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7 April 2002

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  • AOL Time Warner shrinks as shares hit record low

    Shares in AOL Time Warner hit $21.65 on Friday, a record low for the company since it was formed from the merger of internet service provider and entertainment giant Time Warner over a year ago.As the world's largest media consortium, AOL Time Warner has been the focus of investor disillusionment in the sector and ongoing fears about the speed of recovery in the advertising market. It was notable that AOL Time Warner shares sank on Friday while many other US media stocks moved higher.
  • Asia Screenings open with Golden Network pick-up

    The first ever Hong Kong Asia Screenings, an industry companion piece to the Hong Kong Film Festival, kicked off this weekend with expanding world sales outfit Golden Network unveiling its latest pick-up, Girls' Friends.The film, about the friendship amongst five teen friends, joins a clutch of Thai titles on the books at Hong Kong-based Golden Network which are screening at the new market. The deal for the film, directed by Mongkholchai Chaivisuth and produced by Cinemag and Bl
  • Billy Wilder 1906-2002

    With the death last week of Billy Wilder at the age of 95,the world lost one its greatest ever film-makers, a brilliant screenwriter andendlessly innovative director who created some of Hollywood's finestfilms.The director of Sunset Boulevard (1950),The Lost Weekend (1945), DoubleIndemnity (1944), Some Like ItHot (1959) and The Apartment (1960) was born in 1906 in Vienna, Austria. He startedhis career as a reporter for the city newspaper, later moving
  • Cinerenta offspring forges own path in LA

    Michael Ohoven, scionof the family behind Germany's long-established Cinerenta productionfund, is striking out on his own as a Los Angeles-based producer. His InfinityInternational Entertainment will now start entertaining production ties withother European film funds while at the same time retaining its umbilical links to Cinerenta.Ohoven (pictured here) says he isrelocating Infinity's headquarters from Germany to California in order tobe able to keep closer tabs on his extensive slat
  • Clockstoppers

    Dir: Jonathan Frakes. US. 2002. 94 mins. Nickelodeon Movies' Clockstoppers is the kind of calculatedly wholesome youth entertainment that seems more likely to appeal to protective parents than to a target audience of older kids and tweens. Thanks to Nickelodeon owner Viacom's aggressive company-wide marketing campaign, this effects-laden sci-fi adventure made a decent start at the US box office, opening to $10.1m from 2,540 sites. But pre-teens looking for genuine fun and exc
  • Death To Smoochy

    Dir: Danny DeVito. US. 2002. 109 mins. A dark, subversive comedy enthusiastically realised by some big-name Hollywood talents - most notably Robin Williams, for whom it is the first of three big-screen comeback projects - Death To Smoochy takes an amusing premise and flogs it well beyond the point of expiration. US audiences have given this dark comedy a chilly reception - it opened to $4.3m from 1,980 - but international audiences may be more responsive to the film's gleeful
  • Dog Soldiers

    Dir: Neil Marshall. UK. 2001. 105minsA zestful, unpretentious slab of prime British horror movie, Dog Soldiers delivers enough guts and gore to please most genre fans. Cheerfully acknowledging its limitations and influences without toppling into post-modern parody, it also has the chance of reaching a wider general audience. The mixture of bloodletting, black humour and bad taste could endear it to a younger multiplex crowd, promising healthy theatrical results when it is rel
  • E.T. phones in just $6.6m from 26 markets

    At a time when Hollywood is supposedly embracing re-releases, UIP's 20th anniversary edition of Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial took just $6.6 million from 26 international territories over the Easter weekend.The 1982 hit played to most success in Mexico, where it claimed $1.4 million in four days, and the UK, where it was on $1.15 million in five days. In Spain, the film landed in the country's top five with a six-day take of $911,270, while it took a massive $443
  • EasyGroup promises price competition at UK BO

    Innovation in the form of price competition could be introduced to the UK theatrical market if Stellios Haji-Ioannou succeeds in expanding his Easy Group empire into cinema.Haji-Ioannou plans to open his first EasyCinema theatres in London by the end of this year and, according to the Sunday Times, will sell tickets for as little as $0.30 (20p). That price will only be available for customers who buy tickets a month in advance and over the internet, while patrons buying the last
  • Entertainment's Blade II cuts through UK crowd

    UK distributor Entertainment saw yet another success this week with Wesley Snipes action sequel Blade II taking over the top spot in its opening weekend. The film grossed an impressive $3.7m (£2.5m) from 345 sites for a mighty average of $10,595. Blade II follows a host of recent successes for Entertainment, including the still running The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring ($88.8m to date), Gosford Park ($15.4m) and Ali ($6.4m). The o
  • FilmFour options bestselling Vanity Fair expose

