Heeeeere’s Jawaani!
Ayan Mukherjee’s “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” became the country’s top 2013 opener with a $10 million bow. The $7 million drama-romance from Dharma Prods. and Disney UTV (the company’s prolific local shingle) benefi ted from the popularity of star Ranbir Kapoor, who hasn’t had a pic since 2012’s “Barfi” (Bollywood stars are more prolific). Pic also was the first big opener since the May 26 wrap of the two-month Indian Premier League cricket tournament, when producers hold back high-profile releases to avoid competing with cricket mania.

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Media Scrutinizes Rapper
Universal Music South Asia has signed rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh. His 2006 track “Glassy” was a global hit, and his videos have been seen by 210 million on YouTube. He will be under the microscope: Some have protested that his lyrics propagate violence against women, though he denied writing those lyrics (no co-writer was listed). After the Delhi rape case, scrutiny has increased over anything seen as offensive against women.
— Naman Ramachandran


Sino-Yank PPV-VOD Pact
Bob Benya of U.S.-based In Demand and Bruno Wu of China’s Seven Stars Media have sealed a deal to provide content for both countries. In Demand will offer sports, music and lifestyle content in a cable deal that’s innovative for China. The firm will license, process and deliver content to Seven Stars, which will distrib via branded blocks on cable through MSOs in China, with a target audience of 80 million households, and through Internet TV operators and Web portals to reach China’s 500 million Web users. In addition, In Demand will provide Chinese-language on-demand movies to cable systems in the U.S. via its digital and set-top VOD platforms. Chinese Americans are the largest Asian-American group in the U.S., with a population of more than 4 million.
— Variety staff


Int’l Man of Action
Steven Seagal, who usually kicks doors down in movies, seems to have opened them for U.S. lawmakers here. “Because of his black belt in karate and things, he’s gotten to know many of the leaders of Russia, including (president Vladimir) Putin, and was able to use that influence to make sure we got to talk to the very top people, so that we could try to find ways of expanding our areas of cooperation,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., leader of the congressional delegation, told CNN. Putin has a black belt in judo.
— Leo Barraclough


YouTube Boom
The country is backing up the recent claim of Google exec chairman Eric Schmidt that YouTube viewership is overtaking TV. In 2012, “The Late Late Toy Show” on RTE One was the most watched show, with 1.3 million viewers. In comparison, a clip of a Japanese couple making out drew 47 million Irish hits; Metallica’s “Fade to Black,” 30.7 million; Rihanna’s “Cry,” 27.4 million; and Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter,” 24.1 million. RTE said the two media could not be compared. Ratings body TAM Ireland pegs average television viewership of people above 15 at 3.49 hours every day, with homemakers averaging 4.29 hours daily.
— Naman Ramachandran


God Forgives, Socialists Don’t
Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” starring Ryan Gosling, is being used as a political football in France. The French ratings board gave the equivalent of an R rating to the violent revenge tale, but the designation was later changed to a PG-13 certification.

Segolene Royal, a prominent Socialist Party figure who ran for president in 2007, has accused culture minister Aurelie Filippetti of moral laxity because she allowed the 28-member ratings commission to reconsider re-classification of the movie one week after its May 22 release, and then signed off on the new rating.

The distribs, Wild Side and Le Pacte, had lobbied Fillipetti. Wild Side prexy Manuel Chiche told Variety he had argued that the film was no more violent than “Rambo” and “Django Unchained,” which each earned the equivalent of PG-13. “Forgives” has raised accusations that the board is more lenient to Hollywood films than local ones.

“In France, violence in films has always been greeted more severely than sexuality,” says Wild Bunch Distribution topper Thierry Lacaze, who will release Abdelattif Kechiche’s sexual “Blue Is the Warmest Color” in October and is expecting the film to get the equivalent of a PG-13. In two weeks, “Only God Forgives” has grossed €2.2 million ($2.9 million) at the French box office, less than Refn’s Drive made in its first week.
— Elsa Keslassy


