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ITV Reboots ‘Millionaire’ With Ticking Clock

By | Wednesday July 28, 2010 @ 5:30am PDT

Every Hollywood screenwriter knows that the way to ratchet up tension is to introduce a ticking clock. And that’s just what ITV is doing with the next series of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire over here. Contestants will have just 15 seconds to answer the £500 and £1,000 questions. They’ll have 30 seconds to answer every question after that, including the £1 million jackpot. The US introduced a looming ticking clock in 2008. Other tweaks include a new feature called “Switch” where contestants can swap a question they don’t like for another. Will the Millionaire reboot help the show’s declining ratings? I dunno. I guess I’d better phone a friend.

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German TV Slashing Film Investment

By | Wednesday July 14, 2010 @ 2:23am PDT

German_flagActors, directors and producers in Germany have united to fight broadcaster cuts in the amount TV invests in feature films. Talks are ongoing with Germany’s public and private broadcasters. If nothing’s resolved, Germany’s filmmakers will write a joint letter of complaint.

The percentage of the average film’s budget provided by TV stations has already fallen from 14% in 2007 to 8% last year.

Matthias Schwarz of the German Producers Alliance tells me broadcasters are frightened about their own declining income.

Broadcasters contributed €16 million ($25 million) to features co-funded by state agency the DFFF last year. Public TV injected €11 million, private channels €5 million. In addition, German broadcasters have separate funding arrangements with Germany’s regional film funds.

On top of this, channels must give free advertising away to German films on TV. Private channels contributed €8.5 million worth of spots. Public TV made €3 million worth of ad space available.

It’s long been argued that broadcasters benefit most from film production. A film’s advertising campaign acts as free publicity for when the film’s shown on TV. Most independent producers scrape a living, while TV channels enjoy the benefits of their work on the cheap.

German TV is also trying to spend less on expensive made-for-television drama as well. Like everywhere else, broadcasters know the real money is to be made on glossy “shiny floor shows” such as X Factor.

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Johnny English Recruits Gillian Anderson

gillian_andersonEXCLUSIVE: The X Files star has been cast as MI7 secret agent Pamela Head in Johnny English Reborn. The Working Title film starts shooting in September. Anderson stars opposite Rowan Atkinson, reprising his turn as the buffoonish spy. She’s represented by CAA and Independent Talent in London.

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‘League of Gentleman’ Creator Wins Prize

By | Friday July 9, 2010 @ 12:46am PDT

League_Of_GentlemenJeremy Dyson, co-creator of cult BBC comedy The League of Gentlemen, won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize last night for The Cranes That Build Cranes. Ghost Stories, the sell-out play which Dyson co-wrote, is transferring to the West End following its sell-out run. Apparently, the play’s really scary. Dyson is represented by Simon Trewin at United Agents.

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UK Box Office Rises To $775M in First Half

That’s a rise of 3% year-on-year. And the best is yet to come this month and next, with the release of Toy Story 3 – tipped to be the biggest movie of the year – adult must-see Inception and Twi-hard threequel Twilight: Eclipse. Around 25 million people are expected to go to the cinema in July and August alone, says trade body Film Distributors’ Association.

But the movie marketplace continues to grow, creating headaches for distributors. Overcrowding is the biggest problem facing the industry. Distributors released 288 titles between January and June, 18 more than in the first six months of 2009. Producers complain that movies are pushed off screens before they’ve had a chance.

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Who’s Not Bidding For UK’s Channel Five

FiveEXCLUSIVE: The European TV producer Endemol will not be among those bidding for the UK’s fifth terrestrial channel. ITV has also walked away from the auction, as has BSkyB and Time Warner. Endemol’s founder John De Mol is bidding, as is Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers. Endemol may still try and get its Big Brother TV show on Five though. RTL wants up to $234 million for the loss-making TV channel. This is beginning to resemble a game of musical chairs. Every time the music stops, another would-be bidder walks off. Endemol was unavailable for comment.

