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6 August 2001

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  • $30bn EchoStar bid for DirecTV challenges Murdoch

    US satellite TV operatorDirecTV may end up costing far more than Rupert Murdoch had bargained for nowthat rival EchoStar Communications has weighed in with a surprise $30.4bncompeting bid.The news immediately tookits toll on shares of Murdoch's News Corp which fell by more than 3% inearly trading on the Australian stock exchange as analysts tried to assess theimplications of EchoStar's counter-offer.Murdoch has been in advancednegotiations with DirecTV's current owner, General M
  • Aizea is first Euro film to use DTS/16mm system

    A 29-minute German/Spanish short Aizea: City Of The Wind becomes the first European film to use the DTS/16mm sound technology when it premieres this week at the Hollywood Film Festival in Los Angeles.The system, pioneered by Digital Theatre Systems (DTS), combines DTS 5.1 six channel digital surround sound with 16mm film stock, which has traditionally been limited to mono sound. Aizea was mixed in Munich, Germany, by Giesing Team, one of the country's foremost sound studios.
  • Another mega-opening at US box office: Rush Hour 2

    With a whopping estimated $66.8m three-day opening New Line Cinema's Rush Hour 2 leapt into the record books over the weekend, becoming the biggest comedy opening of all time, the biggest New Line opening of all time, the biggest August opening ever and the third best non-holiday opening on record. The comedy follow-up to Brett Ratner's 1998 smash teaming Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker comes in just behind last weekend's Planet Of The Apes ($68.5m) and May opener The Mu
  • Apes start taking over the planet again

    20th Century Fox's Planet Of The Apes re-imagining, under the direction of Tim Burton, opened day and date in Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand to massive box office figures.Even while it was smashing numerous records over the three-day weekend (Friday 27 July-Sunday 29) in North America, Apes was showing muscular strength in the Asian markets as well. Swinging into Japan on Saturday the sci-fi tale managed an estimated $5.5m from 326 screens, a tremendous average of $16,871
  • Barrandov and Boyana studios attracting investors

    US producer David Kappes (Dune, Anne Frank) is said to be heading a group of American producers, called Trilateral Entertainment, interested in purchasing the Czech Republic's Barrandov Studios, according to local sources.Current Barrandov owner Moravia Steel, which is selling the studio complex on the outskirts of Prague to focus on its core metallurgy business, has said that four bidders are still in the running for the studios. Prague-based film production compa
  • Becker Entertainment tempted by Bennett's thriller

    Becker Entertainment has acquired Australasian rights to local writer/director Bill Bennett's US film Tempted from TF1 and will release it early next year. The sexual thriller about betrayal, passion and deceit was shot entirely on location in the stately homes and surrounding swamps of New Orleans. Peter Facinelli plays a young law student who is delivered a tempting proposition by Burt Reynolds' wealthy character, the much older husband of Saffron Burrows' Lily. Becker'
  • Berlusconi daughter to head Italy's Medusa

    Marina Berlusconi, daughter of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has been appointed president of Finvinvest film arm Medusa Film. The move at Italy's leading film production and distribution outfit, follows the death of Carlo Bernasconi last month."Marina Berlusconi's appointment to the head of the company is a strong sign of Fininvest's attention towards Medusa Film, which over the years has become a leading internationally-oriented company. It is also a sign of respect toward
  • Bingham Ray lined up to head United Artists

    After weeks of speculation, it seems certain that indie veteran Bingham Ray is to head United Artists (UA), the specialised arm of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Ray, who is expected to remain based in New York City, is currently running the film production arm of New York commercial and video production company Crossroads Films. Indeed, earlier this year he engineered a distribution deal for Crossroads with UA; Ray had been working on international financing components for Crossroads sinc
  • Bollywood beats the summer heat

    Only a few years ago, the arrival of an Indian film in the UK box office charts was big news - now it is an increasingly common occurrence. Following hot on the heels of Bollywood hit Lagaan, yet another Indian success has entered the top 15. Yaadein arrived at number seven with $189,665 (£133,145). Screening at just 18 UK sites the film achieved a massive average of $10,537, the highest for any film over the weekend. The latest of many Bollywood prod
  • Branson's Virgin Cinemas set to expand in Japan

