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 … Read More »
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.
After agreeing in principle to support the conclusion of a co-production treaty last December, the UK and China have finally put pen to paper. British Culture Minister Ed Vaizey and Vice Minister Tong Gang of state authority SAPPRFT signed the pact in Beijing today. The treaty, which is subject to ratification, is being touted by Britain as welcome news. It could ease access to the world’s second-largest box office market: Films will have to qualify for true co-production status, which eliminates the quota barrier on foreign movies. The exact qualifying criteria have yet to be laid out, but would be expected to include financial and cultural elements. Importantly, if a film is granted the co-production seal, it will be able to access “national benefits including sources of finance” the parties said today. That means the lucrative UK film tax relief system as well as the BFI Film Fund. BFI CEO Amanda Nevill called the treaty “hugely significant for UK film as it will open the door for our filmmakers to collaborate and contribute to each other’s success.” The BFI has been pushing hard to enhance its relationship with China. In January, it established the Electric Shadows initiative encompassing a year of business, trade, and creative and cultural collaborations between the countries.
Simon Dickson Exiting As Managing Director Of Shine Group’s Dragonfly
Simon Dickson, Managing Director of Shine Group factual producer Dragonfly, is leaving the company after three years. The exec will step down next month, with Dragonfly Creative Director Mark Raphael and COO Lucinda Hicks taking over as Co-Managing Directors. Dickson joined Dragonfly in April 2011 as the company’s Creative Director before becoming Managing Director in November 2012. Prior to joining Dragonfly, he served as Deputy Head of Documentaries at Channel 4. At Dragonfly, Dickson was executive producer on event documentary The Plane Crash (Discovery and Channel 4) and celebrities-in-the-wilderness series Bear Grylls’ Wild Weekends (Channel 4). Under his stewardship the company has delivered such documentaries as The Horsemeat Banquet (BBC Three), Terror At Sea: The Sinking Of The Concordia (Channel 4) and Hurricane Sandy: Anatomy Of A Superstorm (BBC Two) alongside series People Like Us and What Happens In Kavos for BBC Three and Channel 4, respectively. Read More »
The primetime special built around Johnny Depp‘s two-day China promotional tour for Transcendence aired locally Thursday night on ZheJiangTV, a national network that reaches about 1.2 billion people. With an average nightly audience of about 200 million, it would be fair to say that a lot more Chinese are familiar with Wally Pfister’s directorial debut than they may have been otherwise. The event is part of a growing belief that marketing directly to China pays off. It was reminiscent of last year’s Iron Man 3 gala that put Robert Downey Jr front and center and was also organized by DMG Entertainment. That worked out well for Iron Man 3, and a similar effect is hoped for here.
Related: Johnny Depp Rocks Beijing In Support Of ‘Transcendence’: Photos
The Transcendence special was meant to be entertaining, but also had a very targeted agenda. I’m told much of the content was geared towards the audience better understanding what the film is about, and the science and technology behind it. The live audience at the events taped in late March saw Depp learn some Mandarin, share the stage with Chinese actors like Wu Xiu Bo and Wu Bing, and jam with with rocker David Tao. Singaporean pop star JJ Lin also performed a tribute to Depp singing a song from Sweeney Todd. Such efforts, it’s said, allow … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: As The New Republic turns 100 years old, Sony Pictures and Escape Artists have made a pre-emptive acquisition of “The Year Of The Pigskin,” a just-published feature by Christopher Beam about the unlikely success of the Chongqing Dockers, one of the first teams in the very first American football league to form in China. The catalyst was a 26-year-old American, the son of police detectives whose pro football dreams were dashed after a shoulder injury incurred while he was a star player at the University of Michigan. He became the team’s coach and star player. The feature is a template for a Bad News Bears-like film that will be shot in China, as the Dockers and its players with names like Fat Baby, Bobo, and Weezy get molded from undisciplined players afraid to hit one another into a group of warriors that battled for the championship against archrival Shanghai Warriors. Read More »
