local representatives of the UNESCO World Heritage site say they are considering taking legal action against the film. According to local media reports, Huang Daosheng, the head of the landscape management committee, says the park’s name was due to be featured on screen announcing the locale, but is not in the finished film. There also is reported concern that because the scenes immediately following take place in Hong Kong, it mistakenly gives the impression the two are nearby when they are actually over 700 miles apart. (Evidently the landscape committee has never seen Ronin – or pretty much any other movie ever shot in Paris — whose car chase scenes would have one believe that Montmartre is right next to the Seine…)
Liang Longfei, head of m1095 a subsidiary of TAOE production and promotional partner, China Movie Channel, told local …
Bart: Everyone I encounter in town this week seems fixated on Chinese takeout — only it’s finance, not food. Specifically, funding for films and theme parks. Here’s the catch: For every mogul who claims he’s made a ‘killer deal,’ I run into ten who say their deals imploded. “Once your deal closes with the Chinese, that’s when the real negotiations begin,” according to one veteran of the co-production process. Jeff Robinov and Ryan Kavanaugh may have announced megadeals, but will they get their money? On a smaller scale, look what just happened to Paramount on their Transformers: Age Of Extinction deal – a Chinese partner (the Pangu Group) changed their minds when they saw the film and it endangered the China release of the movie. Two weeks ago China abruptly scrapped a giant alliance between the world’s three largest container-shipping companies, triggering confusion among Euro entities like Maersk as well as US lines.
Fleming: Pangu disagreed with how its Pangu Plaza property was displayed in Transformers, and used as pressure the threat of delaying China distribution to get its way. Everybody walks on eggshells in these …
In June last year, Chinese real estate developer Beijing Pangu Investment Company signed a sponsorship deal with the producers of Transformers: Age Of Extinction. Under the terms, the group’s flagship Beijing Pangu Plaza hotel would be featured in the film. Now, in an 11th-hour strike, Pangu says it has terminated the contract.
A statement from the company dated June 18, a day before this week’s Hong Kong premiere, has begun circulating in China alleging that its partners, Paramount Pictures, Jia Fu Company, Jia Fu China Co. Ltd. and Beijing Cheng Xin Sheng Shi Sports Culture Development Co. Ltd., “did not perform the terms” of what I hear was a deal worth roughly $1M. Pangu claims the contract was terminated on June 15 and says it is also terminating permission for the use of its image, logo, or views of the building from the inside or out. If already used in the film, “they shall all be deleted,” the company said. The building does indeed feature in the movie, which I caught at CineEurope this week. Could this issue affect the film’s release? I’m told no. A source says, “This is all about product placement, they didn’t feel like they got full promotion and exposure.” But, it has “nothing to do with distribution.”
China Film Group, the state-backed entity that controls distribution in the country, was not named by Pangu. The movie closes the Shanghai Film Festival this weekend and is set for a day-and-date China release …
Reporting from Barcelona…
Studio executives and international exhibitors are gathered this week in Barcelona for the annual CineEurope conference. Akin to CinemaCon, the event is an occasion for studios to tubthump their upcoming slates through the rest of 2014 and into 2015. On the ground are reps from DreamWorks, Warner Bros, Universal, Fox, Paramount, Disney, Sony, Mister Smith, Studiocanal and eOne. There are also representatives of some Chinese, and other non-European, companies on the trade show floor as international box office increasingly expands. Year-on-year, the overseas box office is up about 5% from January to May. The top market increases are estimated to be China (+17%), France (+17%), Brazil (+16%), Mexico (+8%), Russia (+5%) and Italy (+3%). Still, with seemingly every week a new record broken in China, and the growing impact of markets like Brazil, Russia and Korea, folks say Europe nevertheless continues to be the major overseas driver for Hollywood.
“The UK, Germany and France remain a critical part of our business,” says a studio exec. Like the U.S., they are mature and not growing in the same way as the emerging markets, but are “hugely important to our overall international business, if not more important.” Because emerging markets will eventually mature as well, I’m told the studios can’t “afford to rely” on them alone. “We need to focus on making our movies work in these mature markets, so they remain strong consumers of our movies.”
