EXCLUSIVE: Hollywood loves material about the CIA. Fox International Productions is the latest to scoop up a spec script about spies with The Forger, a story about an ex-CIA forger who is living in Istanbul and must return to the world of espionage when his former agency handler turns up dead and a female Iranian intelligence agent needs to defect to the West. As time ticks away, the forger must rely on all he has learned to get her out of the country, only to find that there is more to her than he initially realized. The project, in the vein of Bourne Supremacy, will be directed by Tolga Ornek (Labyrinth) and was written by newcomer Alex Allrich (so, hey, welcome to the WGA, Alex). It will be produced by Lou Pitt, Paul Schiff and co-produced by Tai Duncan. Ornek will also share a “story by” credit. The movie may actually be filmed entirely in Turkish.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Mongrel Media Picks Up ‘100-Year-Old Man’ For Canada; Gareth Neame Reacts To Julian Fellowes’ ‘Downton Abbey’ Comments; More
Mongrel Has Date With ’100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window’
Canada’s Mongrel Media has acquired the Swedish hit The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out A Window And Disappeared. Felix Herngren’s film is an adaption of Jonas Jonasson’s best-selling novel. It’s scored big in Scandinavia so far, earning $11.4M in 12 days of release in Sweden, and has been the top movie from the region at the box office in Norway and Denmark. The film is the lighthearted story of a healthy centenarian who decides it’s not too late to start over. When Allan (Robert Gustafsson) lands in a nursing home, he refuses to celebrate his 100th birthday and instead escapes out a window to embark on a journey that involves a suitcase of cash and a gang of criminals. Flashbacks reveal that Allan also played a key role in 20th century history when he was pals with U.S. presidents and Russian tyrants. Mongrel, which acquired all Canadian rights from StudioCanal, will release it in summer this year.
‘Downton Abbey’ Creator Responds To Julian Fellowes Remarks
Earlier this week, I noted there had been some breathless reporting about comments made by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. Queried by the paper on Downton, Fellowes said he didn’t “know yet if there is a season 6, but it’s not going to go on forever. It won’t be Perry Mason.” This led to rampant headlines about the possible demise of the hit Brit period drama that just debuted its 4th season in the U.S. The response prompted Downton executive producer Gareth Neame to release a statement today to calm things down. “I can confirm that there are no plans to end the show after the fifth series,” he said. “ITV commission each series on a year-by-year basis. In an interview given to The Wall Street Journal, Julian Fellowes stated that the show would not go on forever (inevitable of course and something both he and I have been on the record for previously). For now ITV have commissioned series five, and that is what we are busy preparing,” Neame said. It’s long been known that Fellowes is signed on for NBC drama The Gilded Age with a script commitment and significant penalty attached. He’s previously said that if NBC picks up the show, he’ll be writing it when Downton “finishes.” Neame will be collaborating with Fellowes on The Gilded Age.
Monied production company Ivanhoe Pictures was launched in Toronto earlier this year by Ivanhoe Capital Corporation principal Robert Friedland, GreeneStreet president and co-founder John Penotti, and Beijing-based Ray Chen, founder and chairman of Beijing Premiere Media Company. At launch, the company said it would finance and produce film and TV projects that have broad global audience appeal, initially seeding opportunities in America and Asia, focusing on China, India, Korea and Japan. Fox International Productions, which has a lucrative local-language business in Asia and elsewhere, is now teaming with Ivanhoe in a four-year, multi-picture co-financing deal for homegrown movies in India, Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan. The pact will kick off with Ivanhoe investing in 10 FIP-produced films in varying stages of production. The investment from Ivanhoe signifies the strength of FIP’s local-language business which is also active in Latin America and Europe. Here’s the release:
LOS ANGELES, CA (November 12, 2013) __ Fox International Productions (FIP), a division of 20th Century Fox Film, and Ivanhoe Pictures, the film and television company recently launched by international financier Robert Friedland, producer John Penotti and media executive Ray Chen, have closed a four year, multi-picture, co-financing deal for local language films in India, Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan. Ivanhoe’s initial allocation is $130 million.
