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UPDATE: Directors Almodóvar, Daldry, Leigh, Loach, And More Join European Film Academy Call For Release Of Arrested Ukrainian Director In Moscow

oleg sentsovUPDATE: In an open letter released today more European film pros have joined European Film Academy chairwoman Agnieszka Holland in calling for the release of detained Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested a month ago and has yet to be officially charged by Russian officials.


Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – President of Russia
Sergey Evgenyevich Naryshkin – Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation
Alexander Wassiljewitsch Bortnikow – Director of the FSB
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kolokoltsev – Russian Minister of Internal Affairs
Vladimir Medinsky – Russian Minister of Culture
Yuriy Yakovlevich Chaika – Prosecutor General

According to the information currently available, the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in his house in Simferopol on 11 May and brought to Moscow where he is detained and awaiting trial. There has not been any official information about the charges brought up against him for almost three weeks.

We, his undersigning European colleagues, are deeply worried and cannot stop wondering how he is and what his future will be. In the light of these circumstances, we respectfully call upon you
to ensure the safety of Oleg Sentsov;
to make public the whereabouts of the detained;
to have the detained charged with a recognisable offence or released;
to instigate a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the apparently arbitrary detention by the FSB in order to bring all those responsible to justice.

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Global Showbiz Watch 32: The Russian Movie Cap Podcast

Global Showbiz Watch podcast 32In this week’s podcast, Deadline International Editor Nancy Tartaglione and host David Bloom look at whether Russia is likely to go ahead with a threatened cap on Western films in the wake of the Crimea crisis, two more deals affecting indie TV producers, update from Johnny Depp’s China tour into Transcendence, and mark the naming of another female filmmaker as a jury president at the Cannes Film Festival.

We’ll also take our weekly look at the international box office, led by the all-time box office record set by Frozen, whether The Lego Movie can ever catch up and big international debuts for the sequels to Captain America and Rio. Read More »

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Why Russia’s 50% Cap On Hollywood Films Isn’t A Likely Proposition

By | Wednesday March 26, 2014 @ 12:37pm PDT

russia_flag_largeWith all the recent turmoil in Russia, there was bound to be some spillover to the entertainment industry. But are reports of a draft bill to set a 50% limit on the amount of Hollywood movies imported per annum worth getting upset over just yet? Executives I’ve spoken to in the past day don’t think so.

While Hollywood already faces a quota system in China, and while Russia seems to be acting at will these days, it would be premature to sound any alarm bells in Tinseltown, I’m told. The bill being readied at the State Duma on limiting Hollywood imports was written by Deputy Robert Schlegel of the United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin. His view, according to the Izvestia daily, is that “We basically show American films that promote the stereotypes, national interests and values of the United States… Many of these are low quality. Russia can produce its own films, which will be interesting to viewers.”

A bill aiming to cap foreign films at 20% was unsuccessful last year, and it looks unlikely a move to limit them to 50% would go forward, although Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has previously made noise about cracking down on Hollywood hegemony. Never say never, but one studio exec I spoke with feels it “doesn’t sound realistic.” Russian exhibitors, “would all be pissed off. They don’t have the movies” to fill the void that would be created. The same person added that if the aim were to blow back at the U.S. for its recent sanctions against certain officials over action in Ukraine, there are bigger fish to fry like the energy or automobile sector. “It would piss us off… It would hurt Hollywood, but doesn’t hurt America.” Read More »

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Channel One Russia Says “Nyet” To Live Oscarcast

By | Sunday March 2, 2014 @ 10:01am PST

Channel One RussiaThe unrest in Ukraine and Crimea is trumping the Best Picture battle, at least on major broadcaster. Channel One Russia said Sunday that won’t be showing tonight’s Academy Awards live as planned so it can follow the news of Russian troops being sent to the nearby crisis zones. Instead, the Moscow-based C1R will show the Oscars at 12:30 AM local time on Tuesday. “Due to the large amount of news relating to the situation around the autonomous Oscar_badgerepublic of Crimea and Ukraine, and the increased attention of the audience to newscasts Channel One finds it impossible for 5 hours to broadcast the ceremony Oscar, especially in the morning, when the maximum number has been broadcasting newscasts,” the channel said in a translated statement. According to its global partner International Media Distribution, C1R reaches 99% of Russian households and pulls a 19% share. It boasts 250 million viewers worldwide via its international network, which launched more than a decade ago.

