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5 January 2001

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  • 2000 domestic box office breaks all-time record

    The North American box office reached a record $7.45bn in 2000, up 2% from last year's $7.31bn, according to early estimates from box office data organisation ACNielsen EDI which is scheduled to reveal its final figures tomorrow.The record had looked unlikely earlier in the year after a disappointing summer (down 5% from 1999) and a grim September. However, once Meet The Parents and Remember The Titans hit in early October, audiences started returning to theatres in time
  • AOL, Time Warner merger faces regulatory delay

    AOL and Time Warner stocks slipped over the holiday period as investors tried to limit tax losses and the two would-be partners were left waiting for approval for their mega-merger from US regulators.The Federal Communications Commission, the final regulatory hurdle to creating the world's biggest entertainment concern, failed to give the companies a greenlight in the run-up to the New Year. While approval is still expected, AOL and Time Warner may now have to wait beyond January to cl
  • Arthur Miller teams with Amos Gitai

    Celebrated American playwright Arthur Miller and Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai are collaborating on an adaptation of Miller's story, Homely Girl.Along with co-writing the script, Miller is to appear in the picture, titled Plain Jane, alongside Samantha Morton, Danny Huston and Thomas Jane. Originally set in New York, Gitai and Miller have moved the drama to Israel in the thirties.The story follows the daughter of a Jewish immigrant who tries to resolve her marriage
  • Artisan, Marvel cast Ray Park as Iron Fist

    Artisan Entertainment has signed Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace and Toad in X-Men, to play Iron Fist in its screen version of the Marvel Comics character. John Turman, whose credits include Buck Rogers In The 25th Century and The Incredible Hulk, will write the screenplay for the film which will be the first to emerge from Artisan's 2000 deal with Marvel Enterprises to jointly develop, produce and distribute char
  • Australia goes to Meet The Parents at Christmas

    UIP's Meet The Parents has become one of the biggest Christmas hits of the year in Australia after its powerful performance on December 26.The Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro comedy took $700,000 from 256 screens, pushing its seven day gross up to January 1 to $3.9m. December 26 is regarded as so lucrative in Australia that seven films launched on the public holiday despite it falling on a Tuesday. With very few exceptions, new films usually open on a Thursday. Among the Decem
  • Barry Levinson, Intermedia stike first-look pact

    The true-life story which inspired the classic novel Moby Dick is the first project in an exclusive first-look deal announced on Friday between uber-indie Intermedia and Barry Levinson and Paula Weinstein's US production outfit Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures.The partners are working on an adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick's National Book Award-winner, In The Heart Of The Sea, an epic story of one of the most notorious maritime disasters of the 19th century. Under the two
  • Berlin Children's Festival readies global line-up

    Films from the US, Italy, Iran and Spain are understood to be joining titles from the UK and Scandinavia in next month’s Children’s Film Festival sidebar at the Berlin International Film Festival.Italy’s RAI Trade is representing Il Cielo Cade, which won the Giffoni Film Festival in July. Camera d’Or winning Iranian-Kurdish title A Time For Drunken Horses, handled internationally by France’s MK2, is also expected to be heading to Potsdamer Platz this year.From
  • BVI tops 2000 international league with $1.307bn

    Buena Vista International (BVI) grossed $1.307bn in 2000, marking it out as the top performing international distribution company of the year. Buena Vista was also the number one performing distributor in North America with a total of $1.1bn for the year.It is the sixth consecutive year that BVI has crossed the $1bn barrier and the fifth time in the last seven years that BVI has won the market share crown, according to a statement by BVI president Mark Zoradi. The total comes just sho
  • Carlton, New Select partner on trio for Japan

    London-based sales house Carlton International has signed a three-picture deal with Japan's New Select for star-driven TV action films. New Select is buying TV, DVD and video rights in Japan to Rough Air: Danger On Flight 534, Tin Can Alley and Maiden Voyage. All three are produced by Carlton America (formerly Hamdon Entertainment) and co-produced with Herbert Kloiber's Tele Muenchen Group (TMG). "We see New Select as a key partner in developing sales of our
  • Cast Away tops $109m after only 11 days

    Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson demonstrated their huge star power over the Christmas and New Year holiday weekends, notching up megahits in the form of Cast Away and What Women Want respectively. Accompanied by excellent reviews from most North American critics, Cast Away opened with a powerhouse $39.9m opening over the four day weekend Dec 22-25 and followed that up with an even better New Year weekend total of $40m. Its eleven day total is now $109.7m, representin
  • Claire Danes signs to Vinterberg's sci-fi romance

    Claire Danes has been cast in Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's English-language fantastical romance, It's All About Love. Danes is to play the world famous ice skater Elena in the story about two lovers and their attempts to save their floundering relationship in a near-future world on the brink of spiritual collapse. Shooting is scheduled from mid-April on location and in studios in Denmark and in Sweden, with extensive second unit filming in New York and around the globe.
  • Cool And Crazy opens Tromso arctic festival

    The world premiere of Norsk Film's musical documentary Cool And Crazy opens this month's Tromso International Film Festival.Belgium's Thomas Est Amoureux closes the Norwegian event, located 200 miles north of the Arctic circle and the country's most attended festival. This year's edition, which runs January 16 to 21, will be the festival's first as a competitive event, with 15 films vying for the Aurora prize.Tromso will screen such festival favourites as Sabu's
  • Dogme, Jan Troell bookend Gothenburg festival

    Dogme film When The Nights Get Longer will open Scandinavia's largest film event, the Gothenburg International Film Festival, while Jan Troell's As White As Snow closes proceedings as a world premiere.When The Nights is a tragicomedy about the hidden conflicts at a family's Christmas reunion in a mountain cabin. The Norwegian production also screens in Gothenburg's Nordic competition section.Troell's film stars Amanda Ooms as aviation pioneer Elsa Andersson.
  • Fireworks, Goldwyn buy US on UK's Greenfingers

    Fireworks Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films have reteamed to jointly acquire US rights to Greenfingers, the British comedy starring Helen Mirren and Clive Owen.The film, which world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, will be distributed through IDP, the distribution joint venture between Fireworks, Samuel Goldwyn and Stratosphere Entertainment. The story of prison inmates whose lives change on a gardening rehab programme was sold by Overseas Fil
  • French films slide to less than 30% market share

    French cinema's national pride took a dent last year as local films' box office share dipped under the symbolic 30% mark.The fall from 1999's market share of 32.4% came despite a buoyant market. The French box-office rang up 163m tickets, the highest cinema attendance in ten years with the exception of Titanic-fuelled 1998. By comparison, 154m were sold in 1999.The 6% rise in attendance appears to have been driven by the launch of loyalty passes and a rise in the number o
  • German shares slashed, Intertainment battered

    German film stocks continued to fall despite stockmarket bouyancy over the recent holiday period as four companies lost at least a quarter of their value in the three weeks after December 15.Intertainment was hardest hit, being stripped of almost two-thirds of its value as it waged a public war with its principal content supplier, the US' Franchise Entertainment, over terms of their partnership. Odeon, Advanced and Cinemedia lost 25-30% of their value, while VCL lost 24%.Stockbr
  • Germany's e-m-s buys into two more media outfits

    German DVD company e-m-s new media, the publicly-listed concern which bought into film rights trader Advanced Medien in December, has taken stakes in TV production house AZAWAKH and multimedia company get.Dortmund-based e-m-s has taken a 30% interest in AZAWAKH to develop formats for exploitation on TV and DVD. Named after a South African greyhound, AZAWAKH has broadcaster clients such as VOX, Onyx-TV and regional channel NRW 1. The other 70% shareholding is held by Studio Dortmund, wh
  • Industry figures get British New Year Honours