Last week, an event was held in Hong Kong where, among other things, it was said that a second distribution license to import and release movies in China is being issued to the China National Culture & Art Corporation (CNCAC). Such a license could spell the demise of China Film Group‘s exclusive grip on Mainland revenue-share releasing — and create another potential partner for Hollywood. While there has been talk that a new government-approved distributor could emerge, a number of China-watchers have remained cautious on the timing, and just who the involved parties would be. One told me recently, “Many believe they can in due course obtain a second license.” Now, reported comments from an official at the Chinese state watchdog, and the revision of an announcement by Hong Kong-based China Railsmedia, which held the press conference and has business connections with the CNCAC, seem to confuse things even further. Read More »
Johnny Depp started his Chinese promotional tour for Transcendence in Beijing tonight, playing guitar for about 1,000 invited guests and fans. The event was held at the 798 art zone inside a decomissioned factory that was built during the period of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Depp is in Beijing to boost the profile of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, which opens day-and-date with the U.S. on April 18. Warner Bros is releasing Stateside. Hollywood stars are increasingly traveling to China to promote their films in the world’s second largest box office market. This two-day tour is hosted by DMG Entertainment which produced Transcendence with Alcon Entertainment and Straight Up Films. Last year, DMG pulled off a similar one-of-a-kind event in support of Iron Man 3, bringing Robert Downey Jr to town for a gala inside the Forbidden City. That show looked a little more formal, while tonight’s was more rock-and-roll, with a massive fan base coming out to see Depp. Joining him onstage was Taiwanese R&B/hard rock artist David Tao, a big local star. Depp jammed on guitar while Tao sang a tune made famous in the early 1990s by Cui Jian, aka “The Father of Chinese Rock”. Here’s an exclusive snap of the duo:
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In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at a big Chinese tour by star Johnny Depp ahead of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut on April 18 with Transcendence. They stay in China to discuss Discovery’s consulting and content deal with a new pay-TV channel from Wasu Digital, then jump to the UK, which has again beefed up its tax incentives for film and TV production, even with existing facilities there already straining to accommodate demand. Nancy and David also take their weekly peek at trends in the international box office, led by Need For Speed and Noah. The U.S. champ for the weekend, Divergent, opened in 18 territories, but remains a mystery as Lionsgate holds off reporting its numbers.
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 31 (.MP3 version)
Global Showbiz Watch podcast 31 (.M4A version)
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Wally Pfister‘s directorial debut Transcendence will open on April 18 in China, a coveted day-and-date release with the U.S. Warner Bros is distributing in the States. The Johnny Depp sci-fi action drama will be exclusively released in China in 3D and IMAX 3D, a growing trend that recently saw Robocop converted to the format solely for the massive market. Trenscendence will also have a 2D release locally. Day-and-Date is a big deal in China where piracy is rampant; Disney’s Need For Speed opened simultaneously with the U.S. two weeks ago and outperformed the domestic haul in its first weekend. China is now the movie’s biggest market worldwide. Transcendence is the first product of a partnership between Alcon Entertainment and Beijing-based DMG Entertainment to finance, produce, and distribute films (LA-based Straight Up Films is also a producer). DMG has some experience here, having secured a pre-day-and-date release last year for Iron Man 3 — it went out May 1 in China and May 3 in the U.S. and went on to be the No. 2 movie in China for the year with about $125M in box office. The China Transcendence release will follow Depp’s big promotional swing through China beginning March 31 and replete with a series of primetime TV specials to be shown nationwide in the lead up … Read More »
UPDATE, WRITETHRU 8:05 AM PT: DreamWorks Animation and partners held a kick-off ceremony in Shanghai earlier today to unveil the master design plan for their DreamCenter entertainment complex. The $2.4B “lifestyle destination” is due to begin construction this year and open in 2017. On the ground were DWA CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, China Media Capital chairman Ruigang Li; chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, Allan Zeman; and reps of CDB Capital. The “Dreams Come True” celebration presented further details and new artists renderings of the 463,000 square meter complex (continued below):
Waterfront Cultural Plaza
