International news briefs: India gets digital,

India gets digital, China gets partners, Danes get zany

RUSSIA

Cat People in Spotlight
In Moscow, the world’s only cat theater has reopened following a year-long closure for renovation. Founded by clown Yuri Kuklachev and run with his son Dmitry, the troupe has a cast of 120 cats and four dogs. Among the cats’ specialties are shimmying along poles, leaping from clown to clown and spinning balls. Performances include “The Ice Fantasy,” “Boris the Cat’s” Olympic Games and “Cats of the Universe.” Some animal-rights activists have protested.

CHINA

Pinewood in Song Link
Pinewood Shepperton has entered into a 50-50 agreement with Seven Stars Media for a new entity, Song Lin. Bruno Wu, chairman-CEO of Seven Stars, said the goal is to create co-production opportunities for Chinese producers, export Chinese film and TV overseas, and improve production standards. Pinewood will provide expertise and limited capital .

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Beijing Fest Expands
Luc Besson, Kathleen Kennedy and Keanu Reeves were among the international visitors at the April 16-23 Beijing Film Festival. The Western presence isn’t surprising. China’s entertainment and media market is worth $137.5 billion, and is expected to grow 40% to $192.5 billion by 2016. Last year, box office generated $2.7 billion, up 36% from 2011.

IRAN

Kiarostami and the Gov’t
In Rome to promote his pic “Like Someone in Love,” Abbas Kiarostami mourned the deaths caused by the April 16 quake on Iran’s Persian
Gulf Coast: “I can only express my great pain and suffering for what took place in a very poor territory, partly forgotten by the central government.” Kiarostami, whose latest two films were shot outside Iran, made it clear he is not on good terms with local leaders: “Me and the government don’t understand each other,” he said. He confirmed intentions to shoot his pic “Horizontal Process” in Italy’s Apulia region.

INDIA

Social Media Rocks the Vote
Social media could be a major factor during the 2014 general election, according to a new report commissioned by the Internet & Mobile
Assn. of India. The report says the country’s social-media users will hit 80 million by election time, up from the current 62 million. India has embraced digital quickly, and growth is expected to become more rapid. There are more than 900 million telephone subscribers, most of them using mobile devices. The study points out the key is in “the ability of a candidate to engage with the electorate by rising above the media clutter, and by trying to get his or her message across to the voter directly.”

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Andhare Joins Viacom 18
Ajit Andhare is the new COO of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, reporting to group chief exec Sudhanshu Vats. Viacom18 Media is a joint venture between Viacom and India’s Network18.

MEXICO

Spotify’s Global Reach
Music streaming service Spotify entered Mexico, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore on April 16. Its subscription premium offer charges Mexicans $8 monthly for multiplatform song delivery, or $4 for laptop/PC- only usage; ad-supported services are free. Spotify targets the growing number of smartphone users in the nation — about 20% of Mexicans in 2012. “Smartphone adoption is the key driver,” said Alice Enders, at London-based Enders Analysis. “The scope for subscription to PC-based services is very limited: There are so many free music sites on the Internet. Portability is very important.”

DENMARK

Next Scandi Craze: Laffers?
With “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Jo Nesbo books and series like “Wallander,” Scandinavia has become known for crime dramas — but now locals say comedy is king. Tine Klint’s Danish sales-distribution outfit, LevelK, is set to bow its Komedy label at Cannes, with a slate including Hella Joof’s “Almost Perfect,” Rasmus Heide’s “All for One, All for Two” and Michael Asmussen’s “Once Upon a Time in Phuket.” Alexandre Piel, head of drama sales and acquisitions at Paris-based Zodiak, says there is strong remake potential in film comedies and TV skeins like Swedish family laffer “Solsidan,” being remade by Zodiakowned Bwark Prods., the shingle behind Brit hit “The Inbetweeners.”

ARGENTINA

Soaps Target Families
“Graduados” was this season’s smash primetime soap, and its followup also looks hot: “Vecinos en guerra,” produced by Underground Contenido, had a wow bow primetime with a 22.1 share April 16 on top net Telefe. A four-weekday suspenser about a cat burglar turned
happy housewife, “Vecinos” aspires to repeat “Graduados” achievement in Argentina’s fragmented TV marketplace by delivering a show targeted at all-family viewing.

BRAZIL

Post-Punk Pic Pre-Frenzy
May 30 will see the release of the 1980s Brazilia-set “Faroeste Caboclo,” a movie adaptation of the rock ballad by Renato Russo, the
towering figure of Brazil’s post-punk scene. The YouTube trailer generated 1.5 million hits in one day (400,000 in a month is considered good for a trailer in Brazil). Setting the stage for a Brazilian bonanza, a Russo biopic “We’re So Young” bows May 3.

SPAIN

A TV Re-Remake
In 2011, Spanish broadcast group Atresmedia TV garnered soft results for a redo of “Undercover Boss” on Antena 3. Flash forward to 2013, and Atresmedia has bought remake rights again. The reason: the CBS redo has just trumped channel averages on Atresmedia’s niche
service Xplora. The new remake will probably air on the group’s boutique La Sexta channel. Another factor: Cheaper unscripted series are replacing fiction in cash-strapped Spain.

ISRAEL

Taking on Al-Jazeera
Israel is launching a news station for non-Hebrew speakers, with broadcasts in English, French and Arabic, in hopes of grabbing back some of the Mideast news market from Al-Jazeera and France 24. The channel, i24news, will bow this summer with a center of operations in Jaffa Port just south of Tel Aviv. An accompanying website, i24news.tv, will debut at the same time. Israeli execs, including Channel 8’s Haim Slutzky, are steering the project.

ITALY

Hong Kong Firm Eyes TV Edge
The Italian telco and TV landscape is beginning a significant shift as it opens up to outsiders. Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa entered talks April 11 to gain control of Telecom Italia. Hutchinson, owned by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, is targeting up to 29.9% of partly privatized Telecom Italia, which it would merge with its 3 Italia mobile unit to become Italy’s dominant broadband, mobile and landline phone operator.

GERMANY

“War” Starts a Battle
A German miniseries about World War II, “Generation War,” has ignited a diplomatic dispute. The Polish ambassador in D.C. wrote to U.S. distrib Music Box, which is releasing the drama as a theatrical film, complaining that Polish resistance fi ghters are falsely
portrayed as greedy anti-Semites.

FRANCE

How Do You Say ‘Passion Pit’?
Mini-major MK2, which operates Gaul’s leading arthouse chain, has pulled out of distribution, but is thinking outside the box to ramp up exhibition. It will host Cinema Paradiso, a 12-day festival dedicated to all things American, including a 130,000-square-foot drive-in theater inside Paris’ Grand Palais exhibition hall, June 10-21. The lovefest will include “Annie Hall,” “The Big Lebowski” and “Taxi Driver.” Filled with vintage Fiat 500 cars, the drive-in will hold 1,000 spectators per screening. Cinema Paradiso also will boast an American diner, a roller-skating rink, an exhibit dubbed the Golden Age of Videogames and various arcade games.

Compiled by Timothy M. Gray
Reported by Leo Barraclough, Clifford Coonan, John Hopewell, Debra Kamin, Elsa Keslassy, Namen Ramachandran, Nick Vivarelli

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