    Virgin Cinemas is to launch two new multiplexes in Japan as part of an aggressive expansion plan for the territory that will see Richard Branson's exhibition interests reach 18 sites by 2004.The first site, a nine-screen cinema in suburban Tokyo is set for a December launch, while a 10-screener at Ebina will arrive next Spring.Virgin, which currently operates five multiplexes with a total of 53 screens in the territory, will have to compete for increasingly cautious audiences wi
  • Cacavas named Columbia vp, world dist'n analysis

    John Cacavas has been promoted to vice president, worldwide distribution analysis, for Columbia Pictures. He reports to Paul Smith, executive vice president, worldwide marketing and distribution, for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.He will focus on analysing the worldwide motion picture industry, in particular how the company's different film genres perform during key holiday and vacation time frames. He will also develop systems to monitor the global film distribution business
  • Canal Plus, UPC merge Polish pay-TV platforms

    Vivendi Universal and Dutch cable operator UPC are this week expected to merge their pay-TV platforms in Poland.The long-anticipated move will give the country a single pay-operator and potentially allow the unified platform a chance to achieve profitability faster than if the two were in direct competition.A spokesman at Canal Plus, the Vivendi Universal subsidiary responsible for the deal, today confirmed the nature of the talks and said that they were "very advanced." But he
  • China threatens red card for Chow's Soccer hit

    Shaolin Soccer, the most popular local film of the year in Hong Kong, is in danger of being banished from China and its hugely popular actor-director Stephen Chow fined.The threat follows a row about the film's content and release permits. Zhou Jiangdong, a department head within the powerful State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), said that as the film is a Hong Kong-Chinese co-production it needed to pass official review before public screening in either H
  • Cinegroupe launches live action division

    Montreal-based animation producer and distributor CineGroupe has given a name and a face to its new live-action arm, first announced in January (Screendaily Jan. 29). The new unit, CineGroupe Images, will be headed by Robin Spry, former president and CEO of Telescene Film Group, the Montreal production company which foundered last year until it was rescued in January 2001 through a joint-venture with CineGroupe. The company, approximately 30%-owned by Lions Gate Entertainment, is set t
  • Constantin rules German independent distribution

    German independent distributor Constantin Film has re-asserted its status as the most successful distributor of German films this year, largely due to the phenomenal performance of local Western spoof, Der Schuh Des Manitu.After only 18 days on release, the film, which was co-produced by Constantin Film's in-house production arm, has racked up over 3.2m admissions and even saw its weekend admissions climb by more than 20% over last week to become the most successful local film o
  • Dimension re-releases Spy Kids with new scene

    Dimensions Films' family hit Spy Kids will be re-released in North America next Wednesday (Aug 8) with an additional three-minute underwater special effects scene cut from the original which opened on March 30 and went on to gross over $100m."It was one of my favourite scenes, but it was never completed because of the enormous amount of effects shots to be done in the time we had," explained writer/director Robert Rodriguez. "I initially thought of saving the scene for the sequ
  • Dutch dozen to feature at Netherlands project mart

    Twelve Dutch projects are to be showcased at the Netherlands Production Platform, the high profile production sidebar of the Dutch Film Festival (19-28 Sept). Now in its third year, the platform presents Dutch feature projects to possible co-production partners, financiers and sales agents and has a good track record of matching talent and money. In previous years, Halima's Paradise by Fatima Jebli Ouazzani found German co-producer Pandora Film. The script went on to win the Sun
  • EM.TV offloads holding in Crown Media

    In yet another stage of its restructuring, beleagured German media concern EM.TV & Merchandising has offloaded its holding in Crown Media Holdings to Hallmark Entertainment for a total $ 103m. The 8.2% shares in Crown Media had been held by EM.TV via its 100% subsidiary The Jim Henson Company which received the shares in exchange for 22.5% of its holding in the Odyssey Network and 50% of its shares in the Kermit Channel. In addition to the $103m injection of fresh cash, The Jim
  • Fallen Australian media baron Skase dies in exile

    Christopher Skase, thebuccaneering Australian businessman who briefly acquired the MGM/UA studiobefore running into bankruptcy and becoming an international fugitive, died onSunday on the Spanish island of Majorca. He was 52."I can confirm he hasdied, it was a mixture of everything, emphysema, cancer, the works,"Majorca Daily Bulletin editor and family friend Jason Moore told Reutersyesterday. "They (his family) are very upset. They are very upset with theAustralian authorities. Despit
  • Fantastic fiction emerges from Puchon