Among the attractions will be a 500-seat IMAX movie theater to accomodate international film festivals and red carpet events (pic below). Bars, restaurants and performance venues are part of the designs and there will be a “Dream Avenue” theater district fashioned after Broadway and the West End in London. DreamCenter will also house the headquarters of Oriental DreamWorks, the joint venture between DWA, CMC and other local partners who are cooperating on the production of Kung Fu Panda 3. Katzenberg offered, “As the home base for Oriental DreamWorks Studio for the creation of top-quality family entertainment, DreamCenter is the place where great entertainment is not only displayed, but also where it is created.” The DreamCenter project was originally announced in 2012 for projected completion in 2016. It’s one of two major studio efforts in Shanghai. … Read More »
In a deal that gives it further access to the Chinese market, Discovery Communications has partnered with China’s Wasu Digital TV Media Group to supply content for new local pay-TV channel Qiu Suo. The subscription channel launched earlier this week and offers factual and lifestyle entertainment programming from outlets including Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet. Wasu is owned by State-run outfits Hangzhou Culture, Radio and Television Group and the Zhejiang Radio and Television Group. It has China’s largest digital content library and about 20M subscribers. Discovery, some of whose programming was already available in China via other providers, will act as a channel and content consultant for Qiu nSuo. Arjan Hoekstra, president and managing director of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, said, “The new channel will introduce millions of Chinese viewers to some of Discovery’s best content and, building on the success of our existing business in China, paves the way for the next phase of growth for Discovery in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.” Discovery has been on a big international push of late. In January, it fast-tracked its acquisition of a controlling stake in pan-European platform Eurosport, and last year bought the SBS Nordic operations of Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1. It’s also understood to be considering a bid for the UK’s Channel 5.
In April 2013, China pulled out the stops for Robert Downey Jr’s splashy visit to Beijing in support of Iron Man 3. That included a red carpet gala at the Forbidden City; the only time a Hollywood film had ever been celebrated inside the imperial Taimiao Temple. The extra push paid off: The movie went on to be No. 2 at the Chinese box office for 2013 with over $121M. Marvel’s partner on Iron Man 3, DMG Entertainment, hosted the event and is now planning something similar for Johnny Depp and sci-fic action drama Transcendence. In his first visit to the Middle Kingdom, Depp’s two-day tour kicks off on March 31 and I’m told it will be “as exciting and uniquely DMG/China,” but also tailored specifically to Depp and the film, with a different location, themes and content. DMG says Depp will appear alongside “the most acclaimed Chinese actors, the most popular Chinese musicians, and the most influential Chinese artists at events that will be broadcast across China” in the lead up to the film’s local premiere. Transcendence is the first product of a partnership between Alcon Entertainment and Beijing-based DMG to finance, produce, and distribute films. Warner Bros releases the pic in the U.S. on April 18. There … Read More »
In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at what’s behind the big buying spree in U.S. and European TV production companies, try to make sense of Bruno Wu’s latest complicated and confusing international deal and note another win for the U.K.’s booming production scene, thanks to a Disney Channel production there.
Nancy and David also will take their weekly look at the international box office, led by the surprisingly fast finish for Need For Speed in China, the continued global rise of 300: Rise Of An Empire, Frozen’s stretch run for the all-time box office record for an animated film, and Universal’s Spanish success. Read More »
Chinese media is reporting that influential executive Han Sanping has officially said he has stepped down as chairman of China Film Group. I reported exclusively in early January that there were management shifts at the top ranks of the Chinese film business, notably that a decision had been made around January 1 for Han to leave his post at CFG. Han himself has now told local press that he has stepped aside, saying that at 60 he has reached retirement age. Han is expected to go on to run a large film fund and act as a consultant to CFG. The state-owned group controls distribution in China and is the key to getting foreign movies into the country since it alone has the right to import them. It is also the biggest producer of local films and co-productions. In his role as chairman of CFG, Han has been referred to as the “gatekeeper” between Hollywood and China. His power and influence have been described as that of Jack Valenti, Lew Wasserman, and Steven Spielberg all rolled into one. However, in January, I was told that Han had largely become a figurehead and hadn’t been involved in major policymaking for “more than a year.” He will be succeeded by CFG deputy chairman LA Peikang and vice chairman Jiao Hongfen, both of whom are already known to Hollywood.