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‘Eclipse’ Kicks Off Big International Run

twilight-saga-eclipse-posterUPDATED: Summit Entertainment is disclosing that THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE had “an incredible start” overseas. Despite great weather and the World Cup, ECLIPSE launched with an estimated $19M from 22 markets. The only major territories that opened on June 30th were Italy, Brazil, and CIS. Other majors like Spain, Australia and Mexico launch today. France, Germany, S. Korea and Japan will launch in the weeks to come. Here are some highlights of opening day results:

ITALY – No. 1 and the 3rd best opening of all time with an estimated €2.550M and counting from 638 playdates. ECLIPSE outgrossed the opening day of HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and ICE AGE 3D and outperformed NEW MOON’s opening of €1.934M.

BELGIUM – No. 1, the highest opening day of all time ousting HARRY POTTER 5 (587K Euros) and outperforming HARRY POTTER 1,2,3,4. The opening day grossed an estimated €875K and counting, with approx 89K+ admissions, including the super successful midnight shows

BRAZIL – An incredible No. 1 start in Brazil with an estimated 4.3M Reals from 310 play dates. The opening day was stronger than that of HARRY POTTER’s 4.015M Reals. ECLIPSE has also bested NEW MOON’s opening day which tallied 3.7M Reals. Read More »

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BBC vs TV Stars: Talent Agents Dismiss Beeb Threat To Reveal Their Clients’ Pay

bbc-logo-21217808The talent agents point out the BBC needs their clients’ permission to quote how much their clients earn. Which the stars are hardly likely to give. “What the BBC is doing is just a sop to the government,” says one agent. Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC’s oversight body BBC Trust, has called on the Beeb to publish how much its stars earn. It all stems from the furor after the BBC disclosed that TV host Jonathan Ross was paid £6 million ($9 million) a year. Read More »

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Newspaper Tycoon Tipped To Win Five

FiveRichard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers, is seen as a frontrunner to buy UK terrestrial channel Five. Other bidders include John De Mol, founder of TV producer Endemol (Big Brother), and Endemol itself, which De Mol’s investment company Cyrte Investments owns one third of.

You may wonder, as I have, why De Mol would want to bid against a company he indirectly owns part of? The answer is, apparently, that there’s no love lost between De Mol and the company he co-founded back in the 1990s. De Mol’s Cyrte Investments has reportedly teamed up with Talpa Media and Greece’s Antenna Group for De Mol’s personal bid, says the Financial Times.

Analysts believe that RTL wants up to $245 million for Five. It is difficult to put a price on Five because, although it is loss-making, it has a strategic value which belies its place in the market. Five also owns desirable slots on the Freeview digital terrestrial TV service. Like newspapers, there’s bragging rights in owning a TV station. Not many come up for sale. That’s why they’re so prized.

Desmond is a colourful character with a £950 million ($1.4 billion) fortune. His TV interests include digital porn channels Television X and Red Hot TV.

BSkyB was kicking the tyres on Five, as was Time Warner, but both have walked away.

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Cineworld Income Rises 4% Over 7 Months

CineworldThe UK multiplex operator says total revenue, including ticket sales and popcorn, rose by 3.7% in the 26 weeks to July 1. Box office has increased by 4.1% including this month’s World Cup month. But the ticket sales rise was offset by a 3.2% decline in popcorn and Coke sales. Other income rose by 31.4%. Cinema chains will no doubt welcome England getting kicked out of the World Cup on Sunday. Tumbleweed has been rolling through the multiplexes during the tournament. Next time we Brits invent a sport, we should just keep it to ourselves. That way we might at least win something.

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Shine Acquires UK Comedy TV Producer

By | Tuesday June 29, 2010 @ 1:04pm PDT

Shine Group logo LargeLiz Murdoch has talked about wanting to beef up comedy at her Shine Group and now she’s done it. Shine has bought UK comedy producer Brown Eyed Boy from Motive Television. This is Shine’s 5th new UK-based production company alongside Dragonfly (factual), Kudos (drama), Princess Productions (entertainment) and Shine TV. Gary Reich, managing director of Brown Eyed Boy, has discovered some of Britain’s best comedians including Sacha Baron Cohen and The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. NBC is developing a U.S. version of Brown Eyed’s BBC sitcom How Not To Live Your Life.

