Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
An editorial written by Wild Bunch co-founder and sales chief Vincent Maraval has whipped up a mini-storm within the French film industry. The exec, who’s had a hand in such films as The Artist, The Wrestler, Pan’s Labyrinth, Fahrenheit 9/11, City Of God and March Of The Penguins, blasted the current state of French cinema, calling 2012 a “disaster”. France enjoys possibly the world’s most generous subsidy system which relies in part on investment by local TV networks, but Maraval says “even the biggest commercial successes lose money” with budgets inflated by above the line costs. Calling France “the world record holder for the average cost of production” after the U.S., Maraval says “French actors are rich from public funds and from a system that protects the cultural exception.” Maraval cites such talent as Vincent Cassel, Jean Reno, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and Audrey Tautou and asks why they would “be paid from €500,000 to €2M ($655K to $2.62M) for a French film limited to the French market but when they shoot an American film, whose market is worldwide, they’re happy with €50,000 to €200,000 ($65.5K to $262K)?
Global Showbiz Briefs: Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval, $1.6B In UK Digital Entertainment Sales, Alki David And Quickflix & More
Wild Bunch Exec Protests High Costs Of French Filmmaking
Quickflix To Expand Into New Zealand
Finally, a spot of positive news for Quickflix. The Australian online DVD rental and subscription streaming service just emerged from a trading halt in its shares after the departure of several board members amid a restructuring entailing job cuts and slashing advertising. Today Quickflix trumpeted a deal with New Zealand’s Freeview to launch its film and TV streaming service via a HD channel with a potential reach of 500,000 Kiwi households in 2013. Owned by free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ, Mediaworks, Maori Television and Radio New Zealand, Freeview is available in 86% of TV homes and competes with the News Corp-controlled pay-TV platform Sky. Quickflix will offer a combination of subscription movies and PPV.- Don Groves.
The Amazing Race Sprints North To Canada
CBS’ The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan announced tonight that viewers north of the border can look forward to their own The Amazing Race Canada that will air on Canada’s CTV, which has licensed format rights from Disney-ABC Domestic Television. The Amazing Race Canada will launch in Summer 2013. Competition will take place within Canada, which features a variety of rugged, challenging terrain. Insight Productions will produce with the support of Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri’s Profiles Television. Casting, host, and other information about the show will be announced during the coming months.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s struggling online DVD rental and subscription streaming service Quickflix revealed today it has slashed staff by one-third in a restructuring aimed at stemming the outflow of company cash which averaged $A1M ($1.04M) per month in fiscal 2012. Its shares, which last traded at 5.6¢, have been suspended since November 13 while it seeks a new strategic investor or capital infusion. Quickflix, in which HBO bought a 15.7% stake for $10M in February, is burning through cash and had $2.2M in the bank at the end of September, when it had just 115,592 paying customers. HBO’s rep Henry McGee quit the board along with two other directors and chief executive Chris Taylor is leaving in March as executive chairman Stephen Langsford takes over that role. Among other cost-saving measures, the company is ceasing advertising, streamlining the organization into DVD and digital operating divisions, and lowering the cost of acquiring customers which had ballooned from $31 to $60 per customer. The company said talks are continuing with Australian and international investors, it has retained investment advisers in the U.S., and it expects to provide an update on funding arrangements next week.
The CEO and two board members of Australian online DVD rental and streaming service Quickflix are leaving the company. Quickflix last week requested its stock be temporarily suspended from trading in Australia, pending an announcement of a new strategic investor. That suspension was expected to be short-lived but will now remain in effect until late next week. Today, the company announced CEO Chris Taylor had resigned and will leave in March 2013. Founder and exec chairman Stephen Langsford will assume the role of CEO at that time. Also, non-executive directors Justin Milne and Susan Hunter are resigning from the board, although Hunter will remain as company secretary. HBO paid $10.7M for a 15.7% stake in Quickflix in February, but the service took a $1.87M operating loss in the quarter ending September 30 as its cash reserves dwindled to $2.28M. The company has 115,592 paying subscribers.
