Sundance: How Netflix and Amazon Are Dramatically Shaking Up the Market

This wasn’t the first Sundance where Amazon Studios and Netflix hit the Park City slopes, but 2016 marked a turning point when both streaming services proved they are formidable buyers in the movie world.

After a fairly low-key Toronto and Cannes, where some questioned just how serious Amazon was about its film ambitions, the Web giant turned up the volume by landing one of the biggest deals at the festival. It beat out Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, and other studios for Kenneth Lonergan’s searing drama “Manchester By the Sea,” which received a rapturous standing ovation at the Eccles Theatre reminiscent of “Boyhood’s” debut two years ago. The $10 million sale could give Amazon its first front-row tickets to the Oscars — in 2017.

Amazon also snatched up the Whit Stillman’s “Love and Friendship,” based on the Jane Austen novella, and “Author: The J.T. LeRoy” story, a buzzy documentary about the infamous literary fabulist. The latter was the first documentary acquisition for Amazon, which intends to aggressively build up its catalogue offerings, Variety has learned. The move comes at a boom time for documentaries, albeit one driven almost entirely by TV — with CNN, HBO, Showtime and now even PBS’ “American Masters” all straddling the lines between the big and small screen.

Not to be outdone, Netflix flexed its out financial muscles before the festival had even started, locking up worldwide streaming rights to three anticipated titles: “Tallulah,” starring Ellen Page; “The Fundamentals of Caring” with Paul Rudd; and “Under the Shadow,” an Iranian horror movie that drew comparisons to “The Babadook.”

Theatrical rights to these films are still up for grabs, but by siphoning off an important revenue stream, Netflix dampened interest among would-be suitors.

Netflix also seemed to dominate the chatter in Park City, by flying in Chelsea Handler to promote her new docuseries “Chelsea Does.”

The streaming service also is responsible, in part, for the largest Sundance deal on the books: Fox Searchlight getting Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” about the 1931 slave uprising led by Nat Tuner, for $17.5 million. Netflix is said to have driven bidding up by offering $20 million, but in the end, the producers decided to go with a more familiar theatrical distributor of prestige titles for less money (but still more than anybody has ever bid on a Sundance movie).

It wasn’t long ago when directors were scared to experiment with how their films would reach the masses. But in interview after interview, major talent was asked to reflect on the presence of Netflix, and the new message seems to be a ringing endorsement. “I love Netflix. I just sold a TV show to Netflix,” Selena Gomez, who co-stars in “The Fundamentals of Caring,” told Variety. “It’s incredible the traffic that they get. It’s all that I watch when I’m at home.”

There is a downside and an upside to Netflix and Amazon’s rise. As Gomez notes, the audience that both services reach dwarf those of traditional indie distributors. And their business model, one that is built on streams, not ticket sales, means that they can take a chance and pay top dollar for the kinds of risky fare that is Sundance’s stock-in-trade.

But the online video revolution that both companies are fostering also raises questions about the longterm health of the arthouse scene. Most of the films that earned big deals at last year’s festival collapsed at the box office, from “Dope” to “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” and studio buyers are grousing about how disconnected many of this year’s crop of movies seem from popular tastes.

“Sundance hasn’t exactly put its best face forward,” one studio executive griped. “It’s terrible,” said another buyer.

Some of the movies have not been well-received. “Swiss Army Man,” which featured Paul Dano riding a flatulent corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe across an ocean, inspired an exodus of studio buyers and will be lucky if it sells for seven figures.

Others, such as the cancer dramedy “Other People,” Kelly Reinhardt’s three-vignette “Certain Women,” Antonio Campos’ “Chrstine” or the Obama first date movie “Southside With Me,” have been effective, even finely-wrought pictures, but face questions about their commercial viability when they leave the nurturing confines of the mountainside gathering.

With Netflix and Amazon offering hours of shows and films for free, paying money to see smaller scale comedies and dramas has become less appealing. Even good reviews may not be enough to attract big audience, which may be why traditional studios — such as The Weinstein Co. and Focus Features — have been quiet during the festival so far.

“The audience for movies I might make is much smaller than what it once was,” said Todd Solondz, director of “Wiener-Dog” and a film school professor at NYU. “Most of my students, they watch things on the Netflix or the download, so they’re not going to theaters. That’s why things are so difficult.”

