‘Peaceful Times’ come to Tribeca

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There’s probably no better New Year’s wish to extend to this column’s readers than the title of a new German film, Peaceful Times.

Neele Leana Vollmar’s humorous and heartwarming family drama made its “German Premieres” debut at Manhattan’s Tribeca Cinema. Intended to introduce worthy titles and equally deserving talent to prospective buyers and press, the Jan. 5 event marked the 22nd entry of the series, organized by German Films Service + Marketing, since 2004. East Coast representative Oliver Mahrdt this time welcomed producer Caroline Daube (Munich-based Royal Pony Film), lead actress Katharina Schubert, and world sales agent Michael Weber of The Match Factory, Cologne.

During the Q&A session and reception following the film, industry insiders were equally surprised about the film’s “feel-good quality” and to hear that Peaceful Times got somewhat lost in the shuffle of Oscar submission The Baader Meinhof Komplex. Production values in recreating 1960s Germany are first-rate, the professionals observed, along with the performances of quarreling parents and scheming children alike.

CinemaxXimizing Unlimited Moviegoing
Back during the fall, CinemaxX-Gruppe launched Germany’s first foray into subscription-based annual moviegoing. Thilo Rieg, the circuit’s head of marketing who recently joined the corporate board in that capacity as well, announced that sales have been above and beyond expectations. “The risk has paid off in the first few weeks already.” The holiday season numbers, in fact, were almost doubled. CinemaxX is now looking to upload the card with additional content and advantages.

The Swiss Like Kino
A recent survey by the LINK Institut for Swiss newspaper Coopzeitung revealed that over 70% of all countrymen and women went to the movies—or visited an exhibit—at least once throughout 2008. Some 47% attended a stage theatre and 35% rock or pop concerts. Broken down by age, 93% of 15- to 29-year-olds went “ins Kino” once and a staggering 59% in the 50 to 74 age group.

Also in Switzerland, Emin Soysaler was promoted to managing director of Universal Pictures International’s operations there. After 36 years with the company and 41 in the industry overall, Max Dietiker has taken retirement. Soysaler began his distribution career at Rialto and later joined UIP in 1998 as sales manger.

Awards at ARRI
Munich, Germany-based Arnold & Richter, the largest manufacturer of professional motion picture equipment in the world better known as ARRI, received two prestigious commendations for its enlightening work. The company’s newest lighting products, the True Blue line of studio and tungsten fixtures, garnered the International Forum (iF) Design Award, to which over 1,000 companies from 39 countries had submitted 2,808 products.

By the time the awards ceremony in Hannover, Germany rolls around, another ARRI team will have been honored in Beverly Hills. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will bestow one of three Scientific and Engineering Awards (Academy Plaques) to Erwin Melzner for the overall concept including the optical and cooling systems, Volker Schumacher for the optical design, and Timo Müller for the mechanical design, of the Arrimax 18/12 lighting fixture. “With its choice of vari-focus and specular reflectors,” the committee lauded, “the superior optical and mechanical design of this lighting fixture allows it to operate at 18,000 watts, producing unsurpassed light quality while its innovative cooling system keeps the housing safe to touch.”



Europeans Support Sales at Sundance
MEDIA Programme-sponsored Film Sales Support (www.efp-online.com) backed 11 titles at this past Sundance Film Festival, bringing the total close to 50 films since 2005. “We are glad to be contributing towards essential promotional costs at this important North American festival, where it is most needed, to draw attention to our European films,” noted Hamburg, Germany-based project manager, Susanne Davis. “In a market that is becoming increasingly difficult as buyers choose and pick, it is fundamental to offer this kind of financial help.”

Eight sales and one production company are receiving cash (up to €5,000 for one film and €2,500 for a second or third film) “to boost their individual promotional campaigns in Park City.” Covered costs also include bringing talent over, such as Oliver Hirschbiegel and Liam Neeson for Pathé International’s U.K./Ireland co-production Five Minutes to Heaven.

Berlinale Builds Out Digital
The Berlin International Film Festival (Feb. 5-15) will be taking "the next big step” by equipping 29 of its 49 presentation screens with digital cinema projection equipment. “These new screening systems are crucial for the Berlinale, for the future lies in digital cinema,” festival director Dieter Kosslick said. “Though at the same time, we want to remind our audiences of film’s legacy: This year’s Retrospective will present wide-gauge, 70mm films. Celluloid meets pixel.”

Tübingen-based integrator Bewegte Bilder Medien AG installed the servers and was asked to also set up an encoding and mastering facility for print coordination. Festival films that do not arrive on conventional film material or in a complete d-cinema package will be digitized and stored there before continuing their hard-drive journey to the cinemas. The Berlinale first went digital in 2004 and last year it hosted nearly 400 screenings in diverse video formats at both the festival and European Film Market.

Digital Huddling in Hull
European theatre support agency MEDIA Salles announced that this year’s DigiTraining Plus course, now in its sixth edition and again being held in London (Feb. 25 to March 1), will include an excursion to Hull, where “Europe’s first purely digital multiplex is in operation.” Secretary general Elisabetta Brunella further noted that the course “is the only training initiative by the European Union’s MEDIA Programme to concentrate on the new technologies from the point of view of the movie theatres… The course provides both the necessary technical knowledge and the competences needed in the field of management and economic planning for evaluating the risks and opportunities involved in the digital transition.”

The latest edition of MEDIA Salles’ DGT Online Informer features a meeting with Paul Denny, manager of Vue Princes Quay Hull, and a column by Lene Løken, chief executive officer of Norway’s Film&Kino: www.mediasalles.it/dgt_online/index.htm

Playtimes for Ophuls and Tati
It is always great to see a true classic in the one-of-a-kind way it was intended to be seen. The New Year presented not one but two such opportunities. Something else both films have in common is that they were not universally liked in their times and pretty much bankrupted their producers.

New York City’s Film Society of Lincoln Center showed Jacques Tati’s modern, miraculous and democratically comedic Playtime in the restored 70mm format (France/Italy, 1967) with a print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive. In these digital times, the screening was a healthy reminder of what celluloid can do. Instead of the magnetic stereo sound present at the premiere, however, the immaculate restoration now listed DTS among its many contributors.

Twenty-three years after its grossly disliked first showings in CinemaScope and magnetic stereo, Lola Montès (France/West Germany, 1955) was remastered in Dolby Digital and finally restored as close as still possible to director Marcel Ophuls’ original take on the life of the infamous cabaret dancer and courtesan to famous men. Celebrating its more recent Connecticut debut at the Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, film critic Ann Lewinson reminded everyone that by the time The Sins of Lola Montès was released in North America in 1959, after at least three re-dubs and sequential reordering, its original two hours were down to 75 minutes. An excellent summary of a production history delivered in Dan Francisco by Stefan Drössler, director of the Munich Film Museum, can be found here: http://twitchfilm.net/site/view/lola-montesstefan-droessler-pfa-lecture.

Please e-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to Kevin.lally@nielsen.com.