Record 67 countries compete for Oscar

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Record 67 countries compete for Oscar
The record number of submissions for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 81st Academy Awards of Merit includes Captain Abu Raed from first-time entrant Jordan. Director Amin Matalqa joins fellow filmmakers from Afghanistan (Opium War, by Siddiq Barmak) and Albania (The Sorrow of Mrs. Schneider, Piro Milkani and Eno Milkani) to Uruguay (Kill Them All, Esteban Schroeder) and Venezuela (The Color of Fame, Alejandro Bellame Palacios), with every European country and many more in between.

Nominations will be announced on Jan. 22, 2009 at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, followed by the awards on Feb. 22 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.

New appointments in Sweden, Wales & Italy
The Swedish Film institute appointed Bengt Toll to head its Audience Department, where he will be responsible for distribution and promotion of Swedish films, including the support of theatres, film import, and international marketing. Cissi Elwin, the Institute’s managing director, named “new ways of distribution, digitization of the theatres, and the monopoly-like situation in the cinema market” as “some of the key questions in the future of Swedish film.”

Two new team members will ponder the movie future in Wales as well. Says Pauline Burt, chief executive of the Film Agency for Wales: “We have a real commitment to working with filmmakers to help bring their projects to the screen, and to work directly with exhibitors and festival organizers—as opposed to simply awarding funding and stepping back.” BBC Wales producer Kate Crowther joins the Cardiff-based organization as production executive, and Eve White will be working as exhibition and education executive with department head Dan Thomas.

In Italy, Paolo Protti was reappointed president of national exhibitor organization ANEC. For a second three-year term, he will represent some 3,000 screens, including the art houses of FICE, and hopes to bring the multiplex operators of ANEM into the fold. Also on his agenda is digital cinema. “Technology does not have to be an obstacle and can help us work better, but we need to find agreements that don’t create problems for exhibitors in the initial phase,” Protti told ScreenDaily.com.

Sounds and memories of Sardinia

As co-sponsor of this past New York Film Festival and part of a week-long series of arts-related events, Italy’s Sardinia Region presented a rare and special screening at Manhattan’s Town Hall of historical footage discovered at Instituto Luce archives.

While it is always gratifying to see how motion pictures can perfectly preserve the past (as long as they have been properly preserved themselves), Sardinian jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu added a specifically composed live score to the proceedings. His symphony beautifully accompanied the sun-drenched images of culture, tradition and changing times. The imported ensemble of local singers and musicians included a 2,000-year-old pipe instrument called Launeddas. Loud applause rightfully ensued throughout the showing.

Art of Madalena at MoMA

In another example of both Italian and cinematic culture in Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art is paying tribute to Batiste Madalena.

Born in Italy in 1902, the artist was hired by George Eastman to design and hand-paint the film posters for his Eastman Theatre in Rochester, New York. With 3,325 seats, it was third-largest in the country at its 1922 opening. From 1924 till 1928, Madalena created over 1,400 colorful, stylish and altogether original works in tempera on paper board. For every change of bill, he had to paint as many as eight new posters to fill the outdoor vitrines. Some 250 survived as Madalena himself rescued them from the trash behind the theatre.

Exhibition curator Ron Magliozzi calls the works (on display until April 6, 2009) “rare examples of the lost practice of exhibitor-commissioned film advertising.” Charged with “producing posters that were as unusual as Eastman’s carefully orchestrated entertainment programs,” the introductory notes further explain, “Madalena had to create forceful and effective selling tools, but also ‘high-class’ and artful graphic works, eschewing the messy narrative content and 19th-century sensationalism that characterized mass-produced film posters in the previous decade.”

In conjunction with the gallery exhibit, Jenny He programmed a series of films for which Madalena created the posters. Since they were all based on advance press materials and narratives issued by the production companies, and not the actual films, the museum found, “his work brings unexpected color and a new perspective to the iconic stars and films of silent cinema’s mature period.”

Screen Digests video sales in eight markets

“Understanding the link between box-office success and video sales is the Holy Grail in movie analysis for Hollywood studios,” notes Helen Davis Jayalath, head of video at U.K.-based media analysts Screen Digest. “Video sales represent on average 41% of the worldwide revenue generated by a film, compared with just 25% generated at the box office.”
The company’s latest research across eight markets discovered several key findings on the subject:

-The U.K. and Australia were the only markets to see growth in both cinema and video sales in 2007; Germany’s rally in box-office grosses in 2006 led to increased video sales in 2007; France, Spain, Japan and the U.S. experienced a decline in video sales despite stable box-office takings; and in Italy video continued to fall despite an upturn in theatrical revenue in 2007.

-In five of the eight markets, consumers spent more on trips to the cinema in 2007 compared to the previous year; their spending on video (all genres) rose from $13.7 billion in 2003 to $17.3 billion in 2007, yet buying movies (feature films) has declined everywhere except the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Share of movie titles has been eroded by at least 5% in every market except the U.K., and by over 20% in France, primarily due to the dramatic increase of TV series sales.

Fraunhofer tests d-cinema on DVD

In cooperation with the Federal Film Board (FFA), the Munich, Germany-based technology experts of the Fraunhofer Institut developed a DVD to test d-cinema compatibility. Each one contains two Digital Cinema Packages (DCP) of the same content—31 seconds of Germany’s generic moviegoing promotion spot—but created by using either the Interop or SMPTE standard.

According to the FFA, the DCPs allow one to check whether equipment is compatible with DCI-issued specifications. Dr. Dirk Rüggeberg, FFA d-cinema consultant since 2003, called the DVD “an important aid to anyone who will be in touch with the highly complex subject of digitization,” including film production, print labs, hardware manufacturers and cinema operators.

Under a special arrangement with “European Update,” the disk will be made available to all interested FJI readers beyond Germany. Please address your orders at €55 for each DVD (€50 within Europe) to Jan Oesterlin, managing director of Zukunft Kino Marketing GmbH: Oesterlin@zukunft-kino-marketing.de or phone +49.30. 432 0815 7 and fax +49.30 230 0402 6.

Please e-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally (at) nielsen (dot) com.