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DEAL OF THE WEEK: Surprise Star of the MIP TV Market: Chinese Buyers — China Created some unexpected buzz at this year’s MIP TV, the sales market that wrapped April 11 in Cannes. A flurry of deals with the state-run China Central TV (CCTV) as well as independent broadcasters and digital outlets surprised many, especially since the market took place only months after China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued an edict to restrict the number of shows it deems vulgar or “overly entertaining.” Those guidelines led to the cancellation of a reported 88 primetime shows including such ratings winners as the American Idol-esque Super Voice Girls.
So why was China’s delegation of 200-plus executives at MIP its biggest ever? As usual within the Chinese entertainment sector, there are always exceptions to the official state rules. “We want to deepen the friendship with old partners and create opportunities for new friends,” CCTV vp Luo Ming told delegates at the market.
It wasn’t just lip service. The market saw a number of high-profile deals: BBC Worldwide pacted with CCTV-9 for a new science series; Elisabeth Murdoch‘s Shine Group inked a deal with Shanghai Media Group to export the MasterChef format; and ITV Global Studios announced an agreement with JOY.CN, one of China’s largest content websites, for a range of British dramas, including Julian Fellowes‘ miniseries Titanic.
Sources say the prices China is willing to pay for programming are low: The range is often $1,000 to $7,000 per episode, with the sweet spot $2,000 to $5,000. That’s compared to the $750,000 to $1 million per episode that a popular scripted show can demand in strong markets like Germany and France.
But the good news for Westerners is that the rapidly expanding Chinese market needs programming, even if it does flirt with being “too entertaining” for government regulators.
“I would say the rumors of the demise of entertainment shows in China are premature,” Zodiac Rights executive Barnaby Shingleton tells THR. “We are very close to signing a studio-based entertainment show with a big commercial broadcaster in China.”
Arien van Mierlo, CEO of Asian operations at Endemol — which signed a cooperation deal last year with Shanghai Media — agrees. “The broadcasters themselves want to attract good formats that will find audiences,” he says. “The Chinese are very smart. There is a balance between ratings and fulfilling regulations, and that’s what they do.” — Stuart Kemp and Kate Bulkley
Walking Dead Guy Preps AMC Drama
AMC is doubling down on Robert Kirkman, reteaming with The Walking Dead creator-executive producer to develop his newest comic, Thief of Thieves. The Image/Skybound title centers on a master thief with a dual identity who, while struggling to quit the business, opts to steal only what already has been stolen. Kirkman (CAA, Katz Golden Rosenman) and David Alpert of Circle of Confusion will reunite with fellow producer Chic Eglee — with whom they worked on the freshman season of the hit zombie drama — on the project. Eglee, whose credits include the Showtime double-life drama Dexter, will serve as showrunner should the project move to series. Kirkman says his goal is to show “the humanity of all the characters, including criminals.” Released in February, the first two issues of Thief of Thieves sold out on their respective release dates. — Lesley Goldberg
Dorothy Chandler Estate for Sale
The longtime Windsor Square home of Los Angeles Times publisher Norman Chandler and wife Dorothy Buffum Chandler is being put up for sale for $11.25 million. The 9,329-square-foot, eight-bedroom Beaux Arts estate is owned by Joseph Handleman and Courtney Callahan, who acquired it in 2006 for $8.75 million. Since then, the couple has restored the manse, which was sold in 1997 following the death of Dorothy Chandler. The property, built in 1913, was used by Chandler for the fund-raising efforts that led to the construction of the downtown arts center that bears her name. Joe Babajian and Josh Flagg of Rodeo Realty have the listing. — Daniel Miller
Nicole Kidman (CAA, Jackoway Tyerman) is in talks to star as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco, an indie drama that will chronicle a six-month period in 1962 when the actress-turned-princess helped save Monaco from a coup. Olivier Dahan (La Vie en rose) is directing from a script by Arash Amel.
Taylor Lautner (WME, Management 360, Hansen Jacobson) is joining Adam Sandler in Grown Ups 2, Columbia Pictures’ sequel to the hit 2010 comedy. The Twilight star will play a “fun” role and go toe-to-toe with Sandler, according to sources.
Jennifer Aniston (CAA, Brillstein, Hansen Jacobson) and Jason Sudeikis (CAA, Brillstein) are in talks to star in Meet the Millers, a New Line comedy about a pot smuggler who starts a fake family to pull off a drug deal. Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) will direct.
True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgard (CAA, Principal, Hansen Jacobson) is in negotiations to star in Hidden, a Warner Bros. low-budget horror thriller from filmmakers Matt and Ross Duffer. Roy Lee, Mason Novick and Lawrence Grey are producing.
Jorma Taccone (UTA, Mosaic, Ziffren Brittenham), director of Saturday Night Live digital shorts and the feature MacGruber, is attached to helm The Great Unknown, New Line’s adaptation of an Image comic book by Duncan Rouleau about a man convinced that his great ideas are being stolen from his mind. Michael Starrbury is writing the script, with Mark Gordon and Jennifer Todd producing.
Kathryn Hahn (Gersh, Brillstein, Schreck Rose) has closed a deal to play Ben Stiller’s sister in Fox comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Stiller is directing and producing as well.
The Hangover co-star Ken Jeong (UTA, Aligned, Stone Meyer) has joined Michael Bay’s dark-comedy action thriller Pain and Gain for Paramount. Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson star.
