Weekly International News Wrap: China Opens Up, Murdoch Says Sorry and 'The Hobbit' Pub Crackdown
The top global media stories of the past seven days.
China loosens its quota for Hollywood films, Chris Dodd tells India to get tough on piracy, and Brazil goes digital. Madagascar 3 heads to Cannes, The Brave to Edinburgh and Marco Mueller to Rome. James Murdoch apologizes, Japan remembers, and a Brit pub called The Hobbit gets served.
Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s look back at the media stories making headlines across the world this week.
CHINA OPENS UP, SORT OF
China loosened its notoriously restrictive film laws to allow a few more U.S. films in. In addition to the 20-picture annual quota, Beijing will add 14 more 3D or Imax titles. And Hollywood studios will get a 25 percent cut of their Chinese box office, up from around 13-17 percent. The studios had hoped for 30 per cent but settled for less, happy for a bigger piece of China's booming box office (worth $2.1 billion last year) and hopeful they can negotiate a better deal when the current agreement comes up for renewal in five years time.
JAMES SAYS SORRY, SORT OF
In a seven-page letter to the U.K. parliament this week, James Murdoch expressed “deep regret” over the phone-hacking scandal engulfing News Corp.’s newspaper publishing division News International, which he used to run. Murdoch said he should have done more to uncover wrongdoing at the company. But the eledest son of mogul Rupert Murdoch still maintains he never broke the law.
CANNES CAPTURES 'MANAGASCAR 3,' EDINBURGH SCORES 'THE BRAVE'
Jeffrey Katzenberg's longtime love affair with Cannes continues as the Dreamworks Animation boss agrees to send summer toon Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted to the French festival for its world premiere. DreamWorks and Paramount used Cannes to launch Kung Fu Panda in 2008, and such DreamWorks titles as Shark's Tale and Shrek have opened at the premiere French fest. But Disney and Pixar are foregoing the Croisette for the lure of the highlands, taking Scottish animated adventure The Brave to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where it will close the festival on July 1.
MUELLER'S ROME'S NEW CAESAR
After weeks of delays and infighting, the Rome film festival finally voted to approve Marco Mueller as its new artistic director. The former Venice festival boss joins new Rome fest president Paolo Ferrari, who used to run Warner Bros. operations in Italy. Mueller is expected to make big changes in Rome, including changing the festival's dates so it would run between the Toronto festival in September and Berlin in February
'CSI' LEADS CBS TO THE TOP
CBS passed Warner Bros. to become Europe’s top TV distributor of imported drama series in 2011, according to a report published this week. CBS' proceedurals CSI and NCIS proved more popular with European channels than WB's The Mentalist and Two and a Half Men. Disney and Fox came in third and fourth, respectively.
BRIT TAX CREDIT TV BONANZA?
The U.K. treasury is considering expanding its lucrative film tax credit system to cover high-end TV drama. Britain has lost the big-budget shoots of productions, such as ITV's Titanic miniseries, and the BBC/HBO World War I epic Parade’s End to foreign locations, which offered better tax breaks.
YOUKU? MEET TUDOU
In yet another sign of China's red-hot media market, the country's numer one online video company, Youku.com, signed a deal to buy the number two player, Todou Holdings, in a $1 billion all-stock deal. The meged company will have around a 35 per cent share of China's online video market. With more than 450 million Web users, China's Internet market is the largest in the world.
DODD IN INDIA
MPAA head Chris Dodd warned India's film industry to crack down on piracy. Speaking to an industry crowd in Mumbai in his first-ever Indian visit, Dodd said revenues from India's film business could exceed $5 billion by 2014 but that piracy is costing Bollywood nearly a billion dollars annually.
Sixteen Brazilian exhibition companies reprensenting some 40 per cent of all theaters in the country are teaming up to go digital. Brazil is Latin American's largest film market, with box office revenues of $770 million last year but currently only some 21 per cent of its 2,400 cinema screens are digital.
BELL TOLLS FOR $3.4 BILLION ASTRAL TAKEOVER
Canadian media megolith Bell Canada Enterprises signed a $3.4 billion deal to acquire Montreal's Astral Media. The move gives BCE, which already runs commercial network CTV, a foothold in the Canadian pay-TV business with Astral's subsidary The Movie Network and its output deals with Showtime and HBO.
One year after the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disasters, Japan remembers the nearly 20,000 killed with a week of blanket television coverage and memorial services. The country's entertainment industry was also hard hit, by the multiple tragedies, with box office dropping $325 million last year as a nation in mourning left cinemas deserted. And in France, film lovers mourned the passing of film director and war reporter Pierre Schoendoerffer, who died on Wednesday in Paris, aged 83. The former POW won an Oscar in 1968 for The Anderson Platoon, a documentary on the Vietnam War.
HOPPING MAD OVER HOPS AND HOBBITS
And finally, there was a Middle Earth-sized uproar in Southern England this week after rights holder Saul Zaentz Co. filed a cease-and-desist letter against a U.K. pub that calls itself The Hobbit. The watering hole serves cocktails named after popular Lord of the Rings characters like Frodo and Gandolf. The legal attack sparked online outrage, with tens of thousands joining a Facebook page protesting the move and Stephen Fry, who is playing the Master of Laketown in the upcoming Hobbit film, tweeting that the action was "pointless, self-defeating bullying."