London and LA-based Content Media Corporation and Chinese media entrepreneur Bruno Wu are partnering in a multi-layered deal that will in part see Content acquire the Beijing-based Alive Group of companies from Wu’s Seven Stars Media. Alive is active in China across TV production and distribution; feature film production and theatrical distribution; digital distribution of English-language programming; music rights; advertising and marketing services; and sports programming under the Tiger Sports brand. The deal involves an unspecified direct equity investment by Seven Stars into Content Media. It will also place Wu on the Content board as chairman. Seven Stars vice-chairman, Alex Cherepakhov, will be a non-executive director. Huw Davies, who had been chairman, is stepping down.
This is the latest in increasing tie-ups between Hollywood and China, and the most recent project involving Wu, who has his hands in several deals. Under this one, Content will distribute its own library of film and TV properties through the Alive Group to the Chinese market. It will also offer producers direct distribution opportunities in China through Alive subsidiaries. In the reverse, Content will handle international distribution of certain rights owned by the Alive Group. One of the first commercial activities of the new venture is Team China, a 10-hour martial arts reality show made for CCTV5. Wu is hot on martial arts and when we sat down … Read More »
It’s been two years since China passed Japan to become the world’s No. 2 box office territory, and Columbia Pictures is making a big push to raise its profile there. The company said today that it has sealed partnership deals with Chinese filmmakers and companies to expand its local-language production in the planet’s most populous country. The first project on tap is The Monk, a martial arts action from Palme d’Or-winning director Chen Kaige, which is shooting on location in Hebei Province. Sony Pictures Releasing International plans a summer 2015 bow for the Chen Hong-produced pic, which follows a young monk who is forced to leave his impoverished monastery and must rely on his extraordinary martial arts skills to survive on the outside. He comes across a rare book about a lost martial art — a book coveted by a sinister father and son who will go to any lengths to obtain it. New Classics Media will distribute The Monk in China. The pic marks Columbia’s second recent production in Mainland China, following the upcoming Gone With The Bullets, Jiang Wen’s follow-up to his 2010 action comedy Let The Bullets Fly, which made $140M worldwide.
Related: ‘Gone With The Bullets’ Gets China Release Date
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Making good on a promise to get tough with exhibitors who manipulate box office figures, Chinese authorities have banned nine movie theaters from screening new films. The state-controlled Xinhua news agency says cinemas in such areas as Shandong Province and northern Shanxi have been found reporting fake numbers to the government, selling hand-written tickets (or none at all) or interfering with official box office inspections. The news was issued in a statement from the China Film Producers Association and the China Film Distribution and Screening Association, two semi-official bodies that fall under the purview of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. The suspensions are 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. Increased scrutiny should be welcome news to Hollywood studios who are entitled to a 25% revenue share with exhibitors. China’s reported box office in 2013 was $3.6B, but industry experts believe the real figure is at least 10% higher.
Related: China To Crack Down On Fraudulent Box Office Reporting With New Ticketing System
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3rd UPDATE, 3:20 PM PT Monday: The Lego Movie has upped its overseas weekend cume to $24M in its 48 markets due to stronger UK and France numbers. It now has an international total estimated at $93.5M. Key building block territories yet to bow include Russia, Japan, Australia and Germany. In the UK, Lego took the wind out of the box office with a 55% share among the top five films and its gross actually increased 1% from opening weekend. It has taken $36M in the UK since its debut. The French opening also came in higher than expected this frame with $3.1M from 521 screens. With U.S. cumes this weekend (where it was No. 1 for the third week in a row), the worldwide total is now $276.5M. Also via Warner Bros, Best picture Oscar contender Gravity‘s new cume worldwide is $703.6M after this weekend with international repping $434.4M. We are still waiting on confirmed opening weekend numbers from China for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.
2ND UPDATE, 2:10 PM PT MONDAY: Actuals are trickling in with no huge surprises in the bunch so far. Universal added figures for Ride Along, the Ice Cube/Kevin Hart action comedy that’s been so hot Stateside. It bowed in Iceland and South Africa this weekend with $20K at seven dates and $87K at 50 dates, respectively. Its … Read More »