Related: OSCARS: Pete Hammond’s Absolute FINAL Predictions In Every Category In One Of The Most Competitive Races Ever

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Russia’s Karo Film Investing $150M In Megaplex Expansion

By | Thursday February 27, 2014 @ 9:48am PST

karo filmWith the box office booming in Russia, local cinema chain Karo Film says it is investing $150M to fund an expansion program which will include the building of several next-generation movie theaters. Karo is already at work on what it says is Russia’s “most technically advanced cinema complex,” the Karo Vegas 22 Megaplex in Crocus City in southern Moscow. The opening is set for July this year with multiple premium large format rooms, Luxe RealD Experience rooms, five VIP screening areas with concierge service, bowling lanes and restaurants. Karo also plans to open two other multiplexes in Moscow this year, including the country’s second-largest cinema, Karo AviaPark, with 18 screens. Elsewhere, the exhibitor is in late-stage negotiations to break ground on new complexes in St. Petersburg and Siberia in the summer of 2015 with planned openings in early 2016. Of the $150M, $22M will be used to upgrade existing venues, and on increasing IT capabilities and infrastructure. Karo currently has 28 sites with 189 screens. Read More »

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TCA: NBC Will Wait And See About Covering Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws During Winter Games, But Takes Firm Stand Against Monkey-Comedy Interruptions

By | Saturday July 27, 2013 @ 1:52pm PDT

NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus tried to split the baby and wound up butchering it this afternoon at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013, when he said the network’s upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi “comes with political and social issues” which NBC will address — “as they are relevant at the time of the game, as has always been the case.” Then, without missing a beat, he began to “we cannot wait to get to Sochi, very optimistic about the U.S. team, biggest Winter Olympics ever,” blah blah, blah, while TV critics in the hall tried to recover from the whiplash. Russia’s newly-adopted anti-gay laws have some calling for NBC to boycott the Games (The International Olympic Committee has said it will “work to ensure” that LGBT athletes competing in the games will not face danger or legal issues).

Among those calling for boycott, HRC President Chad Griffin reportedly wrote a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke, saying the media conglom has a “responsibility to expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune in to watch the Games.” Griffin said it would be wrong for NBCU “to air the opening ceremonies, which is an hours-long advertisement for the host country, without acknowledging that a whole segment of the Russian population — not to mention foreign athletes and visitors — can be jailed for an immutable aspect of their identity.”

NBC’s response –  at the Press Tour anyway — was Lazarus’s baby-splitting act: “The IOC has addressed it with the Russian government and has been assured athletes, fans, and the media there will not be any issues with regard to what takes place during the Games,” he said. Read More »

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Sony To Release IMAX 3D Pic ‘Stalingrad’ In Russia

By | Tuesday April 16, 2013 @ 8:29am PDT

CULVER CITY, Calif., April 16, 2013 – STALINGRAD, the first Russian-made feature to be released in the immersive IMAX® 3D format, will be distributed in Russia by Sony Pictures Releasing International.

An epic love story set during one of the most devastating battles in modern history, STALINGRAD’s teaser trailer will be screened for the first time in the U.S. on April 17, 2013at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, when Sony makes its annual presentation at CinemaCon. The announcement was made today by Rory Bruer, president of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures Releasing, and Alexander Rodnyansky, head of A.R.Films and producer of STALINGRAD. The deal was negotiated by Paul Heth of Monumental Pictures.

The movie was shot completely on location in Russia; it is directed by Fedor Bondarchuk and produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov for Non-Stop Production and Dmitry Rudovsky for Art Pictures. The film is written by Iliya Tilkin and Sergey Snezhkin. The release date in Russia will be announced shortly.

