Berlin Film Festival eyes Shooting Stars

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During this past Berlin Film Festival, ten of “the most promising young actors in Europe” received a taste of the glamorous life with photo sessions and press conferences, meetings with casting directors, parties and more. At Berlinale-Palast, Chinese actress Ziyi Zhang handed out the annual “Shooting Stars” award, sponsored by the legendary Studio Babelsberg, and supported by the MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Selection jury member and Belgian director Marion Hänsel hoped that “the Berlinale experience serves them well, not only to raise their own profile but also to highlight the creative energy from the new generation of European filmmakers.”

London Watches Watchmen
Within a few days of the Feb. 23 Watchmen world premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square, Dr. Manhattan returned to London for what Paramount Pictures U.K. called a “spectacle beyond the thinkable.” Projecting “specially created, never-to-be-seen-again Watchmen footage,” the world’s largest water screen of 72 high by 100 feet across (22 by 30 meters) saw the blue-skinned, super-powered being rise on the River Thames, halfway between the London Eye and the Shell Building.

German Film Institutes New Archive
More than 20,000 film prints have found a new home in Wiesbaden-Biebrich, near Frankfurt, Germany. Hailed as “one of the largest consolidation projects,” the collections of three different locations are now all placed under one air-conditioned roof. The new archive of the Deutsche Filminstitut (DIF) also houses the Kirch Media collection and films from the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Highlights include early footage of pioneer Oskar Messter and a 1921 Hamlet starring Asta Nielsen, along with special collections of avant-garde films of the 1920s and ’30s and representatives of New German Cinema.

Alongside the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv and Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, DIF fulfills the function of a central German kinemathek that collects, preserves and restores films and makes them accessible to public and education alike (www.deutsches-filminstitut.de). At the Frankfurt Filmmuseum, the Institut has additional holdings that include private collections of Curd Jürgens, Maria Schell and Volker Schlöndorff, together with production company archives and those of the German Exhibitor and Distributor Associations.

AAM Easy As ABC
Arts Alliance Media (AAM, artsalliancemedia.com), Europe’s leading digital-cinema provider with 420 operated screens in the U.K., France, Spain and Norway, reached an exclusive agreement with Amsterdam Booking Company B.V. (ABC, abcbooking.nl) to integrate 68 fully DCI-compliant digital screens and to network their 20 independently owned cinemas via satellite across The Netherlands. The two partners jointly selected Christie projectors, Doremi servers and Arqiva Satellite and Media for the deployment. FTT Filmtronics will install the equipment, provide maintenance and local support.

Paul Visser, who founded ABC in 2004 to enable independent cinemas to jointly program content and gain market strength, said, “We see clearly that the future of cinema is going to be digital, 3D and live events. AAM is the best partner to make that happen and enable us to be the first widespread movers in the Netherlands.”

AAM also finalized a deal with leading Spanish circuit Yelmo Cines to equip 18 new screens with digital cinema, 3D and satellite capabilities, in partnership with local integrator partner Suministros Kelonik.

Vue Installs RealD Screens
U.K. theatre circuit Vue Entertainment is adding 200 RealD 3D screens. The rollout has already begun with an installation at Vue’s flagship location in Leicester Square, London. Additional RealD systems are ready for installation immediately as new screens are added monthly at Vue cinemas.

Turkey’s AFM Fest Screens Indies
AFM Sinemalari, the Turkish arm of Eurasia Cinemas, once again brought together “the year’s most talked-about films from across the globe” at the AFM International Independent Film Festival (2009.ifistanbul.com). From Feb. 12 to 22, the eighth annual !f Istanbul welcomed some 60,000 people to four AFM venues in the city on the Bosporus, followed by !f Ankara from Feb. 26 to March 1. In Istanbul, Taiwanese director Mong-Hong Chung won $15,000 in the !f Inspired International Film Competition for his “dark, poignant meditation,” Parking.

Kinepolis Counts on Rogiers
Pan-European exhibitor Kinepolis Group appointed Henk Rogiers as its new chief financial officer. The 38-year old commercial engineer with a master’s degree in controllership has been leading the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) and Controlling division at KPMG CFO Advisory. Although not yet accounted for under his management, Kinepolis ended 2008 with 2.1% higher revenues of €216.9 million (US$273.4 mil.), leading to an operating profit of €28.7 million (US$36.2 mil.).

Although circuit-wide attendance was down 0.8% from 22.08 to 21.87 million moviegoers, income from ticket sales increased by 3% due to higher average ticket prices caused by “the success of digital films,” Kinepolis noted. “Ticket sales as a percentage of total revenue (59%) remained unchanged.” At €15.2 million (US$19.2 mil.), Group net profit was up 3.1% over 2007.

From South West to Abu Dhabi

The emirate of Abu Dhabi has tapped David Shepheard as its film commissioner. The former head of South West Screen, the U.K. regional funding and services agency, has been tasked with “working out our long-term strategy over the next four to five months,” Shepeard confirmed to Daily Variety, and to “see how we can fit in to the overall picture of developing local filmmaking talent.”

Abu Dhabi offers a production and financing arm, imagenation (imagenationabudhabi.com), and is developing TwoFour 54 (twofour54.com) as its very own media zone. Investor group Mubadala has also been in talks with the Sundance Institute to bring a version of the festival to the Middle East. Qatar recently made a deal with Tribeca Enterprises.

Bristol Bristles with Live Entertainment
After successful launches at the Showcase Cinemas in Coventry and Leicester, United Kingdom, U.S.-based National Amusements is now standing up for comedy at the new Showcase Cinema de Lux Cabot Circus (“Class of 2008,” FJI February). Partnering with Bottle Rocket, Showcase Live! will feature “some of the freshest U.K. talent…in the luxurious environment of the Directors Hall,” allowing guests “to enjoy full view of centre stage, as well as conversation and interaction with the talent, family and friends.” Not to mention exclusive access to the adjacent lounge, special food and bar offerings (www.cinemadelux.co.uk).

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@nielsen.com.