Big Finnish Showcase
The Helsinki Intl. Film Festival will roll out the second edition of the Finnish Film Affair, a mini-mart showcasing Finnish works, running Sept 24-26. About 250 film players, including sales agents, buyers and fest programmers, are expected. The mart will highlight 30 films and 10 pics in development, and turn the spotlight on Russia’s film biz with panels and networking events. HIFF director Pekka Lanerva says, “By inviting Russian industry guests and discussing possibilities of future co-productions, we hope to strengthen the ties with our neighbors to the East.” Although Finland produces only 30 pics a year, their B.O. share reached 28% in 2012 and 40% during the first quarter of 2013, per the Helsinki fest. The fest’s lineup will be announced mid-August.
— Elsa Keslassy


Trade Pacts: The Final Chapter?
A delegation including Berenice Bejo, Costa-Gavras and Radu Mihaileanu is crashing the European Parliament June 11 to lobby the European Commission to prevent the inclusion of film and TV industries from free-trade negotiations between Europe and the U.S. The group, repping 6,200 petitioners, claims that including the industry in talks would allow U.S. workers to qualify for pre-financing benefits and subsidies, and kill the quota system that promotes homegrown content. Following a push at Cannes led by such bizzers as Harvey Weinstein and Michel Hazanavicius, Parliament voted against the film-TV inclusion in the free-trade negotiations, which are due to kick off this summer. Local industryites are hoping a June 14 vote by the Council of Foreign Affairs will rule out inclusion of the biz in talks and put an end to the saga.
— Elsa Keslassy


Pay TV’s Euro Yin-Yang
Pay TV subs will rise 1.1% in Western Europe to 95.1 million in 2013, per U.K.-based Digital TV Research but while Germany added 689,000 subs in 2012, Italy and Spain dipped. At 24%, Spanish feevee penetration is just two-thirds of Latin America’s.
— John Hopewell


Pay TV Soaring
Pay TV growth is edging up in Europe (see item No. 8, this page), but is projected to skyrocket in Latin America. Digital TV growth is estimated to increase 100 million households from 2012 to 2018, with penetration hitting 53% by 2018 (up from 38% in 2012), according to Digital TV Latin America. Satellite TV will add 18.9 million households; digital cable TV, 14.4 million . Pay TV revenues are predicted to rise 47% to $26.7 billion by 2018.
— John Hopewell


Ingmar Bergman With Laffs
Actress Norma Aleandro is directing a Spanish-language stage version of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage.” The work, starring Ricardo Darin and Valeria Bertuccelli bowed June 5 at Buenos Aires’ Maipo Theater. Aleandro’s aim, she told newspaper Clarin, is to bring out the comic elements of the original. “It’s easier to make people cry than laugh,” she said.
— John Hopewell


Liberty’s Ambitions
John Malone’s Liberty Global, which is active in 13 countries, has just won shareholder approval for its acquisition of U.K. cabler Virgin Media. But Germany offers the best potential for growth, according to Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s prexy-chief exec. “Something like 40% of our growth comes from this country,” Fries said at German TV confab Anga Com in Cologne. “There is still a low enetration of broadband with relatively low prices for broadband and digital TV. So Deutsche Telekom is investing in broadband, we are investing,” he said. Although Liberty is paying $23 billion for Virgin, the company has “plenty of money left for Germany,” he said.
— Leo Barraclough


Scola Fetes Fellini
Italy will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Federico Fellini’s death with a tribute pic from his friend and fellow helmer Ettore Scola. Titled “How Strange to Be Called Federico!” the pic, now in post, combines archive material and reenactments of Scola’s selected memories of the helmers’ rapport spanning five decades. Fellini died Oct. 31, 1993. Scola, 81, is the auteur of classics including “We All Loved Each Other So Much,” “A Special Day” and “La Terrazza.” Unveiled on June 4 in Cinecitta’s Studio 5 soundstage, which used to be Fellini’s second home, “Federico!” is likely to get a Venice launch. Budgeted at $2.6 million, the hybrid feature-length tribute is co-produced by Italo shingles Paypermoon, Palomar, Istituto Luce-Cinecitta, RAI Cinema, Cinecitta Studios and BIM Distribution, which will release the film theatrically in Italy in the fall, and Telecom Italia’s SVOD platform Cubovision.
— Nick Vivarelli

(Compiled by Tim Gray.)