Australia

“Three Men And A Baby” and “Overboard,” both airing on the Seven Network, were the highest-rated films last year, per AGB: McNair Anderson. Former was the top ranker in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with an average 33 rating (making it the highest-rating tv feature in three years in those markets); latter scored big in Perth and Adelaide.

The Village Roadshow Corp. has picked up Aussie/New Zealand rights to Yoram Gross Film Studios’ forthcoming films “The Magic Riddle” and “Blinky Bill,” two biggest animated pics yet made in Australia. VRC’s previous Gross pickup was “The Little Convict” 11 years ago. “The Magic Riddle” will be released this year and debut at AFM; “Blinky Bill” is out next year. Beyond Intl. is handling both internationally.

Advertising Investment Services’ annual survey of national advertisers has found tv ad spending will increase an average of only 3.2% this year even though it’s believed the Seven and Nine webs are increasing rates more than 10%. Almost 33% of advertisers said the tv industry’s woes had influenced their 1991 media planning.

Producer Rosa Colosimo confirms Canada’s Alliance Entertainment will distribute Judy Davis headliner “On My Own” internationally, excluding Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. The $A4.4-million film, 50% financed from Italy, 30% from the Aussie Film Finance Corp. and 20% from Alliance, starts production Feb. 18 in Canada and the U.K. Postproduction will be done in Australia, per Colosimo, one of five producers on the film.

Pro-image Group has established a new subsid, the Video Sell-Thru Co., to handle sales and distribution for its vid distribbery CEL Home Video and client Castle Communications. Karen Clark is heading the new company.

Jacki MacDonald is taking over from Graham Kennedy as host of “Australia’s Funniest Home Video Show,” a co-prod between the Nine Network and Taffner Ramsay Prods. Also at Nine, Crawford Australia’s long-running drama “The Flying Doctors” begins airing Jan. 24 with new castmembers and a new producer, Jan Marnell.

Major indie distrib Palace Entertainment Corp. has firmed a deal for CBS/Fox Video to distribute its product on video in New Zealand. Deal, effective March 1, gives CBS/Fox 29 new titles to market there, including “The Krays” and “Wrong Bet.”

Canada

Mario Bertrand has ankled as president of troubled chain of M department stores to be president of Quebec tv net Tele Metropole, replacing Serge Gouin, who becomes prez and CEO of parent company Le Groupe Videotron (Quebec’s largest cable operator). Gouin is following in the footsteps of honcho and entrepreneur Andre Chagnon, who has relinquished the post so he can spend more time developing the company’s ever-expanding Euro operations, namely in the London suburbs. Changes are effective Feb. 4.

Montreal’s third annual technology exhibition and conference meet, Production ’91, is highlighting HDTV during its May 28 to 30 run at Place Bonaventure, per topper Claude Desjardins. He said 10 HDTV execs from Europe, the U.S. and Japan will debate which system is best. Some 200 exhibitors are expected to attend.

A record number of viewers tuned in for Quebec’s tv awards gala, Les Prix Gemeaux, Dec. 16, according to ratings board BBM. About 1.5 million Quebec viewers dwarfed last year’s figure (1.01 million) and nearly doubled the 1990 total of 850,000 for its English-lingo counterpart, the Gemini Awards, broadcast a month earlier.

h2>Chile

Last month, Cristian Echeverria’s CCN circuit responded to the drop in filmgoing (an 18.8% fall in 1990) by raising ducat prices an average of 10%. The other circuits refused to follow suit. When the first week of January showed a further drop in filmgoing (down 24% from the same week last year), Jose Daire’s Chile Films and Luis Gana’s Socine cut admission prices 30% for January and February, leaving CCN with no alternative but to go along. Tickets now cost $1.22 downtown and $1.82 uptown. The first weekend with the new prices was disappointing, however, with only a 5% increase in viewership.

France

Jean-Jacques Annaud has set up his own production company, Reperage. Annaud helmed the boxoffice smash “The Bear” for Claude Berri’s Renn Prods. The two have teamed up again on “L’Amant,” which started shooting in Vietnam Jan. 14.

The Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close pic “Reversal Of Fortune” has taken Paris by storm, picking up $369,802 in its first six days at 13 screens. Pic opened Jan. 9. With per-screen ticket sales averaging 4,900 for the week, Barbet Schroeder’s film is not far off the smash hit of 1990 “Dead Poets Society,” which averaged 5,120 admissions per screen in its opening week.

State-owned tv production services company Societe Francaise de Production has teamed up with advertising giant Publicis to form tv production company Etoiles TV. Publicis will handle conception and financing of future projects, while SFP will provide production know-how. Etoiles TV, headed by Michel Caste, also plans to produce tv blurbs.

Veteran Yank actor Robert Vaughn is scheduled to be in Monaco for the 31st Monte Carlo Television Festival Feb. 7 to 15. The former star of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” heads the telefilm jury. BBC topper Paul Fox leads the jury for tv series.

Carlo Frecerro, former programming chief at private web La Cinq, headed for Milan last week, fueling speculation that he has rejected an offer to join Gallic pubcasters Antenne-2 and FR3. Freccero, widely respected in France, parted company with La Cinq after control of the web passed into the hands of Hachette last October. Industry insiders say pubcaster prez Herve Bourges has asked him to coordinate programming for the two public networks.

Germany

The Stiftung der Deutsche Kinemathek is planning a tribute to Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum during the Feb. 15 to 26 Berlin Film Festival. Mitchum, who has appeared in more than 100 features, and Russell, who has 24 screen credits, appeared together in “Macao” and “His Kind Of Woman.” Russell and Mitchum will come to Berlin for the tribute.

