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17 June 2001

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  • Amelie opens 55th Edinburgh Film Festival

    Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie is to open this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, which runs August 12-26.Amelie, released as Amelie From Montmartre in France, is set for UK release on October 5 through Momentum, which picked up the film earlier this year. The story of a naive waitress who eventually finds love after helping those around her was a critical and commercial smash on its recent release in its home territory, amassing more than $28m in six weeks
  • Australia moves towards film-friendly tax rules

    Taking a leaf out of film-friendly tax laws in countries such as Canada, Ireland and the UK, Australia has taken a first step towards film-specific legislation providing a clear-cut pathway for local taxpayers to invest in offshore films shooting in Australia. Australians, in theory at least, can invest in such films now by getting certification under a section of the Income Tax Act known as 10B. However, over the past two years producers and studios have become increasingly unsettled
  • Australia's Southern Star posts 35% rise in sales

    Australia's Southern Star Group registered sales revenues of $101m (A$193m) in the 12 months to March 31, a 35% rise over the previous year. The company's operating profit before tax and abnormals was $4.4m, double the previous result. Executive chair Neil Balnaves attributed the improvement to better cost controls, foreign exchange gains on the international distribution business, improved marketing, more targeted programme acquisitions and an expansion of the duplicating business.
  • Canadian cable operators get federal ruling boost

    Canada's media sector is likely to see further consolidation following a federal regulatory decision to allow the nation's cable companies to control speciality television channels.Companies such as Alliance Atlantis, which controls several such channels and which will be launching the Independent Film Channel later this year, and Astral Media, which owns Canada's largest pay-TV operation, will now be much more attractive to well-capitalised cable concerns such as Toronto-based Rogers
  • Canal Plus confirms 200-plus jobs to go in France

    Canal Plus has confirmed that it is to cut 217 jobs in France. The pay-TV operator, which is 49% owned by Vivendi Universal, said that it is restructuring its programming output in order to compensate for rising costs in its film and sports divisions.The French channel said yesterday that it would not lay off the personnel, but instead offer them 'other job opportunities'.The broadcaster currently has 4.6 million subscribers and has boosted its programming budget to $820m (FFR6.
  • China opens up local distribution to competition

    China Film Group Corporation is to lose its dominant position in the handling of foreign-produced films in the People's Republic of China, opening up the local distribution system to internal competition.The move, announced by Yang Buting, chairman and chief executive of China Film, during the Shanghai International Film Festival, is one of the areas of reform that Hollywood has lobbied for during the negotiations concerning China's accession to the World Trade Organisation."Thi
  • Chinese industry ready to take on the world

    After a decade in which admissions have collapsed from 16 billion a year to some 2.1 billion, the Chinese film industry is now facing up to the challenges of globalisation.Worried by the perceived threats to the film industry brought on by the opening of its borders, the Chinese central government has announced a programme of modernisation measures.Chief among these is a restructuring of the country's production system that sees the number of studio groupings fall from ten to si
  • Das Werk raises TV stakes with company acquisition

    German post-production specialist Das Werk is expanding is raising its stake in TV production outfit FFP Media by 30% to 81%.FFP, which specialises in handling programme commissions from German broadcasters, is working on four TV movie adaptations of novels by Rosamunde Pilcher and a TV movie based on a Barbara Wood novel for public broadcaster ZDF. Also in the works are three TV films for ARD/Degeto and two projects for commercial channels ProSieben and SAT.1.According to an of
  • DNA unveils First Draft script prize winners

    UK National lottery franchise DNA Films has unveiled the five winners of its First Draft scheme for new writers, this year run with training body The Script Factory.Aimed at encouraging writing at grass roots level, the scheme has selected Elizabeth Clarke Melville's All Rise, a true story about a young criminal barrister, and David Jackson's No Fun Without U, billed as A Midsummer Night's Dream set in the London art and media scene.Also securing the scheme'
  • DVD price probe stirs up Hollywood hornets' nest

