Box Office Preview: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Set to Crush ‘Hot Pursuit’

‘Hot Pursuit’ marks one of the worst reviewed films of Reese Witherspoon’s career; ‘Age of Ultron’ will jump the $700 million mark globally sometime on Wednesday.

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NORTH AMERICA: ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Scores $217.6M in Five Days After $13.1M Tuesday Gross


BBC America Sets ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell’ Premiere – Trailer

BBC One commissioned period fantasy drama Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell back in 2012 and it’s now making its way to the airwaves. The BBC in the UK has yet to set a date, but partner BBC America today says the seven-part series will debut on June 13 at 10 PM ET. Check out the trailer above.

Based on the best-selling novel by Susanna Clarke and adapted by Wallander‘s Peter Harness. it’s an alternate history of England set during the Napoleonic Wars. Eddie Marsan, Bertie Carvel, Charlotte Riley and Alice Englert star. Toby Haynes (Sherlock, Doctor Who) is director.

In 1806, the reclusive and skillful Mr Norrell (Marsan) is thought to be the last remaining practical magician. His displays thrill the nation — in London, he raises the beautiful Lady Pole (Englert) from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. But he is sooon challenged by the emergence of another magician: the brilliant novice Jonathan Strange (Carvel). While trying to secure his beloved Arabella’s (Riley) hand in marriage, he meets a vagabond, the magician of Threadneedle Street, who tells him he is destined to be a great magician. Young, handsome and daring, Strange is the very antithesis of Norrell. A dangerous battle ensues between the two great men.

Cast also includes Marc Warren (The Good Wife), Samuel West (Mr Selfridge), Enzo Cilenti (Rome) and Ariyon Bakare (Dancing On The Edge).

The series is produced by Cuba Pictures Limited in association with Feel Films for BBC and co-produced with BBC America in association with Attraction Images for Bell Media, Far Moor Productions Ltd and Screen Yorkshire.


Heath Ledger Scholarship Finalists Set; Scotland Applies For Studio – Global Briefs

Australians in Film has unveiled the finalists for its 7th annual Heath Ledger Scholarship. The bursary was created in honor of the late Oscar winner and aims to provide a bridge for actors who have achieved a level of success in Australia, in order for them to establish themselves as working actors in the States. The main prize winner receives, among other things, two round-trip flights to LA, a two-year scholarship at the Stella Adler Academy, $5,000 worth of Visa and Immigration services, and $10,000 cash. It also includes mentorship from professionals in the industry and personal mentoring from Heath Ledger’s father, Kim. Previous winners include James Mackay, Ryan Corr, and Bella Heathcote. Finalists this year are Mojean Aria (Hybrids); David Berry (A Place To Call Home); Shareena Clanton (Wentworth); Emilie Cocquerel (An Accidental Soldier); Taylor Ferguson (The Turning); James Fraser (The Water Diviner); Reef Ireland (Wentworth); Joel Jackson (Deadline Gallipoli); Travis Jeffrey (Unbroken); Matt Levett (A Place To Call Home); Brandon McClelland (Anzac Girls); Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood (A Place To Call Home); Jordan Patrick Smith (Unbroken); Adele Perovic (The Code); TJ Power (The Sapphires); Harry Richardson (Looking For Grace); Millie Samuels (The Gods Of Wheat Street), Lily Sullivan (Mental) and Geraldine Viswanathan (Dysfunktion). Finalists were selected by a committee of managers and agents from LA. Celebrity judges including Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn and Vince Vaughn choose the winners who will be announced on June 1 in LA.

scotland flagScotland has made a further step towards getting itself a film and TV studio. PSL Land Ltd has applied for planning permission for a mixed-use studio development site at Straiton, just outside Edinburgh. The 86 acre site would host a world-class film and television production facility incorporating six sound stages, an external water-stage, two backlots, workshops and production office spaces. A film academy and student residence, a visitor attraction and hotel are also eyed. U.S. TV shows like Outlander shoot in Scotland, but the country has long been devoid a proper studio, repurposing warehouses instead to accommodate foreign productions.

africas giant killersIcon Films, in association with Natural History Film Unit Botswana have been commissioned by the BBC and Animal Planet U.S. to produce a follow up to their award winning doc Africa’s Giant Killers. The Return of the Giant Killers; Africa’s Lion Kings is a one hour film that reunites director cinematographer Brad Bestelink and film photographer Richard Uren to capture wildlife footage in the Savute Game Reserve in Botswana. The film will again form part of the BBC’s Natural World strand.