Although Amazon and Netflix’s buying spree seems to usher in a new era for Sundance, there are still time-honored traditions that won’t be going away anytime soon. Amazon will find a theatrical distributor to release “Manchester by the Sea,” and promised that it would launch a competitive awards season campaign for the much-loved drama. So, in the end, multiplexes will carry “Manchester By the Sea” — even if some audiences would prefer to wait and see it on a laptop.

Brent Lang & Ramin Setoodeh – Variety – JANUARY 26, 2016

New Study Confirms Hollywood Is Playing A Longer Game

Sir Peter Jackson makes the longest movies in Hollywood, with a median running Cinemagoers whose gut instinct or numb posteriors have prompted them to suspect Hollywood movies have gotten significantly longer over the past five years are spot on.

According to a new study the median length of the top 100 U.S.-grossing films between 1994 and 2015 was 110 minutes, and running times have increased every year for the past five years.

UK-based analyst, teacher, writer and blogger Stephen Follows found that historical films, Westerns and bios are the longest and family, animation and documentaries are the shortest.

Half of the Hollywood movies he surveyed are between 96 and 120 minutes long, and the most popular running time is 101 minutes. Films with lower budgets have shorter running times, which is probably a cost factor rather than a desire for filmmakers to be more succinct or economical in their story telling.

In his blog Follows does not seek to explain the reasons for the trend to longer movies. My guess is that speaks mostly to the power that “franchise” directors exercise over the studios, which often results in budget blows- outs and running times that drive exhibitors crazy. But the data does show audiences are willing to sit for longer periods if they feel they are fully engaged and entertained.

Don Groves – Forbes – January 19, 2016

Oz pubcaster ABC wants more broad-appeal Australian drama that can connect internationally.

ABC TV head of fiction Carole Sklan is keen for more drama that appeals to under-50s. The Australian pubcaster’s flagship channel has a persistently older-skewing audience profile, and Sklan says the challenge is “about how to appeal to a broader audience without alienating a huge, significant older audience who are devoted to the ABC.”

Sklan’s fiction remit covers a varied slate of both drama and scripted comedy, including international coproductions. “We support a diverse range of shows, always with external production companies – there’s no in-house production at the ABC,” she says.

The exec adds that a key focus is “to tell Australian stories for Australian audiences that hopefully make a connection internationally and sell throughout the world.”

She adds: “We look for a very diverse slate, a mix of returning series and original series… So we’re looking to do a mix, showcasing extraordinary local talent.”

Past successes include literary adaptations and factual drama, which can be stories about remarkable Australians, Sklan says – citing miniseries such as Paper Giants, about the rise of Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch’s media empires in Australia, and Carlotta, which profiled Australia’s first transgender person, a high-profile cabaret artist in the 1970s.

One hit for ABC in 2015 was The Secret River, a two-part adaptation of Kate Grenville’s award-winning bestselling novel. The show was developed by producers Stephen Luby and Mark Ruse of Ruby Entertainment, along with director Fred Schepisi, and adapted by screenwriters Jan Sardi and Mac Gudegon. Airing in a Sunday night 20.30 slot last June, the drama was one of ABC’s top 10 local productions of 2015, attracting 1.2 million viewers in linear transmission and an average 90,000 plays on ABC’s online platform iview per episode.

The Beautiful Lie was another success for the channel. The six-part contemporary drama adaptation was made by Endemol Australia Production in association with ABC TV, Film Victoria and Screen Australia.

“What I thought was incredibly bold and imaginative was that it was inspired by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina but set in contemporary middle-class Australia,” explains Sklan. “And it was absolutely fascinating the way the psychological insights and social observations of the 19th century Russian aristocracy also seemed to translate extremely well to contemporary life. So those universal themes of love, infidelity, relationships and survival are explored in a contemporary context.”

The pubcaster also aired six-part paranormal drama Glitch, from Matchbox Pictures, releasing the series on iview first to allow viewers to binge-watch ahead of its linear release. The show generated 1.2 million iview plays across its run, and although linear ratings were not as strong, a second season has now been commissioned.

ABC’s 2016 slate includes the return of Jack Irish in February, this time as a six-part series, which will kick off its season of Thursday-night homemade drama at 20.30.

Other returning series include Janet King, The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Rake.

Also upcoming is a second season of thriller The Code, which first premiered on ABC in September 2014. “It’s very exciting – big ideas, action, serialised storytelling across the six hours – but essentially it’s grounded in a relationship between two brothers,” says Sklan. One of the brothers is a hacker with Asperger syndrome who comes across a range of conspiracies; the other is an investigative journalist.