    Puchon is a city that lives in a cloud of fantasy. A town situated uneasily between the metropolis of 10 million souls that is Seoul and the thrusting seaport of Incheon which boasts Asia's newest international airport, new town Puchon fears being overshadowed. Culture is the tool it has chosen to keep itself in the spotlight.The town - which, with no less than a couple of hundred high rise apartment blocks currently under construction, looks as if it is preparing for a population expl
  • 'Father of Korean cinema' starts 98th film

    Following the worldwide success of his previous feature Chunhyang, Veteran Korean director Im Kwon-taek has started production of his 98th film. Titled Chwi-hwa-seon in Korean, the film chronicles the true story of 19th century painter Jang Seung-eop, whose free lifestyle and eccentric personality earned him as much fame as his accomplished painting (the title refers to the artist's habit of painting while drunk).Im says that with this feature he hopes to give increased e
  • Filmfest Hamburg reveals first programme titles

    Fosco and Donatello Dubini's new feature Die Reise Nach Kafiristan, which will have its world premiere on Locarno's Piazza Grande open-air venue on August 9, is one of the titles confirmed so far for this year's Filmfest Hamburg (September 24-30).The Filmfest's 90-film programme will also include Japanese director Rintaro's animation film Metropolis (which screened in Locarno's "Cinema of the Present" sidebar this week), Majid Majidi's Baran (Iran); Cedric Kahn's
  • German exhibition partners sever relationship

    German exhibition companies Cinemaxx and Ufa are to sever their co-operative partnership after little more than a year. The break-up of what would have become Germany's largest cinema chain follows the posting of CinemaxX's 2001 half-year losses of $22.5m (DM52.3m).Last May CinemaxX founder Hans-Joachim Flebbe bought 10% of Ufa including an option for buying the rest. At the same time CinemaxX assumed operational control of the Ufa group of cinemas.According to a report in the F
  • Germany's Das Werk expands international network

    German postproduction group Das Werk has taken a 25% stake in the Belgian high-end video and film post-production company ACE Digital House, as part of its creation of an international network of postproduction companies. A cash payment of Euro 1.5m (20%) was supplemented with 5% in Das Werk shares. Over the past year, Das Werk has integrated the Spanish EnEfecto Group under its roof, completed a majority acquisition of London-based facility Glassworks, secured a 15% holding in the lea
  • Highbinders gets off to flying start

    Production has got underway in Ireland on The Highbinders, the Jackie Chan starring action-comedy that is the biggest budget film ever to emerge from Hong Kong.The $35m picture is produced by Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG) and is directed by Gordon Chan with veteran stuntman Sammo Hung responsible for directing the acting sequences. Alongside Chan, the film stars Claire Forlani, Lee Evans, John Rhys-Davies, Christy Chung and Anthony Wong.The film is the story of a Hong Ko
  • Hindi film Dattak to open at Toronto

    Dattak, a Hindi feature film by well-known and award-winning director Gul Bahar Singh for the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), will be screened at the Toronto Film Festival. The film, about a guilt-ridden young non-resident Indian "adopting" an old man because he had abandoned his own father, stars A K Hangal and Anjan Srivastav along with Rajit Kapur and Kruttika Desai. Dattak has also been invited to the Shanghai and Hawaii International Film Festivals.
  • Hollywood studios go bananas over internet piracy

    Twentieth Century Fox has sent letters to internet service providers (ISPs) asking them to disable the accounts of people showing Planet Of The Apes (pictured left) on the world wide web.The Fox move is one of the most visible to date as Hollywood studios become more aggressive in their drive to protect copyrights and intellectual property. Last week studios, cable and satellite companies threw their weight behind a new standard for digital video protection. The new stand
  • Hong Kong's Emperor to focus on film production

    Shareholders in Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG) have approved the takeover of Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG), one of Hong Kong's most ambitious production and distribution outfits.The deal, which is expected to be completed within a week, means that EMG shifts from being a private entity, wholly owned by Albert Yeung's Questrel company, to becoming a subsidiary of a public company traded on the territory's Growth Enterprise Market. The value of the transaction is $6.55m (HK$51.6m), j
  • India's Zee TV to enter film production

    Following the success of its maiden venture Gadar/I, India's leading satellite television operator Zee TV has plans to enter film production as a backward integration policy for its networks. The company has announced plans to produce five $5m films a year. At present, the company has two movies in production Tere Liye and Bhagmati. In addition Zee has launched the first Entertainment City project at Ahmedabad with multiplexes, live entertainment and a shopping plaza.
  • James Birch promoted to senior vp at WBIT