    Film industry figures receiving recognition in the British New Year Honours List include veteran actors Tom Courtenay, who receives a knighthood, and Paul Scofield, best known for his Shakespearean work, who becomes a Companion Of Honour.Producer William Kenwright, whose credits include Don't Go Breaking My Heart, receives a CBE, while US actor Zoe Wanamaker becomes an Honorary Commander. John William Mitchell, a sound mixer and recordist whose credits include This Sporting L
  • Japan's Star, Sky to merge

    A powerhouse film broadcaster is set to emerge in Japan following the merger of Star Channel, Japan's largest all-movie cable and satellite service, and Sony and News Corp's Sky Movies.The merged company will retain the name Star Channel and source films from six Hollywood majors. The service will have a library of nearly 1,000 titles. Star Channel owners Itochu and Tohokushinsha, which each own a 35.3% share, are to sell half their stock to Sony and News Corp, Sky Movies' leadi
  • Kinowelt gets investor as Koelmels sell 4.9%

    German mini-major Kinowelt has gained a new long-term investor after Munich Re Insurance Group's acquisition of 1.2m shares - equivalent to 4.9% of the media concern's capital stock.The shares were bought from Kinowelt founders Michael and Rainer Koelmel. According to an adhoc announcement, the proceeds from the sale will be made available to Kinowelt via a shareholder loan.The Koelmel family intends to top up its shareholding correspondingly later in the year through a converti
  • Miramax adds two new Italian directors to the fold

    Miramax Films has closed two separate multi-picture deals with Italian directors Gabriele Muccino and Davide Ferrario to develop and direct both English and Italian language productions.First picture to go under Muccino's deal will be Miramax's remake of Cedric Klapisch's Paris-set, French-language breakthrough hit, Chacun Cherche Son Chat (When The Cat's Away) The Miramax version will be set in New York and English language.Miramax bought the remake rights to the
  • Planeta takes Triumph, Legend Of Zu

    Planeta 2010, the acquisitive media division of Spanish publishing giant Planeta, has picked up all local rights on The Triumph Of Love and The Legend Of Zu.Triumph, a romantic comedy starring Mira Sorvino and Ben Kingsley, is currently shooting in Tuscany under director Clair Peploe. Peploe co-wrote the script with husband Bernardo Bertolucci, who also produces.Chinese action flick Zu, from director Tsui Hark, is also currently in production on a budget of
  • Robino joins MGM as s'r vp, worldwide promotions

    Mary Goss Robino has been named senior vice president, worldwide promotions, at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) after ten years at New Line Cinema. Reporting to Gerry Rich, president of worldwide theatrical marketing for MGM, she will be responsible for developing creative marketing and promotional partnerships and tie-ins related to all the company's new theatrical releases.Most recently at New Line she was senior vice president, national promotions, with credits including Austin Powers
  • Rotterdam programmes nine world premieres

    This month's International Film Festival Rotterdam, considered to be at the cutting edge of the Euro festival circuit, boasts nine world premieres in its main competition section.Amongst the films screening for the first time in the VPRO Tiger Award Competition - which showcases first or second features - are Shi Runjiu's Chinese gangster movie All The Way; Uruguayan slacker story 25 Watts; and Herve Le Roux's bitter French comedy about the war of the sexes, On Apelle
  • Sales surge for Sony's game console-cum-DVD player

    Sony's game console-cum-DVD player PlayStation 2 has weathered a bumpy start to rack up domestic shipments of four million by the end of 2000, company sources have revealed.Worldwide sales of the console are expected to pass the 11 million mark by the end of March, one year after its debut. The upswing comes despite missing sales, particularly to North American holiday shoppers, because parts supply bottlenecks kept shipments below projections.Game developers also appear to be w
  • Scandinavian fears despite $500m admissions boom

    Cinema-going in Scandinavia and the Baltic could explode by almost 40% by 2005 to hit $500m a year, according to the latest research from industry consultants Dodona Research. But, according to separate figues, local films may not benefit from the growth.Dodona calculates that total admissions in 2005 could reach 58 million. In 2000, admissions rose to 50 million, compared to 48.9 in 1999 and 48.7 in 1998.Dodona cites higher ticket prices and steady investment in new cinemas as
  • Spain's Canal hits 1 million pay-TV subscribers

