The Sorcerer Supreme weaved some box office magic this weekend as “Doctor Strange” opened to a sterling $86 million overseas.

The latest Marvel adventure doesn’t hit the U.S. until next week, but it’s already proving to be a hit with foreign crowds. Disney, Marvel’s parent company, said that “Doctor Strange’s” opening is nearly 50% ahead of “Ant-Man,” 37% ahead of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and 23% ahead of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” That’s a strong result given that Doctor Strange isn’t as widely known as other comic-book characters.

 

Related

Box Office: ‘Inferno’ Fizzles With $15 Million As ‘Madea’ Pulls Off Victory

 

“Doctor Strange” did particularly well in Imax screenings, earning $7.8 million to become the company’s highest-grossing October launch on an international basis.

The film opened in 33 territories, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico, Korea, and Hong Kong. It was the top-grossing movie in nearly every market in which it opened.

In addition to the United States, the film still has several major territories where it will open in the coming days, including China, Brazil, Japan, and Russia.

“Doctor Strange” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, a brilliant surgeon who turns to mysticism. It co-stars Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams, and was directed by Scott Derrickson (“Sinister”).

Reviews have been strong, with critics praising the performances and Derrickson’s blend of humor and fantasy.

In his review for Variety, Peter Debruge wrote that the film admirably ducked superhero conventions and praised it as “Marvel’s most satisfying entry since ‘Spider-Man 2.'”

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/box-office/marvel-doctor-strange-box-office-1201904483/

JOHANNESBURG — Turner is putting its weight behind Africa’s growing toon biz this week, as the company partners with South African industry body Animation SA on a search for the continent’s top toon talent.

The Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition, which takes place during Discop Africa from Nov. 2-4 in Johannesburg, will give African producers and storytellers a chance to pitch their properties to a panel of local and international industry experts, buyers, and commissioning editors. The network will be handing out cash prizes to two African toons currently in development.

Pierre Branco, Turner’s VP and general manager of southern Europe and Africa, calls it “a demonstration of how we are strengthening our presence across the continent, and building our local production strategy to create content that is both relevant and engaging for our African audiences.”

For Nick Wilson, chair of the export missions committee of Animation SA, the partnership is a “validation” of a years-long effort to develop local capacity in animation.

“Our mandate is to grow the animation industry in South Africa, and there is no better way to do that than in dialogue with one of the biggest players in global animation,” he says.

It’s been a banner year for South African animators, who have enjoyed a string of high-profile successes. At Annecy in June, South Africa’s Bugbox Animation and France’s Folimage announced the the first animation co-prod between the two countries, a 2D children’s TV series, “Musi & Cuckoo.”

In September, Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios announced its third collaboration with the U.K.’s Oscar-nominated Magic Light Pictures, an animated adaption of “The Highway Rat,” by author/illustrator duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The companies’ 2015 collaboration, “Stick Man,” earned widespread acclaim, including a prestigious Cristal for a TV Production at the Annecy animation fest, and a recent children’s BAFTA nomination. Their adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Rhymes” (pictured) will bow later this year.

In October, Sunrise Productions inked a global distrib deal with the U.K.’s Aardman Animations, the producers of Oscar-winner “Wallace and Gromit.” Aardman will rep Sunrise’s new series, “Munki and Trunk,” which world premiered at MIP Junior.

Wendy Spinks, CEO of Zeropoint Studios, which has five IPs currently in development with international partners, and will present the animated series “Hatch” during the Turner competition this week, summed up the position of many bizzers enjoying the South African toon boom: “Exciting times ahead!”

Skilled animators and a favorable exchange rate have paved the way for South Africa to emerge as an exporter of world-class animation at highly competitive prices. The steady supply of service work in recent years has had a dramatic trickle-down effect, according to Nina Pffeifer, executive producer of Tulips and Chimneys

“The competition is certainly fiercer than before, but this is indicative of a growing and stronger industry, which is good news for everybody,” she says. “It’s great to see smaller studios popping up, and the pool of talent is growing nicely.”

For Triggerfish prexy Stuart Forrest, though, the industry’s vast potential still remains to be tapped.

“Capacity is one of the driving forces behind the decisions we make,” he says. “We need to be quite selective with the work we take on, simply because the industry is limited at the moment.”

Since the release of the studio’s first animated feature, “Adventures in Zambezia,” in 2012, Triggerfish has been at the forefront of the local industry. It followed “Zambezia” with “Khumba” in 2013, with the two films ranking among the top five highest-grossing South African pics of all time.

The studio hopes to deliver its third feature, “Seal Team,” in 2019, and the company has six features and four TV series currently in different stages of development.

Triggerfish has also been among the leaders in reaching out to the rest of the continent, where pockets of skilled animators generally lack broader industry support.

Last year Triggerfish launched an ambitious pan-African initiative, the Story Lab, backed by South Africa’s Dept. of Trade and Industry and the Walt Disney Co. The continent-wide talent search and competition yielded four projects for which the company is now negotiating international deals. Forrest says the decision to look beyond South African borders for the competition opened it up to a range of new voices.

“The continent of Africa has 1.1 billion people, of which most of them are very young,” says Forrest. “There’s tremendous talent.”

Interest from the likes of Disney and Turner highlight growing confidence in the ability of local animators to create world-class content. And those animators are starting to deliver. Sunrise’s “Jungle Beat” has been broadcast in over 180 countries on channels including Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Nickelodeon. Triggerfish’s “Zambezia” and “Khumba” have been distributed in over 150 countries and been dubbed into at least 27 languages.

The success points to what Forrest sees as an important opportunity for Africa to engage with the rest of the world.

“Animation is a wonderful way to tell our stories,” he says.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/turner-forges-partnership-with-south-africas-animation-sa-1201904317/

Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and “Marnie,” claims the director stalked and sexually assaulted and harassed her when she worked with him in the 1960s.

