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James Cameron To Make ‘Avatar’ Sequels In New Zealand; Government Unveils New Tax Breaks For International Productions

james cameronAfter making Avatar in Wellington, James Cameron’s three sequels are now also lined up to shoot in New Zealand. The Kiwi government says it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox to see the director make each of the next Avatar installments locally. The move doesn’t come as much of a surprise given Cameron/Avatar‘s history Down Under, along with the helmer’s 2012 purchase of oodles of land in South Wairarapa, near Wellington. The news coincides with changes to the tax incentive structure in New Zealand which were also unveiled today. Under the new regs, the new Avatars could qualify for a total rebate of 25%.

avatarWhen the first Avatar was made in New Zealand, it delivered more than NZ$307M in spend for the local economy. The memo of understanding on the new movies includes several commitments inlcuding a spend of at least NZ$500M ($413.1M) on local production activity – ie, most of the live action shooting and VFX. There’s also an engagement to hire Kiwis in Head of Department roles with about 90% of the live action crew expected to be local. New Zealand will also get to host “at least one” official red carpet premiere. (The original film world premiered in London.) James Cameron and John Landau have also offered to serve as founding members of a new screen advisory board. And, there is language on marketing and promotion of New Zealand and its film industry alongside the three Avatar films; the transfer of technological know-how to New Zealanders; retaining screen production infrastructure in New Zealand that could be used for industry training; and a commitment by both parties to grow the screen sector in New Zealand and to building a long term and productive relationship between the Crown and Lightstorm/Twentieth Century Fox.

Meanwhile, changes to the tax incentive scheme announced by the local government today will see a hike in the rebate from 15% to 20% for international film and television productions. A further 5% will be available for international productions that deliver significant economic benefits to New Zealand. An as-yet undefined points system will determine eligibility. Read More »

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‘Hobbit’ Trilogy Price Tag Over Half A Billion Dollars (So Far)

By | Friday October 4, 2013 @ 5:00pm PDT

Warner Bros.‘ three Hobbit films have racked up over half a billion dollars in production costs, reports the AP, citing Kiwi financial filings that say Peter Jackson has spent $676 million New Zealand dollars ($561 million US) so far on his LOTR follow-ups. But that figure’s just the total so far as of March 31 and doesn’t include post-March spending, post-production expenses, and marketing costs. WB has additionally enjoyed $98 million worth of New Zealand tax incentives for shooting in the area. The first of the Hobbit pics, An Unexpected Journey, grossed over $1 billion worldwide after debuting last December. Sequel The Desolation Of Smaug is set to follow with a December 14, 2013 release followed by There And Back Again on December 17, 2014.

Related: Race To Finish ‘The Hobbit’: Video
Peter Jackson Confirms No ‘Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug’ At Comic-Con, Too Busy Finishing Sequels

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‘Avatar’ Sequels Moving To New Zealand?

By | Wednesday February 1, 2012 @ 6:05pm PST

Director James Cameron’s newly purchased farmland in New Zealand outside Wellington is fueling local speculation that he intends to make a significant portion of his two Avatar sequels in New Zealand. Reports say Cameron’s property is about 12 miles from the estate of fellow filmmaker Peter Jackson who’s currently at work on two-parter The Hobbit. Cameron’s property amounts to nearly 2,500 acres in the Wairarapa region about 50 miles northeast of Wellington, records show. The Avatar director owns two separate properties in the vicinity known for beef, sheep and dairy farming as well as vineyards. Cameron reportedly paid about $16.7 million. Records indicate Cameron and his Malibu-based family plan to “reside indefinitely” in New Zealand.

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Cinedigm Seals Digital Cinema Deal For Australia, New Zealand

By | Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 10:42am PST

Woodland Hills, CA, January 17, 2012 Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. (NASDAQ: CIDM) and ICAA, the Independent Cinemas Association of Australia, jointly announced today an agreement for Cinedigm to become the digital cinema integrator for independent cinemas in Australia and New Zealand.