    Grupo Prisa's Spanish pay-TV operation Canal Satelite Digital has racked up 1.05 million subscribers.The figure is nearly double that of rival Via Digital's 630,000, a lead some attribute to four year-old Canal Satelite's ready-made subscriber base through pay platform Canal Plus. The 10-year-old sister service now boasts 1.85 million subscribers.Via Digital launched six months after Canal Satelite in September 1997. Their battle for exclusive product led to a top dollar rights
  • Splendid balks at acquiring further IEG shares

    Germany's Splendid Medien has decided not to exercise an option to acquire further shares in its US production subsidiary IEG.Taking up the option on 2% of IEG's stock would have made the German concern majority shareholder with a 51% stake. In an adhoc statement to Frankfurt's Neuer Markt, Splendid said that "the conditions currently prevailing in the film market advocate a US majority in IEG".Unconsolidated sales for Splendid in 2000 are set to reach around $24m - well short o
  • Sundance adds Campers, Stranger to fest lineup

    The Sundance Film Festival has announced two surprise screenings which will be added to the 2001 lineup - Daniel Waters' Happy Campers and Cheryl Dunye's Stranger Inside.Happy Campers, financed and distributed worldwide by New Line Cinema, is the directorial debut of Waters. It stars Brad Renfro, Dominique Swain, James King, Jordan Bridges, Emily Bergl, Justin Long and Keram Malicki-Sanchez as a diverse team of counsellors who take over Camp Bleeding Dove after th
  • Suzhou River wins Tokyo's first FILMeX festival

    The first Tokyo FILMeX festival, launched as an art-house alternative to the more mainstream Tokyo International Film Festival, awarded its grand prize to Lou Ye's Suzhou River.Film-makers who lent their support to the festival included jury chairman Arturo Ripstein and jury members Bela Tarr and Jafar Panahi. A special jury prize went to Hassan Yektapanah's Djomeh.Describing several competition titles as "truly excellent", Ripstein said the jury could not reach a
  • Telefonica in talks for majority stake in Manga

    Telefonica Media, the multimedia filial of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, is in negotiations to take a majority stake in Barcelona-based distributor Manga Films.A spokesperson for Telefonica Media confirmed that talks are in "early stages." Manga was reportedly in negotiations last year to sell a stake to Germany's Splendid Medien.Manga would provide Telefonica with one of the last missing links in its vertical structure. The deal would also mark the first major acquisition
  • Terence Davies in tune with Sunset Song adaptation

    Writer-director Terence Davies is eyeing an adaptation of the classic Scots novel Sunset Song to follow his critically acclaimed film of Edith Wharton's book The House Of Mirth.The 1932 book, the first part of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's A Scots Quair trilogy, centres on Chris Guthrie, a proud young woman whose existence is defined and restricted by her relationship with the land and the Highland crofting culture. Davies was approached to direct by Edinburgh Internation
  • UIP acquires Spanish Big Brother feature

    International distribution giant UIP has picked up Spanish theatrical rights to The Big Martian (El Gran Marciano), a hoax digital feature starring the (unwitting) cast of the Spanish version of Big Brother.UIP acquired the rights from start-up production outfit Zebra Produccciones, which shot Martian almost entirely without the knowledge of the protagonists. Director Antonio Hernandez and producer Antonio Saura managed to catch their reactions to unlikely sp
  • World-wide line-up set for Berlin's Panorama

    Films from Sweden, Germany, the UK, Thailand, Korea, Argentina and Switzerland are among the first titles understood to have been selected for the Panorama section of February's Berlin International Film Festival.Family Secrets, a drama directed by Kjell-Ake Andersson, is expected to represent Sweden in the section. Ab Svensk Filmindustri is representing the picture, which stars Rolf Lassgard and Maria Lundqvist.Germany is understood to be represented by films such as Berlin