Saudi Arabia Drops Demand for Shuttering of Al Jazeera

The closure of the Middle East’s biggest broadcaster has been removed from a list of requests as Arab diplomatics look to heal rifts with Qatar.

Fears that Qatar would have to close its global news network Al Jazeera may now have come to an end. 

Last month, the shuttering of the Middle East’s highest profile and most widely watched network was on a 13-point list of demands presented to Qatar in a bid to end the diplomatic rift between the gas-rich Gulf state and its Middle East neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.

But on Tuesday, diplomats from the four revealed that they had altered the demands, reducing the 13 to six and removing the call to shut down Al Jazeera.

“Of course we are all for compromises but there will be compromise on these six principles,” said Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi ambassador to the United Nations. 

Qatar had previously rejected the 13-point list of demands, which came with a July 5 deadline, claiming it was a violation of its sovereignty. 

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South Korea Opens World's Largest Imax Cinema

CJ CGV has also dedicated a screen to ‘Oldboy’ director Park Chan-wook at the Yongsan I’Park Mall near the U.S. military base in Seoul.

South Korea’s largest exhibitor CJ CGV on Monday opened the world’s largest Imax theater in Seoul, featuring a screen measuring 31 meters wide and 22.4 meters high.

Though Australia has been home to Imax screens up to over 35 meters wide, they are currently not in use. Even when including the Australian screens, which are currently getting renovated, CGV’s new Yongsang I’Park Mall branch near the Yongsan U.S. military base in central Seoul is the largest Imax screen among multiplex cinemas across the globe.

It is about five times the size of screens found in the average multiplex cinema. A high-resolution projector presents pictures about 50 percent brighter and twice as clearly, at an aspect ratio of 1.43:1, according to CGV.

The cinema also presents “4DX With ScreenX” — a cinema experience that combines both the multisensory moving chairs of 4DX and the panoramic three-screen presentation of ScreenX. This is the first theater in the world to combine the two widely exported South Korean technologies. All 40 seats feature a new “sway & twist” motion technology, which includes a wider range of movements, including switching directions, super acceleration and drifting.

CGV has dedicated one of the multiplex’s screens to local indie films. Named after Oldboy auteur Park Chan-wook, it is designed to present only art films. Part of the ticket sale proceeds will go to supporting the South Korean indie industry. Photographs taken by Park himself are on display in the hallway leading to the theater.

Seo Jung, CEO of CJ CGV, told reporters during the opening ceremony that he sees the new Yongsan I’Park branch as a prime example of the “post-multiplex age,” and promised to “continue to lead the evolution of cinemas through groundbreaking innovations.”

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China Blocks Banks From Financing Dalian Wanda's Foreign Acquisitions

The order appears to retroactively apply to six of Wanda’s largest overseas deals, including the buyout of Legendary Entertainment and AMC Entertainment.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin’s cash-flow woes could be on the rise. 

The Chinese government’s top banking regulators have ordered the country’s largest financial institutions to stop lending to the tycoon to finance his overseas entertainment acquisitions, according to a document seen by The Wall Street Journal. 

Beijing officials are understood to have convened a meeting with the executives of China’s largest financial institutions on June 20, where the bankers were informed that six of Wanda’s largest overseas acquisitions — including the buyout of AMC Entertainment in 2012 and Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion last year — were subject to the government’s restrictions on capital outflows last year.

More to come… 

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Bollywood Star Saif Ali Khan to Headline Netflix's First Indian Series

The crime drama ‘Sacred Games’ is planned as a Hindi- and English-language series for the streaming video giant worldwide.

Netflix is banking on some Bollywood star power for its first Indian original series Sacred Games which will be toplined by actor Saif Ali Khan.
Khan’s upcoming projects include the Bollywood remake of Jon Favreau’s Chef which is slated for release later this year.

Following its India launch last year, the streaming giant announced Sacred Games as its foray into Indian content production. While a release date is not yet given, Sacred Games is based on a best-selling novel by Vikram Chandra and will be a bilingual series in Hindi and English. When the project was first announced, a plot description stated that the Mumbai-set drama “delves into the city’s intricate web of organized crime, corruption, politics and espionage that lie beneath India’s economic renaissance.”

The series is a co-production with Phantom Films whose founders include acclaimed director Anurag Kashyap, director Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Madhu Mantena. Netflix’s partnership with Phantom builds upon its earlier relationship with Kashyap, whose 2012 two-part epic Gangs of Wasseypur was streamed as an eight-part series on the video giant’s U.S service in 2015.

Netflix made the Khan announcement via a Twitter post. In a career spanning over two decades Khan, 46, has delivered such hits as 2001’s Dil Chahta Hai and starred in the successful Race action franchise. He has also produced titles via his Illimunati banner including 2012 romantic caper Cocktail in which he also starred along with top actress Deepika Padukone (xXx: Return of Xander Cage).