Importantly, another studio …
On Friday, Deadline reported that Relativity Media is forming a joint partnership with Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp to develop, co-finance, co-produce and distribute film and TV projects for the Chinese and international marketplace. JSBC is making an equity investment in Relativity as part of the deal. Expanding on that, Relatvity announced today at the Shanghai International Film Festival that it has been appointed as the strategic international distribution partner for Chinese language films licensed by China Film Promotion International, a state-owned government agency that oversees the promotion and commercial distribution of Chinese films abroad. Ryan Kavanaugh’s company has also signed a strategic advisory agreement with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited via which investment firm SeedShine Capital has entered a binding agreement to invest in Relativity. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Under the CFPI deal, Relativity will distribute select Chinese language films in the U.S. and help to promote them at various major overseas film festivals, receiving a distribution fee. While box office is growing at a breakneck pace in China, local films have had difficulty traveling. The first title that Relativity will release in the U.S. under the CFPI deal is expected to be Imperial Consort Yang. Now in production, the epic romance war drama is a love story involving Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. Cheng Shiqing directs with Fan Bingbing, Leon …
UPDATE, SATURDAY 10:55 AM PT: Godzilla continued its domination of the China box office on Saturday with a flash estimate of $14.8M from approximately 9,000 screens. The No. 1 film in the market this weekend gave Warner Bros its biggest ever Saturday (and 2nd day) results in the territory. After bowing to $10.9M on Friday, the Warner/Legendary film now has a local cume of $25.8M, according to the studio. The international total as of today is an estimated $237.4M. More numbers and analysis to come tomorrow.
PREVIOUS, FRIDAY 12:47 PM PT:Warner Bros and Legendary‘s Godzilla roared into the world’s second biggest box office market today with a monstrous $10.9M bow. The Gareth Edwards-directed creature feature is playing on an estimated 9,000 screens, more than a third of the nation’s moviegoing real estate. The bow marks Warner Bros’ biggest opening day of all time in the territory and is the biggest opening day there for 2014, according to the studio. The Lizard opened internationally in May with $103.4M overseas. Its domestic open was $93.1M; in North America it now has a cume of about $187.5M. Internationally, its cume as of last weekend was $208.7M in 63 markets.
EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Media is forming a joint partnership with Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp to develop, cofinance coproduce and distribute film and TV projects for the Chinese and international marketplace. JSBC is making an equity investment in Relativity as part of the deal, which will be unveiled shortly at the Shanghai International Film Festival. JSBC is a major media entity in China with TV, radio, newspaper, magazine and web platforms. The deal is expected to give Ryan Kavanaugh’s company a foothold in the burgeoning marketplace. Relativity made its first foray in China with SkyLand Entertainment, a film distribution and finance company located in Beijing that was hatched as a joint venture between Relativity, IDG China Media Fund and SAIF Partners.
“China is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing markets for every form of content, and Relativity has long been focused on expanding our footprint in this incredibly dynamic market. The partnership with JSBC…will further strengthen the robust foundation we have built in China,” said Ryan Kavanaugh, CEO of Relativity. “By collaborating with JSBC, we will deepen our relationship with the Chinese media and entertainment industry and provide a world-class platform from which to co-develop Chinese and international film, television, and sports content with one of the preeminent media companies in China.”
Mr. Bu Yu, President of JSBC, said, “JSBC is delighted to make this investment into Relativity, one of the world’s most disruptive and fastest growing media companies. Combining our distribution and …
Twitter definitely is big in the U.S. and many other countries, but don’t count on it becoming legally available in China in the near future, said CEO Dick Costolo today at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “In my conversations over there in Shanghai, I don’t think Twitter or Facebook will be unblocked [on Chinese Internet servers] anytime soon,” said Costolo, responding to a question from an audience member who said she was with the Chinese Internet company TenCent. “So my conversations over there are about the kinds of business we can do.” For Twitter, that means talking with “lots of Chinese-based advertisers who are delivering ads overseas,” Costolo said. He then added carefully, “That was the majority of our conversations over there.” As for the rest of his Shanghai conversations, Costolo hinted that Twitter executives did meet with Chinese representatives about how it could finally be available there. “We’re in the very beginning stages of what it would look like over there.”
EXCLUSIVE: On Sunday, the Huading Film Awards will see Chinese stars come to Hollywood to rub shoulders with local celebrities and honor the global film industry as well as their home market. Lucy Liu has now been set to co-host with Chinese presenter Olivia Xu at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. Don Mischer Productions is producing the bilingual stage event in the U.S. for the first time. It will be broadcast in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and on the International Chinese Network. Organizers say it is expected to reach an audience of up to 600M viewers on more than 60 TV channels in China, with an additional 400M viewers projected online. The awards are selected by the Chinese public who vote for separate prizes for Chinese and global films, including Movie of the Year, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Song, Emerging Actor/Actress, Animated Film, Costume Design, and a single Lifetime Achievement award.
