Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, the film and TV facility the major owns outside of London, is to be officially inaugurated today during a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. At the same time, and in partnership with BAFTA, the studio is announcing the Prince William Scholarships in Film, Television and Games. Three students per year will receive £10,000 to study a post-graduate course. The studio is also setting up a new training program which it will launch in September. Warner Bros. Creative Talent will include 12 scholarships; six apprenticeships and two trainee positions on every Warner Bros. film produced in the UK; 25 training course spots at theater company Chickenshed; 20 work experience placements; and five work placements on Sam Mendes’ upcoming West End musical, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Warner says the program is part of its “long-term commitment to the UK’s creative industries.” The studio has been in business in the UK for many years and most lucratively with the Harry Potter films, all of which were shot at Leavesden. Warner purchased the facility outright in 2010 and invested £100M in its expansion. It also houses The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movies that’s housed just next to the main lot.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage
The UK film publicity landscape got a little more interesting today as Organic Marketing, the agency founded in 2008 by Nick Leese, announced the acquisition of production PR specialist Romley Davies. Veteran Harry Potter unit publicist Vanessa Davies will become Organic’s executive director of film production and work with deputy managing director Emma McCorkell across production and release, in the UK and internationally. Organic has up to now specialized in release campaigns and events management. Bringing Romley Davies on board allows the company to start working on films at the production stage. “We have big ambitions and wanted to look at what made sense in terms of next steps,” McCorkell tells Deadline. “It’s a great time to get into film production in the UK, and Vanessa is the best in the business.”
Although the Harry Potter series has drawn to a close, the UK film industry believes the movies will continue to work their magic for years to come. In releasing its 2012 statistical yearbook today, the BFI pointed to long tail benefits from the Potter decade that include Warner Bros’ new studio facility at Leavesden and the skillbase the films have built across the production sector since 2001. The industry is coming off of a record year that saw the box office reach above £1B and total production spend hit £1.27B despite a drop in the number of films produced. The yearbook is loaded with such facts and figures – including the finding that Britons watched an average 87 films per person during the course of last year. However, while box office thrived, TV accounted for 77% of all film viewings. There were 5,570 unique titles available across UK television. Excluding pay-per-view, films were watched 3.9B times on TV – or over 22 times the number of cinema admissions. Stats put the industry’s direct contribution to UK GDP at £3.3B for 2010. International investment from films made in the UK including The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and Wrath Of The Titans, was worth just over £1B. Outside the UK, British films earned $5.6B at the global box office, according to the report which can be found here in its entirety.
Independent British films had 13% of the market share driven by The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners Movie. Cinemagoing habits are shifting with a record-breaking 42% of Britons opting for weekday screenings. Weekends only accounted for 58% of box office which is the lowest total in the last eight years. Takings for 3D films were down 20% suggesting that moviegoers are becoming more choosy. The BFI says people are more often opting for the format when they perceive a real contribution to the experience. DVD and Blu-ray sales were down 5% on 2010 with 152M units sold. VOD is on the rise, jumping 6.5% to £114M in transactions, although it hasn’t yet made up for the decline in video sales.
JK Rowling and Harry Potter studio Warner Bros have been fiercely protective of the boy who lived, so it will be interesting to see what they make of graphic novelist Alan Moore’s new book. Over the course of his career, Watchmen, V For Vendetta and From Hell author Moore has summoned fictional characters including Captian Nemo, Dr Jekyll and Dracula. He’s also had fun with Wonderland’s Alice, Oz’s Dorothy and Neverland’s Wendy. But his latest borrowing may take the cake: an Antichrist character who’s got a fair bit in common with Harry Potter — and reportedly shoots deathly lightning bolts from his nether regions. Details of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 2009, the latest installment in the series, have been kept close to the vest, but reviewer Laura Sneddon has provided her take on the tome that’s out this week. The boy wizard’s name never appears, but references are made to a hidden scar, a magical train between platforms at London’s King Cross Station, and the magical school to which it leads. There’s also a mentor called Riddle — although the Tom Riddle in Rowling’s books ultimately became Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort. According to The Independent, “Characters resembling both Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger also appear and, at one point, the Potter character kills someone with a lightning bolt from his flaccid penis.” Copyright infringement or acceptable parody? Rowling and Warner are expected to take a wait-and-see approach.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is traveling to the land of the rising sun. Warner Bros and Universal Parks & Resorts are partnering to expand the Hogwarts experience to Universal Studios Japan. Execs involved in …
Black Hangar Studios — a 32,000-square-foot spread in Basingstoke, about a 40-minute train ride from London — was unveiled Wednesday. The UK is increasingly building its studio infrastructure. Warner Bros will launch the Leavesdon studios in June; that 500,000-square-foot facility, where all of the Harry Potter films were shot, is about 20 minutes from central London and has an 80-acre backlot. Also nearby London is the venerable Pinewood studios, which has recently been playing host to the latest James Bond pic Skyfall and to Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables.
Will grownups stand in line, the way young Harry Potter fans did, to be among the first to get their hands on what the author calls her “blackly comic” tale when it’s released on September 27? Rowling says on her web site that it’s her first novel for adults. Hachette will release The Casual Vacancy in the US, with Little, Brown Book Group doing so in the UK. It will be published worldwide in English in hardback, ebook, an unabridged audio download and on CD. The book runs about 480 pages, according to Little, Brown. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of seven books sold over 450 million copies in 200 territories and 74 languages worldwide, spawning a pop culture gold mine and a lucrative movie franchise from Warner Bros. Here’s Rowling’s synopsis of her new book:
Now that Harry has hung up his Firebolt, Warner is looking to keep the multi-billion dollar franchise alive. Welcome to The Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making Of Harry Potter, a new attraction that opens today at its Leavesden studios in Watford, England. There, Muggles will get a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes magic of the films right where they were shot. As time wears on, however, it’s likely that interest in Potter will wane – but Warner says there’s a plan for that too.