PGA Awards Logo 1The PGA has added new affiliate relationships with South Africa’s Independent Producers Organization and Malaysia’s Creative Content Industry Guild. Members of both organizations will now have “International Region” status in the U.S.-based PGA. These pacts allow the PGA and its associated guilds the mutual benefits of access to resources, a foundation for networking and co-producing opportunities, and an international exchange of ideas and information about producing film, television and digital projects. The addition of IPO and CCIG brings the PGA’s total number of sister guilds to 18 worldwide.


Studiocanal Doubles Down On Family Fare: Re-Teams With Nick Park And Gilles De Maistre For New Pics: Cannes

EXCLUSIVE– Euro giant Studiocanal is doubling down on its family film investments and unveiling ambitious new projects from Aardman’s Nick Park and French director Gilles de Maistre. Fresh from their eye-popping success with Paddington, with global grosses to date in excess of $200 million, and Aardman’s Shaun The Sheep, Studiocanal is re-teaming with Nick Park on Early Man, a caveman comedy that will trace the world’s first game of football. Studiocanal aims to release the film in 2018, ahead of the World Cup. The company will unveil visuals from the project to buyers at Cannes.

shaun the sheep

Early Man is a stop-frame feature film that sees Park going behind the camera for the first time since Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. Park also co-directed Chicken Run. Mark Burton and John O’Farrell have written the script. The BFI is also a partner on the film.

Also in the pipelines is French director Gilles de Maistre’s Mia And The White Lion, a live action epic about the friendship between a young girl and a lion.  Galatée Films (Jacques Perrin’s Océans) and Outside Films will produce the project, which is written by William Davies (How To Train Your Dragon) and  Gilles de Maistre, Jean-Paul Husson and Prune de Maistre. The cast includes Mélanie Laurent, Langley Kirkwood, Daniah De Villiers. Also on-board as co-producers are M6 Films and Film Afrika.

Speaking to Deadline, Studiocanal chief exec Olivier Courson explained that the company’s family investments were a clear part of his strategy moving forward. “It’s a new adventure for us in this area,” he said. “We’ve been quite happy so far with the quality of both Paddington and Shaun The Sheep and the success. The family film market is very competitive with incredible quality coming from the American studios. I believe we are now the only European company to have invested so heavily and constantly in the family space. I would like to continue this policy with strong ambition. The family space will be a key pillar for us.”

The move comes after Courson bet big on the David Heyman-produced Paddington. The film, based on Michael Bond-much loved children’s books, was StudioCanal’s most ambitious to date with a budget of $55 million, which it fully financed, sold and also distributed in its territories in the UK, France. Germany and Australia/NZ.  That bet paid off big time for the ambitious exec, helping drive Studiocanal to its most successful year year.

Courson is repeating that model with Early Man, which has a budget around the $50 million mark. Studiocanal will fully finance and handle sales. Studiocanal and Aardman are currently gearing up for the wide release of Shaun The Sheep in China this summer by China Film Group as well as in the U.S. through Lionsgate.

“This is a very ambitious project, with a lot more characters than Shaun,” added Courson. “The film is not about football but it is an important component. Nick and the Aardman guys will come to Cannes. This is a very ambitious project for the independent market. It’s also extremely funny.”

Studiocanal will not be selling the English language Mia and the White Lion at Cannes this year given the project’s lengthy production. De Maistre will be filming on location in Africa for many years as he follows the real life growth of a lion cub into an older animal. The story follows an 11-year-old girl living in London who relocates with her parents to Africa. There she befriends a baby lion where they become as close as siblings. To her horror, she will discover her father has been selling lions to hunters.

“We see the baby lion grow up and we will follow this story over many years,” says Courson. “It will be a very long process but we have an incredible writer and very talented filmmakers. It has a lot of emotion.

Studiocanal continues to grow ambitiously under the leadership of Courson. The company is currently in advanced Reybauddiscussions with Sebastien Raybaud’s Anton Capital Entertainment to re-up its slate financing in a deal that could exceed the € 150 million ($194 million) pact originally agreed in 2011. That three-year deal, which was itself extended in 2012 to continue until the beginning of 2016, was the first of its kind in Europe and has allowed StudioCanal to emerge as Europe’s dominant film studio, and a genuine global film player.

