Benetton and Berlusconi bank on movies


October 9 marked the founding of Italy’s largest chain with 24 movie theatres, 242 screens and a 15% market share. After merging the former country holdings of Warner Village Cinemas and Medusa’s multiplexes, the resulting circuit will be branded Space Cinema.

With media mogul and prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (Mediaset/Medusa) and fashion dynasty Benetton (21 Investimenti) holding ownership stakes of 49% and 51%, respectively, two of the country’s best-known names are banking on the future of moviegoing.

“Our mission is to make the market grow by generating new value,” said circuit head Giuseppe Corrado. One of the first steps in that direction was an agreement with Arts Alliance Media for the deployment of digital projection.

Raleigh Readies Budapest Studio
Scheduled to open in April 2010, Raleigh Studios Budapest will feature 15 acres (61,000 sq. m.) of backlot space and nine soundstages, including a super-sized one at 45,000 sq. ft. and with 65 feet to the grid (4,180 sq. m., 20 m.). Additional services and amenities include transportation, set and location lighting and grip with Hollywood Rentals, line producing with Raleigh Film, as well as a state-of-the-art post-production facility and digital film laboratory.  According to the specs provided, everything is built from the ground up and engineered to the same Hollywood standards that customers of the largest independent studio operator in the U.S. have grown accustomed to.

The studios are reachable from most major European cities by plane in about three hours, and president Michael Moore sees further business opportunities for Budapest by assisting clients with local production support mechanisms. At this time, Hungary offers a 20% to 25% incentive to qualified productions.

MEDIA Salles Spreads Digital News
The latest edition (no. 49) of MEDIA Salles’ newsletter features items by Eveline Ferwerda (about digitalization in The Netherlands) and MEDIA Salles secretary general Elisabetta Brunella (“Berlin’s Astor Film Lounge: All different, all digital”). Tero Koistinen, chief executive officer of the Finnish Chamber of Film and MEDIA Salles executive committee member, invites readers to “DigiTraining Plus 2010,” scheduled for Feb. 17-21 in Helsinki.

To Save and Project Prinz Achmed
Three-quarters of a century of legendary filmmaking were at the center of last month’s showcase of film preservation at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The seventh annual festival included American talent such as Frank Capra and John Cassavetes, alongside a four-title tribute to the “superlative preservation work of Sony Pictures Repertory,” headed by Grover Crisp.

Fitting for this column, curators Joshua Siegel and Anne Morra and collection manager Katie Trainor also selected many European masters for the program. “To Save and Project” featured films by Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Jean Epstein, Marcel L’Herbier, Chris Marker, Victor Sjöström and Luchino Visconti. This columnist’s favorite, without doubt, is Lotte Reiniger’s hand-cut silhouette-animation feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926, restored by Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt), which was introduced by the artist Kara Walker and accompanied live by Ben Model.

In related news, the reconstructed, almost 30 minutes longer cut of Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, restored by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation in cooperation with ZDF and arte, and the Deutsche Kinemathek-Museum für Film und Fernsehen (Berlin) and the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken (Buenos Aires), will be shown during the 2010 Berlin Film Festival.

MoMA’s “To Save and Project” is a celebration of the collaborative effort by the members of the International Federation of Film Archives to rescue the world’s film heritage.

Cineworld U.K. Up 6.5%
In the latest interim management statement, the board of Cineworld Group plc reported increases in box-office and retail revenues of 10.9% and 5%, respectively. These results for the 43 weeks to Oct. 22, 2009 were deemed “healthy,” particularly when “set against the backdrop of exceptional Q3 trading last year due to the outstanding success of Mamma Mia.” 3D films contributed to an overall box-office market share year-to-date in U.K./Ireland of 23.8% (source: Nielsen EDI). Likewise, “given the challenging consumer environment,” such “good performance” on the snack front was described as reflecting “the appeal of Cineworld’s retail offer and value propositions. The strong performance in these two core revenue streams has compensated for the decline in other income, principally screen-advertising revenue, which reflects the further weakening in advertising demand.”

Foreigners Submit to Oscar
Sixty-five countries from Albania (Alive!, Artan Minarolli, director) to Vietnam (Don’t Burn It, Dang Nhat Minh) submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 82nd Academy Awards. While these are two less than the record set for last year, the number of submissions is up two from 2007.

Eight of the European films under consideration by the Academy’s dedicated committee were recipients of special support by European Film Promotion. Explained Claudia Landsberger, VP of the Hamburg, Germany-based funding body, “All of the films were extremely successful in their home countries and at international film festivals, and it is our hope that we can give maximum exposure to these extraordinary films during this decisive time in Los Angeles.”

The Wilshire Screening Room in Beverly Hills showed the contenders from Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland and The Netherlands for industry professionals, selected press and Academy members. This “unique screening series” was part of EFP’s extended presence at the American Film Market that offered a joint office to 19 production companies and sales agents from a dozen countries and, for the first time, funding from Film Sales Support (FSS) for the marketing of European films at the AFM.

50 Awards for Four Minutes
A shared best actress price for Monica Bleibtreu and Hannah Herzsprung along with the best score at X. Muestra de Cine de Santo Domingo are the latest awards for the German film Vier Minuten (Four Minutes). Chris Krause received directing honors at the 11th Berdanks International Film Festival (Ukraine), where Herzsprung also scored another prize.

With 50 awards from around the globe, the Kordes & Kordes Film production is one of the most successful German titles around. In addition to Lola honors at home, the youth prison drama about music, passion and the past has collected awards from Austria, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, France, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Namibia, Norway, Romania, Russia, the United States and Zimbabwe.

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