    James Birch has been promoted to the position of senior vice president, business affairs & general counsel, for Warner Bros International Theatres (WBIT). Based in Warner's London office, he will report to Millard Ochs, president of WBIT.Birch will continue to be responsible for all legal and development issues affecting the day-to-day operation and growth of the division.He was previously vice president, business affairs & general counsel, a post he was promoted to in 1998 af
  • Kinowelt looks for partners in bail-out bid

    The RTL Group has been named by a German newspaper as a possible strategic partner to bail out debt-ridden Kinowelt Medien. In addition, Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted a Kinowelt spokesman as saying that the company was "currently in talks with various possible strategic partners" and "first results" of the negotiations could be expected in "three to four weeks", although he declined to reveal the names of the companies being courted by Kinowelt. Speculation about Kino
  • Kinowelt parts company with CFO Unzeitig

    Eduard Unzeitig, CFO of debt-ridden Kinowelt Medien Group, has left the company, following news that his contract has been terminated "jointly and with immediate effect".Only less than two weeks ago Alexander van Duelmen had quit his post as head of Kinowelt International "by mutual agreement and with immediate effect".In an official communique, Kinowelt's supervisory board chairman Dr. Peter Bach stated that the company would be unveiling a new alignment of the top management s
  • Local blockbuster forecast to boost Thai BO take

    A mixture of home grown hits and Hollywood imports are expected to give a huge boost to revenues at the Thai box office this year.The industry is expected to generate revenues of $66m (Bt3btn) this year, up from $50m (Bt2.3bn) in 2000.At least one third of the Thai 2001 box office is expected to be come from local films. Prime among these is the release this month of Suriyothai which, with a budget of $20m, is the most expensive Thai film ever to be produced. It tells the
  • Locarno competition favours debut directors

    In her first year as Locarno International Film Festival's new artistic director, Irene Bignardi has shown strong commitment to fresh and young cinema. Almost in diametric opposition to the Cannes festival's latest edition, which displayed the work of veteran auteurs, such as Manuel de Oliveira, Shohei Imamura, Jacques Rivette and Jean Luc Godard, the 54th edition of Locarno is short on world-renowned film-makers. In fact, no fewer than eight of the 19 entries in the international competition
  • MGM confirms: UA will move to New York under Ray

    Bingham Ray and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) have dotted the i's and crossed the t's on the contract which sees Ray named president of MGM's speciality film unit United Artists (UA). He will begin his job on Sept 1, 2001.As per Ray's location, UA's main offices will relocate to New York where Ray will oversee all aspects of its operations. Ray will report to Chris McGurk, vice chairman and chief operating officer of MGM, the executive who acquired a majority interest in Ray's October Fil
  • Michael Donaldson elected president of IDA

    Michael C Donaldson has been elected president of the International Documentary Association (IDA). Donaldson, a founding partner of entertainment and copyright law firm Donaldson & Hart, has been IDA general counsel for 12 years and a member of its board of directors since 1998. He is the first president who isn't a documentary film-maker."When I was elected president of IDA, it took a little while for me to get used to the idea," Donaldson said in a statement. "But I have a real sens
  • Miramax picks up Carolina for the US

    Miramax Films has finalised a deal for US rights on Marleen Gorris' Carolina, which started shooting last week after being postponed from the spring.The story of a Southern girl trying to make it in Hollywood is the first feature from the alliance between US producer Martin Bregman and UK sales agency IAC Film. Julia Stiles, Shirley Maclaine and Alessandro Nivola star in the film, which previously had Jon Amiel attached as director. The budget is understood to be $15m.The
  • Momentum takes four titles from Intermedia

    In their first deal together, Momentum Pictures has bought four titles from Intermedia, headlined by the tentatively-titled Plague Season, Ron Shelton's story of LA police in the run up to the Rodney King riots.The acquisitive Momentum also bought all UK rights to Wisegirls, starring Mariah Carey and Mira Sorvino, dark comedy Clay Pigeons and hip hop documentary Scratch. All four tiles are to be released next year.Star of the package, the high-profile
  • Moscow gets Moulin Rouge's European kick-off