In an excerpt from her new memoir “Tippi,” obtained by the New York Post, Hedren details her relationship with Hitchcock in the ’60s, after she moved from New York City to Los Angeles following her divorce from Peter Griffith. Hitchcock, who died in 1980, tracked her down after seeing her in a commercial for meal replacement shakes, and signed her to a five-year movie contract.

After that, Hedren alleges, Hitchcock developed an unhealthy relationship with the actress. While working on 1963’s “The Birds,” the role that shot Hedren to stardom, Hedren claims that he was extremely possessive of her, warning her castmates, including co-star Rod Taylor, not to “touch her.” She claims that if Hitchcock even saw her talking to another man, he would give her an “expressionless, unwavering stare … even if he was talking to a group of people on the other side of the soundstage.”

Hedren further claims that Hitchcock would stalk her, telling his driver to pass by her home, and detailed an incident in which he allegedly tried to kiss her in the back of his limo. “It was an awful, awful moment,” she writes.

The alleged abuse reportedly continued on the set of their next movie together, “Marnie,” where Hedren says Hitchcock had a door installed that connected his office to her dressing room. On that set, Hedren says Hitchcock entered her dressing room and tried to “put his hands on me.”

“It was sexual, it was perverse,” she writes. “The harder I fought him, the more aggressive he became.”

She writes that she didn’t tell anyone of the alleged abuse because “sexual harassment and stalking were terms that didn’t exist” at the time.

It’s not the first time, however, Hedren has spoken out about Hitchcock’s behavior. HBO’s 2012 film “The Girl” detailed the darker side of their relationship, and Hedren previously gave interviews describing his apparent obsession with her. “He was a misogynist,” she told the New York Times in 2012. “I think he had a whole lot of problems.”

“Tippi” will be released on Nov. 1.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/tippi-hedren-alfred-hitchcock-sexual-assault-1201904500/

The box office failure of “Inferno,” the latest Robert Langdon adventure, is a reminder that even the hottest literary properties have a limited shelf life.

The film debuted to $15 million this weekend, a far cry from the $77.1 million debut of “The Da Vinci Code” back in 2006 — a time when author Dan Brown’s books dominated best-seller lists and made Opus Dei shenanigans the plane read of choice for a generation of travelers. Three years later, “Angels & Demons,” a follow-up to “The Da Vinci Code,” opened to substantially less than its predecessor, but still kicked off to a sizable $46 million.

Perhaps “Inferno” and its protagonist, Harvard cryptologist Langdon, are a casualty of our binge-watching culture. Since Brown’s novels first hit stores, Netflix has created a new distribution method, releasing whole seasons of shows in one easily digestible batch. In the process, viewers have grown accustomed to plowing through hours of content in a matter of days.

 

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“Even a week seems too long to wait for a new episode of ‘Westworld,'” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore. “We live in a binge-watching world. We’ve been conditioned to get serialized content immediately and these long-lead sequels don’t satisfy viewers who want everything immediately. By the time the next installment comes out, people have moved on to the next thing.”

In the ten years since “The Da Vinci Code” first made its way to screens, the zeitgeist has cycled through several different literary sensations, a number of them “girl” related. There’s been “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” novels, “Gone Girl,” and “The Girl on the Train.” That’s to say nothing of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” and Bill O’Reilly’s on-going meditations on the brutal deaths of assorted historical figures.

Many of these have made their way to theaters. Some have been successes. All serve as reminders of the limited window Hollywood has to convert wide readerships into ticket sales, and the struggles that multi-part literary adaptations face in sustaining interest.

Even films that hit it big, such as “The Hunger Games,” have seen their audiences shrink by the time the credits roll on their finale. Last winter’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” racked up $653.4 million globally, an impressive figure, but $200 million shy of what “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” generated. As more time passed, the audience started to fall away.

Katniss Everdeen ended with more gas in the tank than poor Tris Prior, the protagonist of the truncated “Divergent” film series. That dystopian adventure franchise started strong, with the first chapter earning $288.9 million globally. By the time part three, “The Divergent Series: Allegiant,” hit theaters, fans had moved on, and the penultimate episode racked up a measly $179.2 million worldwide. Instead of ending the series as planned with one final film, Lionsgate, the studio behind “Divergent,” hopes to wrap things up as a television movie that will segue into a separate small screen series. The cast of the film seems none-too-enthused about the change in venue.

Though Harry Potter ended strong in 2011, with the final film in the wizarding series earning a franchise-best $1.3 billion, its upcoming spinoff film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” has had to reintroduce audiences to the world of Hogwarts. It is on track to debut to $75 million next month — a strong result, but a far cry from the last Potter sequel’s $169.2 million debut.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” easily translated its literary success into boffo box office, racking up $571 million globally. However, Universal, the studio behind the film, may have made a mistake by waiting to greenlight a sequel until the first installment hit theaters. “Fifty Shades Darker” opens on Feb. 10, 2017, a full year after “Fifty Shades of Grey” debuted, by which point BDSM may not seem as forbidden or as hot. This time, cognizant of the dangers of longer waits, a third chapter, “Fifty Shades Freed,” was shot concurrently.

Speed is essential when it comes to spinning best-selling novels into box office phenomenons. A film version of “Gone Girl” was underway two years after the novel became a favorite of book clubs the world over. That alacrity paid off in ticket sales. In contrast, six years separated “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s” publication and its transfer to the big screen, and the result was middling grosses and a stalled would-be film franchise. It didn’t help that a Swedish version of the books had already made it to theaters, earning strong reviews and a loyal audience of fans.

Sony knew that the Langdon movies were running out of steam. That’s why the studio halved the budget for “Inferno” and moved its release date to the fall instead of the summer when the previous Brown adaptations hit theaters. However, the studio decided to greenlight the film because the previous movies did impressive business overseas. In this case, “Inferno” is no different. Even as it flames out domestically, “Inferno” has earned $150 million at the foreign box office. Will that be enough to justify more Langdon adventures?

“If they think there’s money to be made, they’ll keep digging,” said Jeff Bock, box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. “Leave it to Hollywood to beat a dead horse’s skeleton.”