Global Showbiz Briefs: More BBC Fallout, Quickflix Trading Halt, Lachlan Murdoch On Ten, Screen Australia Funds New Pics
BBC Probe: “Unacceptable” Journalistic/Management Failures
More senior BBC staff could leave the corporation as an internal report into the Newsnight fiasco that cost former director general George Entwistle his post draws damning conclusions. The investigation by BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie concluded that “unacceptable” journalistic and management failures caused the broadcast of false claims against a senior political figure. Newsnight aired the allegations of child sexual abuse in its November 2 program, but didn’t name the man, later revealed to be Lord McAlpine. As a result, it didn’t offer the retired adviser to Margaret Thatcher a right of reply as BBC editorial guidelines mandated, and it was subsequently revealed that the victim had mistaken the identity of his attacker. “Basic editorial checks were not completed,” the report said.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BBC Probe, Keshet Sells ‘Fair & Square’, ‘Father’s Day’ Banned, Quickflix Seeks Quick Cash
BBC Inquiry To Ramp Up Next Week
As incoming New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson is given the going over by staff at the newspaper who have questioned his involvement in the Jimmy Savile scandal, the BBC’s internal inquiry in the contentious cancellation of its Newsnight investigation will start interviewing key players next week. They include the editor of the program, Peter Rippon, who killed a probe into Savile’s impropriety that was set to air in December last year. He reported to Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, and George Entwistle, the new BBC director general who was head of television at the time. Both are expected to face tough questions from Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News who is in charge of the inquiry. They’ll be joined by the Newsnight journalists who led the investigation into Savile, some of whom blew the whistle on the odd decision-making in a report on BBC current affairs program Panorama last week. Meanwhile, rival broadcaster ITV, which aired a program finally revealing the allegations against Savile at the start of October, is planning further revelations about the late Top Of The Pops host. A second report will be fronted by Mark Williams-Thomas, the former detective who led the original show. It’ll air at the end of November, as the Pollard inquiry is expected to be publishing its findings. – Joe Utichi
UK Broadband Cos Team With BBC, ITV On YouView
UK broadband companies BT Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group have partnered with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to form YouView, a TV service that allows consumers to watch movies and shows anytime. BT will begin selling the YouView set-top boxes with speed guarantees next month, Bloomberg reports. The service offers more than 70 digital channels and a seven-day catch-up service for BBC, ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4 shows in the UK. The set-top box can be purchased through a retailer for about $400. Those who sign up through TalkTalk can get the box for free. The devices go on sale at BT on October 26.
Goldman Sachs Preps Debt-To-Equity Scheme For Nine Entertainment
Goldman Sachs is putting together a deal for a group of U.S. hedge funds to take control of Australia’s debt-laden Nine Entertainment Co., according to the Australian Financial Review. The plan involves the hedge funds converting part of the media company’s $A3.8 billion ($3.9 billion) debt into equity. Goldman manages mezzanine debt funds owed around $1 billion by Nine. Private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific bought Nine Entertainment, which includes the Nine Network, Australian News Channel, Ticketek, the Allphones Arena and a 50% stake in NineMSN, from James Packer for $5.5 billion in 2007. Last week the firm sold its publishing division ACP Magazines to Germany’s Bauer Media Group for a reported $500 million. Under Goldman’s plan Nine would retain $1.25 billion in debt through a new five-year facility. The paper said Goldman was due to put its proposal to Nine Entertainment’s lenders including hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Apollo Global Management. -Don Groves
Australian Exhibitor Hoyts Enters VOD Biz
Launching in the first quarter of 2013, Hoyts will be the first major Australian exhibitor to offer a VOD service offering new releases day-and-date with DVD, plus classic movies and TV content. Monikered Hoyts Stream, the service aims to tap into Hoyts’ customer base which includes 547,000 members of its loyalty programs and 200,000 people who regularly use its DVD rental kiosk business Oovie. The initiative will put Hoyts Stream in direct VOD competition with Foxtel on Demand, Quickflix, iTunes, Big Pond Movies, Fetch TV, Google Play and Xbox. Nearly every Hollywood film and most indie titles are now available simultaneously on VOD and DVD in Australia. Neither of Hoyts’ major exhib rivals, Village Roadshow and Event Cinemas, has indicated any intention of entering the VOD business. Crispin Tristram, Hoyts chief marketing officer, who will run Hoyts Stream, said the firm is in advanced negotiations with U.S. majors and leading independents to acquire VOD rights. He declined to reveal pricing but said fees would be competitive. A subscription service for library film and TV content is to be introduced later in 2013. Hoyts chairman David Kirk said the company recognizes a need “to provide our customers choice for how they consume filmed entertainment from Hoyts, be it on the big screen, small screen or now any screen.”
