news digest


New Orleans' Film Factory breaks ground

Ceremonial groundbreaking took place Thursday in New Orleans for the Film Factory, the largest production studio in Louisiana's history. Owned and operated by Lift Prods., a Louisiana-based company that has produced and financed numerous movies, the studio is a 300,000-square-foot space that will include four soundstages as well as a distribution house and will be the first facility in the U.S. to house a state-of-the-art training institute on an active motion picture studio lot. According to a recent Tulane University study, the project will create 2,253 direct jobs, generating $131 million in earnings, as well as 1,517 indirect jobs, creating an estimated $116 million in earnings. The $185 million project was initiated in August 2004 and is expected to be completed in fall 2008.

SBIFF will fete Smith

Will Smith will be honored with the Santa Barbara International Film Festival's Modern Master Award, SBIFF executive director Roger Durling said Thursday. The award, which honors an individual who has enriched culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry, will be presented Jan. 27 at Santa Barbara's Arlington Theatre. Smith, who received a best actor Academy Award nomination for "Ali," next stars in "The Pursuit of Happyness," which Sony Pictures will release Dec. 15. The fest runs Jan. 25-Feb. 4.

New York Film Critics Circle expands

Four members have joined the New York Film Critics Circle, chairman Marshall Fine said Thursday. They are V.A. Musetto and Kyle Smith, both of the New York Post, and David Fear and Joshua Rothkopf, both of Time Out New York. The group also voted Stephen Whitty of the Star Ledger/Newhouse News Syndication vice chairman. He will succeed Fine as chairman beginning in January. The NYFCC will vote on its annual film awards Dec. 11, and the awards will be presented Jan. 7 at New York's Supper Club.

'Happyness' is internship for contest winners

To promote its upcoming release "The Pursuit of Happyness" — which stars Will Smith in the true story of a man who creates a better life for himself and his son when he lands an internship at a brokerage firm — Columbia Pictures is launching the Ultimate Internship Contest, which will reward eight winners with tickets to the movie's premiere as well as internships at one of eight companies. The participating companies are the Gap, The Hollywood Reporter, Morgan Stanley, NBC, the NFL, People magazine, PlayStation and Yahoo! Until Oct. 30, contestants can submit videos and applications to the contest Web site,

Hammer's Billy Wilder Theater opening Dec. 3

The Hammer Museum and the UCLA Film & Television Archive will unveil the Billy Wilder Theater on Dec. 3. Made possible by a $5 million gift from the late director's wife, Audrey Wilder, and designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, the state-of-the-art, 295-seat theater will be the new home of the archive's cinematheque as well as the Hammer's public programs. The theater is on the courtyard level of the Hammer Museum in Westwood. The invitation-only opening will pay tribute to Billy Wilder's legacy and will be chaired by writer-directors Cameron Crowe and Curtis Hanson. The Hammer's programs will begin in December, with the archive programming debuting in the venue in February.