    Twentieth Century Fox has chosen Moscow as the first city in its European roll-out of Moulin Rouge as an indication of the growing strength of the Russian exhibition sector. The film, which is distributed in Russia by Gemini Kinomir, will have its premiere in Moscow on August 2 - nearly a month ahead of its September 1 release in the rest of Europe."Summer is a good time for event pictures in Russia," said Gemini Kinomir president Michael Schlicht, "we are planning parties and o
  • New UK film studio in development

    The UK's The Full Picture Company has announced plans for a £66m film studio in the southwest of England, although the venture is yet to secure planning approval or reveal any backers.The company, chaired by Academy Award-winning Bond and Titanic production designer Peter Lamont, proposes a range of ambitious facilites including nine film and TV studios and effects and post production offices. Also heading the outfit are chief executive Rose Waghorn and Martin Turvill, ex
  • North Korean films to get South Korean release

    Two North Korean films appear likely to secure a release in South Korean theaters in the second half of this year, following the groundbreaking release of Shin Sang-okk's Pulgasari in Summer 2000.Despite the almost total lack of interest on the part of South Korean audiences during last year's one-week run of Pulgasari, preparations are now underway to bring Souls Protest, completed in late 2000, to the South. A story set in the aftermath of World War II in
  • Original Sin

    Dir: Michael Cristofer. US. 2001. 116 mins. Angelina Jolie's second big release of the summer is a very different kettle of pescado from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Written and directed by Michael Cristofer, who previously steered Jolie's breakthrough performance in Gia, Original Sin wraps a plot from the world of film noir in a period Latin love story that's more reminiscent of cheesy romance novels. Jolie's rising star power should help the film to
  • Oz tax confusion hurts location shooting prospects

    Australia's Government has been publicly lambasted for prolonging confusion about whether tax laws actually allow Australian investors to get relief when they support offshore productions such as Moulin Rouge that shoot in the country.The outburst, by New South Wales Treasurer Michael Egan, coincided with the revelation that the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has rejected the rebate submissions of those who supported Moulin Rouge."The Premier and I have written to th
  • Prix Italia to collaborate with NATPE and CBS

    NATPE president Bruce Johansen and PBS chief Pat Mitchell will be guest speakers at the 53rd edition of the Prix Italia, the prestigious international television and radio awards held annually in Italy, following a long-term collaboration agreement sealed by the US television market and Prix Italia. As a result of the agreement, from the beginning of 2002 a selected group of Italian undergraduates, graduates and researchers will be able to participate in professional training schemes a
  • Regent partners up for new German film fund

    US producer Regent Entertainment (Gods And Monsters) and German production outfit A.C.H. GmbH Production have been lined up as two of the co-production partners for the new Munich-based "blind pool" film fund: Christopher Filmcapital. Structured as five separate tranches, raising up to Euros 30m each, Christopher Filmcapital has been launched by media lawyer Sylvia Gasper and aims to finance the production of up to nine English-language TV movies or feature films.Potentia
  • RTL sees share value slide after profit warning

    Shares in RTL crashed today after the broadcasting giant joined the long list of companies warning of ad-related slowdowns.The pan-European broadcaster issued a profits warning forecasting that earnings before interest, tax and depreciation will fall by 10%-15% this year, hurt by falling advertising markets. The thinly traded shares tumbled from Euros80 to Euros55, a fall of 27.5%.In a statement it said "advertising markets have been tough. Visibility has deteriorated further an
  • Rush Hour 2

    Dir: Brett Ratner. US. 2001. 87 min.Neither terribly exciting asan actioner, nor sufficiently funny as a comedy, Rush Hour 2 re-teams the odd couple of the first film, theendlessly bickering Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, placing them in the most routineand movie-ish situations imaginable. Coldly calculated, but still rather flat,the "new" action comedy basically rehashes the first, far superiorfilm, while increasing the female quotient, which now included the tough and
  • Rushes Soho Shorts announces winners

    Rushes Postproduction has announced the following winning films at the Third Rushes Soho Shorts Festival 2001; The Artsworld Short Film Award:Winner: Talk - Dir. Matthew Parkhill, Winkle Films Runners up: Yoorinal - Dir. Mark Nunneley, RSA Sweet - Dir. James Pilkington, Velocity FilmsDiscreet Newcomer Award:Winner: The Cat With Hands - Dir. Robert Morgan, Halo ProductionsRunners up:The Mag
  • Scarfies producer Lisa Chatfield joins NZFC board