    Brusselsregulators are to investigate why European customers tend to pay more for thesame recent Hollywood movies on DVD than their counterparts do in the US andCanada. They are also opening a potential hornets' nest by questioning thepractice of charging full price for DVD re-issues of old catalogue titles.The EuropeanUnion probe, which follows a similar investigation into musical compact discprices that was launched in February, comes at a time when the studios arealready arguing amo
  • EM.TV shares slide as Kirch investment in doubt

    Shares in ailing German media concern EM.TV & Merchandising hit a 2001 low on Thursday amidst speculation that the Germany cartel office could block the KirchGroup's plans to invest in the company.Speaking to Financial Times Deutschland, an official at the cartel authority was quoted as saying that the office "will present our legal view to those concerned shortly, and this is certain to be that, in the present situation, we will be proceeding from the assumption that there will
  • Former All Saint Shaznay Lewis makes feature debut

    Former All Saints member Shaznay Lewis is turning to feature films after the highly-publicised break-up of the all-girl pop act.The only All Saint not to appear in Dave Stewart's critically-panned Honest is making her feature debut in soccer comedy Bend It Like Beckham.Lewis will play the captain of a soccer team in the film, which starts a seven-week shoot at the UK's Shepperton Studios on Monday. Other new casting sees Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing a team coach.
  • Former Sky Pictures exec Mellor joins WAVEpictures

    Danish-UK production company WAVEpictures has appointed Nadine Mellor, formerly at Sky Pictures, as head of creative affairs.Mellor joins WAVE's European co-production and financing department, currently run by Luke G-Jones in the UK and Andrea Cecilia Sterll and Bo Christensen in Denmark. Also new to the company is finance director Erik Korsgaard, who will be working along side Sarah Stuart and visual effects supervisor Mike Parsons.Mellor helped build up BSkyB's feature film d
  • Fox Searchlight boards Boyle's 28 Days Later

    Fox Searchlight Pictures has acquired worldwide rights to 28 Days Later, the next film from director Danny Boyle and producer Andrew Macdonald, continuing 20th Century Fox's relationship with the British film-making duo after A Life Less Ordinary (1997) and The Beach (2000).The $15m film is to be co-financed by Searchlight and The Film Council via DNA Films, the UK lottery franchise holder which Macdonald heads with Duncan Kenworthy.Universal Pictures, wit
  • French films smash records with 54% market share

    French films have carved out a massive 54% local market share in the first five months of 2001, according to new data released by the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC).The tally roundly beats the 34% recorded during the same period last year, itself well above the annual average market share of 30%.In a bullish exhibition market, a record seven French titles are currently in the top ten for 2001. Four of these films, La Verite 2, The Closet, Brotherhoo
  • Hijack Stories

    Dir: Oliver Schmitz. South Africa. 2001. 94 mins A compelling focus on black identity in the new South Africa, Hijack Stories marks a welcome return to feature films from director Oliver Schmitz 14 years after his award-winning debut Mapantsula. The generally polished handling of topical, thought-provoking material means that it has been worth the long wait and the new film should follow its predecessor in becoming a familiar figure on the festival circuit. Modest theatrical prospects

    Despite dipping 50% in its second week in the US, Pearl Harbor has remained rather more buoyant in the UK in its second week, dropping only 21% with a three-day weekend gross of $2,863,772 on 455 screens. So far, the critically-panned Bay-Bruckheimer epic has grossed £8,913,994 in the UK.The Mummy Returns, by comparison, has amassed a four-week cume of nearly $24m and has kept a firm hold on the number two slot with no percentage drop from last week. The film is the eight
  • Italian arthouse buyer emerges from The Swamp

