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1 March 2000

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  • AFM: Alliance retrenches from finance lending

    Alliance Atlantis Corp (AAC) has downscaled its Equicap structured financing division as part of a overall strategy to concentrate on its core film and TV production and distribution businesses. In a release, AAC chief financial officer W. Judson Martin described the move as a transition "from active to passive participation" in film entertainment financing.Equicap will enter a joint venture with Canadian investment house Sentinel Hill Ventures Corp to create a new entity, Senti
  • AFM: China Star goes on $150m content binge

    Chinese media conglomerate China Star is poised to invest $150m a year in Asian film production as it pushes its film-making and broadcasting efforts into a new dimension. The company is also in the market as a buyer and is putting together a massive library.China Star has launched a new umbrella, Hundred Years Productions, to make some thirty pictures a year in Hong Kong and other South-East Asian countries. Its slate kicks off with pictures from Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnny To.
  • AFM: IAC, Optimum walk with Lions in UK

    UK-based sales and financing house IAC Films and Will Clarke's UK distributor Optimum Releasing are partnering on a UK release of IAC's To Walk With Lions.The two companies will give the picture a nationwide release in May with support from several promotional partners and charities. The film, the continuation of Born Free's story, stars Richard Harris.The deal is anticipated as the first in an ongoing partnership between IAC and Optimum.IAC has also struck
  • AFM: Intertainment sells Franchise pair to France

    Barrie Baeres' pan-European rights-broker Intertainment AG has sold two of its specialised Franchise Pictures titles - Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her and The Green Dragon - in France, signalling a move by Baeres to sell off select pictures in certain territories where appropriate. Lisa Wilson of Franchise Pictures sold the territories on Intertainment's behalf.Bac Films in association with Yves Chevalier's CCI bought all rights to Things You Can Tell Just B
  • AFM: Korea stumps up for Stallone, Costner

    Korea is back, at least for the kind of star-driven pictures which Franchise Pictures has been touting at the AFM.Korea Pictures/Mirae Asset stumped up seven figure sums - each - for Korean rights to Sylvester Stallone-starrer Champs, and 3000 Miles To Graceland with Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell.Korea Pictures/Mirae Asset chief DJ Kim, who had previously bought The Whole Nine Yards, Battlefield Earth and The Art Of War from Franchise, closed
  • AFM: Primary's Kingdom includes Foster, Wang

    Gabriela Bacher's Primary Pictures, which this week announced its British gangster movie My Kingdom to star Richard Harris, has teamed up with a host of international talent on its development slate including Wayne Wang and Jodie Foster.Bacher, formerly the LA-based senior vice president of production at Constantin Film, is co-producing My Kingdom with Neal Weisman and Sky Pictures in the UK.She has also teamed up with US producers Lawrence Turman (The Graduate
  • AFM: Redbus takes Sidewalks for UK

    Fast-moving UK distributor Redbus Film Distribution has pre-bought Ed Burns' Sidewalks Of New York from Buena Vista Film Sales.The romantic comedy, which has just started shooting, is written, directed, and produced by Burns, who also stars alongside Heather Graham and Stanley Tucci. Budgeted at under $10m, it follows the trials and tribulations of dating in New York. The title is the third Buena Vista film Redbus has recently acquired following the distributor's acquisit
  • AFM: Roissy-Celluloid slate gets animated

    Newly formed French sales house Roissy Films-Celluloid Dreams is poised to become one of Europe's biggest players on the animation scene having added two animated features to its slate - The General And Bonapart and Three Old Ladies (Les Triplettes De Belleville).The General And Bonapart, a new children's animated feature directed by Andrei Khrjanovski, is a Franco-Italian co-production produced by Stephane Tchal Gadjieff and Franck Verpillat. Delivery is scheduled
  • AFM: Summit, Seven, Creek strike Benelux deals

    Seven Arts International, Summit Entertainment and Morgan Creek International have each concluded separate package deals with distributors for the Benelux. Seven Arts' deal with Les Films L'Elysee includes Rules Of Engagement starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson and Morton Orwell to which Sylvester Stallone is attached.Seven Arts International's Daniel Diamond said that the deal was a package arrangement, not an output deal. The deal was concluded between
  • AFM: US buyers say only maybe to AFM titles

