Good afternoon. Christmas feels like a lifetime ago (just asks Boris Johnson) and 2022 is certainly in full swing. Here’s your weekly dose of the biggest news and deep-dives of the week. Read on.
Berlin Is Back
In-person: Grab your steins, the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival is happening, and it’s happening in person. While the adjacent European Film Market is taking place virtually, organizers confirmed this week that the festival will progress as a physical event, albeit with certain restrictions in place. International Insider, for one, can’t wait.
Covid-friendly: Although the industry and Berlin organizers are breathing a collective sigh of relief, the festival will have a slightly depleted feel compared to previous years. The main offering has been reduced by four days and will now run February 10-16, cinemas will be reduced to 50% capacity and red carpets, press conferences and photo calls will also shrink in size. The biggest blow to the booze-friendly contingent will of course be the ‘no parties’ rule. One can only hope this depressing diktat will be lifted in 2023 as the entertainment world harks for those halcyon pre-Covid days.
More annos: Big week for Berlin annos, as the festival also revealed François Ozon drama Peter Von Kant will open. Starring Denis Menochet, Isabelle Adjani and Hanna Schygulla, the pic will be handed a world premiere at the Berlinale Palast. Speaking of Von Kant, Tom’s scoop Thursday introduced Iranian movie The Bitter Tears of Zahra Zand, the second reimagining of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1972 drama Petra Von Kant in as many years. Back to Berlin, the festival unveiled the 10 books that will take part in the Books At Berlinale feature this year, which makes up part of the Co-Production market.
Inside Amazon/MGM’s Action Movie Deal
Model Looks: Jake Gyllenhaal and Guy Ritchie’s new untitled action movie is getting underway this month in Spain. Yesterday we brought you news about how the film has been financed, including via big deals with Amazon and MGM, which have taken international and U.S. rights, respectively.
Windowing: It was Amazon that stumped up more than 50% of the $55M budget, nabbing Europe, Australia, Canada, Latin America, and South Africa, and the streamer also has the post-theatrical window in the U.S. MGM has a traditional theatrical window in the U.S. and will release via its United Artists Releasing banner. Chunky pre-production finance came from Russian financier and tech company Yandex, which owns local streamer Kinopoisk. Kinopoisk has all rights in CIS territories. Indie distributors have taken rights in Asia and Middle East, and local tax credits in Spain and Comerica bank also make up pieces of the finance puzzle. STX was in the middle cutting most of the deals.
Box seat deal: The action-thriller was an interesting project to follow given its hybrid streamer/theatrical and studio/indie distribution model, indicative of the evolving independent landscape. In recent years, a few of these in-demand packages have been snapped up by streamers in global deals that were too good for producers to turn down. This project had a different journey. Either way, Ritchie and his partners on the movie, including regular writing-producing collaborator Ivan Atkinson and former studio exec Josh Berger in his first film since he left Warner Bros, positioned themselves to be able to drive their own financing strategy and ultimately retain a high level of creative and financial control.
Amazon Goldwyn-Mayer: While the U.S. and international deals were done separately, the outcome is intriguing when one considers the combined buying power of Amazon and MGM going forward. Will this model be something the pair look to do more of in coming years as the dust settles on Amazon’s $8.4BN mega-deal for the James Bond studio?
Spider-Man: No Way To BAFTA: Awards season is hitting its stride and Wednesday saw the release of BAFTA’s long-awaited longlist, but one notable absence was all-conquering Box Office smash Spider-Man: No Way Home. On Monday, we revealed Sony failed to upload the film to BAFTA’s online streaming platform in time, with the theory being that Sony is sticking hard to its theatrical-only window for the pic and refused to upload due to piracy fears. Going forwards, this may become more common.
The others: It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from the lengthy nomination lists but worth noting is No Time To Die’s 12 appearances and non-Spider Man Marvel offerings such as Eternals and Shang-Chi being almost entirely shunned bar a few technical categories. Top tipped pics such as Belfast and The Power Of The Dog were both well represented. Round two nominations close on January 27, with the awards due to take place in person on March 13. Ozzie comedy queen Rebel Wilson will host.