    Wellington-based producer Lisa Chatfield is one of three new members appointed to the board of the New Zealand Film Commission. Chatfield produced the 1997 film Scarfies, the fourth biggest local hit in the last decade. Arts patron, former exhibitor and producer of the 1993 film Desperate Remedies, James Wallace, and the Major of Waitakere City, former advertising executive Bob Harvey, are the other two new members, although the latter served six years as deputy chair up
  • Sequel scares up business

    Scary Movie 2, the spoof sequel to last year's Scary Movie, started its international roll-out this week taking the top spot in France. First week admissions for the comedy, which is once again directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans and written by his siblings Shawn and Marlon who also star, attracted 945,404 cineastes at 681 screens for a strong average of 1,388 tickets sold per screen. This opening figure, equivalent to approximately $5.7m, was more than three times that of its neare
  • Shaolin Soccer opens Sydney Asian festival

    Shaolin Soccer opens this month's Sydney Asia Pacific Film Festival, kicking off a week of Asian fare.Stephen Chow and Lik-Chi Lee's Hong Kong title follows a down-at-heel soccer star who tries to get a Shaolin monk apprentice with a gift for soccer to play in the national football finals.The festival, which runs August 9-18, will screen 14 Asian films ranging from critically-acclaimed pictures such as Devils On The Doorstep, which won the Cannes Grand Jury Prize l
  • Shooting Gallery owner itemus files for bankruptcy

    After weeks teetering on the brink of failure, Itemus inc. filed for bankruptcy yesterday. The Toronto-based internet incubator was brought down by the obligations of its Shooting Gallery subsidiary, which it purchased in April 2001. In a letter to shareholders posted on the company's website yesterday, itemus chairman Jim Tobin wrote: "we simply have run out of cash."Tobin said the company's demise was not a result of "doing too much too fast", but on the "bottomless" probl
  • Shrek passes $100m mark in international run

    DreamWorks SKG's animated blockbuster Shrek is repeating its storming North American performance in the international markets. The film, which has opened at number one in the majority of the territories that have received it, has now passed the $100m international box office mark.UIP, which distributes Shrek in most international territories, reports its total gross on the film as $111.3m. Top performing territories include the UK ($28.5m), Australia ($14.3m) and Germany
  • Spain's Albaladejo wins LA Latino Film Festival

    Miguel Albaladejo's El Cielo Abierto (Ten Days Without Love) won the top prize at the fifth Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival on Sunday. The Spanish film was named best picture by a jury composed of Pedro Armendariz Jr, Quinn Coleman, Manuel Perez Estremera and Gabriel Figueroa Jr. Albaladejo also shared the best screenplay prize with Franciso Lombardi for Tinto Roja (Red Ink) from Peru.The awards presentations in nine different categories prec
  • Swiss distributors, Columbus and Vega, join forces

    Swiss distributors Columbus Film and Vega Distribution are to co-operate for joint booking and billing of their releases. Columbus and Vega will retain their independence and continue to handle their own marketing and PR campaigns separately. Among the first releases are the Locarno competition film Happiness Is A Warm Gun by local filmmaker Thomas Imbach and Sandra Nettelbeck's Mostly Martha which had its world premiere on the Piazza Grande on August 6, as well as
  • Swiss film industry on an upswing

    Switzerland has seen cinema admissions soar by 6.4% in the first half of 2001 to 8.78m, with local productions accounting for a 4.1% market share in the first six months, compared with 4.6% in 2000 as a whole.However, of the 100-plus Swiss films released in the first half of 2001, only five titles generated more than 20,000 ticket sales - the minimum necessary to recoup basic distribution costs.The most successful Swiss release was Azzurro, directed by Denis Rabaglia, wit
  • Taylor to host new amFAR benefit at Venice

    Cinema legend Elizabeth Taylor will once again be hosting the Cinema AIDS Venice gala dinner during the Venice film festival later this month.The charity events, which include auctions of luxury items in support of the American Foundation For AIDS Research (amFAR), have been a regular feature of film festivals during the past several years. Cannes, Sundance and Venice have all been venues for the dinners, which have raised more than $10m for AIDs research, prevention and education, and
  • Telemontecarlo's future questioned after takeover