    The UK's FilmFour has optioned How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, Toby Young's best-selling account of his time in New York on upmarket magazine Vanity Fair.Young will write the screenplay and act as associate producer on the project, which charts how the British journalist was fired after faux pas such as asking celebrities about their sexual orientation. He once hired a strip-o-gram to come to the office on Take Our Daughters to Work Day. "This is the ultim
  • German solution looms as Kirch prepares insolvency

    German media giant Kirch could file for insolvency today following the failure of weeks of refinancing talks. The company's bankers are expected then to outline details of a "German solution" that would keep parts of the company going and leave out Kirch's foreign minority investors News Corp, Mediaset and Kingdom Holdings.The move became more likely after the company and its former partners reached an impasse and rejected each other's rescue plans. The majority shareholders - essentia
  • High Crimes

    Dir: Carl Franklin. US. 2002. 112mins.After their pairing in Kiss The Girls, Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman again demonstrate their screen chemistry in High Crimes, a middling political thriller that's neither suspenseful nor dramatic. Part marriage melodrama, part military conspiracy, part male-female buddy-buddy flick, the film occasionally assumes an air of sombre pretentiousness, when in fact it's just a routine thriller. Released just a week after David Fincher's
  • High Crimes

    Dir: Carl Franklin. US. 2002. 112mins.After their pairing in Kiss The Girls, Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman again demonstrate their screen chemistry in High Crimes, a middling political thriller that's neither suspenseful nor dramatic. Part marriage melodrama, part military conspiracy, part male-female buddy-buddy flick, the film occasionally assumes an air of sombre pretentiousness, when in fact it's just a routine thriller. Released just a week after David Fincher's
  • Hong Kong Asia Screenings gather momentum

    The inaugural Hong Kong Asia Screenings appeared to cement its status as a permanent fixture this week with an endorsement from influential local industry body the MPIA.The support should mean that the screenings get backing from the Hong Kong production majors in addition to the Hong Kong Arts Development Council and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, which is supporting the event as parallel industry fair.MPIA deputy chairman Peter Lam described the three-day screening
  • Ice Age speeds to $56m international gross

    20th CenturyFox's Ice Age continued itsbox office rampage around the world, racking up $56.15m to date - some$27.35m in the last seven days. The film opened in South Africa over theweekend, breaking the record for the highest animated opening ever with$248,289 from 71 screens and registering the third highest opening ever after TheFellowship Of The Ring and Mission:Impossible 2.- In Germany, the film took$4.89m over the weekend from 833 screens
  • IN-Motion faces Neuer Markt termination

    The German Stock Exchange has warned it plans to terminate trading on the Neuer Markt of shares in the IN-Motion Group, parent of Kirk D'Amico and Philip von Alvensleben's Myriad Pictures, within weeks.The company was informed over the weekend that the Exchange planned to terminate trading in the company's shares from April 29. The move comes after IN-Motion delayed publishing its consolidated financial statements for 2001.In-Motion said it will appeal to the Primary Markets Arb
  • Italian filmmaking veteran Tonino Cervi dies

    Tonino Cervi, the Italian director, screenwriter and producer of films by Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci, has died in Siena of a heart attack aged 72.Cervi, who was born in Rome, produced one of Bertolucci's first features, 1962's Grim Reaper (La Commare Secca) and gained widespread recognition for films such as Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert (Deserto Rosso). In 1962, together with Carlo Ponti, Cervi also produced Bo
  • Japan's theme parks ride recession rollercoaster

    Japan's Disney and Universal Studios theme parks have enjoyed banner years despite a long recession which has plunged several local sites into receivership.Visitors to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea totalled 22.05 million, for a year-on gain of 27%, according to recently released figures. Although the newly opened DisneySea park accounted for more of the increase, seasonal events and promotions kept visitors flowing to the older park. Meanwhile, Osaka-based Universal Studios Jap
  • Kirch Group faces insolvency proceedings

    The crisis-ridden Kirch Group is considering instituting insolvency proceedings for its core business division KirchMedia following the failure of the Group's creditor banks and investors to agree to a bridging loan of Euros 150 million, according to German press reports on Monday.Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and Silvio Berlusconi's holding groups have reportedly spent the past few days drawing up the basic outlines of a restructuring plan for Kirch's empire. But the German busine
  • Korea's Cat takes care of international business