Studiocanal is also likely to benefit from the expected largesse of parent Vivendi, which owns Canal + and Universal Music Group. Vivendi, under chairman Vincent Bollore, is currently sitting on a war chest of $15 billion to make media and content-related acquisitions and expenditure.


Apocalypse Averted: Europe Unveils Plans For Digital Single Market, Film Business Survives

After months of at times frenzied speculation that the end of the Euro film business as we knew it was nigh, the European Commission has finally unveiled its strategy for a Digital Single Market. The 16 initiatives, published by Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, propose for the establishment of a unified and borderless regulatory framework for the internet across Europe. They are, however, a long way from the doomsday scenarios mooted by some who had feared an end to windowing and, most damagingly, an end to territorial licensing, thereby eliminating the pre-sales business overnight.

Instead, the proposals seem set, for now at least, to preserving the licensing by territory for IP. “To this end, the Commission will propose solutions which maximise the offers available to users and open up new opportunities for content creators, while preserving the financing of EU media and innovative content,” read the report.

The commission is taking aim at what it describes as “unjustified geoblocking” as well as the need to modernise copyright law in a digital world.

“The Commission will make legislative proposals before the end of 2015 to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, including through further harmonisation measures,” read the report. “The proposals will include: (i) portability of legally acquired content, (ii) ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector, (iii) greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions,(iv) clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content and, in 2016, (v) modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial-scale infringements (the ‘follow the money’ approach) as well as its cross-border applicability.”

“Today, we lay the groundwork for Europe’s digital future,” said Commission President Jean-Clause Juncker in a statement. “I want to see pan-continental telecoms networks, digital services that cross borders and a wave of innovative European start-ups. I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe. Exactly a year ago, I promised to make a fully Digital Single Market one of my top priorities. Today, we are making good on that promise.”

The three pillars guiding the 16 initiatives will be to create:

– Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe

-Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish

-Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy

To that end, the Commission is proposing to make cross-border e-commerce far easier, while still respecting territoriality. That said, “if a film is available on a video-on demand service in an EU country, Europeans outside the country can also pay to see it…This is not about opening access to all content for free. It is about a win-win situation for creators and users; this is about nurturing cultural diversity in the digital age.”

The European film business has been anticipating the worst ever since Commission president Juncker took office last year and made the creation of a Digital Single Market a priority. Last month, Some of Europe’s top directors have come together to issue a statement offering alternatives, including Mike Leigh and Matteo Garrone signed a declaration, released during the Rome Rendez-Vouz, claiming they “want to redefine how cinema can circulate from one country to the next” and warned against taking drastic action such as the dismantling of territoriality of licensing.

Thankfully, for now at least, those fears have been assuaged. If anything, it is the big U.S. internet companies such as Google and Facebook which may find themselves coming up against European regulators. The Commission today launched an antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the E.U to identify possible competition concerns affecting European e-commerce markets.


SND Boards ‘What Happened To Monday?’ With Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close – Cannes

Noomi Rapace and Glenn Close are starring in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters director Tommy Wirkola’s What Happened To Monday?, a high concept sci-fi/actioner. France’s SND is fully financing and has local distribution. It will also sell international rights to the project in Cannes just as the cameras are set to roll in July. CAA is brokering domestic. Philippe Rousselet’s Vendôme Pictures (Source Code, Bastille Day) and Raffaella De Laurentiis’ Raffaella Productions are producing. Max Botkin (Prosthesis) wrote the script.

Set in a not-too-distant future, where overpopulation and famine have forced governments to undertake a drastic One-Child Policy, seven identical sisters (Rapace) live a hide-and-seek existence pursued by the Child Allocation Bureau. The Bureau, directed by the fierce Nicolette Cayman, enforces a strict family-planning agenda that the sisters outwit by taking turns assuming the identity of one person. Taught by their grandfather who raised and named them after the days of the week, each can go outside once a week as their common identity, but are only free to be themselves in the prison of their own apartment. That is, until Monday does not come home.

Rapace, Close and Wirkola are repped by CAA.


China: Biopic of "Superhero" Deng Xiaoping to Open on Same Day as ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

The film includes footage of a KKK member’s assassination attempt on the statesman widely seen as the architect of economic reforms in China.

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