“Though we’re dealing with big stories and ideas, and quite a dark world with the possibility of nuclear technology getting into the hands of terrorists, it’s driven by these very emotional and personal relationships of the two brothers, navigating their way in the world,” Sklan adds of the show.

Made by Playmaker Media, The Code was developed under Australia’s Scribe Initiative, with production funding assistance from Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, the ACT Government and Screen ACT. One of the ABC’s goals is to engage and nurture great creative teams – including producers, directors and writers – but Sklan has concerns over retaining the country’s writers. “Our writers are all being snaffled up by the US and the UK,” she says.

Sklan and ABC’s big swing in 2016 is upcoming miniseries Barracuda (4×60’) from Matchbox Pictures. Adapted from Christos Tsiolkas’s follow-up to his book The Slap, it counts the author as an associate producer alongside producers Tony Ayres and Amanda Higgs. Elias Anton and Ben Kindon star.

The drama, timed to coincide with the lead-up to this year’s Olympics, is “essentially a very different sports story… about the pressures on young elite athletes and the nature of success and identity,” says Sklan. Barracuda follows a working-class boy who wins a swimming scholarship for an elite private boys’ school, but finds he has to navigate a world of very wealthy, privileged young men.

Also coming to the channel is futurist drama Cleverman. The six-parter from Goalpost Pictures Australia and New Zealand’s Pukeko Pictures is coproduced with Red Arrow International and SundanceTV.

“It’s about really vivid characters and fascinating, addictive relationships that you want to revisit every week,” says Sklan, summarising ABC’s drama output. “Also, as the public broadcaster, our stories need to reflect something about our worlds and our lives. But I do think characters and relationships are the key.

“With returning series, we’re probably looking at genre because of the dramatic stakes and stories they give you. We’re not at all interested in generic procedural shows – we want fresh and entertaining takes on medical, legal, crime series and so on.”

Gün Akyuz reports – C21 Media – 20 January 2016

ABC TV appoints new Head of Arts

ABC Director of Television Richard Finlayson has announced the appointment of Mandy Chang to the role of Head of Arts, ABC TV.

Chang joined the ABC in 2013 after a stint producing and directing documentaries for major UK broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, PBS and Sky Atlantic.

Her feature-length documentary The Mona Lisa Curse for Channel 4 won the Rose d’Or, Banff World Media Festival Grand Jury Prize, Grierson and Emmy Awards.

In her three years at ABC TV, she has overseen the creation of Autopsy on a Dream – the Story of the Sydney Opera House, Hannah Gadsby’s Oz, The Art of Australia, Art and Soul II, Getting Frank Gehry, Comic Book Heroes, The Cambodian Space Project, Cast from the Storm, The Divorce and Matilda and Me.

Recently Chang worked on the creation of the ABC iview Arts channel and the development of David Stratton’s Story of Australian Cinema, due to premiere this year.

“The ABC has a steadfast ambition to become the home of Arts in Australia”, Finlayson said. “Mandy’s appointment to this role is a clear signal that we intend to commission and produce world-class content across all our platforms and bring the best of the arts to a wide Australian audience.

“Our Arts team has produced some of ABC TV’s best work over the past few years and we are fortunate to have great depth throughout the group. I’d particularly like to thank Kath Earle for her outstanding leadership during the past year, particularly her work bringing our innovative iview Arts channel to life.”

Mandy Chang said: “Having done what I feel is a rigorous three-year apprenticeship, I’m both excited and honoured to be taking on the Head of Arts role.

“We have accomplished much within ABC Arts over the past few years, delivering innovative, high-quality Arts content for audiences, across all of our platforms. I look forward to leading the Arts team as we continue to find ambitious and exciting ways to celebrate and share the artistic achievements and dynamic cultural life of this country.”

Chang commences in her new role this week.

Media Release Monday 18 January 2015

Film: Sorkin, Schumer, Sorrentino show why screenwriters matter

Screenwriters have been habitually overlooked by critics and a movie going public that hallows directors and A-list actors. But the glory of great films is, in no small part, great writing.

Six who are leaving their mark on the big screen:

AARON SORKIN Steve Jobs

Few screenwriters achieve even modest fame; fewer still become household names.

Aaron Sorkin is an even more unusual case: a screenwriter whose renown and influence have altered language itself, giving birth to an adjective (‘‘Sorkinesque’’) and a verb (‘‘Sorkinise’’). And, of course, there is Sorkin the genre. Everyone in Hollywood knows what an ‘‘Aaron Sorkin project’’ denotes: a TV show or film that combines old-fashioned craftsmanship and up-to-date settings, along with fusillades of feisty dialogue delivered by quintessential contemporary types — newsmen, politicians, techies.