Christopher Landon (CAA, Mosaic, Bloom Hergott), the writer of the second and third Paranormal Activity movies, is reteaming with producers Jason Blum and Oren Peli to create a microbudgeted horror spinoff with a Latino cast that centers on religious imagery. Paramount plans to shoot the film this year.
Sam Shepard (ICM, Suzanne Phillips) has joined Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Zoe Saldana in the Relativity drama Out of the Furnace. Crazy Heart filmmaker Scott Cooper is writing and directing.
That 70’s Show dad Kurtwood Smith (Progressive Artists, Pop Art) has joined Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in Fox Searchlight’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the story behind the classic 1960 film.
Exclusive Media is developing Stewart O’Nan’s novel, The Odds: A Love Story, with producers John Lesher and Christina Liao of Le Grisbi Productions and Julie Yorn of LBI Entertainment.
Dick Wolf (WME, Ziffren Brittenham) has teamed with fellow producer Mark Burnett for Stars Earn Stripes, a military-themed NBC reality series in which celebrities will compete in high-level training exercises to earn money for charities supporting the Armed Forces.
Jimmy Smits (UTA, Brillstein, Hansen Jacobson) has joined FX’s Sons of Anarchy for a season-long arc in which he’ll play a tattooed gangbanger.
Bent actor David Walton (Gersh) has replaced Bryan Greenberg as the star opposite Joanna Garcia Swisher in an untitled CBS comedy pilot from Greg Malins and Greg Berlanti.
Frasier alum Peri Gilpin (Innovative, Burstein Co., Bloom Hergott) will play Ted Danson’s wife in a multiepisode arc on CBS’ CSI. She’ll first appear in May’s season finale, when Jaclyn Smith reprises her role as a detective’s mother.
Terra Nova‘s Landon Liboiron (WME, Magnolia) will star opposite Bill Skarsgard and Famke Janssen in the Netflix original drama Hemlock Grove, from Hostel filmmaker Eli Roth.
Writers Emily Halpern (WME, Circle of Confusion, Sloane Offer) and Sarah Haskins (UTA, Circle of Confusion, Sloane Offer) have inked a two-year overall deal to develop projects for ABC Studios. Halpern (Private Practice) and Haskins (Current TV’s SuperNews) penned the upcoming Natalie Portman-produced feature Booksmart for Fox.
Alan Thicke (Integral Artists, Larry Thompson) will recur on The CW’s summer soap The L.A. Complex.
Fox has renewed Glee for a fourth season, New Girl for a second and Raising Hope for a third.
Bravo has ordered 11 new series, including the fourth spinoff of its Top Chef franchise, Life After Top Chef, as well as Real Housewives spinoff The Kandi Factory, following Kandi Burruss. The network also has renewed eight series, including Tabatha Takes Over and Inside the Actors Studio.
Discovery is teaming with Mark Burnett for the docuseries Mark Burnett’s Alaska, depicting the people, history and locale of the state. It also picked up three car-related series including One Car Too Far.
Animal Planet has renewed 13 series and is launching a plethora of new fare including a fishing competition show called Top Hookers and Fish America, starring pro wrestler Eric Young and featuring the nation’s most dangerous fishing practices.
TLC has announced five new programs including Breaking Amish, which follows Amish men and women as they decide whether to leave behind their lifestyle to pursue dreams outside their community.
The Military Channel is introducing The Brokaw Files, with former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw revisiting past stories.
OWN has picked up four new primetime series, including the military docuseries Married to the Army: Alaska. It renewed Oprah’s Master Class for a third season and ordered 10 additional episodes of Welcome to Sweetie Pie‘s, about a soul food restaurant in St. Louis.
CMT has ordered Bounty Hunters, an animated comedy from Blue Collar‘s Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, and a comedic police reality show titled Trinity 911.
Sundance founder Robert Redford has formed Sundance Productions with partner Laura Michalchyshyn. The company will create fiction and nonfiction content for TV as well as multimedia platforms, launching with a documentary about the Watergate scandal.
Mr. Show alums Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have signed with Grand Central Books for Hollywood Said No, an annotated collection of their rejected scripts and pitches.
Portlandia star and musician Carrie Brownstein (Jud Laghi) has signed with Riverhead Press to publish her memoir in November for a mid-six figure advance.
Facebook has agreed to acquire Instagram, which makes a photo-sharing app for mobile devices, in a $1 billion deal for cash and stock.
Funny or Die has created the division Gifted Youth to make commercials for the Internet and television.
Al Pacino and Garry Marshall have signed with Rick Nicita for management. The former CAA managing partner and Morgan Creek co-chairman has not started a management company but has taken on his friends and former CAA clients.
Armand Assante, whose credits include The Mambo Kings, has signed with APA.
James Ransone, whose résumé includes HBO’s The Wire and Treme, has signed with UTA.
Johannes Stjarne Nilsson and Ola Simonsson, the Swedish filmmaking duo behind the 2010 Cannes thriller Sound of Noise, have signed with ICM.
THE NEXT BIG THING: Kate McKinnon
Reps: Paradigm, Principato Young, Hansen Jacobson
Why She Matters: Saturday Night Live‘s first openly lesbian performer made a splash in her April 7 debut, playing Penelope Cruz in a skit matching accents with Sofia Vergara. The Upright Citizens Brigade veteran has appeared on Logo’s Big Gay Sketch Show.
THE BIG NUMBER: $854 million: Cumulative gross for The Lion King, which jumped The Phantom of the Opera to become the top-grossing Broadway show of all time.
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