    It's slim pickings for North American buyers at this year's AFM, with only a handful of titles creating any sort of buzz. But at least one film looks likely to sell - USA Films is understood to have put in an offer on BBC Films/Pandora Cinema's Maybe Baby - and another, Keanu Reeves-starrer Driven has whipped up the market's only bidding war.The promo reel for Driven, an action thriller in which the white-hot Reeves plays a serial killer opposite James Spader and M
  • AFM: Warner buys massive Franchise package

    In unquestionably the biggest deal of the AFM so far, Franchise Pictures has sold 26 pictures to Warner Bros for Latin America.The deal was driven by Angel Eyes starring Jennifer Lopez and Trust Me starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, with other titles including Dance with Patrick Swayze and Viva Las Nowhere starring James Caan and Daniel Stern. Warner also took territories that hadn't already been sold on pictures such as Battlefield Earth and The Art O
  • AFM: Winchester signs first UK producer pact

    In the week that Winchester unveiled a string of Hollywood partnerships, the UK entertainment outfit has bolstered its British production presence with a long-term deal with Mark Thomas, producer of Up 'N' Under and Rancid Aluminium.Winchester will look to Thomas to source and produce commercially-oriented, $5m-$7m projects with strong marketing hooks. The company has previously backed UK titles such as hit comedy Shooting Fish.The deal, Winchester's first l
  • American Beauty leads the pack in BAFTA nods

    Once again, American Beauty has proved its modern classic status by leading the race for this year's British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs) which take place on April 9.Following its eight Academy Award nominations, the Dreamworks production received 14 BAFTA nominations in all the major categories, including best film, best director for Sam Mendes, best actress for Annette Bening, best actor for Kevin Spacey, best supporting actress for Thora Birch and Mena Suvar
  • Backroads

    Dir: Shirley Cheechoo. US. 1999. 82 mins.Prod Co: Girl From The Backroads. Prods: Shirley Cheechoo, Phyllis Ellis, Christine K Walker. Exec prods: Henri Kessler, Ezra Swerdlow, David Pipers, Steve Gottlieb. Scr: Shirley Cheechoo. DoP: Jonathan Brown. Ed: Lee Percy. Main cast: Renae Morriseau, Sheila Tousey, Shirley Cheechoo, Greta Cheechoo, Maximilian Martini.Culturally significant as a feature written, produced and directed by a First Nations woman, Backroads is a
  • BBC confirms Redbus deal for UK

    BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK's public broadcasting empire and BBC Films, the Beeb's feature arm, have sealed an eight-picture output deal for the UK with distributor Redbus Film Distribution (RFD).RFD, owned by Redbus Film Group, will also handle video-on-demand rights for the eight titles, all of which will be BBC Films' projects which BBC Worldwide has invested in.Worldwide recently pledged funding worth around $65m over five years for films produced through the
  • Bertolucci named Critics' Week patron

    Bernardo Bertolucci will take on the newly-created role of patron of the Critics' Week (May 11-19) at this year's Cannes Film Festival.To honour the Italian director, the organisation will hold a public screening of his debut, Before The Revolution (Prima Della Rivoluzione), which screened at the festival in 1964 and launched him onto the international stage. He will also be one of several directors, both established and new, at a round-table discussion during the event.S
  • Blair Witch 2 scares up big numbers

    In the fashion of a documentary pieced together from found fragments of footage, the story of The Blair Witch Project 2 is beginning to emerge. Buyers are being given plot snippets to help them commit to the chunky prices being asked by seller Summit Entertainment.The film apparently begins with a group of three teenagers looking on the Artisan Entertainment website that so successfully launched the first film. Intrigued by what they see, the trio venture into the woods. To thei
  • Blair Witch video sales propel Alliance to profit

    Alliance Atlantis Communications boosted its third quarter earnings by 123% thanks in part to brisk video sales of The Blair Witch Project and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Net earnings for the third quarter ended December 31 were C$14.3m (US$9.9m) compared to last year's C$5.3m. That trend is likely to continue thanks to the company's retrenchment strategy that sees it focusing on its core business of television and motion picture production and distribution and
  • Canal Plus Image to float by June

    France's Canal Plus will float subsidiary Canal Plus Image on the French stock exchange before summer 2000 and probably no later than June according to an interview with Canal Plus chairman Pierre Lescure in French magazine Le Nouvel Economiste.Image regroups all of the French pay-TV giant's film activities and is one of Europe's largest film rights companies. It includes Le Studio Canal Plus and its various European offshoots as well as a 5,500-title film library.The mov
  • Cut