Taxpayer-Funded Screen Australia Backs Anti-Murdoch Project
Rupert Murdoch seems unlikely to be bothered that unabashed left-wing writer Bob Ellis is co-writing a movie about the publisher entitled The News of the World. Murdoch might, however, ask why Australian taxpayers’ money is being spent to develop the project. Funding agency Screen Australia is giving money to Ellis and his co-writer Stephen Ramsey to support development. No Australian distributor is involved yet. Ellis told Mumbrella the biopic will trace Murdoch’s career from his purchase of the Sydney Daily Telegraph in the 1960s to his buying the now-defunct The News of the World and becoming a U.S. citizen so News Corp could own U.S. TV stations. Ellis’ blog regularly accuses Murdoch of using his media outlets to champion his causes. After penning the screenplay of Newsfront in 1978, Ellis had a burgeoning career in the 1980s with films such as Fatty Finn, Cactus, Man of Flowers and Goodbye Paradise. But his last produced feature screenplay was Ebbtide in 1994, according to IMDb.com. Deadline previously reported that David Williamson is writing a stage play based on Murdoch entitled Rupert for the Melbourne Theater Co. which is due to open next August. – Don Groves
Cambodia Submits First Oscar Entry In 18 Years
The country’s Oscar selection committee voted unanimously to submit Chhay Bora’s historic drama Lost Loves. The movie chronicles the experiences of a middle-class woman during Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Bora and his wife Kauv Sotheary, both university professors, used 15 years of personal savings to finance the film, according to Screen Daily. Bora directed and produced while his wife plays the leading role. Rithy Panh’s 1994 The Rice People was the only other Cambodian film submitted for Oscar consideration.
Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.
Australia’s only combined online DVD rental and subscription streaming service, Quickflix is striving to emulate Netflix while avoiding the U.S. company’s missteps last year in pricing and strategy. The publicly-traded Quickflix, which launched its streaming service in Australia in November 2011 and in New Zealand this March, has a pretty wide berth in which to fulfill its goal, but is limited in what it can pay for content. Still, Oz’s SVOD market is far less competitive than the U.S., with pay TV penetration at 30% and no indications yet that Netflix, Hulu or Amazon’s Lovefilm will enter the market. Unlike Netflix, Quickflix has been prudent with pricing, charging $A24.99 per month ($US26.24) for four DVDS plus unlimited streaming and $A29.99 ($US31.49) for unlimited DVDs and streaming. Through June 30 Quickflix reported it had just over 111,000 customers, of whom 28% are SVOD subscribers. Revenue for the quarter to June edged up by 3% to $5.1M.
Following a recent content licensing agreement, HBO is to take a 15.7% stake in Australian VOD service Quickflix. Under the terms of the deal, HBO will invest $10 million and appoint a representative to the Quickflix board, subject to shareholder and Australian Stock Exchange approval. Quickflix, which offers DVD and Blu-ray rental by mail as well as instant streaming, has approximately 94,000 paying subscribers. In December, the company announced a licensing deal for streamed content with NBCUniversal International Televsion Distribution.
‘Arthur Christmas’ Slays ‘Em In The UK
Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman’s Arthur Christmas jumped to the top of the UK box office this weekend – in its fourth week of release. This bit of holiday magic came courtesy of a £1.9 million weekend take for a cume of £11.5 million. The film has been holding steady in second place since it bowed on November 11 and this weekend faced off against Happy Feet Two for the family audience. Largely positive notices and the British voice cast — including James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton — have no doubt been a local draw. Sony Pictures Releasing UK’s Peter Taylor said: “Opening a movie at No. 1 in such a competitive market as the UK is difficult enough, but to reach the top of the chart in the fourth week of release is almost unprecedented. We are all delighted.”
Tom Hooper Decides Against 3D For ‘Les Miserables’
Although director Tom Hooper flirted with the idea of filming the new movie version of the hit stage musical Les Miserables in 3D, the Oscar-winning helmer of The King’s Speech has decided to stick with 2D. Hooper told the BBC he had been “very tempted” to use 3D but worried that some audiences might “physically struggle” with the format. Not to worry, purists. “I can definitely announce it’s good old-fashioned 2D,” Hooper said at the British Independent Film Awards. “I wanted to make a film that would touch everyone. I believe the story is so strong, 3D is not essential.” Hooper added that the casting of Eponine and Cosette would be announced soon. “I’ve never done a film where big star actors are as obsessed with being in it as this.” Starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russell Crowe as Javert,