In terms of other Indian content, Netflix recently premiered its first Indian comedy special by Vir Das which will be followed by another special by female comedian Aditi Mittal premiering on July 18.

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Russia and China to Produce First Ever Joint Animation TV Series

Russia’s Riki, the producer of animation franchise ‘Kikoriki,’ and China’s CCTV team up to make ‘Krosh and Panda.’

Producers of the Russian animation franchise Kikoriki are teaming up with China’s CCTV Animation to produce the first ever Russian-Chinese animation series.

Krosh and Panda, a children’s animated series with two main characters, a panda and a rabbit, will become the first project implemented under a recent intergovernmental agreement on film production between Russia and China, Riki, the production company for Kikoriki, said in a press release.

“The project aims to combine the most popular animated characters amongst children and family audiences in Russia and China and can become a symbol of development and strengthening of collaboration in art and culture between the two countries, also attracting interest of wide viewership both in Russia and China,” the company added.

Under a signed agreement, Riki and CCTV Animation plan to produce 12 52-minute episodes of Krosh and Panda in 3D CGI format over the next 18 months. All work on the project will be implemented jointly by the Russian and Chinese sides.

Launched in 2003, the Kikoriki franchise, known in Russia as Smeshariki, has been adapted in half a dozen countries, including the U.S., Germany and the U.K.

In September 2016, Los Angeles-based Shout! Factory picked up North American distribution rights to the franchise.



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Showtime Brand Coming to India for First Time in Deal With Streamer Hotstar

The deal gives the streaming service of 21st Century Fox’s Star India access to more U.S. programming as it continues to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Showtime will make its India debut via an agreement between CBS Corp. and Indian streaming platform Hotstar, owned by 21st Century Fox’s Star India.

The content licensing and trademark agreement for Showtime will introduce to India such programming as the new Twin Peaks, comedy series Smilf and Escape at Dannemora, starring Benicio Del Torro, Patricia Arquette and Paul Dano, which will be available on the Hotstar Premium service. Also included are shows such as The Affair, Billions, Ray Donovan and I’m Dying Up Here.

CBS has inked similar agreements for Showtime content in other international markets, including with Fox Networks Group in other parts of Asia, Canal+ Group in France, Sky in the U.K., Germany and Italy, Bell Canada, Stan Australia and Movistar in Spain.

While financial terms were not disclosed, the agreement with CBS builds on Hotstar’s previous content pacts with Disney, Fox and HBO. The Indian streaming video market has been heating up since last year following the launch of global competitors, notably Netflix and Amazon.

“Over the last year, we have established Hotstar Premium as the most exciting destination for American TV shows and movies in India on demand,” Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan said. Hotstar Premium is available for about $3 (199 rupees) per month.

CBS Studios International president and CEO Armando Nunez said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Hotstar to bring critically-acclaimed programming from Showtime to Indian audiences.” 

Hotstar is largely driven by local content from its parent Star India, which includes close to 100,000 hours of television content and Indian movies in multiple languages, in addition to major sports content.

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'The Bruce Lee Project' Competition Series From Keanu Reeves, Shannon Lee Set for India, Middle East

The series will feature training drills and challenges inspired by quotes and philosophies of the late martial arts icon.

An original fight competition series called The Bruce Lee Project, produced by a joint venture between the production firms of Keanu Reeves and Lee daughter Shannon, is set to launch in India and the Middle East.

With competitors training at The Bruce Lee Center, the series will feature training drills and challenges inspired by quotes and philosophies of the late martial arts icon, the companies said Wednesday.

The Bruce Lee Project is presented by So You Think You Know Kung Fu LLC (SYTYKKF), the joint venture between Company Films (co-owned by Reeves and Stephen Hamel), Shannon Lee’s Bruce Lee Entertainment LLC, Benaroya Pictures, Metan Global Entertainment Group, which created the series and oversees the global rights and licensing of the format worldwide, and 8K Miles Media Group, a South Asia focused media enterprise headquartered in the U.S.

The 13-episode series will be produced by 8K Miles Media Group and distributed for five seasons in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It is targeted to debut in multiple Indian languages across the globe in 2018. Sales and development for the project is handled by E! Entertainment Television founder and Metan president and CEO  Larry Namer.

The goal of the series is not to find the next Bruce Lee, but to search for male and female “warriors of life” who are physically accomplished, as well as thoughtful and spiritual. The training at the Bruce Lee Center is designed to help competitors prepare and condition their body, mind and spirit. The show will consist of 12 hour-long episodes and a 90 minute live finale.

“Bruce Lee has a legacy of inspiration,” Reeves said. “It is exciting to see this legacy of inspiration have the opportunity to reach a new generation in The Bruce Lee Project.”

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China Delays Release of 'Spider-Man: Homecoming,' 'Valerian'

The move suggests that China’s media regulators have reinstated their infamous blackout on Hollywood film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s worldwide box-office dominance is missing one major piece of the global puzzle: China.

