week in review digest


China's b.o. up 31% from '05

BEIJING — Buoyed by improved distribution, China's 2006 boxoffice sales rose to 2.62 billion yuan ($327.5 million), up 31% over 2005, state-run media said last week, citing the director of the central Film Bureau (HR 1/10). Zhang Yimou's period epic "Curse of the Golden Flower," China's contender in the foreign-language Oscar race, topped last year's boxoffice, earning 250 million yuan ($31.3 million), Film Bureau director Tong Gang said in a report by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television acquired by the Xinhua news agency.

Italian producer Ponti dies at 94

ROME — Producer Carlo Ponti, one of the forces behind Italy's postwar film renaissance and the longtime husband of Sophia Loren, died early Wednesday (HR 1/12). He was 94. Ponti produced more than 100 films during a career that spanned nearly 60 years. Among his most famous productions were David Lean's "Doctor Zhivago" (1965), Federico Fellini's "La Strada" (1954) and Vittorio De Sica's 1960 classic "La Ciociara" (Two Women), for which Loren won the 1962 Oscar for best actress. Ponti met Loren, named Sophia Villani Scicolone at the time, during a beauty contest in Naples in the 1950s and persuaded her to change her name to Sophia Loren and begin studying acting and English. They were married in 1957. "La Strada," which he co-produced, won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film. In 1965, he won the Oscar again with "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

7 pics preen for makeup Oscar

Seven films — ranging from "Apocalypto" with its tribal Mayan facepaint to "X-Men: The Last Stand" with its multihued superheroes — have advanced to the next round in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' competition for the best makeup Oscar (HR 1/10). The other films on the shortlist are "Click," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Prestige" and "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause." On Jan. 20, the makeup award nominating committee will view 10 minutes of excerpts from each film, before voting to nominate three for Oscar consideration.

2 mil worship 'Mosque' in CBC premiere

TORONTO — The debut of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s "Little Mosque on the Prairie" drew more than 2 million viewers last week, beating its U.S. network competition (HR 1/10). Launched amid a media circus that included coverage from CNN, the BBC and the New York Times, the sitcom about a Muslim community in rural Canada drew an average 2.1 million viewers in its 8:30 p.m. slot. In a TV market where 1 million viewers spells success and homegrown series rarely crack the top 20, "Mosque" topped Fox's "House" on Global Television and popular CTV drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

CNNI's Cramer stepping down

NEW YORK — CNN International president Chris Cramer will retire from the network this spring, CNN said Wednesday (HR 1/12). Cramer has been in charge of CNN International since 1996, hired by Ted Turner and Tom Johnson after a 26-year career at the BBC. He has led CNN International to record distribution and revenues. Cramer will stay on to help with the transition until late March. No replacement has been announced.