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Brazil, Russia, India, China Box Office Expected To Hit Combined $12.1B By 2017

By | Thursday March 21, 2013 @ 8:13am PDT

After doubling their box office takings over the past five years, the BRIC countries will see combined revenues of $12.1B and account for 25% of global sales by 2017, according to research group IHS. That would put the Big Four on a par with where IHS expects the North American box office to be at that time. (It was $10.8B in 2012.) Driving growth are increased ticket prices and new construction — China is building cinemas daily and is expected to have about 20,000 screens by 2015 alone. IHS analyst Charlotte Jones also noted the loosening of quotas in China for 3D and IMAX films, the popularity of premium pics in Russia and the rise of shopping centers in Brazil as market drivers. Read More »

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DreamWorks Animation Plans Indoor Theme Parks In Three Russian Cities

By | Friday February 15, 2013 @ 6:35am PST

After announcing in August that it plans to open a theme park in Shanghai by 2016, DreamWorks Animation today unveiled plans for Russia. The company has partnered with property development and management firm Regions GC to build what is promised to be Europe’s largest indoor theme parks. The attractions in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg are expected to be completed in 2015 and are planned as year-round “entertainment zones” — the indoor placement designed to avoid weather being an issue.

Each complex will incorporate a movie and concert hall, 4D movie theater, three-star 400-room hotel and retail space. DreamWorks Animation properties to be featured include Shrek, Madagascar, How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and the upcoming garden snail adventure Turbo, which will bow in Russia on July 11 ahead of its U.S. debut.

Russian box office jumped 8% in 2012 for over $1.2B in takings and DWA movies are popular there. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is the second-highest-grossing animated film in Russian history and the fourth-biggest film of all time. “Russia is one of the most important markets in the world for us,” said CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. “All of us at DWA are extremely excited to work with Regions CG to be the first Hollywood studio to create not just one, but three, theme parks in Russia.” Read More »

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Russia’s Karo Cinema Chain Gets $100M Investment For Multiplex Expansion

By | Thursday December 13, 2012 @ 5:20am PST

Moscow, December 13, 2012 – A consortium backing the Moscow based media entrepreneur Paul Heth and consisting of the lead investor Baring Vostok Private Equity, UFG Private Equity and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, announces an investment in Karo Film, one of Russia’s leading cinema chains. The consortium will acquire a controlling shareholding in the company and will additionally support a circa $100 million investment initiative to open new multiplex cinema venues under the Karo brand over the next three years.

Paul Heth has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Karo Film. Mr. Heth brings 20 years of development and senior operating experience in the international and Russian cinema industry. Mr. Ogorodnikov and his business partner Oleg Andreev, co-founders of Karo Film will both retain significant stakes in the business. Mr. Ogorodnikov will also continue to serve as its Chairman.

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Miramax, Stream In Russian SVOD Deal

By | Tuesday July 10, 2012 @ 12:15am PDT

Miramax is making a move into Russia with its first deal to stream classic movies in the hot market. A multi-year subscription VOD partnership will see Russian multimedia entertainment services company Stream offer Miramax library titles including Kill Bill, From Dusk Till Dawn, Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting and The English Patient to customers. Films will be accessible at for streaming or download. Stream’s portfolio includes 7,000 movies and TV episodes from international and Russian studios including Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros, Disney, Central Partnership and Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs.

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Disney Channel To Launch In Russia

Disney announced today it has reached an agreement to launch a free-to-air ad-supported Disney Channel in Russia early next year. The joint venture with media holding company UTH Russia will see UTH’s Seven TV channel become Disney Channel, with Disney owning a 49% stake and UTH 51%. At launch, the network will reach about 40 million households, or about 75% of the measured audience in Russia. It will feature family programming including Disney’s signature shows as well as original Russian content. The move comes after a similar effort by Disney was blocked in 2008; the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian regulators OK’d this one after Disney boss Bob Iger met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “He endorsed the partners that we’re working with and the strategy,” Iger told the WSJ about the meeting. When it launches, it will be the 101st network in Disney Channels Worldwide’s group that currently reaches 325 million households globally.

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OSCARS: Controversy Emerges As Deadline For Foreign-Language Film Entries Looms

Pete Hammond

With the deadline for submitting films in the Foreign Language Oscar race looming, the competition is taking shape. Some 44 films have been entered by Deadline’s count. Last year, 65 films were entered, so expect 20 or so more to be announced. After the October 3rd cutoff, the Academy’s Foreign Language Executive Committee, led by Oscar-winning producer Mark Johnson (Rain Man) will vet the list and approve the final rundown before the 3-month screening process begins to pick 9 finalists and the eventual 5 nominees. Already, Johnson has indicated to me there is controversy. Albania has entered The Forgiveness of Blood, the hit at Telluride and Toronto directed by LA-born and -bred Joshua Marston. Apparently, other Albanian filmmakers are balking at the nationality of the movie’s helmer. It will be up to the committee to determine whether the film has enough Albanian elements to qualify despite being in the unique situation of having an American director (and co-writer). The very internationally inclined Marston had the official 2004 Colombian entry, Maria Full of Grace, before it was disqualified for not being Colombian enough. It did eventually win a Best Actress nod for Catalina Sandino Moreno.

