President Pressures Biz
President Pranab Mukherjee is urging the film industry to provide positive values following rising reports of rapes of minors. Speaking at the National Film Awards in Delhi May 3, Mukherjee said, “The recent incidents of crime and against women and children have shaken the conscience of the nation. I would like to stress the crucial role cinema can and must play in resetting the moral compass .” The film biz has drawn flak for titillating song-and-dance sequences, but TV has escaped unscathed, though kids re-create those sequences for talent shows.
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Study Predicts Pay TV Boom
Media Partners Asia predicts Indian pay TV revenues, a finance stream Hollywood players are eager to tap, will double in seven years to $17 billion. The number of pay TV homes is expected to grow from 128 million to 183 million by 2020. In Asia (excluding heavily regulated China), India will account for 63% of new subscriber growth between 2012 and 2020. The research firm attributes the surge to ongoing digitization.
PM’s TV Plea
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chided TV channels for focusing on crime, and asked them to devote more attention to daily social and lifestyle issues. “I’m not completely satisfied with what is shown (on TV). I agree that TV does not include a range of issues of public interest,” he said, speaking to veterans prior to May 9 Victory Day celebrations marking the end of WWII in Europe. According to news agency Ria Novosti, Medvedev added that TV should show life as it is. “There’s more to life than just gang wars, thank God. But (TV-makers) pay excessive attention to this issue to attract more viewers.”
Sega Arm Plans Toon
Marza Animation Planet is readying its first animated film, “Robodog.” The 3D pic will be helmed by Henry F. Anderson III, animation director on Disney’s “Gnomeo & Juliet,” and is written by Robert Reece and produced by Paul Wang. Marza, based in Tokyo and San Francisco, is a subsidiary of Sega Sammy, the company behind the “Sonic the Hedgehog” vidgame. “Robodog” was unveiled by Marza’s new CEO, Masanao Maeda, who recently joined from Sega of America where he had been president and chief operating officer for 20 years. The family film, which follows the adventures of a dog and his robotic canine companion, plans to use international voice talent.
Rockin’ the B.O.
Antonio Carlos da Fontoura’s “We Are So Young,” a biopic about punk rock icon Renato Russo, nabbed $2.9 million in opening weekend box office, in line with expectations. Released May 3 by Fox, Imagen Filmes and RioFilme, “Young” is a reminder of Brazil’s capacity to turn out local hits . Thanks to sex comedy “Upside Down 2,” heist romp “Vai que da certo” and more than a little help from “Iron Man 3’s” extraordinary $11.7 million first frame a weekend earlier, Brazil B.O. through April was 11% up for the first four months of 2012.
Game on for Kormakur
Icelandic helmer Baltasar Kormakur, who recently wrapped Universal’s “2 Guns” with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington and is now helming HBO pilot “The Missionary,” is prepping an English-language sci-fi TV skein based on the popular Icelandic vidgame, EVE Online. His Blueeyes Prods. is working with local game developer and publisher CCP on the project. “The EVE universe is full of astounding stories of epic battles, daring heists and gripping political intrigue,” Kormakur told the Nordisk Film and TV Fund. Production will begin early 2014. Cast has yet to be announced.
Sex Probe Grows
The heat on the public-funded BBC has intensified, with accusations widening since the probe began into charges of sexual abuse by the late Jimmy Savile. Other individuals have been accused, with critics saying the Beeb presided over a culture in which predatory sexual behavior by male stars was tolerated in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Stuart Hall, known for hosting gameshow “It’s a Knockout,” admitted to indecently assaulting 13 girls. BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten said the pubcaster could be liable to pay compensation to victims. Others have been questioned, including Rolf Harris and Jimmy Tarbuck, who worked for the BBC and commercial web ITV. Both deny wrongdoing. A recent inquiry into bullying at the BBC listed 37 complaints of sexual harassment over the past six years.
WB Goes Viral
Warner Bros. France has booked the Grand Rex in Paris for a Comic-Con-style event May 26. The distrib will unveil trailers and clips, and showcase pics “Man of Steel” and “Pacific Rim,” vidgame “Batman: Arkham Origins” and TV skein “Arrow,” plus host the local preem of “The Hangover Part III.” The event is only for users of WB France’s Web platform MyWarner. In six months, the site has lured 200,000 members.
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Hadopi Hangs in Balance
After nearly a year’s study, France’s antipiracy law, Hadopi, will be debated one last time at a May 18 Cannes session, hosted by former Canal Plus boss Pierre Lescure. Hadopi has been under threat since president Francois Hollande vowed to scrap the initiative, supported by the biz but opposed by voters. Orchestrated by Lescure, a government-backed discussion on the issue was launched to reform Hadopi. Lescure will unveil proposals from the yearlong study for pols to consider.
Crime Pays — Bit by Bit
Mediaset Espana, Spain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, rolls May 13 on “El Principe,” a TV crime thriller set in the corruption-sodden, narco-hub of Ceuta, a Spanish territory on the north coast of Africa, just 20 miles from the mainland across the Straits of Gibraltar. Los Angeles-based Stargate Studios provides vfx. Just a decade ago, “El Principe” might have been a purely local TV production . Now, the growing numbers of startup channels across Europe looking for cheap original programming can make smaller sales add up.
Making a Case for Exception
The Berlin-based European Film Academy, under prexy Wim Wenders, has joined the campaign to keep filmmaking out of June’s trade talks between the European Union and the U.S. “To not respect the cultural exception in the negotiations would threaten independent cinema,” it said in a statement. “It would also result in European films vanishing from screens around the world and in irreparable damage to European culture.” An online petition of filmmakers that calls on European heads of state to support the campaign is a who’s who of auteurs, including Pedro Almodovar, Stephen Frears, Michael Haneke and Cristian Mungiu. Even a few non-Europeans have slipped in, such as David Lynch and Jane Campion.
Taormina Woos “Man of Steel”
Warner Bros. “Man of Steel” will open the 59th Taormina Film Festival on June 15 at the town’s ancient Greek amphitheater. The eight-day event on the Italian island of Sicily will showcase 30 films, seven shorts and fi ve docus, along with offering 10 master class programs. The fest is promoted by the Committee Taormina Arte and sponsored by the Regional Dept. of Tourism of Sicily and the Cinema Dept. of Italy’s Ministry of Culture.
Bomb Threat Shutters Fest
Organizers of the Libyan Movie Awards for short films said they were encouraged by the number of submissions for the fest — 80 shorts, 20 of which selected — despite a bomb threat that halted the event the day after its April 25 start. The first festival of its type in the country, coming two years after the end of the civil war that deposed Moammar Gadhafi, saw an opening-night crowd of 500 pack the theater at Tripoli’s Mahari Radisson Blu Hotel. The awards, an attempt to lay fresh groundwork for the Libyan film biz, were organized by the Italian Cultural Institute and local NGO 1Libya, and partly funded by the European Union.
Gov’t Shoots Down “Attack”
Lebanon’s pro-Palestinian government has banned Lebanese helmer Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” because it was partly shot in Tel Aviv using Israeli actors. The pic portrays the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian surgeon working in Israel who discovers his wife is a suicide bomber. It will be released in the U.S. June 21 by Cohen Media Group.
(Compiled by Tim Gray. Reported by Leo Barraclough, Sean Fitz-Gerald, John Hopewell, Elsa Keslassy, Naman Ramachandran, Michelle Salemi, Nick Vivarelli.)