So far in 2017, most major Hollywood tentpoles have opened in China day-and-date with North America, or just shortly after their U.S. debut. But sources in Beijing say Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming has yet to be given an official release date, which means it is unlikely to open in the world’s second-largest film market until at least August.

The same goes for 20th Century Fox’s War for The Planet of the Apes, opening in North America on Friday, and Luc Besson’s Valerian, set for a North American debut on July 21.

In an increasingly integrated — and still piracy-vulnerable — global entertainment landscape, release delays have been known to erode box office significantly.

The uncertainty surrounding these much-anticipated tentpoles is the clearest indication yet that Beijing’s media regulators intend to reinstate their infamous blackout on foreign film imports during the lucrative summer moviegoing season.

Facing a slowdown in box-office growth, regulators cut the blackout season short in 2016, allowing a handful of U.S. studio titles into the market in late July and August. Some had speculated that China might abolish the summer blackout practice altogether this year, since Washington and Beijing trade officials are currently engaged in a high-stakes renegotiation of the U.S. film industry’s terms of doing business in China. Allergic to the notion of American pop culture dominance, Beijing employs various means — including quotas, reduced revenue shares and blackouts — to limit Hollywood’s access to the massive mainland Chinese theatrical market. The United States Trade Representative office, with the MPPA’s urging, is understood to be pushing hard for China to give up such practices.

For their part, China’s movie regulators — specially, the Film Bureau, within the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television — find themselves trapped between competing priorities. Upper levels of the Chinese government are understood to demand that Chinese movies maintain at least a 55 percent market share at the national box office. At the same time, they want to see steady overall growth in the marketplace, so that China can overtake North America as the world’s largest theatrical market as soon as possible (Pricewaterhouse Coopers currently forecasts China will claim that crown in 2020).

Box-office growth remained sluggish in the first half of the year, however, with total revenue climbing just 3.7 percent. And it was Hollywood that saved the Chinese market from an embarrassing loss. With local Chinese movies continuing to underperform, regulators allowed in a record 57 foreign films during the period — 14 more than last year. As a result, Chinese movies’ market share plunged to just 39 percent. To get that number back above 55 percent — while also escaping a full-year decline and intense global trade heat from U.S. officials — the Film Bureau will have to execute some regulatory maneuvering that is nothing less than heroic.


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African Drama 'MTV Shuga' to Get Indian Version

The series, which has focused on issues of family planning, safe sex and HIV and which starred Lupita Nyong’o in its first two seasons, will also be localized for Egypt.

MTV Shuga, the award-winning steamy African drama series from Viacom’s MTV International and the MTV Staying Alive Foundation that has focused on issues of family planning, safe sex and HIV, is getting new localized versions in India and Egypt by 2020.

Viacom’s Viacom International Media Networks unit unveiled the news at the Family Planning 2020 summit in London on Tuesday.

The move to India will mark the first time the series has been created for a country outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

The company on Tuesday also said that the show will return to Nigeria for two additional seasons, “with a heavy emphasis on family planning and contraception.” Viewers of the series were much more likely to go to sexual health centers to get tested, according to past research.

Lupita Nyong’o starred in the first two seasons of MTV Shuga.

In India, the series will be called MTV Nishedh and is expected to be aired by Indian joint venture Viacom 18 with a potential reach of 176 million young people, according to the firm. It said the show would tackle “locally relevant issues, including child sexploitation and HIV.”

Meanwhile, the local version of the show in Egypt will also get a local title and be produced in Arabic, making it the first MTV Shuga to be produced in a language other than English. Set to air on MTV in Egypt and via partnerships with terrestrial Arabic-language networks across the country, the Egyptian version will focus on family planning issues, including demand for contraception, gender based violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation.

“We know that storytelling has the power to catalyze positive social change and have seen that first-hand in Africa with series like MTV Shuga,” said Georgia Arnold, executive director of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and senior vp of social responsibility for MTV International. “By going global with MTV Shuga and bringing this format to new countries, we are committed to challenging misconceptions and inspiring our audiences to talk openly and honestly about their sexual health, while also mobilizing them to take action to access the services they need.”


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Wanda to Consolidate Chinese Film Assets Through Major Merger

Notably, the merger will not include the loss-making U.S. movie studio Legendary Entertainment, which Wanda acquired for $3.5 billion in early 2016.

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda Group, is set to take more of his film industry assets public.

Earlier this week, shares of the conglomerate’s public cinema line business Wanda Film Holding were suspended from trading on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, pending “plans to acquire film-related assets.” Wanda made its intentions clear on Tuesday in a filing to the Shenzhen exchange, saying Wanda Film Holding would acquire Wanda Film & Television Media, the previously private film production and distribution arm of the conglomerate.

Notably, the merger will not include U.S. movie studio Legendary Entertainment, which Wanda acquired for $3.5 billion in early 2016.  

More to come… 

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