From The West Wing to Moneyball to The Social Network, Sorkin specialises in heroic, weird savants and in stories that find gripping drama in characters most comfortable staring at a laptop.

This year he brings Steve Jobs, a deliciously Sorkinised take on the ultimate geek demigod, based on the biography by Walter Isaacson and directed by Danny Boyle.

‘‘Certain types of genius can be hard to dramatise,’’ Sorkin concedes. ‘‘Coding, much to my disappointment, doesn’t really look like anything on screen. It just looks like people typing.’’ The key, he says, is ‘‘to make wonky scenes look and feel and sound like bank robberies and prison breaks’’.

He gives credit for that feat to his colleagues: ‘‘I love what happens when you write something that draws on the combined talents of a great director, great actors, great designers, great technicians. I like team sports better than individual sports; I like bands better than solo acts. This is why I write screenplays, not novellas.’’

AMY SCHUMER Trainwreck

Amy Schumer isn’t really a writer. That’s what she says, at least. ‘‘I haven’t been writing that long at all. I had to get [screenwriting software] Final Draft when my TV show got picked up. It’s all pretty new to me. I mean, I will get better.’’ But for a novice, she’s doing pretty well. Inside Amy Schumer is TV’s most subversive, hilarious and, yes, well-written show; its short, sharp comedy sketches wield satire like a shiv, slicing through contemporary politics and pop culture.

And of course there’s Trainwreck, Schumer’s debut feature-length star vehicle, penned by the woman herself. As pure comedy, Trainwreck kills, delivering a nonstop string of gags, with uproarious performances from the leads (Schumer and Bill Hader), and a supporting cast of stalwarts like Colin Quinn and upstarts like LeBron James. The revelation is how well the movie works as straight romantic comedy, centred on the charming, shaggy love story between Schumer’s dissolute party girl and Hader’s nice-guy doctor. But Trainwreck has it both ways, hitting all the meet-cute/break-up/make-up beats while sending up the genre, and giving a mischievously feminist spin to all the dusty old rom-com tics and tropes. Credit of course, to the writer: Many of the film’s best moments were in the novice screenwriter’s first draft.

PAOLO SORRENTINO Youth

‘‘When I start to write a movie, my first priority is that I want it to be funny,’’ says the director and screenwriter Paolo Sorrentino. ‘‘I want to make people laugh. On my way to doing that, I often wind up creating something that is also sad.’’ That deft, slightly surreal blend of tongue-in-cheek and heart-on-sleeve is present in all of Sorrentino’s work, from the mafia thriller The Consequences of Love (2004) to The Great Beauty, his celebrated 2013 valentine to the gorgeous and maddening Eternal City, Rome. The Neapolitan writer-director’s latest, Youth, is perhaps his sharpest and most endearing film to date. It’s the story of two ageing friends, Michael Caine’s composer-conductor and Harvey Keitel’s film director, on a retreat in a Swiss spa.

Many films have explored this crepuscular territory, but Sorrentino steers clear of lions-in-winter cliches while delivering an affecting and — yes — funny-sad rumination on late life and, well, youth. ‘‘I was interested in exploring how older people feel about the future, instead of the past,’’ he says.

ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU The Revenant

‘‘Right now, I am in the fourth or fifth circle of hell,’’ says Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. He’s joking — sort of. It’s early in the morning in mid-October, and the Oscar-winning Mexican writer-director is already at work, labouring on a tight deadline to put post-production touches on The Revenant, his feverishly awaited revenge thriller based on the novel by Michael Punke. Set in the wilds of the 1820s Dakota frontier, the film, which co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy (and was co-written by Mark L. Smith), tells the story of Hugh Glass, a legendary fur trapper who, in 1823, was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his expedition party.

Glass survived the attack, dressed his own wounds and completed an epic six-week, 320km crawl to the safe haven of Fort Kiowa, a fur-trading outpost on the banks of the Missouri River.

‘‘Nobody knows much about Hugh Glass beyond the basic outline: he was attacked by a bear and he was abandoned,’’ Inarritu says. ‘‘The only thing that survives of him is a tiny little note that he wrote to the parents of a trapper that died in battle. There is lots of room for imagining and elaborating.’’

