Hollywood looks East for new partnerships

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Worldwide box office for all films released around the globe reached $31.8 billion in 2010. Box office outside the United States made up 67 percent of the worldwide total, a slightly higher proportion than in previous years. With these growing figures, each year new alliances keep popping up between Hollywood and many foreign countries.

Two of the most populous countries in the world are China and India, and two major announcements were recently made concerning new partnerships in these countries with Hollywood studios.

First, Paramount Pictures International and Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, a joint venture of Viacom and India’s Network 18, entered into a distribution alliance that will launch with the India-wide release of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Until recently, Paramount and Universal shared offices in India under the banner of United International Pictures, a similar arrangement they share in 18 other territories, but with the new alliance Viacom 18 will serve as the exclusive distributor for Paramount titles in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Andrew Cripps, president of PPI, stated, “We believe that India is poised to be one of the next great growth markets for foreign film.”

India is one of the few markets in the world where Hollywood titles only command a miniscule market share—estimated at 10 percent. That is why other studios have also ventured into India, some into production. For now, the Paramount deal only covers distribution.

Also recently, Legendary Entertainment announced the formation of Legendary East, a standalone entertainment company dedicated to creating feature film and related content for a worldwide audience. Based in Hong Kong, Legendary East intends to produce content for the global market which draws on its Chinese ties. The new company was conceived by Legendary Entertainment chairman and CEO Thomas Tull and Chinese-born Hong Kong media and finance entrepreneur Kelvin Wu. Their local co-production and distribution partner and strategic shareholder is Huayi Brothers Media Corp., a leading Chinese film conglomerate.

Legendary Entertainment is “committed to building a long-term presence in China and the surrounding region by becoming part of both the rapidly growing world-class filmmaking community and its media and business economy,” Tull said.

Added Wu, “Hong Kong has emerged as one of the most important international financial centers today. Thanks to the rapid growth of the Chinese film market, Hong Kong has been regaining its momentum to become eminent in film production.” No doubt there will be more big news coming out of these dynamic film markets.

The Fate of 3D

There has been an alarming amount of talk about the dip in 3D grosses at the domestic box office over the past few weeks. Two major releases, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 2, saw their 3D grosses drop below the 2D results.

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg said it best in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter: “3D is right smack in the middle of its terrible twos. We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust—whereas a year and a half ago, there was genuine excitement, enthusiasm and reward for the first group of 3D films that actually delivered a quality experience. Now that’s been seriously undermined.”

Not only do the studios need to produce quality films in this format, but exhibition needs to do its part to play these films in the best possible way, achieving crisp images with plenty of light. Only certain pictures should be distributed in 3D, and producers need to realize the time is over for pulling the wool over the patrons’ eyes.

It has been reported that moviegoers in the Boston area are being left in the dark due to the regular misuse of the lenses on new digital equipment at many of the region’s major theatre chains. But no one in the industry seems to be talking about it. Select auditoriums are using new digital projectors that are transforming the movie business by doing away with celluloid. In some of these auditoriums, theatre managers have made a practice of leaving the projectors’ 3D lenses in place when screening 2D films.

The industry has to come together and do the right thing. Better 3D films need to be provided and produced and theatre owners must take pride in what they put on the screen and what the presentation looks like.

CineEurope Celebrates 20 Years
Congratulations to CineEurope on the celebration of their 20th anniversary. From its small beginnings in Brussels, the event has grown to be the major European show for the motion picture industry. It now attracts theatre owners from all over the continent including Central and Eastern Europe.

In speaking with management before they left for Amsterdam, we learned that this year’s show is significant because of the renewed partnership with Europe’s International Union of Cinemas (UNIC). Born Cinema Expo International 20 years ago, the event had its name changed to reflect the partnership with UNIC as well as the more Europe-centric programming.

Show management has promised a great event with some tentpole films being screened, a larger trade fair, inspiring business sessions and exclusive product presentations. The international studio chiefs are bringing out the big guns to help promote their product lineup. The group includes Jim Cameron, Ridley Scott, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Antonio Banderas, and David Heyman, the producer of the Harry Potter franchise.

One of the major changes that delegates will experience is that the studios are making their product presentations more sophisticated, more entertaining and longer in duration. As the event draws closer, studios have been requesting additional time for the actual program as well as rehearsal time. This is a great benefit for the attendees, but causes havoc with management as they try to find time in a very tight schedule.

There will be no 35mm film projected—everything will be in digital. There will be two screenings in 3D, the final Harry Potter film and the new Transformers, as well as much footage in 3D. One of the most exciting presentations will be the Jim Cameron’s preview of 3D footage from Titanic.

In addition to seminars and the debut of new products and technologies, Ad Weststrate, UNIC president, and Chris Dodd, newly installed head of the MPAA, will give keynote speeches.

“The convention still delivers valuable information and product and the opportunity for the delegates to network,” management declared. FJI wishes CineEurope another successful show.