    Confirming its position as one of the more adventurous Italian distributors of arthouse fare, Rome-based outfit Teodora Film has picked up Italian rights to controversial Berlinale prizewinner The Swamp (La Cienaga).Argentinian newcomer Lucrecia Martel's drama about two large families trying to cope with each other during a long hot summer won the Alfred Bauer prize for best debut feature at this year's Berlin International Film Festival. While the film's non-traditional
  • James Cameron's TV debut screens at Cologne

    Dark Angel, James Cameron's first work for TV, Sidney Lumet's 100 Centre Street and Antonia Bird's Care are among 20 international fiction and non-fiction programmes selected this year to compete in the Cologne Conference's television festival.Also screening in competition is Dutch documentary maker Jeroen Berkven's A Skin To Few. Apart from the competitive sections, the Cologne Conference will also feature a retrospective dedicated to documentary filmmaker
  • Japan's SKY Perfect loses chairman, president

    SKY Perfect Communications, which runs dominant but loss-making Japanese satellite broadcaster SKY PerfecTV, has confirmed that its chairman Koya Mita and president Hajime Unoki will resign.Though the company has not officially decided on successors, press reports have named Yasushi Hosoda, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan, as Unoki's replacement. According to these reports, Hosoda's appointment will be confirmed at the next shareholders meeting.Since the start of
  • Kingsley joins Karlovy Vary festival guestlist

    Actor Ben Kingsley is expected to join Nastassja Kinski and others at this year's Karlovy Vary International film festival in July, festival organisers have announced. A newly unveiled list of guests at the Czech festival also includes director Bille August, who will present his competition film Song For Martin (En Sang For Martin); director, screenwriter and producer Bruce Beresford, who presents a special screening of his Bride Of The Wind; actress Thora Birch, w
  • Krevoy to partner Germany's IWP on third project

    US producer Brad Krevoy's feature project Basshole is being lined up as his third production to be backed this year by private German film fund IWP International West Pictures as part of its six/seven-picture production slate for 2001.Krevoy's Motion Picture Corporation of America (MPCA) has already partnered with IWP on Steve James' $8.6m (DM20m) historical drama Joe And Max, starring Til Schweiger, Leonard Roberts, Richard Roundtree and August Zirner, which continues sh
  • Lantana

    Dir: Ray Lawrence. Australia. 2001. 120 mins.Opening the 48th Sydney Film Festival, the world premiere of Lantana was received by a packed and celebrity-strewn audience with pin-drop intensity and warm regard. Ray Lawrence is an outstanding commercials director but this is his first feature since the highly regarded Bliss, the official Cannes entrant in 1985. With immaculate production values and an appealing international cast, this "adult mystery" could well make a significant impact
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

    Directed by Simon West. US 2001. 120 mins.Displaying boobs, brawn, and brain (in this order), Angelina Jolie renders such a splashy performance in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider that she not only elevates the video-game turned big-screen adventure a notch or two above its routine storyline, but also makes the entire enterprise impossible to imagine without her. As the first major distaff action hero since Sigourney Weaver in the Alien mov
  • Local boy Jensen picks up Norway's Aamot honours

    Norwegian director Knut Erik Jensen has received the Norwegian Aamot Award in Oslo, Norway. The annual award given by Norway's theatre managers and distributors was bestowed on Jensen for "his ability to capture the life and history of Norway's northernmost regions in a poetical way".Jensen is the director of the surprise box-office hit Cool And Crazy, which has sold 500,000 tickets since its January release in Norway, a country with only 4.2 million inhabitants. The film is now
  • Local films take 50% share as French BO grows

    Admissions in France grew 12% in the first five months of the year, hitting 86.5 million spectators.According to the new data from the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) there were some 11 million tickets sold in May, an increase of 11%. Lifted by films such as Amelie From Montmartre and Yamakasi the market share for domestic French productions was 53% in the first five months of the year. That compares with an annual average of 30%-35%.Over a running 12-m
  • Miramax sues Abraham over remake rights