ICAA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Cinedigm to provide Virtual Print Fee (“VPF”) Contracts, VPF Administration, Theatre Management Systems (TMS) and other support resources, as well as assist ICAA and its members with the deployment of digital systems and service and compliance support services. ICAA will take on a number of local functions as regards the coordination of deployment and service, working with local installers and technical personnel. The arrangement is subject to the negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement between Cinedigm and ICAA and its members.

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Hot Video: Latest ‘The Hobbit’ Production Diary Looks At Cast, Crew Logistics

By | Monday December 26, 2011 @ 12:29pm PST

Peter Jackson and others describe the massive undertaking of transporting equipment, sets, cast and crew as well as providing shelter, food and water to remote locations in New Zealand.

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‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ World Premiere Set For New Zealand

By | Friday October 28, 2011 @ 10:26am PDT

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set to premiere in Wellington in late November 2012, director Sir Peter Jackson and Prime Minister John Key announced today at the Hobbiton set in Waikato. Wellington previously hosted the world premiere of the final Lord of the Rings movie, Return of the King, in December 2003. Over 100,000 people packed into the city’s CBD to watch the preceding parade. “I think Warner Bros. in particular were blown away by the Return of the King premiere – no one in the international industry could quite believe how the country got behind that,” Sir Peter said today. An Unexpected Journey hits theaters December 14, 2012. The second movie  The Hobbit: There and Back Again opens December 13, 2013.

You can watch Jackson’s complete (11:19) announcement here.

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Global Showbiz Briefs: The Netherlands, New Zealand, Mexico, UK

3D Conversion Of Paramount’s ‘Top Gun’ In The Works
Another blockbuster is getting the 3D conversion treatment, it seems. Top Gun, Tony Scott’s iconic 1986 film starring Tom Cruise, is being re-formatted for a possible 2012 release by Paramount. That was the word from Legend3D CEO Rob Hummel, speaking today at the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam, where he presented a 4-minute clip in the new format. “I think Top Gun lends itself to 3D due to the aerial flight,” Hummel said. “You can have fun with 3D by bringing things off the screen if they are not attached to the edge of the screen.” Hummel said that the studio wanted to get Scott’s approval before proceeding, while Paramount said there had been no talk of a release date. If the redo of the blockbuster does materialize, it will be on top of 3D conversions of The Lion King, set for release later this month, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Titanic.

Vicki Jackways To Represent New Zealand In Hollywood
New Zealand is reaching out to Hollywood in a bid to lure more film shoots and facilitate U.S. co-productions. Film New Zealand and Park Road Post Production are teaming on an initiative that will see Park Road’s marketing chief Vicki Jackways working to heighten New Zealand’s Hollywood presence next year when she comes to L.A. in a semi-permanent capacity. New Zealand is on Hollywood’s location map and has an established effects and post-production infrastructure. It famously served as Middle Earth for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. “Thanks to the talents and entrepreneurship of our screen industry across the country, and the backing of successive governments, New Zealand has built a remarkable reputation as a film-making culture. Los Angeles-based representation is an important next step in taking full advantage of this reputation.”
Netflix CEO: Two Years Until We See Profit In Mexico
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings estimated today that it will take two years before his firm sees any returns from Mexico. “We are going to lose money for a while … it will take a lot of subscribers to get to profitability,” he said at a Mexico City news conference to mark the launch, part of a previously announced Latin American expansion. He declined to say how many subscribers it would take to get into the black but expressed confidence that the bandwidth commonly available in Mexico, markedly lower than that common to the U.S., would be viable. Netflix will charge $8 for a monthly subscription in Mexico. Local broadcasters TV Azteca and will make some of their content available through Netflix in Mexico, he said.
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Paladin Acquires New Zealand Pic ‘Boy’

By | Monday August 15, 2011 @ 10:25am PDT
Mike Fleming

Mark Urman’s Paladin made a U.S. distribution deal for Boy, the Taika Waititi-directed film that became a sleeper hit on its home turf in New Zealand. Set in 1984, the film focuses on an 11-year-old (James Rolleston) who grows up in the remote Maori community of Waihau Bay, obsessed with Michael Jackson and imagining that his long-absent father (Waititi) is a world traveler. When dad returns, he’s a lovable loser who served a stretch for robbery. They try to come to grips with one another and develop a relationship. The film played in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

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UPDATE: ‘Fast Five’ Still No. 1 Down Under While ‘Thor 3D’ Still Bigger Than ‘Iron Man 1′

By | Friday April 22, 2011 @ 1:45pm PDT

UPDATE 4 PM: It’s a big start to Summer 2011, with both the Marvel/Disney actioner Thor 3D distributed by Paramount and Universal’s Fast Five such huge hits in their opening week. Both movies opened earlier overseas than in U.S. due to the Easter holiday Down Under.

