AUSTRALIA

The 800th episode of “A Country Practice” screens on the Seven Network Feb. 12. Drama, from Jim Davern’s JNP Films, is approaching its 10th anniversary. It has notched up 100 hours more than any other Aussie drama.

Indie distrib Ronin Films has acquired Aussie rights to Jackie McKimmie’s “Waiting,” released in March. Kim Lewis Marketing will handle Jocelyn Moorhouse’s “Proof” internationally.

Reflecting its new ownership, Nine Network has agreed to sign a five-year contract with A.C. Nielsen for peoplemeter ratings results. Move puts greater pressure on former ratings supplier AGB: McNair Anderson to consolidate its position in the tv research market.

Amalgamated Holdings, owner of major Oz exhib Greater Union, has made a $A6 million ($4.62 million) bid for the remaining 16% of Queensland circuit Birch Carroll & Coyle that it doesn’t own. Bid, via subsid Greattheater, is considered friendly and values BCC at almost $A36 million ($27.72 million).

Ramcorp, operator of major regional tv web the Prime Network, has completed a long-awaited $A100 million ($77 million) debt refinancing that sees its previous financial arrangements aggregrated into a five-year facility managed by the Westpac Bank. New arrangement, per Ramcorp, will allow the company to “satisfy its current major financial obligations.”

Paddy Conroy, head of tv at the Aussie Broadcasting Corp., tapped as a Member of the Order of Australia for service to broadcasting, particularly children’s programming.

CANADA

It’s that time of year again when the Quebec film industry celebrates itself. The ninth annual retrospective of the previous year’s film crop – Les Neuviemes Rendez-Vous Du Cinema Quebecois – will unspool 105 films, including 27 features, Feb. 7 to 16 in Montreal. Competing for top prize are five French-lingo features: “Au Chic Resto Pop,” “La Liberte D’Une Statue,” “Les Noces De Papier” (Paper Wedding), “Le Party” and “Une Histoire Inventee” (An Imaginary Tale). The winning director will receive $C5,000 from sponsor Molson brewery. Seven other prizes will be awarded, including a $C2,000 check from distrib France Film for best thesp, best location photography and best video.

Despite hard times for English-track film distribs in Canada, a new one has opened: Toronto-based Libra Films, headed by Ron McCluskey, president for six years of Creative Exposures distrib. Initial Libra pickups include Ann Hui’s “Song Of The Exile.” Joining McCluskey is Visnja Cuturic, heading sales and marketing. She was with Creative Exposure and C/FP distrib.

Winners of the fourth annual Toronto Women in Film & Television Awards are comedian Andrea Martin, vet CBC producer-execs Dodi Robb and Nancy Archibald and film editor Aria Saare. Presentation is March 7.

The 27th annual Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival is slated for May 29 to June 2.

DENMARK

Copenhagen broadcaster Kanal 2 is reporting healthy growth in ad sales. In January, the station sold $4.4 million in tv ads, about the same amount sold in all of 1990. April 1, Kanal 2 expects to have reached half the budgeted ’91 sales amount of $13.3 million.

The Danish Bodil awards, similar to the Oscars, were awarded Feb. 3 at Copenhagen’s Imperial cinema. Major awards went to Birger Larsen’s “Dance Of The Polar Bears” for best pic; Tommy Kenter for best actor (“Polar Bears”); Trine Dyrholm for best actress (“Spring Tide”). Pic chosen best U.S. film was Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”; best non- American pic was Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog.”

At the third Danish Short Film & Video Festival, Christian Braad Thomsen took home the main award for his “Where The Flowers Of Remembrance Grow.” Ane Mette Ruge’s “R.E. M.” was named best video.

Pubcaster DR/TV’s program director Henrik Antonsen won’t get his contract renewed when it runs out the end of May. Alleged reason is the downward turn of DR’s ratings. A likely candidate for Antonsen’s job is Bo Lynnerup, head of TV Intl. and in charge of DR’s acquisitions.

By August 1992, Denmark will have a new nine-plex seating 2,600. The multiplex, to be placed in the Copenhagen suburb of Taastrup, is a joint venture between Danish Metronome and Warner Bros. Estimated cost is $8.7 million.

Denmark’s TV3 is co-producing with Germany’s NDR “A Portrait Of The Danish Queen,” written by Rolf Seelmann-Eggebert and helmed by Istvan Bury. The 70-minute program is about Queen Margrethe II, Denmark’s foremost cultural envoy abroad. Program, which aired Feb. 2, also contains a candid interview with the queen.

First season of “Star Trek – The Next Generation” is running on TV-2 to rather restrained ratings. However, the series has spurred an official Danish fan club, Friends of Starfleet, and a booklet by trekkie Nicolas Barbano: “Star Trek – The World’s Most Popular Sci-Fi Series.”

FINLAND

The state-backed film financing organization Finnish Film Foundation has agreed to increase its contribution to domestic production. Until now, the FFF has supported a new production with about 60% of the budget; from now on it will advance up to 80%. New policy is the latest attempt to help the unstable Finnish film business. (Last July, National Filmi, the largest of the independent production companies went out of business.) FFF managing director Jukka Vilhunen presumes that in the near future the production policy must focus on “reasonable, normal-size” productions – films with average budgets of $1 million to $1.5 million).

FRANCE

Paris-based distriberry Pandora is to continue handling the highly successful tv series “The Hitchhiker.” Pandora has acquired distribution rights outside North America and France for 20 new episodes. Series is co-produced by Quintana Prods., Atlantique Prods., SFP and La Cinq for broadcast on the USA Cable Network and La Cinq in France.