When Warner Bros acquired film rights to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, lore has it the author insisted on an all-British cast and that all films be shot in the UK. Ten years later, the highest-grossing film series in history has had a huge impact on the British economy – and on Warner Bros’ bottom line. In June 2010, London mayor Boris Johnson penned an editorial in The Telegraph decrying the fact that a Potter theme park was to open in Orlando rather than in Harry’s own backyard. He wrote: “This Potter business has legs. It will run and run, and we must be utterly mad, as a country, to leave it to the Americans to make money from a great British invention.”
Fast-forward 18 months and Johnson was waving a wand at Ollivander’s shop on the Potter tour’s Diagon Alley. A coincidence? Warner’s Sarah Roots, VP of the tour, tells me the idea of a film based attraction at the Leavesden studios has been in the pipeline for quite a few years and that Harry Potter has been such a part of the studio’s heritage, “it made sense to launch the attraction with Harry Potter.” The opening of the tour is timed to coincide with the start of Easter break for British school kids. Warner is eyeing up to 5,000 visitors per day on staggered tours that last about 3 hours. Roots says tickets for the first period have sold well and that first visitors are expected to be mostly UK residents with more overseas interest next year. As with all tourist destinations in the UK this summer, Warner is hoping for a residual Olympics effect.
Cast already teased “Jersey Shore Harry Potter” in cold open here which wasn’t very funny, either. Nothing like starting 2012 on a lame note:
Harry Potter will materialize sometime in the future in Universal City with his own special section of the theme park much like “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando Resort. NBC Universal is expected to announce plans …
Is Alexandre Desplat the new hardest working man in show business? The prolific French composer who has had four Oscar nominations in the last five years is just coming off his busiest year since gaining international notoriety in 2003 with Girl With A Pearl Earring. Since then he has been one …
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that film tax relief will be extended for four more years until the end of December 2015. It had been due to expire March next year. The UK tax break is worth 16% of the budgets of Hollywood movies shooting over here, and 20% of the budgets for local films. The news is designed to re-assure Hollywood that the UK is still the place to shoot big-budget movies. Recent Hollywood productions that have shot at Pinewood Studios include Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows and Snow White and the Huntsman. The tax break has been worth $151 million to producers over the most recent financial year, supporting over $1.6 billion spent on 208 UK-qualifying films.
Harry Potter fans take heart. Just because Warner Bros says it won’t ship more DVDs or Blu-rays after December 29, that doesn’t mean Hogwarts will immediately vanish from physical or virtual shelves. Or that it won’t be available for …
Tuesday night is a big one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They hold their annual election for president (expect current prexy Tom Sherak to be easily re-elected for his third and final one-year term) and they will choose the 2011 recipients of the Governors Awards, which will be some combination of Honorary Oscars, The Irving G. Thalberg Award and/or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. At that meeting, Sherak could also tell the board who is going to produce the 84th Annual Academy Awards among the other things that may come up, including proposals to further regulate Oscar-season campaigning and parties (a move inspired by and initiated in part because of my Jan. 7 Deadline article on the issue, I am told by an Academy insider involved with the new proposals).
Even though recipients of last year’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards, (Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Kevin Brownlow and Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola) weren’t announced until the last week in August a year ago, Sherak told me he is determined to get this done at the early August meeting this year in order to give Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson more time to put all the logistics of the event together; the ceremony is set for Saturday Nov. 12 and is not televised.
This all leads to the annual game of who will and who should get these prized awards, which were created in 2009 as their own separate show so more of them could be handed out and there would be more time to celebrate the careers of the recipients than during the time-crunched Oscar show. In the recent past, before the creation of the event, the Academy’s board had been limiting presentation of the Honorary awards to one per show. The Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis was the last given, on the (81st) Oscar telecast. Since then, they have handed out the maximum of four of these honors at each Governors Awards dinner. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Thalberg winner John Calley received the inaugural awards.
In terms of who will win them this year, it’s anybody’s guess as each of the 43 Governors of every branch has an opportunity to put a name in contention if they wish and a simple majority is generally all that’s required to make someone a winner. It’s clear the Academy likes diversity, repping all corners of the motion picture arts and sciences, and it seems like they have been favoring people who are still active. Wallach may have been 95 when he finally got his Honorary Oscar last year, but he is also still working.
For years, every time the board set about voting for these honors some subtle (and not-so-subtle) lobbying would take place. Veteran stars like Glenn Ford and Richard Widmark were often mentioned but never got the call despite annual letters and pleas on their behalf. Doris Day’s name always comes up in speculation about Honorary Oscars, but it’s never happened and the reclusive 87-year-old star hasn’t made a film since 1968. Director Jules Dassin had his supporters at one time on the board but went to his grave without getting the big honor. On the other hand, a large profile piece on producer Dino De Laurentiis that was (coincidentally?) placed in the L.A. Times on the morning of the selections in 2000 certainly couldn’t have hurt his chances when he was voted the Thalberg later that day.