    Dir: Kimble Rendall. Australia. 1999. 78 mins.Prod cos: Mushroom Pictures, Beyond Films, MBP (Germany). Int’l sales: Beyond Films (612) 9281 1266. Prods: Martin Fabinyi, Bill Bennett, Jennifer Bennett
  • FFC, AtomFilms give shorts theatrical outing

    Independent distribution outfit the Feature Film Company (FFC) has teamed up with Seattle-based Internet distributor AtomFilms to secure a number of short films a theatrical outing in the UK.The deal, sealed by overseas outpost AtomFilms Europe, is the first UK theatrical deal the Seattle outfit has secured for its short films. The shorts will be released along with FFC's upcoming Broken Vessels release in cinemas from June 2 this year.'All the film world is waiting to se
  • French film suffers decline in foreign investment

    Foreign investment in French production decreased by an alarming 34% in 1999, according to figures released by French cultural body CNC (Centre National de la Cinematographie). The dip can mostly be attributed to government legislation, introduced last April, which restricts local support to French films that have budgets which are partly spent outside of France. The new legislation has encouraged French producers to concentrate on local funding rather than seeking foreign cash.
  • Germany's Primacom plans digital launch

    Germany's third-largest cable operator Primacom is launching a digital pay-TV platform in May. The yet-to-be-named service will offer more than 80 channels, pay-per-view, internet and other services. Primacom currently serves almost 1.4 million households, mainly in the former East Germany, and claims just under 1 million active subscribers. The digital service will be rolled out to 600,000 customers by 2001. Among the programme deals already signed, according to marketing director Nak
  • Gov't set to intervene in French producers' battle

    The French government looks set to intervene in a stalemate between pay-TV outfit Television Par Satellite (TPS) and industry bodies BLIC, BLOC and ARP about the relationship between the pay-TV sector and French producers.TPS is under pressure to sign an agreement with the three organisations which would govern its investment in French film production and broadcast of the films concerned.If TPS fails to the sign the agreement, the French government is likely to weigh in, accordi
  • Hungary's Magic develops WWII drama with Medien

    Magic Media, one of Hungary's largest production companies, is hooking up with Germany's Medien & Television Munchen to co-produce an adaptation of Imre Kertesz' best-selling novel Sorstalansag - Lost Fate.Janos Szasz is set to direct the project - about the fate of Budapest's Jewish population during the Second World War - from a script which he has co-written with Kertesz. Magic Media's Peter Barbalics is producing. Production is scheduled to start in 2001. Magic Media has als
  • Intertainment signs $22m deal with Spain's Manga

    Germany's Intertainment has signed a $22.4m multi-picture deal with Spanish distributor Manga Films. Under the terms of the deal, Manga takes Spanish first-run, free-TV rights to several Franchise pictures that Intertainment has co-financed or acquired through its output deal with the company, including Art of War, starring Wesley Snipes, the remake of the British gangster classic Get Carter, with Sylvester Stallone and The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson. Pictures
  • Japan's DirecTV swallowed up by larger rival

    Hughes Electronics' Japanese pay-TV platform, DirecTV, is merging with SKY PerfecTV in a move that marks DirecTV's effective withdrawal from the Japanese market after an unsuccessful three-year struggle to catch up with its larger rival.The deal was negotiated by DirecTV majority shareholder Hughes and the leading shareholder group of SKY PerfecTV, which plan to complete the merger by the end of 2000. Hughes and other DirecTV shareholders will take a 10% stake in the merged entity.
  • Kinowelt hatches plan for international network

    Germany's Kinowelt Medien is advancing plans for a high-powered international distribution consortium to be fed by high-profile US pictures.Talks are already underway with leading independent distributors in France and Spain to complement Kinowelt's existing distribution outlets, which include Germany and Eastern Europe. Additionally, the UK and Canada will be covered by Kinowelt's relationship with Canada's Alliance Atlantis. A partner in Italy may also be added.Spanish powerho
  • Miramax cleans up at AFM

    Miramax International closed most of the world on its latest package of pictures at this year's AFM with many of its usual customers and a new one - recently floated Senator Film in Germany - for Juliette Binoche/Johnny Depp-starrer Chocolat.Miramax has also won an AFMA arbitration against Spain's Aurum Producciones for non-payment. Aurum bought a package of films from Miramax including She's All That - which to date is the only movie in the package so far released - in 1
  • News Corp, Yahoo! in talks about alliance

    Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has reportedly held talks with Internet portal Yahoo! about a wide-ranging alliance under which the two companies would take financial stakes in each other's assets.Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang has met News Corp president and COO Peter Chernin several times in recent weeks, according to an article in The New Yorker magazine.Talks reportedly concern an alliance under which Yahoo! would use News Corp's content and News Corp would provide access to Ya
  • RAICinema to launch at Cannes with $250m budget

    RAICinema, the recently-formed film unit of Italian state broadcaster RAI, is set to officially launch at this year's Cannes film festival, complete with an annual budget of $250m (L500bn), some of which will be channelled into studio acquisitions.The new outfit will be involved in production, distribution and international sales, with the distribution division up and running by the end of the year. While the company isn't saying how much of its budget is earmarked for buying foreign p
  • Ripley performs but Wog Boy claims top spot

    The Talented Mr Ripley gave a strong performance in its opening four days to February 27, taking A$1,850,546 from 190 screens. However, it was not good enough to beat homegrown comedy The Wog Boy, which claimed the top spot by earning about A$180,000 more from 198 screens. "I know Ripley has long legs, good word-of-mouth and a solid future," said Libby Rhys-Jones, general manager of Roadshow in New South Wales. "It is also a very different audience."The Australian
  • Ripley, Green Mile open well against Toy power

    Toy Story 2 has confirmed its status as a true phenomenon grossing over $10m for its third consecutive weekend at the UK box office. The running total of the Disney/Pixar animation is now $53m after just 17 days on wide release. But the weekend openers The Talented Mr Ripley (pictured) and The Green Mile both survived the jam-packed schedule: Anthony Minghella's adaptation pulled in $2.2m from a medium-wide release of 282 locations (putting it at number three in the char
  • RTL buys stake in sister channel Vox

    Germany's leading commercial broadcaster RTL is making its biggest ever investment by acquiring a 49.9% stake in sister channel Vox, according to RTL chief executive Gerhard Zieler in an interview with German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The stake is currently owned by RTL parent company, Luxembourg-based CLT-UFA, which bought News Corp's 49.9% interest in Vox shortly before Christmas for a reported DM650m. Zeiler stated that Vox will remain independent under the management of An
  • Sky Hook set for pan-Yugoslav opening

    Ljubisa Samardzic's Sky Hook, which had its world premiere at the recent Berlin Film Festival where it featured in competition, is set to receive a pan-Yugoslav release in March. The release will mark the first time since the collapse of the former Yugoslavia that a feature from one of its ex-federal units will be released throughout the former country in less than one month.Sky Hook will have a gala opening in Belgrade (Serbia) on March 2 followed by Zagreb (Croat
  • Trimark pays $1.65m for What's Cooking'

    Trimark Pictures has paid $1.65m for domestic rights to What's Cooking', the latest picture from Gurinder Chadha which opened this year's Sundance Film Festival.The movie - a portmanteau piece looking at four LA households from different ethnic backgrounds as they make preparations for the traditionally festive dinner - was a popular picture at Sundance but wasn't picked up during the festival. Arthur Kananack's AKA handled worldwide sales on the film which was financed by Flash
  • UGC to invest $300m in European cinema expansion

    France's UGC Cinemas, the new owner of Virgin's UK cinema circuit, has pledged $300m to expand its cinema network across Europe.The French exhibition giant, which spent $343m (£215m) to acquire Virgin's 36 UK sites last October, plans to invest more than $80m (£50m) to build eight new UK cinemas - a total of 100 screens - over the next 18 months. The investment is being mirrored on the continent where the company is pumping $220 (Ffr1.5bn) into 12 new cinemas for France, Spain and Belg
  • UK financier relaunches as Future Film Group

    UK tax-based film investment company Factor 8 Films has re-launched as the Future Film Group, which expects to generate $40m (£25m) in risk money to invest in British features.The $40m is in addition to the benefits Factor 8 raises through its tax funds over the next two years, according to Tim Levy, who co-heads the company with Stephen Margolis. Factor 8 has raised $255 (£160m) for tax-based investment in UK films through the government's 100% first-year tax write-off availabl