French critics have awarded the 1990 Prix Melies (best French film award) to Christian Vincent’s debut pic “La Discrete.” Award for best foreign film went to Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Dekalog.” Meanwhile, Claude Beylie has been reelected president of the French critics union. Philippe J. Maarek and Marcel Martin remain vice-presidents.

Gallic animation company Pixibox has unveiled a fully computerized studio in St. Malo. Pixibox-St. Malo will handle the fabrication of animation series, with the creative work being done in Spain. Traditionally, the French have subcontracted most of the noncreative work to Korea to take advantage of lower labor costs. First project is series “La Compete,” to be produced by France’s Antenne-2, Societe Radio Canada and Belgium’s Little Big One.

Flach TV’s made-for “Les Mouettes” entered the record books Jan. 28 when it screened on private web TF1 to a massive 14.8 million audience, the biggest of the year and bigger than any broadcast on French tv in 1990.

GERMANY

Households passed by cable totaled 15.9 million out of the 26.3 million in western Germany in 1990, and 8.1 million were hooked into cable tv systems, per Telekom, the technical arm of the Federal Post Office. By the end of this year, another 550,000 households in the former East Germany will be passed out of the 7 million households in the five new federal states. By 1992,1.3 million households in the east are expected to be cabled.

Dennis Hopper met the press in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Frankfurt to drumbeat the Orion pic “The Hot Spot.” The film opened with only three prints, one in the original English, in Berlin in a test release, but it drew 40,000 patrons in the first four days. Delta distribbery in Berlin will release an additional 25 prints following the Hopper tour.

The European Film Awards, presented in Glasgow last year, will return this year to Berlin, headquarters of the organizers. The event will be televised live from the eastern part of the city this Dec. 1.

The ninth annual Munich film fest will take place June 22 to 29. Some 100 feature films and docus are lined up for the event at the Bavarian capital’s Gasteig culture center.

ITALY

Five Soviet films unspooled Feb. 4 to 8 at the Capranica Cinema during Soviet Film Week, organized by Sacis (R AI’s sales arm) and Sovexportfilm. Roman cinephiles could watch such pics as Vladimir Naumov’s anti-Stalinist film “The Law,” Yuri Kara’s “The Holidays At Valtassar,” and “Did Karotin Really Exist?” by Ghennadi Poloka, as well as meet with directors to discuss their work.

Lucky Red, the artfilm distributor topped by Kim Smith and actor Andrea Occhipinti, has acquired tv and theatrical rights for Italy to Werner Herzog’s upcoming “Scream Of Stone.” Film, starring Vittorio Mezzogiorno, is shooting in Patagonia. Local buzz is that film will compete at Cannes.

Aurelio Grimaldi, who scripted Marco Risi’s critically acclaimed pics “Forever Mary” and “Boys On The Outside,” will make his directorial debut with another film dealing with juvenile delinquency in Palermo. Galliano Juso’s Metrofilm is producing in association with Gianni Di Clemente of Clemi Cinematografica. Lensing is to start in March.

SWEDEN

English director Colin Nutley, who lives and works in Sweden, is next to shoot a tv series for Swedish Television, produced by TV-2 in Gothenberg. The series, to be called “Angelgard,” is to be shot near Gothenberg.

For Warner Bros., 1990 was the best year ever in Sweden. Market share in Stockholm was 31.2%, compared with UIP’s 25.6%. In 1989, UIP had 30.5% and Warner Bros, had 24.1%. In Stockholm, WB (Touchstone) pics “Pretty Woman” had 7.8% of the year’s total grosses, and “Dead Poets Society” had 7%.

U.K.

British vid distribs have appointed market research company Marketing Direction to investigate video rental habits in the U.K. Research is part of generic promotional campaign that distribs have launched to staunch losses in the rental business. Fear is that former regular vid renters are tuning in to satellite movie channels. Rental biz has had a recent upturn, probably thanks to war-weary viewers.

Watchdog organization the Advertising Standards Authority received a record 10,000 complaints from the British public last year. “Misleading and crude” ads were most commonly cited, with special public criticism for ads making “environmentally friendly” claims for such known polluters as cars and household detergents.

Film & General, indie production company backed by food distribution giant Booker, has acquired screen rights to “Unnatural Selection,” a story of New York cockroaches written by Daniel Evan Weiss. Plan is to turn it into an animated tv series for adults.

Producer-distrib RPTA/Primetime has inked a co-prod deal with BBC, Iambic Prods, and Italian indie Hitron TV to cover the Feb. 10 royal gala performance of “Jose Carreras And Friends” at London’s Drury Lane Theater.

London-based distrib NBD Pictures has signed a first-look agreement with Best of British Films & TV for projects in development and completed programs.

Brian Brolly, ex-m.d. of Really Useful Group, is backing Product Scene Ltd., a new London-and L.A.-based product placement/promo company.

Central TV is producing Britain’s first Asian soap, “Family Pride,” for transmission in the Midlands area of England and for a run on national Channel 4.

Brent Walker, debt-burdened leisure company that owns Elstree Studios and Goldcrest Facilities, has lost a court battle with hotel group Grand Metropolitan. Dispute arose over purchase of William Hill betting shops from Grand Met last year. Now Brent Walker has been ordered to pay the £s;50 million ($98 million) balance due on the purchase.

Swiss historian Roland Cosandey will introduce an archive of pre-1911 movies at the National Film Theater Feb 14. Britain’s National Film Archive has been restoring pics, discovered in a Swiss vault in 1974, and transferring them to safe stock. More than 1,000 pix have been completed, and excerpts will be shown on Valentine’s Day.

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