    Miramax Films has filed a complaint in the New York District Court against English producer Eric Abraham, claiming that Abraham fraudulently inflated the prices for remake and/or sequel rights to 1995 foreign-language film Kolya and yet to be released Birthday Girl, starring Nicole Kidman."It has now become apparent," says the Miramax complaint, "that, in each case, Mr Abraham fraudulently and without revealing the true facts to Miramax, caused a shell company he secretly
  • Netherlands proposes overhaul for tax incentives

    After months of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Dutch tax incentive scheme, policy-makers from the three government ministries involved have sent a proposal to parliament recommending the current film-friendly climate be preserved with the establishment of a new scheme offering even more generous incentives, but tempered by much tighter regulation. If approved, the system will come into place from January 2002. Under the current system, which was established in 1999, private
  • No Man's Land set to open Sarajevo Film Festival

    Bosnian director Danis Tanovic's No Man's Land, which won the best screenplay award in Cannes last month, will open the seventh Sarajevo Film Festival on August 17.Although municipal and higher level government ministries have been slow to respond to the festival organisers' applications for financial support, preparations are nevertheless in full swing for this year's event from August 17-25.In addition to a film programme which features films from Central and Eastern Eu
  • Norway shuts door on Swedish exhibitor SF

    Sweden's largest exhibitor, Svensk Filmindustri (SF), the exhibition arm of the media giant Bonnier Group, has been refused a licence to establish a multiplex in Norway's third largest city, Trondheim, by local authorities. The main argument of local politicians is that cinemas run by the municipality better serve the local audience's needs. Exhibition in Trondheim is considered to be an integral part of the city's cultural life and politicians are concerned that SF Kino's (the company
  • Norwegian festival snubs its own Cannes entry

    The Norwegian short film festival in Grimstad (June 14-19) is coming under fire locally for having snubbed Norway's only official Cannes competition entry this year, Jens Lien's one minute short Natural Glasses. Festival officials have answered the criticism by urging the directors of the films refused to still bring their shorts and screen them after midnight.Even though Norway only produces around ten features per year, the number of short films is increasing. A record
  • Partington steps into Preston's shoes at Metrodome

    UK media concern the Metrodome group has promoted Alan Partington to the post of managing director of film distribution arm Metrodome Distribution, replacing Rupert Preston who resigned last week.Partington will take overall responsibility for both theatrical distribution and the video rental and sales operations. He joined Metrodome in April 1999 to establish and head up a video rental division and take control of the existing video and DVD sell-through business. Under Partington, vid
  • Pulse

    Dir: Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Japan. 118 minsKiyoushi Kurosawa's follow up to films like Cure and Charisma is his most commercial film and one that makes the current spate of teen-targeted shockers from Japan seem about as scary as the latest urban legend told around the school-lunch table. Watching Pulse is like taking a night-time plunge into the dark end of the collective unconscious and feeling you'll never come up for air. Prospects for the cult and art-house markets are bright, but the
  • Rain

    Rain could be an Antipodean companion piece to The Ice Storm, for the two films share quite a few things in common: an early 1970s setting, a literary source, an unsettled family, the confusing effects of the sexual revolution, particularly for women, a devastating death and - as the titles of both movies suggest - the malignant presence of the elements. Jeffe's debut feature (her short, Stroke, played in competition in Cannes in 1994) remains an extremely minor piece, since it also lacks t
  • RKO plans to unfurl wings in China, Asia

    RKO, the once glorious Hollywood studio, is planning to resurrect itself as a foreign-language producer with outposts in China and other parts of Asia.Speaking during the Shanghai International Film Festival, RKO president Ted Hartley said: "we aim to be involved with three or four pictures a year from China, the same again from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea. We could potentially do more than that in Japan."Hartley intends to deliver story-driven, local pictures with production va
  • Romance ruling hints at Cypriot censor relaxation

