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Global News Briefs: TV Viewers Riveted by Unrest in Egypt, More

Egypt – It’s becoming a truism in the Arab world: Revolutions and coups are good for ratings. While that may sound cynical, there’s a nicer way of looking at it — TV can help heal the wounds, says Franco-Tunisian entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar, who owns the politically independent, Cairo-based satcaster ONTV.

The events of July 3 — when protesters cheered the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi, and fireworks lit the sky in Tahrir Square — have set off a nonstop stream of changing events in Egypt, as well as blanket media coverage from around the world.

“We suspect that we reached a 20% share of Egypt’s 80 million viewers; no doubt the highest we’ve ever had,” says Ben Ammar talking of the momentous day. Significantly, on July 3, the ONTV news feed was for the first time beamed into Tunisia, Libya and Algeria via a live link-up on Nessma, Ben Ammar’s other Arab TV network.

Tunisia was the first country to start the Arab Spring, so the audiences, Facebook, the networks, the media, were all wondering: What’s next?” Ben Ammar recounts.

“It created a very healthy debate of people saying: ‘We are not all in the same situation, but there are similarities we can learn from’; it was all very positive.”

As for what is next, Ben Ammar sees TV’s role as one that keeps a steadying infl uence.

“This is not a war against fundamentalist Islam,” he says. “There is a political process that has to start again; get democracy back on its feet, fix the constitution and go back to elections. The role of the media is to maintain cohesion in the country. That’s our responsibility, and we will be very careful not to fall (into any political) traps.”

-Nick Vivarelli

‘Candelabra’ Lights Up B.O.

United Kingdom – The Steven Soderbergh-directed “Behind the Candelabra” has clicked at the U.K. box office, on track to hit $5.2 million. The tallies confirm Brit distrib eOne’s hunch that the Liberace biopic would be a perfect piece of counterprogrammer to the glut of summer tentpoles.

The film opened to $764,910 at 131 sites June 7, capitalizing on the positive press the movie got at Cannes, and Michael Douglas’ PR work in France and then in Blighty.

In its first week, the pic scored the highest per-screen average, beating “After Earth”; in its second weekend, it fell only 10%, expanding to 241 locations. So far, it’s taken in more than £3.1 million ($4.6 million) locally.

The movie aired in the U.S. on HBO when the filmmakers couldn’t secure funding for a domestic theatrical release, being told that the film was “too gay.”

It’s not just Blighty that sees “Candelabra’s” theatrical potential: ARP in Gaul, Dutch Filmworks in the Netherlands and Roadshow in Oz and New Zealand are a few of the distribs bringing the movie to cinemas.

“We’ve always seen its theatrical potential,” says eOne U.K. managing director Alex Hamilton. “And it’s the kind of film people will want to own on DVD and will also do well in the pay window and SVOD window.”

This isn’t the first time eOne has clicked with a pic that didn’t have a U.S. theatrical run: In 2010, the distrib released thriller “The Hole,” which took $4.5 million at the U.K. box office.

– Diana Lodderhose

Berlusconi Ruling on Fast Track

Italy – Silvio Berlusconi could be in hot water sooner than he expected. Italy’s supreme court has fast-tracked to July 30 a ruling on the final appeal in a tax fraud case involving multi-million-dollar Hollywood deals inked by the former Italian prime minister’s Mediaset TV empire.

During previous trials and appeals in this case, Berlusconi was twice convicted to four years in jail. The media mogul-turned-pol had not been expecting a definitive ruling until later this year.

A third guilty verdict could result in Berlusconi being banned from public office, though he is unlikely to go to jail.

– Nick Vivarelli

Indies Vexed Over Wage Hike

France – Independent TV and film honchos are rattled by the passage of a labor pact they say will increase budgets and hit indies and smaller companies especially hard .

The labor agreement — passed by culture minister Aurelie Filippetti and labor minister Michel Sapin and effective on Oct. 1 — will ensure higher wages for technicians. It bans backend-style remuneration and fl at daily rates for tech workers, and applies to all film and TV productions in France. That includes local productions as well as projects doing location work. In addition, French or foreign producers who want technicians to work more than 48 hours a week will need a special dispensation from labor authorities.

Opponents claim this will cause a 20%-25% budget hike for projects and fuel runaway shoots. Industryites have three months to counterattack.

– Elsa Keslassy

 

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