week in review digest


Euro filmmakers win aid package

BRUSSELS — The European Parliament approved a seven-year aid package for European filmmakers this past week that it said could reap 20 times its €671 million ($842 million) cost (HR 10/25). The parliament, the European Union's elected assembly, said in a report that every euro ($1.30) granted to the media aid program in the past has generated €5.80 ($7.30) in follow-up investment, €2.80 ($3.50) in education, €7.20 ($9) in distribution and €4.20 ($5.30) in development. "Previous media programs have made major contributions to Europe's audiovisual sector and have delivered good value in doing so," the report said after MEPs adopted the budget for the 2007-13 program.

Eastwood conductor on WIP's 'Rails'

Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden are in negotiations to star in "Rails and Ties," a Warner Independent Pictures drama that will mark the feature directorial debut of Alison Eastwood (HR 10/26). Eastwood, an actress, is the daughter of filmmaker Clint Eastwood, and his Malpaso Prods. is behind the film. Malpaso's Rob Lorenz is producing along with Peer Oppenheimer and Barrett Stuart. The script by Micky Levy tells of the physical, emotional and psychological collision of two families that is set in motion when a suicidal mother parks her car, with her 9-year old son inside, on a railroad crossing and awaits the arrival of a speeding train. Bacon will play the train engineer, while Harden will be his wife. Production is to begin early next year in Los Angeles.

Telecom Italia drops spinoff plans

ROME — Telecom Italia has officially abandoned its plans to spin off its various subsidiaries, saying that while it will continue developing a plan to become a media player in the pay TV sector, it will do so within a single unified company (HR 10/27). Former chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera stunned observers earlier this year by unveiling a plan to sell control of the company's profitable mobile phone unit and morph the company into an online media content provider. That announcement sparked a series of events that eventually led to Tronchetti Provera's resignation. The company is now saying it will stick with its previous strategy of converging all the subsidiaries into the parent company. Company officials said that the latest change does not mean that the Internet-television venture will be scrapped, only that it will not be the central plank Tronchetti Provera had envisioned.

Uni sashays with 'Bruno' for $42.5 mil

Universal Pictures has won an intense bidding war for "Bruno," Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up movie to "Borat" (HR 10/30). Sources said that Universal is paying $42.5 million, beating out such other contenders as DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures for the worldwide rights to the film (HR 10/27). The price includes the production budget of the film, rumored to be in the $20 million-$25 million range. Also included is a significant backend component, believed to be in the 15% range.