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International Update

AUSTRALIA

The state government has agreed to bail out its film agency, the South Australia Film Corp., with a $A2.4 million loan, contingent on its achieving major restructuring and cost reductions over the next 18 months, when its future viability will be reassessed. Move comes after a review into the SAFC last September following budget blowouts on its Japanese co-venture series “Ultraman” (VARIETY, Aug. 15). The government chose to keep SAFC as a production house, with scaled-down staff (cutting eight positions), reduced overhead (by at least $A300,000 a year) and restructured management (including performance-based contracts and the immediate appointment of an m.d.).

New sitcom for the Nine Network, “All Together Now,” begins airing Jan. 22. Weekly skein headlines singer/actor Jon English and Rebecca Gibney, with Pino Amenta directing and Kris Noble exec producing. It’s being made out of the web’s Melbourne studios in association with Telltale Films, whose principals include helmer George Miller (“The Neverending Story II”); preproduction on a second series is to begin mid-February.

Fourth national screenwriters’ conference has been slated for March 21 to 24 in Victoria; overseas guests include U.S. writers John Milius, Steve Tesich and Georgia Jeffries.

Toronto-based Atlantis Films has inked a development deal with the Aussie Broadcasting Corp. and Melbourne production house Warner Dalton to make “Trojan Horses,” series to be shot in Melbourne, Vancouver and Hong Kong. A telefilm pilot is in the works, and Atlantis’ Aussie rep, Richard Samuels, who coordinated Atlantis’ involvement, says it’s expected the project will qualify as an official co-production under the Australian/Canadian co-prod treaty. Chris Warner conceived and scripted the series.

BELGIUM

The 36 members of the Belgian Union of Film Critics have awarded their grand prize this year to the Polish film “A Short Film About Love” by Krzysztof Kieslowski. The union awards its prize to the film that “best contributed to the development and the promotion of the cinema art” during the year. Last year’s prize went to “Distant Voices, Still Lives” by Terence Davies. Placing second in this year’s competition was “Wild At Heart” by David Lynch.

DENMARK

TV 2 OST was launched Jan. 3. This completes TV 2’s much debated chain of regional affiliates, consisting of eight stations.

Several Copenhagen cinema owners are facing indictment for violation of the holiday-law, which prohibits public screenings, that allegedly would divert churchgoers. Since tapes can be freely rented and bars frequented, the cinema owners find the law unfair and outdated. On Dec. 25 the cinemas took a united stand and kept on grinding, in spite of the unpopular law. Gerhard Pedersen, head of the Nordisk Film cinemas, is convinced that the cinemas will have their day in court if need be.

According to Gallup, VCR penetration in Denmark reached 41% in 1990.

Elektra Denmark strikes a blow for film music; importing soundtracks from, among others, Silva Screen Records, Milan Records and Telarc. New label manager will be Soren Hyldgaard, himself an able composer and very knowledgeable in the field of scores and soundtracks.

Over the years Preben Wilhjelm became a well respected politician, despite his political affiliation with small leftist party VS. Now out of politics, Wilhjelm has taken charge of pubcaster DR/TV’s renowned documentary group.

GERMANY

Dan Talbot of New York Films has picked up the U.S. rights to Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s “Korczak,” per Cinepool’s Wolfram Skowronnek-Schaer. Pic unspooled in Cannes last year in an out-of-competition section. Cinepool is the film arm of Telepool, the Munich-based world tv sales and acquisitions company.

Bavaria Film’s Kopierwerk laboratory in Munich has inaugurated four video processing studios for transferring 16m and 35m film to tape. The vidstudios, erected at a cost of $3.3 million, also employ color matching and use the “wet gate” system to eliminate film scratches.

Constantin Kinoholding laid the cornerstone of Cinedom, the group’s first theater in Cologne’s Media Park shopping center. The multiplex will be equipped with THX pic and sound technology, and will house pubs, book and record shops and cafes as well as a basement garage. Neue Constantin execs Bernd Eichinger and Edwin Leicht were on hand for the ceremony and press confab.

Futura Kino Betriebs, a subsidiary of Theo Hinz’ distribbery Filmverlag der Autoren, has bought three theaters in downtown Munich, giving the company eight houses in the greater Munich area.

ITALY

The Venice Biennale, parent of the Venice Film Festival, has allocated only 50 million lire ($43,000) to fund world’s oldest film festival this year. Though the remainder of the budget will be supplied the Entertainment Ministry this summer, the Film Critics’ Union said the paltry sum would not allow the fest to continue its year-round series of lectures and meetings.

Daniele Luchetti is at work on “La Portaborse” (The Flunky), starring Silvio Orlando, Nanni Moretti and Anne Rousell. Moretti’s Sacher Films is producing. Pic is about a college professor who is slowly corrupted when he goes to work as a speechwriter for a big-shot politician.

“December,” first film from helmer Antonio Monda, won first prize at the third Cinema Zottozero festival in Sulmona. The film will represent Italy at the upcoming Miami and Palm Springs fests.

JAPAN

Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. said its Panasonic Broadcast Europe arm has signed a contract with BBC Television to supply the British concern with its half-inch digital format VCR. Matsushita will supply an initial order of 100 AJ-D350 half-inch digital VCRs for installation in the BBC’s new postproduction center in London.

