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Box-office growth in China, the emergence of the country’s Wanda as a global player and Russia’s much-debated anti-gay laws were among the international news and trends that turned heads in Hollywood in 2013.
The political fate of Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi also hung in the balance, Britain’s BBC got a new boss amid woes at various public broadcasters across Europe, France debated the health of its film industry, and Bollywood and Hollywood saw new interactions.
The Hollywood Reporter takes a closer look at the major international entertainment stories of 2013.
China‘s Box Office Grows – and Hollywood Loses Out
China’s box-office total exceeded the $3 billion barrier in late November to ensure a new record for the year.
Hollywood’s fortunes were mixed, though. Only four of the top 10 films in China were Hollywood releases, and U.S. fare accounted for a smaller share of total box office. But since the overall pie continued to grow, Hollywood studios had something to be happy about.
But China and Hollywood also had a stand-off over box-office payments when China Film Group tried to pass on a 2 percent luxury tax to the studios. Eventually, Hollywood got paid, though.
China’s Wanda Emerges as Global Player
Following its $2.6 billion acquisition of movie exhibition giant AMC in 2012, Chinese real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group emerged in 2013 as a serious player on the world stage. Among other initiatives, the company agreed to spend billions on studios and theme parks in such Chinese cities as Qingdao and Wuxi.
In one key initiative, Wanda unveiled an $8.2 billion investment plan to transform the country’s movie industry into the world’s biggest within five years. Said Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin, “China’s economy is growing fast, but it’s still only half the U.S. economy; but in less than 10 years it will catch up.”
European Public Broadcasters in Crisis Management Mode
Public broadcasters across Europe spent 2013 tackling financial challenges and scandals.
U.K. public broadcaster BBC, which got a new leader in director general Tony Hall in April, managed to steady the ship after months of chaos following the late 2012 Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal. But it also had to deal with a severance pay scandal in 2013.
Meanwhile, France Televisions had to deal with a cash crunch and layoffs, while Spain’s RTVE cut back on Hollywood fare in one of various examples of how the public broadcasters’ crisis affects U.S. entertainment giants.
In Greece, riot police evicted fired staff from the building of shuttered public broadcaster ERT, which was abruptly closed down in June amid austerity measures. Newly formed successor EDT has been aiming to run a much leaner operation.
Cannes: Strong U.S. Presence, But French Film Wins
The Cannes film festival once again had a solid U.S. presence, but Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue Is The Warmest Color, about a lesbian relationship, took the Palme d’Or at the closing ceremony.
One of the most illustrious juries in recent memory handed out the awards. President Steven Spielberg and his jury of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee and Christoph Waltz along with Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Lynne Ramsay, Vidya Balan and Naomi Kawase picked the winners from a selection of 20 films.
The runner-up grand prize honor went to Inside Llewyn Davis from Ethan and Joel Coen.
Other U.S. filmmakers who made the lineup included Alexander Payne, Steven Soderbergh and James Gray in the competition program and Sofia Coppola, James Franco and Ryan Coogler in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.
Russia: Anti-Gay Laws and Bombings Draw Negative Headlines
Two bomb attacks just before the end of 2013 caused concern that the February Winter Olympics in Sochi, which will draw many international media folks, could be overshadowed by security worries.
Earlier in the year, a controversial new law banning the promotion of homosexuality to young people sparked a furious international reaction, including from such celebrities and directors as Gus Van Sant, Elton John and Madonna.
Russian president Vladimir Putin tried to boost the country’s profile by releasing from prison two members of punk band Pussy Riot just before Christmas.
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi Loses Political Clout
Silvio Berlusconi, the 77-year-old billionaire founder of Italian media and entertainment conglomerate Mediaset, has been a dominant force in Italian politics for two decades.
However, 2013 saw him definitively convicted for the first time (for tax fraud and false accounting) and ordered to serve a year under house arrest.
As part of the punishment, he was also stripped of his Senate seat. All in all, 2013 may go down as the year Berlusconi was brought to his political knees. Then again, the media tycoon has been counted out in the past, only to re-emerge as a power player.
Denmark’s Lars von Trier (Strip-)Teases and Releases Nymphomaniac
Danish director Lars von Trier teased the release of his epic Nymphomaniac for much of 2013, with a striptease-like slow release of photos and video clips building buzz.
The controversial Danish director also ended up letting others cut down his two-part auteur porn film that had its launch in Denmark in late December. Before the year was over, the Berlin Film Festival announced that the director’s cut of volume one of Nymphomaniac would premiere at the event in February.
U.K. Makes Headlines With Phone-Hacking Trial and Royal Baby
One of the summer’s biggest international media stories was the birth of Prince George, the first child of Kate Middleton and Prince William. The baby is third in line to the British throne. Ahead of the birth, a media circus engulfed London’s St. Mary’s Hospital as outlets from around the world covered the news of the royal baby.
In another big U.K. media story, after some delays, the first phone-hacking trial kicked off in October with coverage focused mostly on former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, along with several other former staffers of the U.K. newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The trial covers allegations that employees of the tabloid, which Murdoch shuttered in 2011 after 168 years in operation, eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, royals, crime victims and others in their search for exclusives.
Hollywood Partners With Bollywood for a Global Break
Hollywood studios also got more active in 2013 in local productions in India – both in mainstream Hindi-language Bollywood and the South Indian industry.
Fox Star Studios India, for example, has a busy 2014 lined up with 28 films set for release, including remakes of titles such as Metro Manila, which was Britain’s foreign language Oscar submission.
And while such Hollywood stars as Robert De Niro and Steven Spielberg dropped in on Bollywood in 2013, some Bollywood stars seemed to get an international break. Leading the charge, Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan appeared in Baz Luhrmann‘s The Great Gatsby in one example of Indian talent going global.
And actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra pushed her international music career to new heights with the help of “Exotic,” a hit collaboration with Pitbull.
France Debates the Film Business
The French film industry experienced uproar in early 2013 over Gerard Depardieu’s decision to get a residence in Belgium and a Russian passport, along with accusations from powerful producer and Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval that French actors are paid too much.
In an essay published at the end of 2012, Maraval lashed out at the French cinema subsidy system and the salaries it supports. Film critics, as well as the country’s culture minister, weighed in and expressed support for the system. Actors and directors felt obliged to explain their per-film pay in public.
In an interview on French TV early in the year, director and Amelie actor Mathieu Kassovitz also assailed the homegrown film industry. “Creatively speaking, I find it difficult to continue working in a country that has locked down cinema in a sort of copy of the American model,” he said. “I love movies. It has become an industry, but it is above all an art.”
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