Highlighting the strength of commercial homegrown fare, four Argentinian films are enjoying an especially healthy run at the local box office these days. Each has studio distribution, opened No. 1 at their respective releases and each is currently nestled amongst big-ticket Hollywood fare in the top 20 pics of the …
Here’s the latest in our series of reports touching on the people, projects and polemics buzzing around the globe. This week’s report follows articles on France, India and Italy. The series will be taking a break for the next few weeks and return in August.
Japan lost its standing as the world’s No. 2 movie market when it was outpaced by China in 2012. At No. 3, it still enjoyed a slight increase in box office with $2.4B compared with 2011′s $2.3B. While China’s local market share dropped in 2012 (to rebound strongly thus far in 2013), Japanese films consistently have been dominant at home since 2008 and hit a 47-year high of 65.7% in 2012, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Tastes have changed, say watchers, as Japanese moviegoers seek lighter fare and films that better represent themselves. “Japan is very insular,” a distribution exec says. “They have a hard time exporting and importing films.” The studios are not necessarily suffering on a local level, however. Warner Bros and Fox have had success in Japan recently, working with films based on well-known manga series and TV animations. Added to that, Fox just shot part of The Wolverine locally and Warner Bros in September will release a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven.
Japan is a complex place to do business. For one, the lack of a mechanism designed for foreign shoots can make filming a challenge. The Wolverine did it, and it’s expected that could help at the box office since it’s a film that represents the Japanese and their culture. But reception in Japan won’t be clear until September 13 when the movie opens there after rolling out most everywhere else in late July and early August. Japan has little trouble with piracy, so day-and-date releases are not the rule.
Also opening on September 13 is Warner Bros’ remake of Unforgiven. Directed by Sang-il Lee, the movie stars Ken Watanabe. (One of a handful of Japanese actors who works in Hollywood and at home, he’ll also star in Martin Scorsese’s Japanese-themed passion project Silence, which starts shooting next year in Taiwan.) The Unforgiven remake was developed for over a year with Lee writing the script. The arc of the story is akin to the original, but samurai are replacing cowboys. It’s set in late 19th century Japan and has Akira Emoto in the Morgan Freeman role. The wisdom of remaking an Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood film could be questioned, but a non-Warner exec opines that “most people won’t know it’s a remake.” The most recent U.S.-to-Japan studio remake was 2010’s Ghost transfer, Ghost: In Your Arms Again, which grossed about $10M locally. (In 2010, there was also indie Paranormal Activity 2: Tokyo Night, a sort of companion sequel to Oren Peli’s original micro-budget hit.)
Fox International Productions‘ German operation had a big hit this year with The Break-Up Man, the comedy that grossed $24M locally and is being eyed as a U.S. remake. FIP Germany is now moving ahead on two new local-language projects. Shooting starts in late summer on the adaption of Andreas Steinhöfel’s children’s book Rico, Oskar And The Pasta Detectives. Neele Leana Vollmar is directing the story of friends Rico and Oskar. When Oskar disappears, Rico goes on a wild hunt throughout Berlin to save him. Alexandra Maria Lara (Downfall) plays Rico’s mother with Elyas M’Barek (The Wave), Ronald Zehrfeld (Barbara) and Milan Peschl (What A Man) also aboard. Also upcoming is Marco Petry’s teen comedy Playing Doctor
Fox International Productions has taken distribution rights in Latin America, Germany and the U.S. on action thriller Mea Culpa which Gaumont is selling. The Fred Cavayé-directed pic stars Vincent Lindon, Gilles Lellouche and Nadine Labaki. The story follows a pair of good cops who’ve been longtime partners. Their lives go into a tailspin when one causes a tragic car accident. When his family is put in danger a few years after he exits the police force, he takes matters into his own hands. Cavayé’s previous films include Anything For Her, which was remade by Paul Haggis as The Next Three Days, and Point Blank, which is being developed as an English-language remake by Leverage and Working Title. Gaumont is screening exclusive footage of the pic for buyers here in Cannes. The $20M film bows in France in early 2014.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, goes the old saying. While the studios continue trying to crack the nut of getting Hollywood films into China, many of the majors also have a wider global strategy that’s proving lucrative both there and elsewhere: Local-language production. Hollywood’s involvement in the area is not new. But, increasingly, movies that are co-produced or distributed by the majors in such places as China, India, Germany, Italy, Spain, Korea and Latin America are finding themselves reaping strong returns.
