BAFTAs eye date change

The British Academy of Film & TV Arts is staking out Feb. 8 for its film awards in 2004, two weeks earlier than originally planned. BAFTA insiders say they will announce the date switch if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences confirms it will move the Oscar ceremony to Feb. 29 from its traditional late-March slot.

The recent news that AMPAS might bring the Oscars forward by a month in 2004 sent BAFTA into a spin. Two years ago, the British org moved its ceremony from mid-April to the end of February in order to position the event as a bellwether for the Oscars.

And it worked — the profile of the British Academy Film Awards has skyrocketed, at least in Britain, although it still has some way to go to rival the Golden Globes in the eyes of Hollywood.

Perhaps it worked too well. AMPAS is worried the Oscar season has become too protracted, and that kudos fatigue is undermining the Oscar ceremony itself, which has slumped to historic lows in the TV ratings. Moving to February, into sweeps season, is seen as a possible solution.

BAFTA insiders immediately recognized there’s simply no way logistically they could cling to their Feb. 22 date, with the Oscars just a week later. For a start, no talent would turn up for their show. Hence Feb. 8, which still keeps clear of the Golden Globes in late January while leaving three clear weeks before the big one in the Kodak.

Momentum, Pathe head for ‘Oblivion’

Momentum Pictures and Pathe Intl. have won the chase for Paul Morrison’s “Wondrous Oblivion,” the $6 million Jewish cricket movie that will be the second project from Michael Kuhn’s new production financing shingle.

Momentum is taking U.K. rights, with Pathe Intl. handling foreign sales. Cast includes Emily Woof, Stanley Townsend and Sam Smith (Oliver in the BBC’s recent “Oliver Twist”), who plays a lonely Jewish boy eager to learn cricket from his West Indian neighbors in 1960s London. Filming is due to start in August. Producer is Jonny Persey of APT Films.

Mifed fiddles while London burns

The various self-appointed organizers of the London Screenings are doing their best to create the impression the event will go ahead this October, regardless of the determination of just about every significant sales company to boycott London in favor of Mifed. Fusion Events sent around an email claiming that “only 11 out of 86 companies” will be missing from London, whereas the current official list of refuseniks stands at 21 (not including the French, who also are bypassing London), and it’s hard to find a major player not among them. Even Icon, which for several years has attended London and not Mifed, is looking likely to switch camps, although it has yet to make a final decision.

Nonetheless, there are some transatlantic cracks appearing in the united pro-Mifed front. Some Brits were mightily offended last week to receive an email from Miramax Intl. prexy Rick Sands, jokingly threatening them with the wrath of Intermedia prexy Jere Hausfater if any of them broke ranks and attended the London Screenings. Since the Brits, led by Signpost sales prexy Nicole Mackey and Capitol’s Jane Barclay, started the pro-Mifed groundswell a year ago, some have taken umbrage at what they see as an American attempt to hijack the cause.

Of greater concern, though, is the complete failure of Mifed, which was privatized last year, to deliver, or even discuss, the improvements the supporters of the Milan event are looking for. “There’s a whole new organization there, and they couldn’t care less about what we want. They haven’t listened to us all, most importantly on the issue of extending the market for a couple of days,” says one leader of the London Screenings boycott.

Watch out, Mifed. If this October’s event doesn’t come up to scratch, the next big debate will be whether the American Film Market should move from February to October.

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