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Michael Grade Shrugs Off Call For Him To Quit As Pinewood Shepperton Boss

Michael_GradeThe former ITV chairman has survived a shareholder rebellion at this morning’s annual general meeting of the company that owns Pinewood and Shepperton film studios.

Crystal Amber, an activist investment fund with 18% of the shares in Pinewood Shepperton has attacked Grade’s “poor stewardship” as chairman of the company. The fund says the board needs fresh leadership.

Grade led the management buyout from Rank in 2000. Profits and return on capital have fallen by more than half since the business was floated in May 2004.

The fund first invested in Pinewood Shepperton 18 months ago because it felt the studio was undervalued. It then put forward its own proposals as to how market perception of the value of the business might be improved. Richard Bernstein, Crystal’s investment adviser, said that although initially well-received, nothing has happened and subsequent meetings with Grade have been “unproductive”.

Pinewood Shepperton says that most shareholders are behind it, which “gives us confidence that they support the board, its stewardship and strategy”.

The group has invited Steven Underwood of investor the Peel Group, which holds 26.6% of the company, to join the board.

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Bolloré Media Launches Movie Arm

By | Monday June 28, 2010 @ 8:26am PDT

Virgin_17The French industrial group is setting up a movie acquisition and co-production subsidiary. Bolloré Media will invest €3 million ($3.8 million) in the company. Called Direct Cinéma, the new division will buy or co-produce between 6 and 10 films each year. Budgets will be between €2-8 million.

Direct Cinéma will supply the group’s two digital-terrestrial TV channels, Direct 8 and Virgin 17. The Virgin channel mainly shows music videos, while Direct 8 tries to stand out by being mostly live (in French the word “direct” means “live”).

Franck Priot of Film France tells me that he is not surprised that Direct 8 and Virgin 17 want to show original movies. Currently they only show films that have already wended their way through various French pay-TV channels and free-to-air networks

Before French independent producers start uncorking the Pernod, it’s sobering to remember what tiny viewing figures these DTT channels have. They get around 200,000 viewers for programmes compared to between 3-5 million for the big terrestrial channels.

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Viewers Must Know When They’re Watching Product Placement, Says UK Regulator

By | Monday June 28, 2010 @ 8:11am PDT

Product Placement LogosBroadcasters must let TV viewers know which programmes contain product placement, according to new rules published today. A symbol will appear at the start and end of programmes, says communications regulator Ofcom.

The UK government is finally allowing product placement, after years of lobbying from commercial broadcasters. Europe has already says yes. Broadcasters hope product placement will go some way to making up lost ad revenue.

PQ Media estimates that in its first year the UK product placement will be worth in excess of £54 million ($81 million) and over £270 million across Europe. This is predicted to grow at 30% year on year, meaning that after five years the market could be worth £154.6 million in the UK.

Critics have compared product placement to Agent Orange when it comes to destroying quality television. It’s still going to be banned in news programmes, religious programmes and in children’s programmes. But banning product placement from kid’s TV is not the same as banning it from all programmes children watch.

At one point, the old Labour government said it wasn’t going to allow TV product placement. A previous culture minister said there was a lack of evidence for the economic benefits considering the cultural impact. And he was concerned about blurring the lines between ads and editorial.

The UK has always had a schizophrenic attitude towards product placement in any case. On the one hand, it has always been allowed in films. Indeed, sometimes … Read More »

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Lovely Day Hires BBC Script Producer

By | Monday June 28, 2010 @ 4:45am PDT

Shine Group logo LargeThe Kudos/Shine-based indie has poached Dominic Treadwell-Collins from the Beeb as head of development. Treadwell-Collins is currently series story producer of long-running soap EastEnders. No surprise there. Lovely Day’s managing director Diederick Santer was the soap’s executive producer. He oversaw EastEnders’ live 25th anniversary episode in February, which achieved 16.4 million viewers.