Inarritu has been one of cinema’s most thrilling imaginers and elaborators for the past 15 years. From his torrid feature debut, Amores Perros (2000), to the best picture Academy Award winner Birdman, he has pursued an aesthetic that might be boiled down to a single word — more — stuffing his movies to bursting point with love, sex, politics, violence, all chronicled with extravagantly swooping cameras.

Ultimately, he says, his goal is to enchant an audience into suspending disbelief: ‘‘The duty of art is to make probable the improbable.’’

CARY FUKUNAGA Beasts of No Nation

Cary Fukunaga was fresh out of film school when he wrote the screenplay for Beasts of No Nation, the grim, hallucinatory war film which debuted simultaneously in theatres and on Netflix in October. Beasts was one of the first scripts Fukunaga had written, but the hallmarks of the sensibility and style that would make the 38-year-old Bay Area native one of this decade’s most acclaimed American filmmakers were already in place. The story, adapted from Uzodinma Iweala’s novel about a child soldier in an unnamed West African nation, spoke to Fukunaga’s cosmopolitanism, his heady and wide¬ranging interest in the fractious politics of the globalised 21st century. Fukunaga’s screenplay revealed a natural storyteller and a technician — a filmmaker with shrewd instincts about how to bring narratives to vibrant life.

The result is one of the most powerful war movies in recent memory, a brutal but ultimately humanist film powered by Fukunaga’s hurtling camera work and fine performances by Idris Elba and the teenage Ghanaian actor Abraham Attah. It’s the latest entry in a film¬ography of impressive range, from the Mexican migrant thriller Sin Nombre (2009) to his stately adaptation of Jane Eyre (2011) to his ballyhooed stint as director of the first season of True Detective (2014). In all of his work, Fukunaga combines a cineaste’s command of classic structure with an iconoclast’s compulsion to bend the rules. ‘‘I always like screenplays that subvert the three-act structure,’’ Fukunaga says. ‘‘You can sometimes lose audiences when you do that, but I appreciate new forms of entering the structure. In my experience, it’s usually worth the risk.’’

PHYLLIS NAGY Carol

Phyllis Nagy, the acclaimed playwright and screenwriter, maintains a bright line between her stage and film endeavours. But her screenplay for Carol, the adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s groundbreaking lesbian romance novel The Price of Salt (1952), is self-evidently the work of a theatrical pro. Directed by Todd Haynes and co-starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the taut, suspenseful Carol combines the best elements of chamber piece and sumptuous period melodrama.

As for the movie’s vaguely sinister undercurrent: That’s pure Highsmith. Nagy relished the challenge of capturing the distinctly creepy and suspenseful atmosphere that hovers like fog over the writer’s novels. She accomplished it, she says, by writing less. ‘‘I tried to maintain that Highsmithian obsessional quality by texturing scenes so that the director and actors are free to work without words. The lack of dialogue, the lack of speechifying — that’s actually how this story gets told.’’

Jody Rosen – New York Times – January 16, 2016

Box Office: 5 Lessons for 2016 From Hollywood’s Record Highs and Lows

Sure, revenue hit $11 billion in the U.S. and set a global mark, but after ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Star Wars’ are signs of trouble (and China questions). Says one studio chief, “It’s a binary world.”

Box-office revenue may have hit an all-time high in 2015, but that doesn’t mean The Force was with everyone. Disney — home of Star Wars: The Force Awakens — and Universal, with an unprecedented three billion-dollar-grossers in Jurassic World, Furious 7 and Minions, pulled away from the competition while other studios grappled with historic lows.

So while 2015 is “a big shot in the arm of the industry overall,” says MKM analyst Eric Handler, key lessons linger:

1. Plant tentpoles carefully

Combined, Universal and Disney controlled more than 41 percent of U.S. market share and more than a third of global grosses (Universal amassed a $6.8 billion worldwide total, shattering Fox’s $5.5 billion record, while Disney nearly cleared $6 billion). Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, who ushered in the era of the Hollywood tentpole when running Warner Bros., now all but forgoes smaller films.

Paramount has come under scrutiny for releasing fewer movies than its competitors, but Disney actually put out the same number as Paramount in 2015 (11). The difference? “Our titles this year were part of the moviegoing culture before they even came out,” says Disney worldwide distribution chief Dave Hollis.

Warners, often the industry leader, was without a superhero or other prebranded tentpole. Studio chief Kevin Tsujihara instead attempted to create new franchises (Pan, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and flooded the market with 26 releases, most from financial partners. But it didn’t work, with many bombs, and only San Andreas, from New Line, hitting big.