HBO Max Euro Moves
Staffing up Turkey & France: HBO Max is in business in Europe as it gears up for 21 territory rollouts this calendar year. Tom revealed Wednesday that Turkcell GM Baris Zavaroglu will oversee the Turkish operation, demonstrating how keen WarnerMedia is to have boots on the ground in multiple territories, even those less likely to produce lots of original content. Just a day later, ARTE France Drama Commissioning Editor Clémentine Bobin was added to HBO Max France’s team to work closely with recently appointed VP Vera Peltekian on all things French originals. Netflix took several years to open bases in its major non-U.S. territories but the new breed of streamer appears to be doing it as they expand. One to keep a close eye on.
Goaaaal+: Meanwhile in streamer world, a major sporting play from the new breed as Paramount+ picked up Premier League rights in Mexico and Central America. The ViacomCBS streamer will show the top tier of English football for three seasons from 2022/23 onwards and is demonstrating that Amazon isn’t the only one playing in the premium sports game.
Jana Bennett Remembered
“Trailblazer”: Tributes flooded in Thursday as the world learned of the death of Jana Bennett, a former History Channel President, Discovery General Manager and BBC TV boss. The industry powerhouse had more impact on both sides of the Atlantic than the vast majority of her peers. BBC Director General Tim Davie called Bennett a “trailblazer” and “one of the most talented producers of her generation,” while A+E Networks Boss Paul Buccieri said her contributions are “too enormous to count.” UK TV trade Broadcast had a litany of other tributes from the likes of Bad Wolf boss Jane Tranter and former BBC1 controllers Danny Cohen and Lorraine Heggessey, all of whom painted a picture of a woman of integrity and talent. In typically courageous style, Bennett went public about her rare brain tumor in 2019, revealing at that point that she had become a trustee of OurBrainBank, a cancer research app allowing GBM patients to share their symptoms with clinicians. She is a big loss.
Sitting down with Arik Kneller: Our latest International Disruptor feature spotlights Arik Kneller, the Israeli founder of The Kneller Agency, which boasts an impressive client list of names from the ever-interesting Israeli entertainment world including Our Boys’ Joseph Cedar, Fauda writer and Our Boys co-creator Noah Stollman and Shtisel writers and co-creators Ori Elon and Yehonatan Indurksy. “I’m so lucky to work with such amazingly talented people,” Arik tells Diana Lodderhose. Read the full piece here.
Return Of The “Flat-Earthers”
Making the world go round: BBC Director General Tim Davie’s editorial boss David Jordan generated headlines this week by pledging that the BBC will give a platform to “flat-earthers” if it means fairly representing the views of all. Jordan and Davie were being grilled on impartiality in front of a UK House of Lords Committee and, while there was clearly an element of hyperbole in what he was trying to get across, Jordan’s comments raised a few eyebrows. Twitter was alight. Meanwhile, Davie sought to explain away BBC News’ high-profile car crash of an interview with Alan Dershowitz in the wake of the Ghislaine Maxwell case, in which the interviewer failed to mention that the notorious lawyer had been accused of historic sexual abuse by one of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers. Davie sought to blame personal error for the mistake rather than the recent swingeing financial cuts to the news division, no doubt leading to some red faces in BBC HQ.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: British two-time Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo is to star in and produce sci-fi feature Blink Speed for Netflix alongside Trial of The Chicago 7 producer Matt Jackson.
🌶️ Another one: Russian media giants Ruben Dishdishyan and Len Blavatnik have entered into a five-year agreement to co-produce and co-finance feature films.
🌶️ Another one: Channel 4 prison drama Screw has sold to BritBox in Australia and New Zealand network TVNZ.
🚚 On the move: BBC Studios/UKTV acquisitions exec Roxana Rehman has been promoted as the outfit completes a distribution restructure.
🚀 Rising up: After moving into the top three last week, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is now second in the all-time Netflix charts with 321M viewing hours. Only Dwayne Johnson’s Red Notice to go.
🍿 Box office: Nancy has the latest French film export figures from the Unifrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema event in Paris.
🎁 Wrapped: Canadian-Lebanese co-production Valley Of Exile has finished after a challenging shoot, which had to contend with Lebanon’s collapsing economy, the pandemic and a refugee camp setting. Andreas had the scoop.
Andreas Wiseman contributed to this week’s International Insider.