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Italian Producers Call For Exhibition Levy

By | Friday June 25, 2010 @ 3:10am PDT

Italian_flagAnica, the Italian producers association, has proposed a ticket price increase to fund local movies. Speaking at a conference on the economics of Italian cinema, Anica president Riccardo Tozzi said that ticket prices have remained fixed for years. A levy managed by trade associations could help regenerate urban cinemas and help producers. “The typical distribution channels, free and pay-TV, are a dead-end market,” he said.
Tozzi, who runs Italian production company Cattleya – which Universal bought a small stake in last year – said that the annus horribilis for Italian cinema many predicted this year did not come to pass. Instead, “the onslaught of 3D brought on an increase in the domestic market share to over 30% of total overall box office”.

Cattleya predicts that Italian admissions will rise by 20% this year to hit 120 million. Box office will also rise by 30% this year to reach €800 million ($981 million). Local films will account for €220 million of this, or 36 million tickets sold.

Stefano Massenzi, head of acquisitions and business affairs at distributor Lucky Red, tells me what producers are proposing is just a revival of an old tax on cinema tickets. Exhibitors will resist choking off the revival in Italian cinema-going and he doubts there is much appetite for it politically. Italy’s politicians, like politicians all over Europe, have their heads full of trying to stave off the sovereign debt crisis.

Meanwhile, Italian tax authority Entrate is digging in its heels … Read More »

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RHCSE Signs Four More Kids Books

Princess PoppyIt’s all children’s TV and movies today. RHCSE has optioned its next four projects: Fish-Head Steve by Jamie Smart; the Gargoyles series by Jan Burchett and Sara Vogler: the Charlie Small series by Nick Ward; and the Princess Poppy books by Janey Louise Jones. All four are being developed for TV animation or CGI, apart from Charlie Small, which may be developed as a film. The Princess Poppy series has sold over two million copies to date. RHCSE made its first move in February, taking media rights to Monster Republic by Ben Horton. Producer/financier Komixx Media Group says it’s on track to raise $100 million to fund all its programming including RHCSE projects.

The great thing about books in these recessionary, risk-averse times is that they’re brands with audiences already built in. It makes them that bit easier to sell.

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Vertigo Plans ‘Horrid Henry’ 3D Movie

Horrid_HenryBritain’s prolific production company (Streetdance 3D) is making a children’s movie next. It has teamed up with kid’s TV producer Novel Entertainment for a big-screen version of the Horrid Henry kid’s books. Nick Moore (Wild Child) is directing. Filming will take place October and November this year. Protagonist is handling international sales.

Horrid Henry is the most successful children’s literary character over here apart from Harry Potter. There’s been a long-running TV cartoon, a stage show and even a computer game. Author Francesca Simon has sold more than 16 million copies of her books in the UK alone. The series has also been published in 27 countries, including Spain, where the character’s known as Pablo Diablo, and Italy, where he’s called Rico Le Peste.

Search me as to why this one has to be 3D though – it’s just the story of a naughty little boy who plays tricks on his parents. Frankly, my kids urged me to put them down and read them something more interesting when they were small.

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UK Film Council Faces Even Deeper Cuts

By | Wednesday June 23, 2010 @ 8:34am PDT

ukfilm-logoThe culture department, which funds British film to the tune of £26 million each year, is preparing for savage cuts. The Department For Culture, Media and Sport faces having its budget slashed by 25% – or even higher – over the next four years. Earlier this month, UKFC told me it was drawing up plans for what 20% cuts in grant-in-aid expenditure might look like over three years. Now that looks optimistic.

Final government department budgets will be set in the October 20 spending review.

Chancellor George Osborne said department spending will be cut by £17 billion more than expected by 2014-14 because, he said, “the structural deficit is worse than we were told”. It’s the classic skeletons-in-the-cupboard tactic used when one politician takes over another’s job.


And the video games industry has lost the tax break it was promised by the previous Labour government — which the Conservatives originally supported.

It’s all part of the kill-or-cure Budget unveiled by the Conservatives, determined to get the UK’s debt-load down before Britain implodes like Greece or Iceland.

Trade body Tiga estimated that the video game tax relief would create, or at least keep, 3,500 college-level jobs here in Britain. Staffing levels among French games developers have increased by 20% since France introduced a 20% tax break a couple of years ago.

The BBC has also lost out. Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that a tax on landline phones, proposed by … Read More »

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