Major U.S. distribs dominated the market here last year. Warner Bros. Germany topped the list of leading distribs in the western part of the reunited nation with 33% of the market, according to trade figures. Its “Pretty Woman” (Touchstone) grossed nearly $55 million, almost double Columbia’s “Look Who’s Talking” (Tri-Star), No. 2 on the b.o. ladder. UIP followed with 22% of the market, Fox with 10% and Columbia with 9.5%. B.o. returns from the five new territories in eastern Germany are still not available.

Thomas Haffa’s EM Entertainment Munchen is handling the merchandising of Neue Constantin’s blockbuster release “Werner – Beinhart,” which has grossed a stately $20 million since its Nov. 29 release.

Transit Film, the export and domestic sales organ for German film classics and docus made up to the end of World War II, celebrated its 25th anni Jan. 18. Company has more than 2,000 silent and talking pictures in its library produced by former German film companies Ufa, Universum Film, Terra, Tobis and Bavaria Film. Items include Fritz Lang’s epochal “Metropolis” and Robert Wiene’s expressionist masterpiece “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari” from the silent era and Josef von Sternberg’s early talkie “The Blue Angel.” Docus in the Federal Archives, including newsreels from Nazi-controlled media, date to 1895. Entire stock is owned by the nonprofit Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau foundation.

Spain

Madrid Film Festival topper Rita Sonlleva will program side-bars dedicated to Brian DePalma, Jim Henson, Troma, Ulrike Ottinger, the Brat Pack and the latest in Spanish and European cinema. Event unspools April 19 to 27. Sonlleva will present fest at the Institute of Spain in London on Feb. 7.

Vicente Aranda’s “Amantes” (Lovers) is expected to be Spain’s competing entry at the Berlin fest. Pic was produced by Pedro Costa and toplines Jorge Sanz, Maribel Verdu and Victoria Abril.

Two groups in Spain are keen to become partners in the new stations in Mexico that will arise from the privatization of part of the Mexican government’s Imevision. Reportedly interested are Prisa, publisher of Madrid daily El Pais, which also holds a 25% interest in the Canal Plus feevee web in Spain, and Grupo Zeta, which did not receive a franchise in Spain for a private web. Prisa would join up with the Clemente Serna group in Mexico, while Zeta would be associated with Domingo Miguera, with Rupert Murdoch as another partner.

The SER radio network continues to be the top web in Spain, per a study covering October and November figures. Spain’s daily radio audience is estimated to be 16.6 million, with the SER’s top-rated “Los 40 Principales” hit-parade grabbing 3.8 million daily. This is followed by the SER’s regular programs drawing 2.6 million. Runners-up are Antena 3, with 2.3 million listeners, the government’s Radio Nacional-1 with 2.2 million and the COPE with 1.7 million. Radio 5 and Onda Cero polled 650,000 and 590,000, respectively.

Argentine pic “Despues De La Tormenta” (After The Storm) won the Golden Columbus prize at the Huelva Film Festival, which wrapped Dec. 8. Pic was helmed by Tristan Bauer. Audience prize went to Maria Luisa Bemberg’s “Yo, La Peor De Todas” (I, The Worst Of Them All), also from Argentina.

Sweden

Rob Reiner’s “Misery” is a last-minute addition to the Gothenburg Film Festival, which starts Jan. 25. Pic replaces the previously announced “Dances With Wolves,” which distrib Planborg Film had to pull at the last minute. “Dances” will open the Berlin Film Festival Feb. 15, and films that will be shown in the major international festivals may not be shown at other festivals first.

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan was in Stockholm last week to promote his 1988 film “A Family Viewing.” The controversial film has been imported by Malmo-based company Triangle-Film.

Svensk publicist Richard Holm is shooting an “expensive home movie” called “Sex, Lies And Video-Violence,” starring some of Sweden’s most popular rock singers.

U.K.

The BBC has lost its claim to absolute monopoly over its material. In a landmark decision, a U.K. High Court judge ruled that a broadcaster cannot prevent others from using clips of its material when those clips contribute to the reporting of current events. Sports events and live broadcasts will be especially vulnerable to poaching. Case arose from BSB’s use of BBC material during the World Cup.

One of Britain’s favorite children’s characters of yesteryear is set to make a comeback. Noddy, whose adventures in Toyland with Big Ears wowed the kids from the day he appeared in 1940, fell out of favor with adults in the 1970s. Problem was that stories, penned by Enid Blyton, were chock-full of sex stereotyping and racially offensive material. Idiosyncratic perhaps, but just as bad, was the emphasis on physical punishment. No self-respecting modern parent would buy them. But last year, publishing house MacDonald brought out a collection of 24 stories with the offending elements removed. Now BBC Enterprises is planning a 13-part tv series. The original books sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.

Peter Greenaway, in postproduction on “Prospero’s Books,” is to shoot “55 Men On Horseback” for regular producers Kees Kasander and Denis Wigman. Their company, Allarts, will co-produce the pic with French company Cinea and London-based agent Mainstream. Greenaway, in Tokyo, is said to be battling technical problems arising from his use of high-definition tv for “Prospero”‘ special effects.

Leading indie producer Michael Darlow has inked a reciprocal agreement with David Holliff’s Entertainment Business Center in Toronto. Pact will give producers at Darlow’s Production Center in London access to Holliff’s facility in Toronto and vice-versa. Darlow hopes to ink similar pacts with production facilities in other cities.

“Hidden Agenda,” Ken Loach’s conspiracy thriller set in Northern Ireland, has broken house records at the Queen’s Theater, Belfast.

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