2. Beware the new lows

“It’s a binary world,” laments Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman. Even as movies hit new highs, gone are the days when an eight-figure opening weekend could be guaranteed by a certain star and a robust marketing spend. Now, openings in the $3 million to $5 million range are normal. Robert Zemeckis (The Walk), Sandra Bullock (Our Brand Is Crisis) and Daniel Radcliffe (Victor Frankenstein) all opened movies to historic lows. Adds Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson: “The takeaway is that we have a record year, but it was concentrated among fewer films. The top 10 films in 2014 represented 24 percent of the pie. The top 10 films this year represent 34 percent.”

3. Don’t fight social media

Again and again, prerelease tracking was wrong. “Going to the movies has become all about the social media conversation,” says Imax Entertainment CEO Greg Foster, noting that studios now advertise Rotten Tomatoes scores on Facebook and Twitter.

“Creative remains key, but it’s less about television commercials and more about shaping the social conversation.” Consider Fox’s Fantastic Four: It was tracking fine until director Josh Trank, stung by bad reviews, tweeted on the eve of the release that his version was “better.” The movie quickly died.

4. Year-round scheduling pays off

While Universal’s Jurassic World was an all-audience tentpole, studio chair Donna Langley crafted a diverse slate of 21 films that clicked with different demos at all times of the year, beginning with Fifty Shades of Grey (females) over Valentine’s Day weekend, Furious 7 (men) in late spring, Minions (families) and Trainwreck (couples) in summer and Straight Outta Compton(urban) in August. “Fifty Shades was based on a huge book, but no one was sure if the audience base would be sufficiently motivated,” says Universal distribution chief Nick Carpou.

“Turning it into a Valentine’s Day date-night movie was a masterful stroke on the part of our marketing department.” Similarly, Universal rolled the dice opening Pitch Perfect 2 opposite Mad Max: Fury Road. Prerelease surveys showed both films bowing at $40 million; Pitch Perfect 2lured its female audience and took in $69.2 million, besting Mad Max’s $45.4 million.

5. Learn to love (and hate) China

As China becomes the world’s largest movie market, many assume Hollywood studios will benefit. But 2015 showed it’s tougher than ever for outsiders to secure prime release dates and keep films on screens. Even as China revenue jumped a staggering 49 percent to $6.77 billion, U.S. market share fell from 45.5 percent in 2014 to 38.4 percent. State regulators are more intent than ever to promote local fare, imposing blackout periods and maintaining a quota system. For instance, Minions and Pixels opened within two days of each other and only one week after Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. And in December, The Martian lost screens more quickly than expected, topping out at $94 million. Only three U.S. films landed on China’s top 10 chart — Furious 7 (No. 2, $372.6 million), Avengers: Age of Ultron (No. 4, $224.9 million) and Jurassic World (No. 6, $216.2 million). Like everything about the 2015 box office, it was feast or famine.

Records Broken (Bad and Good)

Highs and lows rewrote the rules for what’s possible at the multiplex.

Blackhat (Universal)

Chris Hemsworth’s thriller had the lowest domestic gross for a film that cost more than $70 million and opened in 2,000-plus theaters: $8 million

October Blood Bath

Domestic box-office revenue for Halloween weekend came in at $74 million, the year’s worst showing and the lowest grossing Halloween since 1999. The ghoulish holiday capped a dismal month littered with several bombs (including Our Brand Is Crisis, The Walk and Burnt).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney)

– Top domestic opening weekend of all time: $248 million (bests Jurassic World’s $208.8 million)

– Top worldwide opening of all time: $529 million (bests Jurassic World’s $524.9 million)

– Fastest film to $700 million domestically: 16 days (bests Avatar’s 72 days)

Universal

– Biggest year domestically: $2.4 billion

– Biggest year internationally: $4.4 billion

– First studio to see three films cross $1 billion globally during the same year

Victor Frankenstein (Fox)

– Worst opening for a major-studio release in 2,500-plus theaters: $2.5 million

We Are Your Friends (Warner Bros.)

– Worst opening for a Warners film in 2,000-plus theaters: $1.8 million

Detailed infomatics here:

www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-5-lessons-2016-852391

by Pamela McClintock – THR – 6/1/2016

BBC commissions Kris Mrksa’s Requiem for late 2016

Australian screenwriter Kris Mrksa (Glitch, Janet King, The Slap, Underbelly, The Secret Life of Us) will write a six-part series for BBC Drama.