Maybe the solution for the next best-selling series of novels is to take a page from Netflix and release all the sequels at the same time. That would scratch the urge to binge before audiences’ attention gets captured by something brighter and shinier.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/box-office/inferno-box-office-netflix-binge-watching-1201904464/

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s sixth annual Art + Film Gala drew a glitzy crowd of over 550 Hollywood stars, fine artists, industry execs, and society movers on Saturday night, raising $3.6 million for the Wilshire Blvd. arts institution while honoring artist Robert Irwin, a pioneer of the light and space movement, and filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, who won best picture and best director Oscars for “The Hurt Locker.”

Society doyenne Eva Chow and actor-activist Leonardo DiCaprio co-chaired the event. As befits an evening designed to bring together luminaries from the worlds of film, art, and fashion, the crowd included Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Salma Hayek, Michael Heizer, Brie Larson, James Corden, Melanie Griffith, Miranda July, Demi Moore, Zoe Saldana, Kate Upton, and Jaden Smith. Among the moguls present: Bob Iger, Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, and Jimmy Iovine. The Motion Picture Academy was repped by Cheryl Boone Isaacs and Dawn Hudson.

Many wore Gucci, the fashion house that has sponsored all six LACMA Art + Film Galas. They included Chow, Paltrow, Bigelow, Irwin, Corden, Saldana, Cooper, and Larson. All feasted on dishes created by Patina’s Joachim Splichal and sipped champagne provided by Laurent-Perrier.

One thing stood out at the 6th annual Art+Film Gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: No politics.

In contrast to last year, when honoree Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu called attention to immigration reform just as Donald Trump’s star as a presidential candidate was ascending, political talk was largely absent from the podium. Chow did allude to today’s fractious atmosphere when she told the audience, “There’s lots of stuff happening that’s so strange and so weird this year,” but then pivoted to the evening’s focus: “Fashion, film, and art are what makes the world go around.”

Following a short film written and directed by filmmaker Lisanne Skyler called “A Few Things About Robert Irwin,” LACMA CEO Michael Govan introduced the artist as someone “who, for his whole career, has questioned the nature of art.” Recovering from a broken back, the frail but lucid Irwin kept his remarks short. “I have nothing to say other than to thank you,” he said as he walked off the stage.

Bigelow was also brief. She was introduced via a video by her friend and mentor Lawrence Weiner. Presently at work on an Annapurna Pictures-backed film about the 1967 Detroit riots, Bigelow focused instead on her short documentary to be released next year, “The Protectors,” about the dangers faced by rangers protecting African elephants from ivory poachers.

“We hope to delay, even prevent, the extinction of a species,” she said. “It’s a moral necessity.”

Following the presentations, Paltrow introduced singer-songwriter BØRNS, who gave a dynamic performance that culminated in gala guests dancing to “10,000 Emerald Pools,” a cover of “Benny and the Jets,” and “Electric Love.”

Even as it celebrated art and film of the past and present, the gala also offered a glimpse into the future. During the cocktail hour, guests were able to preview a virtual reality clip of Bigelow’s “The Protectors.” Donning VR headsets, their bodies twisted and their heads bobbed up and down as they followed the action.

Set for release next year, “The Protectors” is being made via a partnership with National Geographic Channel, Here Be Dragons, and Annapurna Pictures.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/leonardo-dicaprio-is-co-host-at-star-studded-lacma-artfilm-gala-honors-robert-irwin-and-kathryn-bigelow-1201904535/

A series of personnel complaints and threatened defections by senior executives have raised questions about the leadership of Sony Pictures Entertainment movie boss Tom Rothman, several sources said — a difficult challenge for a studio already fighting to gain traction during a rough year at the box office.

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and the company’s human resources department have fielded protests about Rothman from more than a dozen executives, according to an individual briefed on the showdown, who declined to be named discussing internal company business.

The unhappy Sony executives report that Rothman has made their lives untenable with his micro-management and obstreperous manner, which they say has also alienated talent agents, producers, directors and actors, many of whom are now loathe to bring their projects to Sony, the sources said.

Rothman was confronted with the charges of disillusionment with his leadership in a meeting last week with the company’s human resources department. The executives complained that morale has plummeted in the 20 months since Rothman was elevated from head of Sony’s TriStar Pictures label to chairman of the entire movie operation. “There is no confidence in his leadership,” said one of the sources, who declined to be named.

Rothman declined to comment. Lynton issued a statement late Sunday afternoon strongly backing his studio chief. “Tom Rothman has done an outstanding job in his efforts to restructure and turn around the Motion Picture Group,” Lynton said. “He has my full and complete support, and the support of SPE’s senior management and Tokyo.” The last reference is to the studio’s corporate parent, Sony Corp., headquartered in Japan.

Some insiders defended Rothman, saying that the complaints are the result of his urgent push to make a “sea change” in the culture at the studio, which has languished at or near the bottom of the box office standings for several years. Rothman, 61, was named chairman of the motion picture group in February, 2015.

Compared to the relatively laissez faire approach of previous studio co-chair Amy Pascal, especially on financial matters, Rothman’s tough, bottom-line mentality strikes some as abrasive. “There is an old guard of people who are, naturally, going to be uncomfortable with that kind of change,” said one insider, who declined to be named. “But it’s important that the change be made.”

Others who defended Rothman described him as decent and well-meaning, though sometimes oblivious to how his hard-charging manner is perceived by others. One insider also contended that the studio will soon announce that two top production executives are re-upping, while declining to provide details.

The internal furor does not come at a good time for Sony, which languishes in fifth place this year of the six major studios in domestic box office performance. This weekend’s “Inferno” — the “Da Vinci Code” sequel that was supposed to be a solid money-maker – collapsed at the domestic box office, its $15 million opening less than a third of the opening for the previous entry in the series.

Another big-budget film that under-performed: “Ghostbusters,” which scraped up $229 million worldwide, with production costs, alone, coming in at $144 million. The Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” and last year’s holiday release, “Concussion,” with Will Smith, also tanked.