    As Italian tyre and cable manufacturer Pirelli, backed by the Benetton retail empire, took over Telecom Italia, Europe's fifth-biggest telecom group, this weekend, the future of the telecom's financially beleaguered TV station, Telemontecarlo, was again called into question.Just two months ago, Italy's highest appeals court cleared Telecom Italia and multimedia group Seat Pagine Gialle to take over the debt-ridden Telemontecarlo (TMC) from the troubled Cecchi Gori Group. The appeal cou
  • TF1 USA hires Brimm to fulfil co-production drive

    Tracy Brimm, who was an agent in the international department at ICM, has joined European broadcaster TF1 as president of co-productions and acquisitions at TF1 USA, a division of TF1 International.Run by Jean Louis Capra and Didier Sapaut, TF1 International is the foreign sales company of TF1 which has financed such films as James Ivory's The Golden Bowl and Rod Lurie's The Contender, as well as hit European fare like Pauline Et Paulette, Dark Blue World, Ali Zaoua
  • Thai films get international sales boost from GMT

    Bangkok start-up sales company, GMT Entertainment, has signed up to handle international rights for Suriyothai, the royal epic with a production budget in excess of $20m making it by far the most expensive Thai film ever made.The creation of a much-needed sales company in Thailand will be a shot in the arm for the escalating international appeal and distribution of Thai films. GMT, will represent Thai as well as other Asian films in the international market place. Directe
  • The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion

    Dir: Woody Allen. US. 2001. 103 min.Far superior to hisprevious comic crime capers (Manhattan Murder Mystery and last year's Small Time Crooks), Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is an entertaining period piece, poking fun at the hypnosis craze that mesmerized people of the Jazz Era and continues to captivate people today. Sharply written, even by Allen's high standards, with some marvelously delivered punch lines, Curse is a charming li
  • The Parole Officer

    Dir: John Duigan. UK. 2001. 90 mins. Few television comedians manage to become film stars, and fewer still succeed outside their home turf. But The Parole Officer should serve lengthy time at the British box-office on the strength of Steve Coogan's huge popularity as a stand-up comic and small-screen character actor, compounded by the anticipation attending his first major film role. A sunny future domestically also awaits on video further down the line. Lac
  • The Princess Diaries

    Dir: Garry Marshall. US.2001. 115 mins.Shot on the same soundstage that was used for Mary Poppins, the Disney comedy that catapulted Julie Andrews to international stardom, The Princess Diaries is an enjoyable fairy tale that in its mores andmessage is not that different from that Andrews' 1964 Oscar-winning picture. This time around, the very graceful Andrews stars as a European Queen, endowed with the task of transforming her shy and awkward granddaughter, who
  • Toronto has Novocaine and six more world premieres

    The Toronto International Film Festival has announced a further seven world premieres including new films from Mike Figgis, John Dahl, Gregor Jordan, Bruce McDonald and Yvan Attal. Topping the list is Novocaine (pictured), the Artisan Entertainment-produced feature debut of screenwriter David Atkins. The crime thriller stars Steve Martin as a dentist who is drawn into the underworld by "a seductive patient with an appetite for pain killers." Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Dern, S
  • UK films earmarked for product placement

    Already an established feature of Hollywood blockbusters, product placement remains a largely neglected revenue stream from UK film productions. But that seems finally set to change with the rising number of product placement companies focusing on film. The latest to join the fray is Earmark, which will compete with the likes of BFG, the film division of Prop Portfolio, for a slice of what it says is a growing market.The company, headed up by Steve Switzman formerly of the UK's Enterta
  • UK's FilmFour appoints McAleese

    FilmFour has appointed Peter McAleese as head of physical production.The producer of Twin Town and co-producer of Spice World replaces Caroline Hewitt, who returns to operate as an independent producer. McAleese's credits also include line producer on Bridget Jones's Diary and co-producer on Gillies MacKinnon's The Escapist. He worked as assistant director films including Hidden Agenda and Riff Raff. "We are sad to see Caroline go. She h
  • US Hispanic entertainment set to fly with Condor

    Condor Media, a new home video and DVD distribution company of Spanish-language product in the US, is poised to launch this summer. Founded by Argentine-born film veteran Peter Marai, Condor Media will kick off in later this month with two films from Spain: Vicente Aranda's erotic thriller Jealousy (Celos) and hit comedy Why Do They Call It Love When They Mean Sex (Por Que Lo Llaman Amor Cuando Quieren Decir Sexo). In its bid to bring quality features from Latin A
  • Vatican invites world premiere of Polish Quo Vadis

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