    Take Care Of My Cat, screening this week in the Hong Kong International Film Festival, is to make the leap into Europe after it emerged that Swedish-based Willmar Andersson Film has picked up all Nordic rights.Andersson, a well-known intermediary between the Nordic countries and Far Eastern film-makers, has secured a Swedish theatrical and video release through Folketsbio for the Korean picture. The film, which is handled internationally by Korea's Cinema Service, has already ac
  • Lumumba hits at South African box-office

    Lumumba, the true story of assassinated African leader Patrice Lumumba, is smashing South African art-house records.The Ster-Kinekor Picturesand Film Resource Unit film has racked up more than $14,700 (R167,000) fromjust two prints. Directed by Raoul Peck, it beat the second week tally of Buena Vista Social Club, although itopened slightly lower.The film started to dropslightly in its third week.Thefilm charts how Lumumba was at the center of the Congo's resistance
  • Major studios team to standardise digital cinema

    The seven Hollywood studioshave clubbed together to develop technical standards for digital cinematechnology. The companies - Disney, MGM, Paramount, Sony, 20thCentury Fox, Universal and Warner Bros - are creating an entity to ensurethat competing digital exhibition formats are "open, compatible andinter-operable" and weigh up strategies for deploying digital exhibitionsystems in movie theatres across the US - and eventually the world."We strongly believethat digital film exhibition wi
  • Metro Tartan snares Fortissimo's Party Monster

    Marking one of the highest profile deals at the Hong Kong Asia Screenings, leading UK art-house distributor Metro Tartan has struck a three picture deal with Fortissimo Film Sales.The trio are headed by biopic Party Monster, which marks Metro Tartan's biggest acquisition to date. Continuing its growing portfolio of Asian pictures, Metro Tartan also grabbed rights to two Thai films; psychological thriller The Eye and stylish gangster thriller One Take Only.Th
  • Miller, Oliveira find US homes for latest films

    Two Europeanfilms have found US theatrical distribution through New York-based art-housespecialists, with Wellspring Media acquiring all domestic rights to Claude Miller's BettyFisher et Autres Histoires and Milestone Film & Video picking up Manoel de Oliveira's Vou Para Casa (I'm Going Home).Wellspring, the filmand video outfit that was formerly under the ownership of the Winstar telecomconcern before being bought out by a group of private investors, plans to launch
  • Miramax joins kids craze with Pokemon sequel

    As part of a visible pushinto producing and distributing family-friendly entertainment, Miramax Filmshas acquired the worldwide rights outside Asia to the next Pokemon movie sequel, out-bidding Warner Bros to the fourth film in the Japanese anime cash-cow about evolutionary pocket monsters. As reported in the LosAngeles Times yesterday, Miramaxpaid an estimated upfront fee of just $1m, but promised Pokemon's Japanese rights-holders back-end profi
  • Natalie Imbruglia stars in Working Title spy spoof

    Pop star Natalie Imbruglia is making her film debut starring opposite UK comedian Rowan Atkinson in Working Title Films' spy spoof, Johnny English.The former Neighbours actress will play special agent Lorna Campbell, while John Malkovich will be the villain, a French megalomaniac called Sauvage. Atkinson, who appeared in Bond film Never Say Never Again, plays a hapless MI6 agent on a mission to rescue Britain's crown jewels and save the country and the monarchy. Be
  • New Emperor chief sets out on twin-track course

    Taking over last week as chief executive of Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG) Carl Chang has set out a twin track strategy stressing regional Asian film-making and smaller Hong Kong productions."We will be making big-budget action pictures, but I cannot promise to greenlight another Highbinders inside the next six months," said Chang. "But we will be making a larger number of lower budget pictures for the Chinese-speaking markets [Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Singapore]."
  • NTL set to announce

    NTL, the UK's largest cable network operator, is expected this week to announce that it has reached terms with banks and major shareholders for a recapitalisation and rescheduling of its $17.2bn debt.The company, which is US registered, is then likely to apply for 90-days of Chapter 11 court protection from other creditors and emerge in a position to service its debts and to continue to grow in the potentially lucrative UK market.On Friday John Malone's Liberty Media announced t
  • Oscar winners celebrate a beautiful box-office

    The first weekend since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out this year's statuettes, it was best picture winner A Beautiful Mind that reaped most benefits internationally.The Ron Howard film recorded a whopping 91% increase in admissions in France in the week ending April 2, re-entering the top 15. But the rise was even better in Finland and Sweden, where massive percentage increases of 151% and 102% respectively drove the drama to the top spots despite rem
  • Panic Room locks up Easter record with $30.2m

