Hello International Insider friends, and happy Friday. Jake Kanter with you this week, and here’s everything you need to know about the global film and TV business. If you want to subscribe to get this alert in a timely fashion, sign up here.
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Another turbulent week in the world of cinemas: If you thought the recent backlash against Universal and AMC after they shook hands on a deal to shorten the theatrical window on certain mid-level titles was strong, think again, as evidenced this week when Disney dropped a bomb in announcing that it would bypass cinemas entirely by placing Mulan directly on Disney+. Deadline spoke to UK cinema owners, who called it a “f**k you to exhibitors,” while we also tracked down a Parisian operator who took a baseball bat to a Mulan pop-up poster.
It all started so well: Earlier this week, there had been some moderately positive headlines regarding the international release of Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged, which had taken $2.9M as of last weekend. Those numbers offer some cautious optimism but, as one exec put it, “we are definitely in need of new and attractive content.”
The bottom line: With no Mulan, Warner Bros’ Tenet just took on even more importance, with it scheduled to arrive from August 26 in select international markets. The Christopher Nolan pic also secured a China bow this week, locking a September 4 date, one day after it opens in select U.S. cities. The Middle Kingdom has shown how Nolan can put bums of seats after finding some success with the re-release of Interstellar recently. Warner is also now lining up Inception for release in China on August 28.
Scoop: Fulwell 73 Adapts ‘Moondial’
Turn back time: After dusting off Gavin & Stacey to the delight of 18M viewers last year (the biggest audience on British telly in a decade), Fulwell 73 is turning its attention to another BBC classic. The James Corden-backed producer is adapting Helen Cresswell novel Moondial after it inspired the 1988 young adult time travel series of the same name.
The details: The idea is to turn the book into a modern franchise and Matt Lopez, who wrote Nicolas Cage starrer The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Dwayne Johnson’s Race To Witch Mountain, has been attached to develop the scripts. The adaptation will be co-produced by Wiip, the indie studio run by former BBC and ABC executive Paul Lee.
Why now: Fulwell 73 partner Leo Pearlman describes it as a “tale of acceptance through the ages,” which has taken on new resonance in recent months. “It felt relevant and important nine months ago, but with the recent murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, it became ever more prescient,” he tells Deadline. Full story here.
Game over: Despite bravely soldiering on all summer with the determination that it would host some form of physical edition this year, Sarajevo Film Festival called it quits this week and decided to go entirely virtual. Fest head Mirsad Purivatra said earlier in the crisis that, as the event had been formed during a deadly siege, he felt strongly they would be able to go ahead, but a recent spike in COVID cases in Bosnia put paid to that optimism. Instead, the fest will look to screen films and host masterclasses with the likes of Michel Hazanavicius online.
All eyes on Venice etc: Other festivals will be looking on nervously. Venice is now the next big set-piece event in the calendar and is due to take place physically on September 2-12. Italy is maintaining a flat line of infections, for now at least, but this is a rapidly changing situation. Over in TV, meanwhile, Mipcom remains in the balance with ViacomCBS one of the latest U.S. giants to tell us that it is undecided about its attendance.
ITV’s Tale Of Two Halves
The bad news: Sharp intakes of breath all round for ITV, the British bellwether for the health of commercial broadcasting. The company dropped a set of six-month earnings on Thursday that had been brutalized by the pandemic. Profits halved, revenue plummeted 17% and ad revenue (which makes up roughly half of ITV’s income) fell by an eye-watering 43% between April and June — the worst drop in the company’s 65-year history. Production powerhouse ITV Studios was also slammed, with coronavirus taking a £295M ($390m) bite out of its revenue.
But but but: Amid the scorched earth, there were green shoots. Advertisers, we were told, are spending money again, with encouraging signs of recovery last month as lockdown restrictions eased across the UK. ITV Studios is also getting back down to business, remounting 70% of the 230 shows it was forced to halt at the peak of the pandemic. Among those coming back online are CBS reality show Love Island (pictured), Gomorrah and Apple’s Physical. As a result, the number of furloughed ITV staff has fallen from 1,500 last month to 300 as of yesterday.
The big takeaway: There is little doubt that ITV has been rocked by coronavirus, but the foundations on which it stands are so much sturdier than the last time it faced an existential crisis during the financial crash of 2008. ITV has invested heavily in production, meaning it is no longer fully at the mercy of the volatile ad market. And while production was hit by COVID-19, it wasn’t a wipeout — ITV Studios actually grew its U.S. revenue 11% to £88M because of shows delivered prior to the pandemic. That’s the sign of a diversified business.
Best Of The Rest
First look: The BBC just dropped the debut trailer for Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology series. The trailer focuses on Mangrove, one of five self-contained episodes in McQueen’s series, which tells the story of the 1970 Mangrove protest in London and how it led to the arrest of nine innocent Black people, and exposed racial hatred within the police. Black Panther star Letitia Wright (pictured above) features. Watch the trailer here.
Indie films back in business: Production quietly began last month in London on pandemic-inspired feature Alone, which marks the directorial debut of Kirsty Bell, CEO of financier Goldfinch. Starring Derek Jacobi, it is one of the first independent movies to get underway in the UK after lockdown. Andreas Wiseman has the scoop.
Better late than never: ViacomCBS pulled the curtain back on plans to launch a premium international streaming service. The streamer is not exactly quick off the blocks, but will host new Showtime and CBS All Access originals, and will begin its rollout in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics. “The aim is to achieve significant growth in what is a rapidly expanding sector,” international chief David Lynn told us. Go deeper.
ITV swaps the jungle for a castle: I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! is moving from Australia to the UK after ITV said staging the show in its usual New South Wales home proved too challenging amid coronavirus. It means celebrity contestants will have to brace themselves for the altogether chillier climes of a ruined castle in the UK countryside. Read more.
Managing with less: We revealed this week that The Ink Factory, producer of Golden Globe-winning series The Night Manager, made around 18% of its staff redundant amid the pandemic. With the follow-up to 2016’s barnstorming BBC/AMC series yet to materialize, The Ink Factory is doubling down on development, with five people losing their jobs across marketing, finance and production. More here
One To Watch
Boom or bust: High-end drama tends to be a fixture of our ones to watch, so time for something a little different. On Saturday, ITV launches Rolling In It — the latest format from Over The Top Productions, the outfit backed by Simon Cowell’s Syco. Based on an iconic arcade game, contestants fire a coin down a rolling conveyer belt to win cash prizes, steal money from opponents or bankrupt themselves.
The verdict: In a world in which we have the giant entertainment sets of The Wall, a BBC show fronted by Danny Dyer, and the high-techery of The Cube (soon to be remade by WarnerMedia in the U.S.), there is something quaint and old-fashioned about the conveyer belt conceit at the heart of Rolling In It. Maybe that’s the British seaside vibe that Cowell’s Over The Top is going for, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that it’s been done before in Tipping Point, another ITV arcade-themed game show from Banijay-owned RDF Television. So, with a slightly flimsy set-piece and Q&A rounds that are not going to interest die-hard quizzers, Rolling In It is in danger of falling between the cracks. But it is winningly hosted by Stephen Mulhern and, with new entertainment shows in short supply, it’s worth a punt.
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