Weekly International News Wrap: Global Box Office Booms, Lionsgate's Stock Slips and India, Pakistan Break Bread

2:58 AM PST 03/23/2012 by Scott Roxborough
Lionsgate

The top global media stories of the past seven days.

Foreign box office soars but shares in Hunger Games parent studio Lionsgate fall back to earth. Britain says hello to more high-end TV with new tax breaks while BBC Director General Mark Thompson says goodbye. And Indian and Pakistan put aside decades of conflict to make peace over a good meal.

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

FOREIGN BOOM BEATS DOMESTIC BLUES

International box office revenue jumped 7 percent to $22.4 billion last year, according to official MPAA stats released this week. That’s more than double North American receipts, which slipped 4 percent to $10.2 billion. International take now accounts for nearly 69 percent of total cinema revenue. Box office was up in almost everyone international territory, led by China, which saw ticket sales top $2 billion, putting the Asian giant just behind Japan ($2.3 billion) as the largest market outside the U.S..

And while U.S. cabler companies fret over cord cutters, digital TV penetration in the fast-growing Middle East and North African market continues to grow. A report by U.K. group Digital TV Research forecast pay TV revenue from the region will hit $3.7 billion in five years time.

BRITAIN CUTS TAX FOR TOP TV, JAPAN TO BACK INTL. CO-PROS

In an effort to keep big budget event series such as The Tudors, World Without End or Julian Fellowes’ upcoming Titanic from sailing to foreign shores to shoot, the British government has announced a new tax credit for TV production. The system is expected to mirror the U.K. film tax credit, which offers a write-off of 20 percent of a production’s U.K. spend on up to 80 percent of the total budget. The tax credit will also apply to video game production and animation.

Meanwhile, the often-isolationist Japanese film industry is opening up to international co-productions with a new subsidy system that will provide backing of up to 20 percent of production costs, up to a maximum of $600,000. Qualifying products have to have financing and  distribution deals in place for both Japan and overseas and the Japanese co-production partner has to own or co-own the copyright for the finished film.  

IDRIS ELBA’S “LONG WALK” TO MANDELA

Brit actor Idris Elba, the Golden Globe-winning star of Luther and The Wire, will play Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom, after the long-gestating project finally got a production green light. Long Walk, to be directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and based on Mandela’s titular autobiography, begins shooting May 26.

“POTTER” BULLY’S LONG JAIL SENTENCE

Jamie Waylett, the young actor who played bully Vincent Crabbe in six of the Harry Potter movies, has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of taking part in the London riots last summer. The 22-year-old, who was caught on CCTV footage, had already admitted handling a bottle of stolen champagne taken from a shop during the looting.

BLANCHETT, WASIKOWSKA AND WENHAM’S SHORT DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS

Aussie actors Cate Blanchett, Mia Wasikowska and David Wenham will make their directorial debuts in the omnibus project The Turning, which will be a series of 17 short films based on stories by Australian author Tim Winton. Other directors attached to the project include Benedict AndrewsJonathan auf der HeideIan Meadows and Stephen Page. The Turning is the second big omnibus project greenlit in Australia this year. Actors Anthony La Paglia, Toni Colette and Liev Schreiber will be stepping behind the camera to direct segments for the compilation Sydney Unplugged.

“HUNGER” HYPE SUBSIDES FOR LIONSGATE

Shares in Canadian indie Lionsgage started coming back down to earth late this week, after reaching dizzying heights ahead of the global release of the studio’s new franchise The Hunger Games this weekend. Most analysts say Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment acquisition and the stellar box office expectations for The Hunger Games are already largely factored into the company’s stock price, making further share rises unlikely in the short term.

THOMPSON STEPS DOWN, ROBERTS STEPS UP

Mark Thompson announced this week he will resign as director general of the BBC in the fall, shortly after the London Olympics. Thompson has been BBC boss since 2004 and his resignation set off a flurry of speculation as to who will replace him. Frontrunners include BBC head of news Helen Boaden and the pubcaster's COO Caroline Thompson. Should either emerge with the job, it would be the first female director general in the Beeb’s history.

Protagonist Pictures’ CEO Ben Roberts is not on the BBC’s short list but the veteran film financier has been tapped to head up the British Film Institute’s $33 million film fund. As the new Brit film tsar, Roberts will oversee the fund that help bankroll Oscar-winners The Iron Lady and The King’s Speech.

THE WINNER IS…

Asghar Farhadi’s foreign language Oscar champ A Separation cleaned up at the Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong, taking best film, best director, best editor and best screenplay.

In Warsaw, Wojciech Smarzowski’s drama Rose beat out Agnieszka Holland’s Oscar contender In Darkness at Poland’s national film honors, the Eagle Awards, taking seven trophies, including best film. In Darkness stars Robert Więckiewicz and Kinga Preis, however, took the best actor and actress nods.

In Barcelona, Paul Higginson and Todd Huntley of Twentieth Century Fox were named Distributors of the Year for the 2012 CineEurope conference. The European theatrical execs, responsible for the release of such blockbusters as X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, will be honored at the CineEuropa conference on June 21.


BUILDING BRIDGES, EATING CRABS

And, finally, everyone was a winner at the final of cooking show competition Foodistan on Wednesday night. The Iron Chef-style show, produced by India’s NDTV, brought together 16 professional chefs from India and Pakistan for a cross-border cook off. The South Asian rivalry could have turned nasty – India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947 – but the show was a hit on both sides of the border. Indian chef Manish Mehrotra won the final cook-off with a soft shell crab dish but Pakistani runner up Poppy Agha also come away smiling, after her performance on the show made her a celebrity in India.

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