European Film Awards lands top sponsor

LONDON — The Ford Motor Co. has signed up as lead sponsor of the European Film Awards, which are being relaunched this year with a much higher profile by the European Film Academy.

The prize-giving, which takes place Dec. 6 in Berlin, is being organized by Dennis Davidson Associates. Ford has agreed to pay $75,000 and to make a number of cars available for the event.

DDA is producing TV coverage of the awards at a cost of more than $1 million, with Polygram TV handling international sales. BSkyB has stepped up to take U.K. rights, and MTV Europe is also looking to get involved.

This is all part of a concerted attempt by the European Film Academy to transform itself and its awards into a more effective standard-bearer for the Euro movie industry.

Since Brit producer Nik Powell took over as EFA chairman last year, he has launched a drive to broaden its membership beyond its founding cabal of arthouse auteurs. Most of the major Hollywood and European studios have become patrons of EFA.

Early this year, he appointed DDA to promote the new-look EFA and to restore the credibility of its award ceremony, which had been tarnished by years of ignoring popular Euro movies, such as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” in favor of obscure epics that were never released in most European countries.

DDA has ditched the name “Felix” for the awards, which was EFA’s attempt to create a Euro equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s Oscar. There will also be several new award categories, including some “people’s awards,” which will be voted on by Euro film fans and thus stand a good chance of going to American blockbusters.

The public will be able to vote by telephone, via the Internet or by returning voting coupons from film magazines. Planet Hollywood will have video voting booths in each of its 23 European outlets. The results will be tallied by the accountancy firm Arthur Anderson.

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