The markets “are huge,” especially where local box office rivals that of Hollywood pictures. Homegrown films in China, for example, generally snag about 50% of the annual market share and are currently widely outperforming Hollywood films – this week’s Iron Man 3 notwithstanding. In India, the indigenous share of a $2B market can be as much as 90%. There’s an argument to be made that Chinese or Indian films don’t cross cultural borders, but with those kinds of numbers, “Why would the film need to travel?” posits an exec.
Richard Fox, EVP International for Warner Bros., says the studio is looking to develop relationships to make Chinese-language films. “There are a lot of moving pieces in assessing which countries to focus on,” but, “if it doesn’t recoup in the country of origin, we don’t get involved,” he says. Warner recently bet well in Mexico where its comedy Nosotros Los Nobles smashed records with the second biggest opening ever for a non-animated local film.
Another studio exec says local language production “is all relatively opportunistic.” It can be a distraction to try and stay abreast of local material, but “paying attention to local markets, filmmakers and stories around the world gets you more educated in terms of worldwide taste and emerging filmmakers.” Plus, “the minute you have a hit, it’s ‘How much money are we making? Why don’t we up this business?’” Here’s a look at how the studios are speaking in various tongues:
Back in May, News Corp announced a strategic investment in China’s Bona Film Group which gave it a 19.9% stake in the distributor. That deal did not include a production component, but today, Bona and News Corp.’s Fox International Productions have announced a multi-picture co-producing pact for Chinese-language films. FIP has already produced local-language pictures in China — and is very active in other international territories including Russia, Germany, Spain, Korea and India. Here’s the press release on today’s deal, which gives Fox deeper reach in a booming market:
FOX INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTIONS (FIP), a division of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation, and BONA FILM GROUP LTD. (Nasdaq:BONA), one of China’s largest motion picture producers and distributors, today announced a multi-picture deal in which the two companies will together produce Chinese language films.
Under the agreement, the two companies will develop, produce and distribute films throughout China.
“This is a significant step in what we believe will be a long-term, multi-faceted collaboration with News Corp. and its subsidiary companies,” said Mr. Dong Yu, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Bona Film Group Limited. “The films released under this partnership will combine Bona’s deep understanding of production, distribution and audience preferences in China with FIP’s international expertise to create movies that satisfy audiences’ growing demand for blockbuster characteristics. We look forward to the cooperation and anticipated opportunities with FIP.”
LOS ANGELES (May 3, 2012) __ Former Weinstein Company executive Laine Kline has joined Twentieth Century Fox as senior vice president of business affairs Fox International Productions. The announcement was made today by Fox’s executive vice presidents of business affairs Stephen Plum and Mark Resnick, to whom Kline will report. At Fox International Pictures, Kline will negotiate many of the company’s development, acquisition, co-productions, partnerships, financing and tax driven agreements and structures.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has formed Fox World Cinema, an outlet that will put prestige films from around the world out on DVD, VOD and Digital Download. It sounds like a welcome option for all those films that get great festival response but don’t quite justify the P&A spend …
LOS ANGELES, CA (March 3, 2011) – Sanford Panitch, President of Fox International Productions, announced today that principal photography for LOVE IN SPACE will begin March 8. The film will shoot on location in Beijing and Sydney, and stars Aaron Kwok, René Liu, Eason Chan, Kwai Lun Mei,