The world’s first Paramount-branded hotel is set for construction in Dubai, part of a $1 billion five-star facility, sold within hours to international investors. Due to open in 2016, the Paramount Hotel & Residences will have 540 units and occupy one tower out of a four-tower structure located close to the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, from which Tom Cruise dangled in Par’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” Developed by Dubai’s Damac Properties, the complex will have a connecting multilevel plaza with themed restaurants and bars, meeting and event facilities, a screening room, a fitness center, pool, kids club and retail outlets selling Paramount-branded merchandise as well as that of selected partner brands. The remaining three towers will house the Damac Maison-Paramount hotel residences, featuring 1,400 units.

(From the pages of the April 9 issue of Variety.)


Google Play has launched its movie service in India. Rentals begin from 50 rupees (92¢) , with purchases from $3.50 . Available movies include titles like “21 Jump Street,” “Moneyball” and “Premium Rush,” and Bollywood pics such as “Ek Tha Tiger” and “Dostana.” Google Play’s books service was launched in March. Google also has begun selling its Nexus range of tablets in India.

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India’s first advertiser-funded film, “Mere dad ki Maruti” directed by Ashima Chibber, has already recouped its budget of $1.8 million. Since the film revolves around a car, producer Y Films approached India’s top auto manufacturers. The Maruti Suzuki group came onboard and contributed $1.1 million in return for in-fi lm branding of the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga vehicle, as well as for the film’s satellite rights in partnership with Sony TV.


Hollywood continues to explore new roads to China. For the fourth “Transformers” film, Paramount Pictures has brokered a “cooperation agreement” with CCTV’s China Movie Channel and Jiafl ix Enterprises (whose chairman is Hollywood vet Sid Ganis). The deal means CCTV, the state-backed broadcaster, will help produce and market the fi lm, help secure locations, cast local talent, and manage post-production and theatrical promotions. The studio can file for official co-production status, granted by the Chinese government, later. Meanwhile, Disney will produce two versions of “Iron Man 3,” Marvel Studios’ superhero actioner, with one designed specifically for Chinese audiences. Even so, Disney has nixed plans to apply for official Chinese co-production status on the project.


Disney will film “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Down Under,” which Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed as a huge coup for the Australian film industry and for the near-1,000 local businesses that will be providing goods and services for the film. According to Associated Press Canberra, Gillard expects the David Fincher-directed fi lm to create more than 2,000 jobs. AP Canberra quoted her as saying a strong Australian dollar has made the country less attractive for Hollywood filming in the past few years. Oz is expected to grant the project a one-time incentive of $A21.6 million ($22.5 million).


Vancouver hosted the first Times of India film awards April 6. The government of British Columbia has invested $9.5 million in the event, an amount matched by the Times of India group.British Columbia has the second highest concentration of people of South Asian origin in Canada, after Ontario. The awards will be in direct competition with the Intl. Indian Film Academy kudos, which started in 2000 and are held in a different international city every year.


Days before Univision bows Televisa telenovela “Que bonito amor” in primetime April 15, producer Salvador Mejia initiated production April 4 on new Televisa soap, “La tempestad. Amor” is set in a mariachi nightclub; “Tempestad” stars ex-Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete. In a saturated market, both telenovelas use heritage marketing, appealing to Mexicans and Hispanics to become part of the tradition of Mexican TV entertainment.


Channeling Chavez: Venezuela goes to the polls April 14 to elect Hugo Chavez’s successor. At stake in the elections is Venezuelan media freedom. Former top local broadcaster RCTV was forced to end terrestrial broadcasting in 2007; Globovision, the last surviving opposition TV station, is being sold by exiled owner Guillermo Zuloaga who, like pollsters, expects a win by acting president Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s endorsed heir. On the campaign trail, Maduro called himself an “apostle,” said he sensed Chavez’s spirit in a bird he spied, and pronounces Chavez’s name more than 200 times a day, per Madurodice.com.