Fairing better for Sony were smaller films like the Blake Lively shark thriller “The Shallows,” which grossed $119 million worldwide on a production budget of $17 million; the R-rated cartoon, “Sausage Party,” which took in $135 million on a $19 million budget; and the horror flick “Don’t Breathe,” which scored $150 million worldwide on a trim $9.9 million budget.

One of the Rothman loyalists at the studio hoped that a comeback will begin, in earnest, with “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, due out at Christmas. The Sony worker, who asked not to be named, cited a range of potential hits on the 2017 slate, led by the next “Spider Man” entry; the adventure fantasy “Jumanji,” with Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart; the Western/sci-fi mashup “The Dark Tower”; and a revamp of the 1982 hit “Blade Runner.”

Rothman’s previous tenure as a studio leader – at 20th Century Fox, where he was co-chairman with Jim Gianopulos – also provoked complaints about his contentious and domineering nature. His doggedness in ratcheting down salaries for talent also irritated some filmmakers and agents.

The objections are recurring at Sony, but without the buffer of the more positive results that Fox’s films had during much of Rothman’s tenure at the Pico Boulevard studio.

“When he left Fox, he told everyone, ‘I have changed. I realized I was a problem,'” said one individual close to the situation. “And, of course, when he came back to Sony he was the exact same person, and probably worse.”

The source called Rothman “the biggest micro-manager I have ever dealt with,” adding: “He thinks he can do everybody’s job better — from writer, to director, to producer, to business affairs to marketer — any position anyone would have on a movie — he thinks he can do better than they can.”

The complaints were serious enough that Lynton informed Sony’s corporate leaders in Japan. “There is apparently a reluctance to make a change quickly, so they are moving in a very deliberate way,” said one of those who would like to see Rothman ousted.

A top producer agreed that the harsh assessments extend outside the studio. “He lacks empathy. He is easily threatened. He doesn’t make people feel good about coming to work,” said the producer. “Certainly things are very strained.”

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/news/sony-executives-disillusioned-tom-rothman-1201904528/

“Inferno” grossed almost as much in its opening weekend in China as it did in North America. Neither performance was strong, but in China at least “Inferno” opened on top of the box office.

“Inferno” scored $12.4 million in its three-day debut weekend on Chinese screens, according to data from Entgroup. In North America it flopped with a second place opening and an estimated weekend gross of $15 million.

At face value the Chinese figure for “Inferno” compares favorably with the $13.2 million run of 2006 release “The Da Vinci Code.” But China’s cinema circuit and overall box office have grown several magnitudes in the decade since Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon was last seen in Chinese theaters – “Angels & Demons” was not released – and points to a serious under-performance, especially for a day-and-date release.

In second place, new release Chinese comedy drama “Mr. Donkey” earned $8.44 million. In third place after dropping from top, was holdover “The Mechanic.” It earned $7.95 million for a cumulative score of $43.3 million after 10 days.

Another former number one, “Operation Mekong” took $4.80 million. It advanced it cumulative total to $168 million after 31 days.

“Trolls” opened in fifth place with $4.28 million. New release Chinese comedy drama “Xiaoming and his Friends” was the only other title to exceed $1 million over the weekend.

The weak performances by “Inferno,” “Trolls” and “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” – in eighth place with $560,000 in its second weekend, for a total of $8.70 million after 10 days – should make executives ponder whether bringing more Hollywood films into China is expanding the U.S. studios’ collective share of the Chinese market. Cannibalization and audience fatigue may instead be spreading the revenues across more titles and slicing the market thinner.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/asia/china-box-office-inferno-limps-to-top-spot-1201904600/

Every so often a movie genre comes into being, and “The Ivory Game,” a documentary about the black-market ivory trade, feels as if it’s riding the urgent edge of a new category: the non-fiction animal-rights thriller. The movie, which counts Leonardo DiCaprio as one of its producers, has links to “Blackfish” (2013), the powerful and influential exposé of killer whales in captivity, and “The Cove” (2009), which won the Academy Award for best documentary for its muckraking look at the mass killing of dolphins in Japan. All three films explore violations of animal rights, and in each case some of the investigations were done surreptitiously — hence the thriller angle. In “The Ivory Game,” we’re told that the volunteers who go undercover to expose the poaching of elephants, and the illegal selling of tusks, are risking their lives, and the reason that’s true isn’t mysterious. It’s all about the money, which is huge: a global racket of ivory trafficking, defined and patrolled by violence.

The film’s co-directors, Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson, lay out the scale of this situation — and the tragic significance of it — in a series of sobering statistics. Over the last five years, 150,000 elephants have been killed for their ivory. With elephant populations in Western and Central Africa decimated, the killing has now spread to East and Southern Africa. Criminal networks smuggle the ivory into China (laundering it in Hong Kong), where it gets carved into luxury items, fueling a multi-billion-dollar trade. One of the most terrible things about the epidemic of elephant killing is that it creates a vicious circle of profit: The fewer elephants there are in the world (in 1979 there were 1.3 million; now there are just 400,000), the more valuable their ivory becomes. The more that happens, the more that poachers want to kill off the remaining elephants.

In “White Hunter, Black Heart,” the 1953 roman à clef about director John Huston’s attempt to become a big-game hunter (it’s an amazing novel that Clint Eastwood made into a disappointing film — he was totally the wrong actor to play a Hustonian dictator-manipulator), the Huston character says: “It’s not a crime to kill an elephant. It’s bigger than that. It’s a sin to kill an elephant.” And that’s exactly why he wants to do it — not because he’s some sort of animal sadist, but because he’s a macho sophisticate compelled to test his mettle as though he were the missing link between Hemingway and Norman Mailer.