NEW ZEALAND

Actor-helmer Ian Mune, whose “The End Of The Golden Weather” begins an eight-week shoot Feb. 18, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the queen’s New Year Honors List. Award is for services to the theater and film industry.

Wellington’s old Paramount cinema has been refurbished by Paragon Theaters as a combo cinema/legit venue. Paragon’s Nicholas Peren says arthouse screenings will comprise 75% of future programming and film critic Costa Botes called the setup “splendid” when reviewing its maiden offerings, the French films “The Music Teacher” and “Romuald and Juliette.”

A book of film journeys by director Vincent Ward (“Vigil,” “The Navigator”) was published by Heinemann Reed for the Christmas market. Ward’s new film, “The Map Of The Human Heart” (script by Australian Louis Nowra) will be produced by Ward’s Australia-based company and Canada’s Sunrise Films.

Three top-ranking members of China Film Co-production Corp., including Huang Guang, deputy head of finance, visited New Zealand in December.

New Zealand market domination of Endeavour Entertainment in sell-through and RCA Columbia Hoyts in rental video has been consolidated. Endeavour now represents RCA CH product for sell-through and RCA CH assumes all labels previously handled by Endeavour – including Virgin – in the rental field.

SWEDEN

In February, Sonet Films will release the long version of Luc Besson’s “The Big Blue” theatrically. The film has become a hit on video, especially among teenagers, and boxoffice reaction to Besson’s “Nikita” has been strong.

Husband and wife Nicolas Roeg and Theresa Russell are in town this week at the invitation of the Cinematek at the Swedish Film Institute. The Cinematek is screening a retrospective of Roeg’s films, and Svensk is launching his “The Witches” theatrically. Swedish actress Mai Zetterling plays one of the leads in “Witches.”

This year’s Golden Bugs (Sweden’s equivalent of the Academy Awards) will be presented in Stockholm Feb. 11.

U.K.

Panavision Europe has donated £ 20,000 ($38,000) to sponsor a festival of awardwinning shorts by European filmmakers. Fest is to be staged in L.A. and New York by the First Film Foundation. Foundation was set up last year by Tyne Tees TV, Welsh film board Ffilm Cymru and European Film and TV Year, with funding from Rank, Channel 4 and the Dept. of Trade & Industry. The event is designed to bring up to 12 young filmmakers to the attention of U.S. studios and leading indies. Panavision runs a program in the U.S. that provides free equipment for selected student projects, and the company will now extend this to Europe.

Joe Dunton Cameras, established equipment supplier in the U.K., will henceforth be known as Panavision U.K. Similar name changes have been made in Italy and France as part of a restructuring that emphasizes Panavision’s corporate identity in Europe.

Eddie Lee, former head of U.K. exhibitor association CEA, received a Member of the Order of the British Empire designation in the queen’s New Year Honors List.

Two U.K. tv companies have unearthed and restored a clutch of classic films. Color pic of ballet star Margot Fonteyn dancing in “Sleeping Beauty” was found in a barn by producer Steve Bergson. TVS has paid for restoration. The pic, which never has been seen by the public, will be broadcast on Channel 4.

At Central TV, the entire 30-pic oeuvre of Alexander Korda has been polished up and will be released on sell-through video, initially on mail-order only.

The British Academy of Film & Television Artists award ceremony will be held March 17 at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel. Bash will be preceded March 10 by craft awards, to be held at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff.

Brit radio authorities are in a tizzy over the definition of “pop” music. Problem arises over Parliamentary ruling that one of three new national radio nets should be mostly devoted to music other than pop. Now Radio Authority chairman Lord Chalfont has ruled that pop music started in 1960. Anything released or recorded before that is deemed non-pop, even, presumably, such standards as Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue.” How this bizarre edict fits with Parliament’s earlier, and almost equally bizarre, definition of pop as “characterized by a strong rhythmic element and reliance on electronic amplification” remains to be seen.

Among those likely to bid for the new radio franchises are Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, The Daily Telegraph, Emap Radio and a classical music consortium grouped around opera star Kiri Te Kanawa. Jazz FM, which already runs a jazz station, may also be in the running, as may be Lord Hanson, who owns London-based Melody Radio. The franchise will go to the highest cash bidder, who will have to pay in addition an annual license fee of £ 1 million ($1.9 million).

The BBC took the honors in the Christmas tv sweeps, capturing six of the top 10,12 of the top 20, and 19 of the top 30 programs shown over the holiday. ITV was pushed into second place all down the line, and the still-infant satellite service wasn’t even a contender. Top-rated show was sitcom “Only Fools And Horses,” with 18 million viewers. In second place was “ET” with 17.5 million and in third place was “The Generation Game,” with just under 17 million. All were screened on BBC 1.

YUGOSLAVIA

Centar Film, the aggressive Belgrade production and distrib company run by Djordje Milojevic and Svetlana Banovcanin, is becoming a familiar sight at film markets. Centar has five new features revving up for lensing: “Three Tickets For Hollywood”; “Erotikon”; a Canadian co-prod called “Ferrolli”; “Prophet,” Slobodan Sijan; and “Naked Island,” directed by Goran Markovic. Centar’s “Landscape With A Woman,” produced with TV Sarajevo, won three prizes at Montreal last year, where it was sold to Japan, Australia, Canada and some European territories.

Ademir Kenovic’s “A Little Soul” will screen this year in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight.

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