Requiem will be made by New Pictures (coming off the back of a great success with The Missing, starring Australia’s Frances O’Connor) and will consist of six one-hour episodes. The show will be executive produced by Willow Grylls, Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures and Polly Hill for BBC One.

A thriller which flirts with the supernatural, Requiem is the story of a young woman who discovers, in the wake of her mother’s death, that everything she thought she knew about herself was a lie.

Mrksa is in esteemed company. Controller of BBC Drama commissioning, Polly Hill, said “I want the BBC to be the best creative home for writers and it’s exciting to bring audiences new shows from Mike Bartlett, Jimmy McGovern (Cracker), Jo Ahearne and Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman); plus have Kenneth Lonnergan (You Can Count on Me), Connor McPherson and Kris Mrksa all writing their first dramas for us”.

By Harry Windsor INSIDEFILM [Wed 06/01/2016)]

More Here:

http://if.com.au

Screen Australia’s Documentary Producer Program Supports 11 Diverse Projects

Media Release – Tuesday 22 December 2015

A diverse array of 11 documentaries tackling everything from the challenges of Year 12, to the murder case of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsay are set to receive funding as part of Screen Australia’s Documentary Producer Program.

This round includes six feature film documentaries, two iview premieres, and three television docos, proving the innovative and wide array of ways Australian producers are connecting these unique stories to audiences.

“Not only are we supporting a record number of documentaries for the Producer Program with this round, but we are hitting every platform, from online to television to features,” Screen Australia Chief Operating Officer Fiona Cameron says.

“These documentaries present a fascinating array of stories, told from established as well as emerging filmmakers.”

Casting JonBenet, about the unsolved death of the six-year-old beauty queen, is the second feature film from emerging director Kitty Green. Green’s first feature premiered at Venice Film Festival and her most recent work won Best Documentary Short at Sundance Film Festival. Green is producing, along with Scott Macaulay.

Another true-crime flavoured doc is the feature length Ghosthunter. From first-time director Ben Lawrence, producer Rebecca Bennett and executive producer Margie Bryant, it follows the story of a man whose life-long search for an absent father leads to an horrific revelation.

Equally terrifying, but in an entirely different way, is what the final year of high-school presents for young Australians. Produced by Karla Burt and executive produced by Laura Waters, Year 12 Diaries tells the true story of that intense journey, through the kids living it.

Meanwhile Spookers isn’t as scary as it sounds. Australian production company Madman (That Sugar Film) have teamed up with New Zealand filmmaker Florian Habicht for this tale about a close-knit farming family who open the most successful scare park in the Southern Hemisphere.

Making its premiere online is 10-part documentary web series No Strings Attached, where producers Lisa Kovacevic and Emma Watts tackle the topic of trying to connect in the 21 st century through a cast of puppets, who re-enact stories of dating app users.

Moving from social phenomena to social impact, Blue tells the story of our changing oceans and the crisis looming beneath the waves from director Karina Holden and producer Electra Manikakis of Northern Pictures.

The arts also feature heavily, from Ella’s Journey, which follows Ella Havelka, the first Indigenous dancer accepted into the Australia ballet, to multiplatform project Slam TV – a series about slam poetry, which is set to premiere on iview.

Meanwhile An Australian Nightmare presents a kind of Shakespearean film-within-a-film as producer/writer/director Gary Doust follows the journey of actor/filmmaker Craig Anderson making his first really low budget horror film with his own life savings.

And arts-inspired docos with a biographical edge include Gurrumul- Elcho Dreaming,  about the celebrated Indigenous musician, and a television documentary about visionary architect Harry Seidler titledSeidler – Brutal or Beautiful.

“This round of documentaries delivers a bit of everything, from chilling true crime, to spooky fun, to important issues impacting Australians now and in the future,” Ms Cameron said.

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Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson are happy to be in each other’s company again in controversial and timely Western ‘The Hateful Eight’

When a furious Quentin Tarantino scrapped plans to make “The Hateful Eight” after his original script leaked, the director sent the screenplay to one of his trusted longtime collaborators for a friendly look. After reading it, Samuel L. Jackson was not about to let the filmmaker ditch the project. “I called him and said, ‘Dude, how are you not going to make this movie?’” Jackson recalls.

That kind of cajoling, along with a chorus of disappointment among Tarantino’s fanbase, helped bring the director back to the drawing board. He decided to work through the material at a Los Angeles live reading of the script in April of last year, then announced he would proceed with plans to make the post-Civil War Western.