The Russians are also squabbling over their official entry, Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt By the Sun 2: Citadel, the sequel to his 1995 Oscar-winning foreign language film. Even though the full Russian Oscar selection committee voted for it, Mikhalkov has been “burnt” by committee head Vladimir Menshov, who is against putting the critical and box office flop forward to the American Academy. (Despite a $45 million budget, it grossed only $1.5 million). He is awaiting Mikhalkov’s formal response to his request that he pull the film. He has until October 1, according to the Russian rule book.

China’s choice of three-time nominee  Zhang Yimou’s (Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) period epic The Flowers of War (formerly known during production as Heroes of Nanking), starring Oscar winner Christian Bale, is China’s most expensive film ever. It’s reportedly 40% English-language and 60% Mandarin, which lets it squeak by under Academy rules. Twenty minutes of footage from the film, which opens its regular run December 16 in China, was shown to buyers and press in Toronto and was well-received. Executive producer and former Universal Pictures honcho David Linde told me in Toronto that if the film gets a domestic distribution deal in time, it is entirely possible to open in the U.S. to qualify for all categories – presumably including a Best Actor bid for Bale. (Linde was non-committal on that, so we will have to wait and see.) If it gets nominated and the film is held from American release until next year, that would make it ineligible for other categories in 2012.

Among the countries still waiting to be heard from are frequent nominees Italy, Spain and Turkey. I fully expect those countries to select films that were all in the official competition in Cannes this year: Italy’s Habemus Papam from Nanni Moretti; Turkey’s Cannes Grand Prize winner Once Upon a Time in Anatolia from director Nuri Bilge Ceylan; and Spain’s The Skin I Live In, the first “horror” effort from two-time Oscar winner Pedro Almodovar. The latter has had a spotty track record with the Spanish Academy that makes the selections, but the rift is said to have eased. If they are in their right mind, they will certainly select Skin, which I think is one of Almodovar’s best and most entertaining films.

I am a bit surprised to see Belgium select Bullhead over Cannes prizewinner The Kid With a Bike from the highly respected Dardenne Brothers and also over Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight grand prize winner, the brilliant coming-of-age story Les Geants.

France usually picks something out of the main competition in Cannes, especially because festival director Thierry Fremaux is also on France’s official Oscar selection committee. But this year the country chose the well-received film that opened the smaller Critics Week competition, Declaration of War, an emotional story of young parents trying to deal with their child’s cancer diagnosis. Perhaps after seeing the Academy ignore last year’s home-grown Cannes Grand Prize winner Of Gods and Men they decided to go in a different direction. They ignored potential candidate Polisse, which won the Jury Prize in this year’s main competition at the fest. They also passed over another French-bred competition entry, the enormously popular The Artist (which added to its laurels by winning the Audience Award today at the San Sebastian Film Festival). The black-and-white silent film set and shot in Hollywood is probably not perceived as French enough, despite the Gallic credentials of director Michel Hazanavicius and star Jean Dujardin (Best Actor in Cannes). A Weinstein Company source told me they aren’t upset as they are aiming for a Best Picture slot and don’t necessarily want the film perceived as a foreign language picture.

Highlights among other official selections so far: Read More »

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Disney Shifted Foreign Strategy Months Ago

By | Thursday September 15, 2011 @ 9:44pm PDT

A report today from the UK’s Financial Times headlined “Disney Axing Local Language Film Unit” wasn’t really news for most in Hollywood and certainly not Burbank. Disney backed away from its strategy of producing local language films with local actors and made the decision to close the small Burbank office overseeing the effort in June. That was spelled out in a Fast Company profile of studio chief Rich Ross, who early on in his tenure had set up the team to focus on limited-release Disney-branded films in Brazil, Russia, India and China. The economics were always tricky and the good will generated was tough to quantify. When Ross saw big box office returns on Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 ($65M in Russia) and Cars 2 in those same countries, he decided it made more sense to spend the money on marketing and distributing the studios’ franchise films than to bank on local talent. Disney will still consider attaching its brand to local productions. But the decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

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