    After a seven-month trial, Cypriot exhibitor Michael Papas has been cleared of charges of exhibiting a film banned by the Cyprus Censorship Committee, Catherine Breillat's controversial Romance. The court's decision has also opened up the possibility of a challenge to Cyprus's film censorship system, which is based on British Colonial legislation put into place in 1935. Ironically, the exhibition sector seems to be uniquely penalised as hardcore pornography is broadcast nightly
  • RTL sells distributor SND to France's M6

    Pan-European media giant RTL Group has sold its French distribution offshoot SND to French broadcaster M6, in which the Luxembourg-based group already holds a major stake.Eric Marti, who founded SND in 1997, is to be replaced by Thierry Desmichelles. Marti sold the company to RTL Group in 1998, keeping a minority stake, and has been running the distribution outfit since then.Desmichelles was previously deputy general manager in charge of film at M6 Interactions. He has already p
  • Sales Co confirms Aline Perry appointment

    UK media outfit Civilian Content has confirmed former PolyGram Film International chief Aline Perry as chief executive of its overseas sales operation, The Sales Co.BBC Films business development head Jane Wright, who became acting chief executive last year after the departure of Alison Thompson, is to return to BBC Films in an enhanced role. Wright, who oversaw sales on titles such as Cannes competition entry No Man's Land at The Sales Co, will continue to run the business side
  • Shanghai fest's AFMA pact boosts market plans

    The Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF) yesterday struck a pact with the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA).The deal is just one of several initiatives intended to boost Shanghai's weight as a market for films.The SIFF-AFMA memorandum of friendship sets out a five-point plan that starts with exchanges of information and market organisation, but also extends to efforts to boost the imports of foreign films into China and co-operation moves to boost film production
  • Shanghai rewards Antitrust with Golden Urn

    Antitrust, an alarm-bell ringing picture about monopolies and the abuse of the power of technology, was the big winner at last night's closing ceremony of the Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). The MGM-distributed picture scooped one Jin Jue (Golden Urn) for best film and another, best director, for the UK's Peter Howitt.It was the first time that MGM had entered a film for competition selection at SIFF and the first time the top honours went to an American-financed pi
  • Shochiku veteran unveils 13-title indie slate

    Former Shochiku production head Kazuyoshi Okuyama is preparing a slate of 13 films, including several financed by foreign partners.In addition to his Team Okuyama production company, the veteran producer is developing the slate with QFront Movie, a new film company he has launched with the backing of the Tokyu Group, whose interests include real estate and media. Okuyama plans to produce the slate over the next three years, possibly adding more films to the initial 13."I want to
  • Storytelling

    Dir: Todd Solondz. US. 2001. 87 mins.The same darkly humorous sensibility that defined Todd Solondz's earlier pictures is at work in his new satire, Storytelling, except that the novelty has worn out and the notoriously acerbic vision is now contained in a deliberately fractured narrative that leaves a lot to be desired in text, tone and tempo. Targeting its barbs at the severely flawed American educational institution --teachers, students, and their parents -- this is very much a comp
  • Sweden renews company funding policy

    The Swedish Film Institute has announced that it is to continue its policy of backing independent producers and production companies rather than individual productions.The scheme was established last year in order to help production companies cover overhead costs while developing new projects. Unlike traditional state backing, where funds are allotted to a single project, the Fund for Independent Producers awards finances directly to the company instead.'Out of five production c
  • Swordfish tops US box office, Shrek still hot

    Warner Bros' R-rated action thriller Swordfish was number one at the North American box office over a static weekend, taking an OK $18.4m over its first three days on release although the generally poor reviews for the film and heavyweight action competition next week from Tomb Raider don't bode well for a long play in theatres.Produced by Joel Silver and playing on 2,678 sites, Swordfish star John Travolta as a crime lord planning a daring bank robbery with the he
  • Tartan's Teddy puts Bundy into production