Friday numbers for the start of the Easter weekend have just come in for Fast Five from Oz and Kiwi. In Australia, Fast Five is No. 1 again with 35% market share. Today’s gross is $2.4M (U.S. dollars) at 229 dates, up 20% over Thursday. The two-day total is $4.6M and the three-day cume is now is $6.7M. In New Zealand, Fast Five is No. 1 again today with 40% market share. Friday’s gross is $230K at 55 dates for a two-day total of $490K.

1:45 PM: Through today, Thor 3D has grossed $3 million (U.S. dollars) in Australia, or 30% ahead of the first two days of the original Iron Man, which did $2.3M. (Of course, IM1 was only 2D, so no higher 3D ticket prices.)

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New Zealand Passes “Hobbit” Deal: Opposition MPs Call It “Day Of Shame”

The New Zealand parliament has passed emergency legislation ensuring that the 2 back-to-back Hobbit films get made in the country. The legislation bypassed usual parliamentary committees, prompting New Zealand MPs to call it a “day of shame.” One held up a redesigned national flag with the Warner Bros logo in one corner. “What is the government going to do next – give in to any multinational that asks for a labour standard to be diluted in return for some form of investment?” asked opposition MP Charles Chauvel. The amendment was passed by a 65-50 vote. The government’s decision to rush through amended employment laws – stopping below-the-line workers from being treated as full-time employees, with all the rights which go with being a salary man — has divided local opinion. The above political cartoon is from a New Zealand newpaper. Meanwhile, some actors union officials though have received death threats after threatening a boycott. Prime Minister John Key has defended his government’s tax deal that secured The Hobbit movies as being far less generous than the opposition’s Lord of the Rings deal. The Hobbit tax deal is understood to be worth $57 million to Warner Bros across 2 movies. Key suggested that the previous Labour government’s Lord of the Rings deal was worth $225 million across all 3 movies. Warner Bros as well as producer/director Peter Jackson had been threatening to move the production to England or Western Europe.

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Rallying For ‘The Hobbit’ To Stay In Kiwi

Mike Fleming

New Zealanders are leaving nothing to chance when Warner Bros executives arrive early this week. Prime Minister John Key and other politicians  are trying to salvage The Hobbit situation so the shoot stays in New Zealand. But the studio is eyeing other locations after the production was temporarily blacklisted by local and U.S. acting guilds. In a country whose population is about half the size of Los Angeles, the threat of losing its signature shoot — and its $500 million budget — has people rallying around director/producer Peter Jackson who brought them all that Lord Of The Rings trilogy fame and fortune and tourism and just plain work. Check out this video that is spreading across New Zealand, designed to bring people to the streets in a show of support:

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Aussie Fund Closes $17M Tax Break Facility

Australian-flagAustralian pension fund Super Media has arranged a A$20 million facility for Fulcrum Media Finance, the Australian film and TV financier. The attraction from Super Media’s point of view is that the money will just be used to cash-flow the Australian tax rebate. In the movie business, that’s about as risk-free film finance as you can get. Super Media currently has more than A$$2.5 billion under management.

Fulcrum has provided A$30 million of finance to 20 film and TV projects in both Australia and New Zealand, representing total production value of A$230 million. The new A$20 million facility adds to Fulcrum’s existing A$50 million funding capability, provided by an institutional bank and private investors. Apart from the Australian Producer Offset, Fulcrum also offers some gap finance, discounting distribution guarantees and bridging finance. Projects that it has helped finance include this year’s Cannes Film Festival closing Australian/French co-production The Tree and UK/Australian co-production Oranges and Sunshine. Fulcrum is also entering the UK market, providing similar services around the UK tax credit.

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