What’s a religious film fan to do? In mid-March, the Russian Orthodox Church urged followers to give up social media for Lent. So some folks were torn by the news that Tom Cruise had become the first Hollywood star to set up a page on popular Russian social network VK. But the site, set up by entrepreneur Pavel Durov, is OK: It has more than 100 million active users, and 46 million average daily users. Russia’s box office was up 10% last year, at $1.2 billion, with the Hollywood studios nabbing a 76% share. Cruise’s “Oblivion” will be released in Russia April 11, before its April 19 U.S. bow.

(From the pages of the April 2 issue of Variety.)

South Korea

South Korean film distrib CJ Entertainment, working with ad agency Cheil, has given a twist to movie posters. CJ placed Wi-Fi-enabled one-sheets around Seoul; when people got near the poster, a notice on their device invited them to the film’s home page, where they could see trailers and buy tickets. According to movies.com, site traffic for movies using the posters climbed 28.5%, and those users spent 500% more time browsing the sites than folks who entered from other areas of the Web.


Adlabs Imagica, India’s $305 million Bollywood attraction, styled on the lines of Universal and Disney theme parks, is all set to open this month. Its 80 acres features lands like Asiana, Americana and Jambo Africa. One of the rides is based on “Mr. India,” a 1987 Bollywood family fantasy from “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur.

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema, but zombies have been off the radar all that time — until now. Local auds will get no fewer than three movies on the topic this year. “Rise of the Zombie,” from helmers Luke Kenny and Devaki Singh, bows April 5, followed by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK’s “Go, Goa, Gone,” featuring producer and star Saif Ali Khan as a Russian zombie hunter. Due for release later in the year is Navdeep Singh’s “Rock the Shaadi,” which will also have an accompanying graphic novel.


Mexicans love wrestling. Donning smackdown masks, Carlos Slim’s telco America Movil has acquired exclusive all-platform rights for all Latin America, including Mexico, to the Rio 2016 Olympics. And broadcast behemoth Televisa upped Jean-Paul Broc to exec VP, cable and telecommunications, and promoted Carlos Alvarez to Cablevision CEO. At stake for both companies is the Mexican heavyweight TV/telco crown. Slim will almost certainly pounce on Mexico’s two free-to-air licenses, if allowed. Televisa’s cable/telco/pay TV lines rep nearly 40% of its revenue, and are its fastest growing business segment: Something worth fighting for.

Latin America

Sofia Vergara and partner Luis Balaguer at Latin World Ent. have launched NuevoWorld, a Spanish-language social media/e-commerce website aimed at serving a 200 million fanbase across the Hispanic U.S., Latin America and Spain. It is building on Vergara’s 4.2 million Twitter followers. NuevoWorld rolls off two trends: Internet usage is spiking even faster in Latin America than the U.S.; Latins are twice as likely to buy star endorsements than other folk, or so NuevoWorld says.


Brazilian giant TV Globo will shop its own formats at MipFormats April 6-7, part of Cannes’ Mip TV trade fair. Globo formats include its hit “Profession Reporter,” in which a vet tutors tyros. TV Globo’s move marks another step for Latin America broadcasters, which are moving from exclusively telenovela sales into formats, series and docus. Last year, global sales from Colombia’s Caracol TV were 51% telenovelas; 45% were shorter-format series.


“A Royal Affair” helmer Nikolaj Arcel is following the footsteps of fellow Nordic helmers Susanne Bier and Baltasar Kormakur into Hollywood. DreamWorks has tapped him to helm a reboot of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” to be penned by Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”) and produced by Working Title. Arcel is also set to direct and co-write the adaptation of Don Winslow’s novel “The Power of the Dog” with Rasmus Heisterberg and Shane Salerno, who will produce via the Story Factory. Arcel and Heisterberg (both repped by WME) previously teamed on writing “A Royal Affair” and the Swedish movie “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Bier, also from Denmark, is finishing “Serena” with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, while Iceland’s Kormakur helmed Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg in “2 Guns.”


Bertelsmann, Europe’s largest media conglom, is aiming to become “a faster-growing, more digital and more international company over the next few years,” chief exec Thomas Rabe told investors in the annual report. Priorities are strengthening the core of the biz, digital transformation, “development of growth platforms,” and expansion in growth regions, such as China, India and Brazil. The company plans to spend €3 billion ($3.9 billion) on acquisitions and investments over the next three years, with a focus on digital.


Showbiz coin is shifting. The Centre National du Cinema said investment in French productions dropped by 5.5% to €1.07 billion ($1.37 billion). Gallic investment in majority foreign co-productions rose 6.1% to $355.4 mil. Broadcaster portfolios fell 5.6% to $460 mil. Free broadcaster TF1 cut investment in films by 34% to $56.1 million; rival commercial net M6 upped its outlay by 60.7% to $28.2 million. Canal Plus was again the biggest film backer.


Spain’s Council of Ministers approved March 22 antipiracy regs in an Intellectual Property bill. A mix of tough love and cop-out, the bill prohibits consumers from copying YouTube vids without a license, but allows them to stream unauthorized copies of just-released U.S. blockbusters. Skeptics doubt if the government will dedicate sufficient funds to an org along the lines of France’s Hadopi — which had Harvey Weinstein singing its praises on a swing through Paris last year — to enforce effective antipiracy measures. Until it does, Spain will remain a pirate’s paradise.


Though Italy lags behind most of Europe in terms of converting its screens to digital, Italo industryites are coming up with creative ways to use new technology for marketing local pics. On March 27, Giorgio Diritti’s “There Will Come a Day” launched theatrically, preceded by a half-hour onstage presentation by helmer and cast beamed by satellite from Milan onto 40 of the roughly 100 screens where it launched via BIM Distribuzione. Giacomo Campiotti’s teen drama “Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue” bows April 4, preceded by a live set by hot local pop band Moda. The pre-screening set is being beamed live from Rome into 250 of the 300 screens on which the pic goes out via 01 Distribution.


The Greek Film Academy holds the country’s top film nods, April 2. The lineup shows that, despite the economic crisis, the country is churning out great pics. Among titles vying for top honors is “Boy Eating the Bird’s Food,” about a young man in contempo Athens. “Variety” described the pic as “A cinematic cri de coeur from a nation in physically and psychologically dire straights.”

Reported by Leo Barraclough, John Hopewell, Elsa Keslassy, Naman Ramachandran, Nick Vivarelli.
Compiled by Tim Gray