week in review digest


'Grindhouse' pair part of Senator deal

COLOGNE, Germany — Senator Film has signed a distribution agreement with the Weinstein Co. for German theatrical and DVD rights to a slate of genre films from the company's Dimension division, including the new "Grindhouse" double bill from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (HR 12/20). The pact also includes Stephen King's "1408" and director Frank Darabont's "The Mist." The deal with the Weinstein Co. is the first major, multititle licensing agreement for Senator since a group of investors led by Weber and Helge Sasse acquired the Berlin-based film group last year. Senator said the deal will result in about a 20% sales increase for the company next year.

Mortimer books 'Transsiberian' passage

MADRID, Spain — Emily Mortimer has joined the cast of Brad Anderson's crime thriller "Transsiberian," Spanish production house Filmax Entertainment said Wednesday (HR 12/21). Mortimer, who joins Woody Harrelson, Kate Mara, Eduardo Noriega and Ben Kingsley in the cast, is stepping in for the previously announced Samantha Morton. Morton was forced to drop out because of a recent injury — suffered when a ceiling fell at her London home — which left her unavailable to work during the film's shooting schedule, Filmax said.

BBC footing bill for U.K. digital switch

LONDON — The bill for helping the elderly and disabled switch off their analog sets and convert to digital television will total £600 million ($1.2 billion) and be paid for by the BBC, U.K. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said last week (HR 12/20). The pubcaster will use license-fee cash to pay for the program. The announcement came as U.K. media regulator Ofcom on Dec. 19 outlined the timetable for selling off the spectrum that will be freed up when the analog system is switched off in 2012. The auction is set for 2008 and will allow the winners to bid for national television or telecoms services.

EU OKs new UNESCO treaty

BRUSSELS — A UNESCO convention that allows countries to protect their movies, music and other cultural activities will come into force in March after European Union nations ratified the treaty in Brussels (HR 12/20). The convention on cultural diversity, drafted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, aims to consolidate the protection countries sometimes use to block Hollywood imports and strengthen rules on subsidies and quotas. It was adopted last year in the face of strong protests from the U.S. The treaty does not create any new laws or instruments, but the U.S. fears it could override the existing conventions that allow Hollywood to sell entertainment to the world.

German film fund gets go-ahead

BRUSSELS — The European Commission gave the green light to a three-year, €180 million ($237 million) German film fund Thursday (HR 12/22). The fund, which will run from the beginning of next year until the end of 2009, will provide direct grants to producers to encourage the production of feature films, documentaries and animated projects. The subsidies are granted an opt-out from the usual EU rules banning state aid if they meet strict conditions that allow governments to fund art and culture. German films not produced with other European companies must pass a test that gives points for cultural contribution.