    Sony Pictures Entertainment(SPE) kicked off its high-powered 2002 slate of event movies with a bang overEaster Weekend, as Jodie Foster-starrer Panic Room debuted with the biggest Easter opening of all timeof $30.2m in three days. Directed by David Fincher, the taut R-rated thrillerreceived mainly favourable reviews and gives SPE a good start to its costlylineup which also includes The Sweetest Thing which opens in a fortnight and Spiderman which opens on May 3 and a summ
  • Pichirallo quits Searchlight for evp role at USA

    Joe Pichirallo, one of theoriginal executives who founded Fox Searchlight Pictures in 1994, has left thecompany to join USA Films as executive vice president of production.Reporting to president ofproduction Glenn Williamson, Pichirallo will be responsible for bringing inprojects and supervising them through production; he will be based in thecompany's LA offices when he starts the job on April 29. At Searchlight, he was mostrecently senior vice president of
  • President abduction story opens South Korean fest

    Berlin competition film KT, a Japanese-Korean co-production about the 1973 political abduction of current South Korean president Kim Dae Jung, will open South Korea's Jeonju International Film Festival, the event announced this week.Special retrospectives at the festival, which runs from April 26 to May 2, will highlight the work of US independent producer Christine Vachon and Pier Paolo Pasolini. The festival, noted for its strong focus on digital film and Asian independent cin
  • SAG downplays international impact of Global Rule

    The US Screen Actors Guild(SAG) says its controversial Global Rule One will only apply to that small cadre of internationalactors primarily living in the US, and not those many foreign SAG card-holders who have worked on US films but remain overseas residents.International producers,particularly those in the UK, were in uproar last week over SAG's impending GlobalRule One, fearing that many local film productions would be forced to abide bySAG's rather more generous pay and benefits st
  • San Francisco festival lines up star guests

    Actress Mira Sorvino, director Arturo Ripstein and LucasFilm's Rick McCallum are amongst the guests at the upcoming San Francisco International Film Festival, which runs April 18 to May 2.Sorvino is on promotional duty for The Triumph Of Love, while Ripstein is in town with The Ruination Of Men. McCallum will hold forth as a panelist at the Digital and New Technologies seminar. Also on the guest list are Sergei Bodrov Jr for Sisters, The Trespasser director
  • Stars, crew take $3m deferrals to save Cromwell

    Stars Rupert Everett, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott and Olivia Williams have agreed to take deferments worth around $3 million to help save troubled period production Cromwell & Fairfax.The producers, crew and suppliers on the $20 million Natural Nylon production are also contributing to the deferrals after shooting ground to a halt last month when the original financing arrangements could not be completed. Scott, who has been working on the English Civil War story for more than two y
  • Thai consortium hatches $22m film studio

    A consortium of five Thai companies reportedly plans to build the country's first integrated movie studio at a cost of more than $22 million within the next two years.The group has secured land in the outskirts of Bangkok, which will be turned into what it calls Movie Town, the Bangkok Post said Friday. Movie Town will provide movie, sound, prop and post-production facilities and act as a one-stop service centre for both local and international filmmakers. The five-member
  • UK horror Dog Soldiers wins at Brussels festival

    Dog Soldiers, the UK werewolf film which became a surprise talking point last Mifed (see review, left), has won the top prize at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film.The international jury, presided over by actor Christopher Lee, presented the Golden Raven to the film at the event's closing ceremony this week. Directed by newcomer Neil Marshall and sold internationally by the UK's Victor Film Co, the film also received the audience prize, known as the Pegasus. Pat
  • UK release of France's Pornographer is

    UK distributor Metro Tartan plans to place a card at the front of controversial French film The Pornographer stating that it has been "butchered" after UK certification body the BBFC demanded an 11-second cut.The BBFC objected to what it called "an unsimulated porn sequence in which a women is seen with semen on her face following oral sex". But director Bertrand Bonello said that this was the first time such demands had been made on the film, which has sold in over 12 countries
  • Verhoeven receives honorary award in Amsterdam

    Director Paul Verhoeven will receive a Life Achievement Award during the Festival of Fantasy Films in Amsterdam.Amsterdam-born Verhoeven, who made Dutch films including Turkish Delight and The Fourth Man before such Hollywood blockbusters as Total Recall and Starship Troopers, is to collect the prize during event's final weekend. Other claims to fame include being the first filmmaker to collect a Raspberry award in person - for Showgirls - and purport
  • Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending opens Cannes

    Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending will mark the director's first trip to Cannes when it opens the festival out of competition, the event announced on Thursday.Publicity-shy Allen has shown Manhattan, The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Hannah And Her Sisters at Cannes, but has declined to attend the screenings. "The French were my first supporters and have always showed huge generosity towards me," said Allen. "Over the last few years, they have invited me so m