“The Hateful Eight” — which debuts in limited release on Christmas Day and goes wide on Jan. 8 — marks the sixth collaboration between Jackson and Tarantino, but this is the first time the veteran actor could be considered the lead of one of his films.

Theirs has become a storied collaboration, not unlike famed film tandems such as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, or John Ford and John Wayne.

It makes sense that Tarantino would cultivate such a relationship, as some of his favorite directors pulled from stock companies of actors. “That always seemed like the way to go,” Tarantino says. “With me, though, there’s a bit more of a practicality to it: Not every actor can do my dialogue. It’s very specific, and you have to be able to capture the rhythm.”

Many of the duo’s collaborators often cite comparisons with recording artists. “If Quentin is like a musician, no one has ever recorded his music in the way that Sam can,” says “Hateful Eight” producer Stacey Sher.

Harvey Weinstein, who has backed all of the features Tarantino has directed over the past 23 years, adds: “Sam is the world champion pianist who interprets and plays Quentin’s music like nobody else. It’s a language unto itself.”

Two decades and counting, it’s a relationship largely based on trust and respect.

“There are some people who, when they call you, you don’t care what they’re doing — you just drop your s— and do it,” Jackson says. “There’s no better place in the world to be than on a Quentin Tarantino set. He knows what he wants to do. He knows how he wants to do it. But in the framework of that, it’s like, ‘Show me what you want to do.’ It’s freeing. I’m just proud of the fact that he trusts me with his stuff.”

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5 Trends Making the Movie Business Lose Sleep

Blockbusters like “Jurassic World” and “Furious 7” powered the movie business to record numbers in 2015. But not everything Hollywood touched turned to gold.

There were plenty of “Pans” and “Victor Frankensteins” to splatter red ink around.

Here are five things that should keep the studios and filmmakers up at night.

Arthouse cinemas are beginning to feel like ghost towns.

Sundance favorites like “Dope” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” scored big deals, only to die at the box office. In response, distributors kept their checkbooks closed at the Toronto Film Festival. Plus, there are fewer buyers after Relativity Media went belly up and the Weinstein Co. cut the number of movies it will release in half.

Incredible Shrinking Stars

Norma Desmond was wrong. It’s not the pictures that got smaller, it’s the stars. Bignames like George Clooney, Channing Tatum and Adam Sandler couldn’t save “Tomorrowland,” “Jupiter Ascending” and “Pixels.” Diminishing drawing power threatens that most cherished of Hollywood institutions — the passion project.

Hoping to nurture relationships with the likes of Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie, studios greenlit such risky projects as “Our Brand Is Crisis” and “By the Sea,” losing millions of dollars in the process.

Netflix and Amazon Fail to Make a Stir

Streaming services can write big checks and field buzzy TV shows like “House of Cards” and “Transparent,” but they haven’t had a breakout movie. Netflix says “Beasts of No Nation,” a brutal drama about child soldiers, was widely viewed online, but it was barely seen in theaters. The company’s deal with Sandler also raised eyebrows after “Pixels” flopped. Amazon has been more tentative, launching its first theatrical release with Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq.” Though the services have revolutionized the way content is watched at home, they haven’t made many revolutionary movies — yet.

R-rated Comedies Are Running Out of Laughs

Amy Schumer emerged as a bona fide star with “Trainwreck,” but most films hoping to ride raunch to box office gold derailed. “Vacation,” “Ted 2” and “The Night Before” left audiences cold, and even well-reviewed “Spy” fell short of previous Melissa McCarthy efforts such as “The Heat” and “Identity Thief.” Nothing matched the success of 2014 smashes like “22 Jump Street” and “Neighbors,” and some studio executives fret that gross-out gags aren’t delivering belly laughs.

Feast or Famine

The hits were big, but so were the flops. For the first time, at least five films this year will top $1 billion globally. But even as movies like “Jurassic World” mint money, misses like “Pan” are leading to nine-figure writedowns. Fall was weighed down by adult dramas that cannibalized one another, leaving the likes of “The Walk” and “Steve Jobs” to wither. The year had two of the 10 best openings in history with “Jurassic World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” but also suffered four of the worst wide-release debuts ever with “Burnt,” “Victor Frankenstein,” “Jem and the Holograms” and “Rock the Kasbah.” Not every record is worth breaking.

Brent Lang – Variety – December 10, 2015