Weekly International News Wrap: China Open for Business, Cannes Opens Wallets for Haiti, Murdoch Trial Opens Further Can of Worms

Da Xiong

The top global media stories of the past seven days.

Plans for a $13 billion Chinawood studio complex outside Beijing, Murdoch trial gets messy for London’s Mayor and Cannes to give gala for Haitian relief.

Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s look back at the media stories making headlines around the world this week.

CHINAWOOD OPEN FOR (SHOW) BUSINESS

China laid out plans for its version of Tinsel Town this week, unveiling a $13 billion investment to build Chinawood Global Services Base, a film studio, film-financing fund and media hub, outside Beijing. Chinawood, backed by Bruno Wu's Seven Stars Entertainment, plans to focus on East-West co-productions – such as the upcoming Iron Man 3. Such co-pros are attractive for Western film companies as they are exempt from China’s quota limited foreign releases in the country to 20 a year. 

MURDOCH MESS HITS MAYOR, PM

The scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. shows no sign of abating. This week London Mayor Boris Johnson, in the midst of his re-election campaign, was caught up in the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking by News Corp.’s publishing arm News International. Emails released to the inquiry revealed that, back in 2010,  NI had offered sponsorship for two major projects backed the mayor.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also found himself in the hot seat and had to face questions in parliament over the conduct of his culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.'s failed bid to acquire full control of U.K. pay TV operator BSkyB.

On Tuesday, a committee of the U.K. Parliament unveiled a highly anticipated report on the scandal, criticizing CEO Rupert Murdoch as "not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."

Meanwhile, fallout from the phone hacking scandal threatens to spill over in News Corp.’s U.S. businesses, with U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller this week asking the Leveson Inquiry to check if News Corp. broke any U.S. laws.

Don’t expect any respite soon from coverage of the Murdoch mess. Next week, the Levenson Inquiry will hear from former NI topper Rebekah Brooks, a figure at the center of the controversy.

BUT THINGS STILL CLOUDLESS FOR SKY

The Leveson Inquiry revelations haven’t – yet – hurt Murdoch’s bottom line. U.K. pay TV giant BSkyB on Wednesday reported a boost in subscriber figures to 10.27 million and a 15 per cent jump in profit to $1.5 billion. Murdoch’s News Corp. controls 39 per cent of BSkyB.

CLEAR RECEPTION FOR CTC, TELEVISA

It was good news all round for TV broadcasters this week. CTC Media, which owns two TV channels in Russia as well as TV assets in Kazakhstan and Moldova, reported a 19 percent increase in revenues to $191.1 million a 38 per cent year-on-year boost in consolidated net income to $33.6 million.

On the other side of the world, Mexican media group Televisa saw quarterly net profit nearly double to around $118 million on strong growth from its broadcast and pay TV units.

BBC TO SPLASH SURPLUS ON QUEEN, OLYMPICS

Even the BBC also had a good year. The Brit public channel expects a $227 million surplus, according to a report this week. The Beeb said the extra cash has been set aside to paper over any budget holes in its coverage of the London Olympics and the Queen’s 60th Jubilee anniversary this summer.

AVENGERS CONQUER WORLD

Less surprising was the global success of  Disney and Marvel Studios' The Avengers, which amassed nearly $300 million in a record-breaking global roll-out ahead of its North America bow on midnight Thursday. The Avengers, which unites key Marvel superhero characters, is widely predicted to clear $150 million in its domestic debut and could earn closer to $200 million.

PENN, HAGGIS IN CANNES FOR HAITI

In a rare move, the Cannes Film Festival will host a gala dinner to benefit humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti. The "Carnival in Cannes" gala dinner on Friday, May 18 will be hosted by Sean Penn, Paul Haggis, Petra Nemcova and Giorgio Armani and funds raised will go to support Penn's J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Haggis' Artists for Peace and Justice and Nemcova's Happy Hearts Fund.

The Cannes Festival has held a gala fund raiser of this kind twice before: a benefit screening of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America in 1984 in support of the Institut Pasteur and the screening of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s film Elective Affinities in 1996 to support the reconstruction of the Fenice, an opera house in Venice, Italy.

GARRETT AND CONSTANTIN IN CANNES WITH MR. SMITH

Summit Entertainment co-founder David Garrett, who resigned from the company following its merger with Lionsgate, announced the launch of his new company, Mister Smith Entertainment, a joint venture with Germany’s Constantin Film. The German banner will provide funding capital for the international licensing and distribution banner, which will debut in Cannes with Constantin titles The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first film in a potential action fantasy franchise; and 3,096 Days, a dramatization of the true story of Austrian Natascha Kampusch, who was held captive for over eight years.

DRAKE AND KAHANE RETEAM FOR GOOD UNIVERSE

Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane, two other familiar faces in Cannes, also arrive this year under a new banner. Drake, former president of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group and Kahan, ex-president of Mandate Pictures, this week launched sales and distribution outfit Good Universe. It’s Cannes slate will include Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake starring Josh Brolin and the Jon Turteltaub comedy Last Vegas with Michael Douglas.

But Drake and Lionsgate parted on friendly terms. According to an SEC filing this week, Drake received a $3.42 million golden parachute from his former employers plus unspecified bonuses linked to the box office performance of The Hunger Games, developed under his tenure at the company.

ME: LUTZ, LOCKE: JANE

Twilight star Kellan Lutz will star as Tarzan to the Jane of actress Spencer Locke (Resident Evil) in the new 3-D motion-capture version of the jungle classic being produced by Constantin Film.

Reinhard Klooss and Holger Tappe are directing the movie with Kloos also producing with Constantin Film’s Robert Kulzer.

POTTER CAN’T TOUCH FRENCH COMEDY

The Intouchables has proved just that in Germany, where ticket sales from the French culture clash comedy have passed blockbuster Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in the territory. Intouchables has sold more than 8 million tickets in Germany, compared to the under 6.5 million for Harry Potter 7.2.

POLITICS CAN’T TOUCH MEXICAN SOCCER

Mexican network TV Azteca this week refused to bump the broadcast of a quarterfinal soccer match in order to show the first debate in Mexico’s presidential elections. TV Azteca chairman Ricardo Salinas Pliego tweeted that anyone who preferred politicians to soccer could catch the debate on rival network Televisa. “I’ll tell you about the ratings the next day,” he snipped.

FRENCH LAWSUIT: GOOGLE CAN’T CALL MURDOCH JEWISH

A French anti-discrimination group has taken Google to court in France, claiming the “Suggest” feature in its search function has unfairly and illegally linked certain celebrities, including News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and Mad Men star Jon Hamm, as  "Jewish." In its lawsuit, the group, SOS Racisme, said the web giant is overseeing “the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history.”

SAVE A PRAYER FOR 80s HAIR

And finally, 1980s pin-up band Duran Duran will have A View To A Kill at the London Olympics, where the band will represent the musical talent of England at a concert planned marking the opening of the Olympic Games this summer. Other bands representing Great Britain at the concert will be Northern Ireland’s Snow Patrol, Welsh group Stereophonics and Paolo Nutini for Scotland.
 

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