He’s right about the sin, though. Killing an elephant isn’t like killing other animals. It’s worse; it’s more of a case of soul murder. Much of “The Ivory Game” was shot in Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique, and there are loving shots of the elephants, who with their ancient wrinkled hides, loping gaits, and meditative auras it’s easy to develop emotions about the way that so many of us do about our dogs — the feeling that they’re deeply spiritual fellow creatures. The film explains how elephants, who live to be 60 or 70, have memories rooted in that slow buildup of years and in the loyal families they form. They’re a matriarchal society, with the mysterious vibratory sensitivity of dolphins, and the notion that the human race could now be on the verge of wiping them out is beyond unthinkable. It’s not just cruel or obscene (though it is very much both). It’s dystopian. If we allow elephants, as a species, to be extinguished from the planet, then what’s next? What does it say about who we are and what we’re becoming?

Elephant poachers, like all organized criminals, have snuffed their humanity for money, and “The Ivory Game” shows us how the ivory-for-money racket works. Ivory trading is outlawed all over the world, but a legal loophole exists in China, where five tons of the stuff is allowed to be distributed each year. This opens the door to the illegal market: How can you tell if the ivory you’re buying is legal or not? You can’t. There are 400 ivory-carving workshops in the Beijing area, where the illegal trade is overseen by a secret government higher-up, who orchestrates police protection for it. The movie takes us inside ivory boutiques, where we behold some of the items — not just statues and knickknacks but intricately carved and decorated whole tusks that can fetch $200,000 apiece.

The dramatic big game in a documentary like this one is the poachers themselves, and that’s where the movie is at once suspenseful and slipshod. It presents us with an elephant killer who’s at the center of the evil: a mysterious figure named Boniface Malyango, known as Shetani — or, The Devil. He has never been photographed, but we see a drawing of his face, and he’s presented as a kind of Pablo Escobar/Osama bin Laden figure. He’s the awesome supervillain a movie like this one needs, but “The Ivory Game,” when it comes to showing us undercover activity, generates isolated tidbits of drama without connecting the dots of the big picture. An investigator gathering evidence in China winds up having his hidden camera discovered — a scary moment. But why, exactly, is he allowed to get away? (It isn’t clear.) Then “intelligence” leads to clues as to Shetani’s whereabouts. But how does that happen? We haven’t a clue. Then he gets captured, and we really have no idea how that happened.

There will, of course, always be another “devil” gangster poacher to take his place. The eradication of ivory trafficking comes down to governments — or, as the film puts it, “The destiny of elephants is entirely in the hands of one single person: the president of China.” That’s because the United States, in July 2016, banned all ivory, and until China does the same, the market for it will thrive. This is clearly an issue that’s building, and “The Ivory Game,” as a Netflix production, is theoretically in a position to influence the outcome. There are moments when the movie tugs at your heart, but the subject matter, because it’s so epic, deserves an even more probing and definitive treatment.

Film Review: 'The Ivory Game'

Reviewed on-line, October 27, 2016. MPAA Rating: Not rated. Running time: 112 MIN.

Production

A Netflix release of a Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Production, in association with Malaika Pictures and Appian Way. Producers: Walter Kohler, Kief Davidson, Wolfgang Knopfler. Executive producers: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Joanne Reay, Jody Gottlieb, Dinah Czezik-Müller, Paul G. Allen, Carole Tomko, Adam Del Deo, Jason Springarn-Koff, Lisa Nishimura.

Crew

Directors: Richard Ladkani, Kief Davidson. Camera (color, widescreen): Richard Ladkanki. Editor: Verena Schönauer.

With

Elisifa Ngowi, Craig Millar, Andrea Crosta, Hongxiang Huang, Ofir Drori, Ian Craig, Georgina Kamanga.
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/the-ivory-game-review-1201904564/

JOHANNESBURG — Africa’s biggest TV content market is set to kick off Nov. 2, with more than 2,000 buyers, sellers, and content producers expected to arrive in Johannesburg for the three-day event.

According to Patrick Zuchowicki, general manager of Basic Lead, the organizer of Discop Africa, more than 10,000 hours of programming will be on offer on the sold-out floor of the Sandton Convention Center.

“There is indeed a real desire to do more business” in Africa, says Zuchowicki.

For the first time since its founding in 2008, Discop added a second market in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, earlier this year, fueled by what Zuchowicki says is a strong demand to tap into what Basic Lead estimates to be a $1 billion-a-year industry.

This year’s Johannesburg market is partnering with the inaugural edition of the Joburg Film Festival, an ambitious international film fest which runs Oct. 28 – Nov. 5.

The decision to pair the events was part of a concerted effort “to put Johannesburg on the map,” says Zuchowicki, while giving Discop attendees “an additional opportunity for these buyers to see what Africa has to offer.”

“By having a platform that promotes films produced in Africa, it makes sense,” he says.

Zuchowicki concedes that 2016 has been a “complicated” year for the local TV biz, with ongoing uncertainty in the continent’s two biggest economies, South Africa and Nigeria, leading many analysts to revise their bullish forecasts for a continent that has seen GDPs steadily rising since the turn of the century.

“From the perspective of this industry, it’s not huge growth,” says Zuchowicki. “But year on year we see growth, which for us is really the big news. That growth has not been altered by the current economic environment.”

Zuchowicki notes encouraging trends, such as the rise in African content that’s export-ready. “There are independent producers…who are coming to the market with TV series in development that have international distribution potential,” he says. There’s also been a growing trend of cooperation across African borders, with regional players like South Africa, Kenya and Ivory Coast looking to do business.

Early buzz around “Brazza,” a “Narcos”-style series starring Idris Elba, set in the criminal underworld of the capital of the Republic of Congo, also seems like a hopeful sign that Africa can play a “leading role” for foreign producers looking for fresh ideas.

“The time is right for such stories, and we see more and more interest from international co-production players in trying to bring…stories into play,” he says.

This year’s Discop shines the spotlight on the U.S. as its guest country, as part of an ongoing effort to assist and encourages American companies to build stronger ties with key African media partners. A special emphasis will be placed on the partnership between the U.S. and South Africa, says Zuchowicki, because “this is a relationship where everybody already feels comfortable.”