Brazilian telco Calro tapped Miamibased digital programming/high tech service firm DLA, an America Movil subsid, to co-launch Clarovideo, a VOD service for the Brazilian market, o ering content from Paramount, Sony, Universal and Disney. Brazilian digital TV revenues — subscription and on-demand — look set to double over 2011-17 to $10.6 billion, per a Digital TV Research report. In the race to feed huge untapped demand, OTT is becoming Latin America’s newest final frontier.


Fans of the Cork Film Festival (established 1956 and Ireland’s oldest film festival) are using Twitter to express outrage over the sacking of chief executive Michael Hannigan and programmer Una Feely. Hannigan had been with the festival since 1986. Board chairman Denis McSweeney said that the festival management structure was unsustainable, but said the festival would proceed as scheduled in November. The festival recently lost title sponsor Corona. Under Hannigan, the festival saw 10% growth in 2012 over 2011.


When the Cannes Festival unveils its official selection April 18 in Paris, don’t expect Lars Von Trier and his “Nymphomaniac” to be named. The absence is not because the helmer was kicked out of the fest in 2011. Scandi outfit Trust Nordisk said the two-part film, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard, won’t be completed in time. Trust Nordisk is discussing release strategies with international distributors. One option is theatrical/VOD day-and-date, although regulations in each country might be an issue. Now in post, pic has pre-sold nearly worldwide. Magnolia Pictures nabbed U.S. rights.


Luxembourg, a European option for foreign production due to its generous tax shelter, is upping the ante with the launch of Filmland. The site features four soundstages, fi ve post-production companies, and Dolby Atmos sound-system technology. It was created by six Luxembourg producers, including Iris Prods. and Samsa. Meanwhile, Belgium, which has been luring a large number of shoots, is studying its 10-year-old tax shelter, and will likely set up stricter criteria for international productions.


Global TV types, from Israel’s Armoza Formats to U.K.’s ITV Studios and the Weinstein Co., are at Cannes’ MipTV April 8-11 with new shows, formats and marketing techniques. For example, David Michel and Vincent Chalvon-Demersay of Zodiak-owned Marathon Media are touting “Lolirock,” a $22 million toon skein. The show will get promoted as local bands in each country perform songs from the series, while fi ve animated musicvids will air on YouTube prior to the series’ debut.


Two newbie celeb diving contests, Antena 3’s “Splash: Famosos al Agua” (a first episode 26.4% market share) and Telecinco’s “Mira Quien Salta” (a 23.5% debut), made big waves in Spain, then took a ratings nosedive. The reality shows did, however, help Telecinco parent Mediaset Espana and Antena 3 Atresmedia maintain their audience duopoly in Spain. Together, the channel bouquets of the two free-to-air broadcast groups grabbed a combined 56.9% audience share in March. Ad market shares will be even higher.


Under the global spotlight, Egyptian heart surgeon-turned-political satirist Bassem Youssef continued to spoof President Mohammed Morsi, despite government pressure — and he may even have won a round or two. Egypt’s highest judicial body on April 7 urged Talaat Abdullah, the prosecutor who had ordered Youssef ’s brief April 1 detention, to step down. Meanwhile, the April 5 episode of Youssef’s TV show “Al Bernameg,” an Egyptian version of “The Daily Show” which airs on privately owned satellite channel Capital Broadcast Center, included jabs at the president’s recent speech at the Arab League Summit; at the end of the episode, Youssef read a list of activists currently in prison. On April 6, a Cairo court threw out a suit filed by a Muslim Brotherhood lawyer who had asked that the show be banned. The situation had heated up when the prosecutor-general’s office brought in Youssef on charges he had defamed Islam and insulted the president. After five hours of interrogation, he was released on $2,200 bail.

(Compiled by Tim Gray; Reported by Nick Vivarelli, Naman Ramachandran, Elsa Keslassy, John Hopewell, Marc Graser, Leo Barraclough.)