Back in February, Chinese authorities made good on a promise to crack down on exhibitors who manipulate box office figures, banning nine movie theaters from screening new films. A further seven are now facing the same punishment. Those numbers may be a drop in the bucket in a country of over 18,000 screens, but it’s a sign the government is serious about keeping tabs on the booming, and heavily regulated, industry. On Monday, the China Film Producers’ Association and the China Film Distribution and Exhibition Association issued a statement saying the theaters had used a dual software system that enabled them to sell tickets without registering the real takings to one uniform system, the Xinhua news agency reports. In January, State authority SAPPRFT issued a memo spelling out new regulations that demanded all commercial cinemas upgrade their software to a national digital ticketing platform before May 1. Increased scrutiny at the turnstiles is a reaction to what’s believed to be a long-held industry practice of hiding income from the government which takes a 3% value-added tax on revenues as well as a 5% film fund tax. The seven cinemas involved this week are facing an indefinite suspension. It’s not clear whether they were able to cash in on X-Men: Days Of Future Past‘s fantastic opening this weekend, nor if they will get to ride Godzilla‘s coattails when he arrives on June …
In the first five months of 2014, Chinese box office hit 10.2B yuan, or about $1.63B, with local movies dominating the market at 56% through May 21. Watchdog SAPPRFT released the figures today via state news agency Xinhua. Those numbers have led analysts to predict total 2014 box office could top out at a staggering 28B yuan, or around $4.49B. That would rep a 24.7% change from 2013 which ended with $3.6B. I say staggering because the numbers really do look wild, but a 24.7% increase would be slightly lower than the 27.5% jump from 2012 to 2013.
It’s difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison with 2013 based on the figures released today given that last year the authority provided half-year numbers in July. However, it’s worth noting that it took six months in 2013 for box office to cross the 10B yuan mark. This year, it was less than five. In the first six months of 2013, Chinese films also ruled the box office at about 61%, grossing $1.1B in the semester which had total takings of $1.79B. This was a reversal from the whole of 2012 when, much to the chagrin of SAPPRFT (then SARFT), market share had fallen to under 50% for the first time in four years.
Mili Pictures Worldwide, a new animation company based in China, has opened a Los Angeles office and has tapped High School Musical producer Bill Borden to run it. The company, which is launching its first pic — the vidgame-based Dragon Nest — in July in China, has also set its first movie for LA pre-production: the comedy Ping Pong Rabbit. Work is underway with Corpse Bride co-director Mike Johnson directing a script by High School Musical scribe Peter Barsocchini. Under the model, production will move into the animation process in China in the fall to take advantage of lower costs. “I’m incredibly excited to be working with the young team at Mili, which has big ambitions backed by great artists and strong resources,” said Borden,whose producer credits also include Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle and Mission: Impossible 3. “I saw their animation for Dragon Nest and was blown away by the artistic quality. When I heard how low the budget was, I was blown away again. I saw huge potential to do great work here.”
Mili Pictures was formed by a group of animators working and China. They are backed by China online game operator Shanda Games, which gives Mili access to game properties to tap for movies. That arrangement spawned Dragon Nest, from animation director Song Yuefeng in his feature debut. Ran Zhou wrote the script, and distribution rights outside China are being sold at Cannes by All Rights Entertainment.
Ivanhoe Pictures and Beijing Galloping Horse Film Co have acquired the Chinese theatrical and all platform rights for the John Carney-directed Begin Again. Starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld and Adam Levine, Begin Again is a comedy about a dejected music business executive who forms a bond with a young singer-songwriter new to Manhattan. The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival and opens in North America and Europe this summer. Ivanhoe and Galloping Horses’ acquisition of the title will bring it to Asian markets.
While Begin Again (then titled Can A Song Save Your Life) was the biggest deal at Toronto when The Weinstein Company acquired North American rights, how will Carney’s music-infused film fare in China? Ivanhoe is fullish, partly as co-star and Maroon 5 frontman Levine is very popular in China. Some of that is through the appetite for The Voice. A version of the show is produced for China, but the version on which he’s a host also has awareness even though it isn’t on the dial there. It’s the first major acquisition for Ivanhoe Pictures since it was also launched out of the 2013 Toronto Film Festival to fund and produce film and TV projects with global appeal, particularly in China, India, Korea and Japan. The venture was hatched by financier Robert Friedland and vet producer John Penotti and Beijing based executive Ray Chen. The company is also in development on Kevin …
Chinese watchdog the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has reportedly ordered local video sites to halt streaming of some U.S. TV shows. According to the Associated Press, they include current series The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife and NCIS, as well as legal drama The Practice which ended its domestic run in 2004. Leading site Youku confirmed to the news agency that it had received notification from SAPPRFT that the shows could no longer be streamed. No reason was given for the clampdown. Online streaming has traditionally been less hindered over its content as compared to state television and movies which are routinely censored. However, sites, which license hundreds of shows that are streamed with ads, are sometimes ordered to remove content that is deemed unsuitable. Late last month, the South China Morning Post said internet users were up in arms over talk of new censorship guidelines which could limit what Western series they can access. Shows like House Of Cards — despite its Season 2 themes of Chinese political corruption — and Sherlock have been extremely popular online. The AP said today that another leading site, Sohu, counts Nikita and Masters Of Sex among its most popular shows. Neither was included in the recent SAPPRFT order.