Along with the market will be an extensive program of workshops, seminars and panel discussions, and the latest edition of the popular “Meet Your Stars” sidebar, which offers South African producers and distribs a chance to preview new shows, as well as shine a spotlight on returning primetime hits.

Local and international industry experts will be on-hand for pitching competitions looking to foster the growth of the next generation of African creatives. Turner will partner with South African industry body Animation SA to host the first Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition, as part of a pan-African search for the continent’s top toon talent. And the inaugural edition of the Digital Lab Africa competition will field pitches from the creators of a number of innovative web series, mobile apps, online music platforms, and immersive VR content. French players Lagardère and ARTE among the companies that will offer support and mentorship to the winning projects.

Among the other program highlights will be an interactive panel discussion Nov. 2 on female producers, directors, writers, and show-runners, featuring leading media personalities sharing their insights into navigating the world of African entertainment. Confirmed guests include Bongiwe Selane, vice-chairperson of South Africa’s Independent Producers Organization, and creative producer, Blingola Media; Paula Madison, co-owner and consultant, The Africa Channel; and Zain Verjee, CNN International news anchor and founder and CEO of the Zain Verjee Group.

Atari execs will also be in Johannesburg to unveil the gaming giant’s plans to evolve into a TV company, starting with Africa.

Discop Africa runs Nov. 2-4 at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/discop-africa-africas-biggest-content-market-to-place-accent-on-hollywood-ties-1201904685/

Outsider Pictures’ speciality label Todo Cine Latino has acquired North American distribution rights to Cristina Herrera’s “Etiqueta No Rigurosa” (No Dresscode Required) in a co-acquisition deal with Strand Releasing for the Mexican movie which swept seven of eight prizes at the 2015 FICG in LA pix-in-post showcase.

Produced by Sabrina Almandoz at La Cleta Films, the label she founded with Herrera in 2012, the documentary feature turns on the story Victor and Fernando, beauty professionals in Baja California, Mexico, whose clients include multiple socialites from their hometown Mexicali.

“For many of their customers they were a lovely couple, until they decided to marry and become the first gay couple in the state to fight for their rights in a place full of homophobia and inequality,” the film synopsis runs.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has issued ruling after ruling dictating that restricting marriage to heterosexual couples is discriminatory. ‘No Dress Required” tracks the extraordinary series of roadblocks put up by Mexicali’s local mayor and other officials who succeeded in derailing the marriage four times, questioning witnesses’ signatures, announcing a bomb threat as the ceremony was about to go ahead. and arranging a demonstration which prevented them from getting into a civil registrar’s office. A complaint from the Association of Families of Baja California alleged that Victor and Fernando could not marry, given their insanity.

“Through their struggle, they managed to open the eyes of the members of Baja Californian society,” the film’s synopsis says.

Mexican Film Institute Imcine invested in “No Dresscode Required’s” post-production.

Paul Hudson, CEO of Outsider Pictures, closed the deal with Herrera and Imcine.

“As we have learned from the fight for gay marriage in the U.S., equal rights for the LGBTQ community is a basic civil right that every member of society deserves,” Hudson said.

He added: “Cristina’s film perfectly captures the nightmarish bureaucracy that was put in place to try and stop the constitutional and civil rights of Victor and Fernando.”

“The contemporary era questions if, in effect, Mexicans can enforce the equality of rights established in the Constitution,” Herrera said in a statement.

She went on: “At this crossroads are members of [Mexico’s] LGBTQ community who desire full recognition of their citizen’s rights and a civil society where sexual difference is still regarded as sin or pathology.”

Todo Cine Latino will look to build word-of-mouth via festivals throughout the Spring. It will then theatrically release in Miami and the rest of the U.S. throughout the Summer, Hudson commented.

The film will then be released on digital streaming site, Todocinelatino.com, a U.S. retailer of a significant number of Latin America and Spain’s outstanding movies of recent years. Its releases include two of the past three Spanish Goya winners, David Trueba’s “Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed” and Alberto Rodriguez’s “Marshland,” as well as Fernando Coimbra’s “A Wolf at the Door,” arguably the most talked-about feature debut from Brazil this decade.

A Fulbright scholar at Hunter College, New York, Herrera studied film at Mexico City’s Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica (CCC), a Latin American hotbed of young documentary filmmaking talent. Its alums also include Tatiana Huezo who won an Audience Award on Saturday for “Tempestad,” another docu-feature, at Mexico’s Morelia Festival.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/outsider-pictures-strand-nab-north-america-no-dresscode-required-1201904696/

Altitude Film Distribution has acquired U.K. rights to family animation “Rock Dog,” featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons, Luke Wilson and Eddie Izzard. It is the first time the distributor has released an animated pic in movie theaters.

The film, which received its European premiere this month at the BFI London Film Festival, is expected to be released next summer. The sale was handled by Ralph Kamp’s Timeless Films.

“Rock Dog” is helmed by Ash Brannon, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated “Surf’s Up” and “Toy Story 2,” and was produced by Amber Wang, Joyce Lou, David B. Miller, Rob Feng and Zheng Jun.

The film, which is based on a graphic novel by Chinese rock star Zheng Jun, centers on Bodi, a Tibetan Mastiff. He is expected to take over from his dad, Khampa, the job of guarding his village’s flock of sheep, but fears he doesn’t have the necessary passion to assume the role.

“Everything changes when a radio literally falls out of the sky and Bodi hears a song by rock legend Angus Scattergood, opening his heart to a musical world he must explore,” according to a statement. “Leaving home to chase his destiny in the big city, Bodi attracts the attention of Khampa’s nemesis, Linnux. Leader of a hungry wolf pack, Linnux believes that Bodi is his ticket back into the village and closer to delicious sheep. It is up to Bodi to save his family and friends without giving up his newfound dream.”