    Tartan Films, the production offshoot of UK specialist distributor Metro Tartan, is in production on Bundy, a biopic about the notorious mass-murderer. The film is backed by Overseas FilmGroup, which is also handling international sales. Bundy, currently shooting in California, will be the second instalment in Tartan Films' serial killer trilogy, which was kicked off in macabre style by Chuck Parello's Ed Gein. Matthew Bright, whose credits include Confessions O
  • Telefilm head LaPierre departs for Canadian Senate

    The chairman of Telefilm Canada, Laurier LaPierre, is leaving his post, marking the third departure of senior management from the federal film and television agency. LaPierre, a respected journalist who has served since 1998, has resigned to accept an appointment to the nation's senate. His departure leaves something of a vacuum in the highest echelon of Telefilm.Francois Macerola, the agency's executive director since 1995, and Peter Katadotis, director, Canadian operations, lo
  • Tomb Raider's a smash: $48m opening for Paramount

    Paramount Pictures' movie-of-the-video-game Lara Croft: Tomb Raider made a big impression at the North American box office at the weekend, taking a massive $48.2m despite across-the-board bad reviews. The movie is the third consecutive hit for director Simon West after Con Air and The General's Daughter and confirms its Oscar-winning star Angelina Jolie as one of the biggest female stars in the world.The film was co-financed by Mutual Film Co which has sold rights
  • UK film school unveils China fund

    The UK's National Film and Television School (NFTS) has set up a new scholarship programme for Chinese students to study in Britain.The award, which was unveiled in Shanghai by NFTS director Stephen Bayly, is worth $21,000 ($15,000) and will allow a film student from China to attend a one-year Advanced Programme, a project-based course for film graduates.Backing for the award comes from the Chevening Programme and is sponsored by the UK's Department of Culture Media & Sport, the
  • UK's Civilian cements TV aims by acquiring Isis

    Civilian Content, the UK media concern which owns National Lottery franchise The Film Consortium and sales outfit The Sales Co, has cemented its move into TV by agreeing to acquire Isis Productions.Civilian is buying the production company, which specialises in music programming such as the Classic Albums series, from its management team and majority shareholder, Westpool Investment Trust, a subsidiary of venture capital company London Merchant Securities.Civilian
  • UK's Ealing Studios set for $100m revamp

    Historic UK film facility Ealing Studios is to get a $100m (£70m) overhaul after its new owners secured planning permission on Wednesday night to revamp the site.Ealing's owners aim to build production offices, refurbish the studios and the historic White House, and transform the site into a state-of-the art media village as well as a traditional film and television studio. Bought last year by a group including Barnaby Thompson and Uri Fruchtmann of production outfit Fragile Films, Eal
  • UK's May box office take hits 26-year high

    The mammoth release of The Mummy Returns and the ongoing success of Bridget Jones's Diary helped make May's admissions in the UK the highest for the month in 26 years, according to figures released by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA).In its fourth week on release, The Mummy Returns has grossed nearly $24m, while Bridget Jones's Diary has pocketed over $51m in nine weeks. Admissions during May were up 2.5% year on year, reaching 11.6m during th
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien breaks Mexican box office record

    Alfonso Cuaron's steamy drama Y Tu Mama Tambien has smashed Mexican box-office records for local films, ending its first week on release in Mexico with $2.19m from just 230 prints. This is the highest opening week figure ever earned by a Mexican film. The Mummy Returns, by contrast, made $1.86m from its 360 print release. Released by 20th Century Fox on June 8, Y Tu Mama Tambien is Cuaron's first Spanish-language feature after a stint in Hollywood, where he directe
  • Zhang Yimou to direct Chinese Olympic bid promos

    Controversial Chinese director Zhang Yimou has begun work directing a series of short films for China as part of its bid to host the Olympic Games in 2008.The decision to commission Zhang is surprising, given his previous run-ins with the Chinese government. Zhang, who recently directed The Road Home and Not One Less, and was previously responsible for Raise The Red Lantern and Shanghai Triad, has frequently run into problems with the authorities in China. H

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QC Specialist