Altitude’s slate includes Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro,” narrated by Samuel L. Jackson; “Lady Macbeth,” helmed by stage director William Oldroyd, and starring Florence Pugh; “The Eagle Huntress,” directed by Otto Bell and narrated by Daisy Ridley; and “Daphne,” directed by Peter Mackie Burns, and starring Emily Beecham and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/global/afm-u-k-altitude-rock-dog-jk-simmons-1201904691/

The literary biopic can be a tricky, sometimes even self-defeating, film genre. After all, watching a great writer (or a thespian facsimile thereof) furrow their brow over a typewriter tends to teach us far less about them and their legacy than actually reading their work. The best literary biopics, then, tend to be more selective and less, er, literal — and in this respect, Maria Schrader’s “Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” has the right idea, filleting out a handful of episodes from the eponymous Austrian author’s later life to make broader historical and political inquiries. Yet this articulate, formally immaculate portrait proves less compelling in practice than it does in principle: Over-burdened at the outset with extraneous ceremonial detail and starchy speechifying, the film takes a dry, acolytes-only approach before later, more domestically focused chapters raise the body temperature of proceedings. Arthouse audiences closer to home, however, have been receptive to this academic affair, selected as Austria’s foreign-language Oscar entry after Germany left it at the shortlist stage.

German actress-turned-filmmaker Schrader (known internationally for roles in “In Darkness” and “Aimee and Jaguar”) has perhaps wisely assumed that audiences likely to show up for “Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe” are already au fait with the celebrated novelist, journalist and playwright, a Jewish pacifist who lived the last eight years of his life in exile from the Nazi regime in his homeland, before committing suicide in 1942. Focusing exclusively on those years, the film’s dense, talk-heavy screenplay — by Schrader and Jan Schomburg — furnishes viewers with little detail about Zweig’s life and career to that point, or even the precise circumstances of his flight from Europe. Those who require further context while gradually glean it from passing remarks and allusions throughout the film’s five discontinuous sections, which take Zweig (played with dignified reserve by Josef Hader) and his wife Lotte (Aenne Schwarz) through a range of professional and personal encounters in North and South America.

But Schrader is as fascinated by the international response to Zweig as she is by Zweig himself: Much of the film is spent observing the pomp and ceremony, some of it absurd, that trails his travels. This preoccupation is wryly amusing to a point, though as minutes tick by while watching a complete translation of an address delivered at a literary convention, or a full rendition of Strauss’s “The Blue Danube” by a rural Brazilian marching band, “Farewell to Europe’s” resistance to conventional dramatic momentum begins to feel a tad perverse.

A few supremely well-staged set-pieces relieve the torpor, none more so than an exactingly composed introductory sequence that plunges the viewer into the rituals of an official banquet held in Zweig’s honor by the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. Wolfgang Thaler’s crisp, controlled camera opens disorientingly on the iridescent spectacle of the dinner table’s tropical floral centerpiece — an immediate visual cue that we are far from Zweig’s native territory — before zooming out to follow the social whir of the occasion, with its repetitive layering of greetings and gossip, in gliding, stately fashion. That the choreography of these functions is more involving than anything said at them may be partially the point: Zweig himself never looks wholly at ease in this welcoming but alien environment.

If so, however, it’s an idea the film stresses to a fault. The second and most arduous section sees Zweig as the guest of honor at a PEN (Poets/Essayists/Novelists) International conference in Buenos Aires in 1936, and is thick with formal rhetoric as the rise of Nazism — and the author’s enduring but more politically ambivalent belief in a free and unified Europe — is directly discussed. Some subtly implied parallels to contemporary European frictions survive the stodgy verbiage, but the film only really begins to crackle in its fourth (and by far its strongest) chapter, set in 1941, in which Zweig and Lotte visit his more angrily activistic ex-wife Friderike (a sensational, salt-tongued Barbara Sukowa, sorely missed as soon as she leaves the screen) in New York, where she herself has taken refuge from the Nazis. His reluctantly recognized moral obligation to assist his homeland peers in making a similar escape is vigorously argued back and forth, in an exchange that potently reverses and twists the stakes of the refugee crisis debate currently raging across the Continent. (It’s among the film’s subtler virtues that its oblique contemporary resonances never feel entirely calculated.)

This heated (albeit palpably wintry) climax mellows effectively into the more languid, sun-warmed melancholy of the film’s denouement, depicting Zweig’s final days in the mountainous Brazilian idyll of Petropolis. The tranquil perfection of his surroundings, however, can’t be squared with the gaping unhappiness he feels at being forever outside of his home — at not belonging in the paradise where he finds himself. As it shifts into a more intimate, conversational register, this frustratingly arrhythmic, sporadically rewarding biopic finally attains a grace befitting its quietly raging subject.

Film Review: 'Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 8, 2016. Running time: 106 MIN. (Original title: "Vor der Morgenröte - Stefan Zweig in Amerika")

Production

(Germany-Austria-France) An X Filme, Creative Pool, Ideale Audience, Maha Prods., Dor Film production in co-production withBR, WDR, Arte, Arte France Cinema, ORF. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Stefan Arndt, Uwe Schott, Pierre-Olivier Bardet, Danny Krausz, Kurt Stocker, Denis Poncet. Executive producer, Maria Schrader.

Crew

Directed by Maria Schrader. Screenplay, Schrader, Jan Schomburg. Camera (color, widescreen), Wolfgang Thaler; editor, Hansjorg Weissbrich.

With

Josef Hader, Barbara Sukowa, Aenne Schwarz, Matthias Brandt, Charly Hubner, Andre Szymanski. (German, English, Portuguese, French, Spanish dialogue)
Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/stefan-zweig-farewell-to-europe-review-1201904270/

MORELIA, Mexico – Mexico’s leading international exhibitor Cinepolis, the main backer of the Morelia Int’l Film Fest, is projecting an 18% jump in terms of total admissions on its screens worldwide by the end of 2016, compared to 2015. In Mexico alone, where it has a 65% share of the market, admissions have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, from 157 million in 2005 to 262 million in 2015.

Now ranked as the fourth largest exhibition group in the world in terms of screen count, the company expects to end the year with 4,887 screens in Mexico and 12 other countries. Led by CEO Alejandro Ramirez, Cinepolis is the only international exhibitor present in four continents: North America, South America, Asia and Europe. Asked if the company planned to venture into new territories, Ramirez said: “We’d like to focus on the 13 countries where we already have a presence, consolidate our market.”

In India, Cinepolis has built multiplexes, now totaling 248 screens in 27 cities, over the past five years, in some cases buying existing theaters, according to Cinepolis programming VP Miguel Rivera. The multiplex is a rarity in India where roughly 90% of its estimated 12,000 screens are single screens, he said. In the U.S., Cinepolis introduced a high-end screening experience with 110 screens in 11 Luxury Cinema-branded theatres. The exhibitor recently pacted with Korea’s CJ 4Dplex to install its 4DX system in at least 12 additional Cinepolis sites in the U.S., India, Spain, and across Latin America. 4DX equips theatres with motion-based seating synchronized with over 20 different effects, including vibration, water, wind, snow, lighting and scents.

However, while Mexico may rank fourth in terms of total screen count (6,062) from all local exhibitors combined, the country has one of the lowest-priced of cinema tickets levels worldwide, which adversely impacts total box office revenues.

“Cinema-going has been a popular tradition in Mexico, and raising ticket prices would make our low-income audience turn away and resort to pirated films,” said Ramirez, who points out they have adjusted their ticket prices to each neighborhood.

Cinepolis is also bent on nurturing its fledgling distribution arm, which launched last year with Jonas Cuaron’s “Desierto,” now repping Mexico in the foreign-language Oscar race. Since then it has released a variety of local and international features and docus, including comedy “Un Padre No Tan Padre,” earthquake drama “7:19” and the upcoming “Neruda,” which opened the 14th Morelia Int’l Film Fest.

“We aim to release an average of 15 films a year,” said Ramirez who rules out going into production although it has recently awarded a distribution guarantee and P&A valued at 250,000 pesos ($13,282) to work-in-progress program Impulso Morelia winner Everardo Gonzalez for his striking documentary “La Libertad del Diablo” (a working title), now in post.

Company has released a number of documentaries in a bid to cultivate new audiences, with past releases including “Cartel Land,” Maya Goded’s Impulso 2015 Morelia winner “Plaza de la Soledad” as well as Wim Wenders and Juliano Salgado’s “Salt of the Earth.” Underscoring the company’s support for local talent, it programs Mexican shorts during the itinerant French film fest, Tour de Cine Frances, that visits more than 60 cities in Mexico in the Fall. The Morelia Film Fest is also a major showcase of shorts.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/cinepolis-ceo-alejandro-ramirez-growth-plans-1201904383/

In a pre-American Film Market deal, Tom Hardy will star as gangster Al Capone in “Fonzo” with “Chronicle” director Josh Trank helming from his own script.

The film will be produced by Russell Ackerman and John Schoenfelder for Addictive Pictures alongside “Pulp Fiction” producer Lawrence Bender.

“Fonzo” is currently in pre-production and Bloom will commence international sales at AFM, which starts Nov. 2. CAA and WME are handling U.S. rights.

Capone was a bootlegger and brutal gangster who ruled Chicago during Prohibition. The federal government successfully prosecuted him for tax evasion in 1931 and he was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was released after eight years and died at the age of 48 in 1947 as dementia rotted his brain and harrowing memories of his violent and brutal origins melt into his waking life.

“‘Fonzo’ brings together the myth and lore of notorious American Gangster Al Capone, with the undeniable talent of Tom Hardy and Josh Trank,” said Bloom’s Alex Walton. “We are thrilled to bring this film to buyers at the AFM. ”

The project is the first for Trank following “Chronicle.” Hardy will next star in Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” and “Taboo,” an eight-part TV series produced by Ridley Scott.

Trank is represented by WME, Management 360 and attorney Mitch Smelkinson. Hardy is repped by CAA and Lindy King at United Agents. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/markets-festivals/tom-hardy-al-capone-fonzo-afm-1201904373/

Japan’s biggest box office hit this year at $150 million and counting, Makoto Shinkai’s animation “Your Name,” has sparked a tourism bonanza for some of the film’s real-life settings.

The story, about a teenage girl in the countryside and a teenage boy in Tokyo who exchange genders in their dreams, may be a product of Shinkai’s imagination. But he and his team animated their model for the girl’s town – Hida in Gifu Prefecture – in such realistic detail that fans have marked out what blogs and now the media are calling a “pilgrimage route” of sites used in the film.

To help the growing throngs of “Your Name” fans find their way – and hopefully linger long enough to boost the local economy – the Hida tourist office has uploaded a “pilgrimage map” to its website. From January to February next year Hida will host an exhibition of storyboards and other “Your Name” materials.

Anime tourism is not new: Japanese fans have been seeking out the locations of their favorite animated films and TV shows for decades. One of the best known is Sayama Hills – a wooded area in Western Tokyo that was the setting for “My Neighbor Totoro,” Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved 1988 animation. Fans have done more than hike the trails in the 8,650 acre “Totoro Forest.” Many have contributed to a foundation that Miyazaki and others established in 1998 to save Sayama Hills from urban encroachment.

A more commercially-minded initiative was unveiled in September with the backing of the JTB travel agency, Japan Airlines and Kadokawa, a major publisher that is also an animation producer.

Called the Japan Anime Tourism Association, the new organization seeks to attract anime fans from Japan and abroad by establishing a national anime pilgrimage route, with 88 stops. Fans can submit suggestions for the stops in five languages, including Japanese and English, until December. JATA will announce the final selections by the end of next year. The target: four million annual visitors to the stops by 2020.

By that time Shinkai and his fellow animators may well have made more blockbusters with real-life locations – and 88 stops will no longer be enough.

Source: http://variety.com/2016/film/asia/your-name-success-redraws-anime-tourism-map-1201904059/
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