The BFI published figures Thursday showing strong performances for UK indies in what overall was a record year for the British box office. Local independent films had 11% market share, the third highest since records began. They were led by StudioCanal’s Legend, starring Tom Hardy, with £18.4M, followed by Fox’s The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at £16M and StudioCanal’s Shaun The Sheep Movie with £14M. Also banking double digits were The Lady In The Van at £12M and Pathé’s Suffragette at £10M. Total ticket sales for all movies were worth £1.24B, up 17% on 2014 with admissions topping 171.9M, a 9% increase. As has been well-documented, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was 2015’s biggest title, followed by Spectre. Local production spend topped £1.41B, coming in slightly behind 2014’s record £1.49B. That’s testament to the popularity of UK studios, locations and crews and the UK Film Tax Relief scheme. Inward investment was £1.18B in 47 films including Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Fox’s Assassin’s Creed, Warner Bros’ Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and Universal’s The Huntsman Winter’s War. There were 124 domestic UK films made in-country in 2015, which spent £198M, 7% less than 2014. In the TV sector, there was significant growth on high-end production with 82 programs driving a UK spend of £759M — up 20% from 2014. The UK Tax Credit has proved itself a boon to the local industry with such series as Game Of Thrones, Galavant, Outlander, The Night Manager and The Bastard Executioner shooting in the UK. Major inward investment features confirmed to shoot in 2016 include Universal’s The Mummy, Warner Bros’ Justice League Part One and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Episode VIII Amazon’s first UK-based drama, The Collection, begins shooting in Wales this month.
Rune Denstad Langlo’s Welcome To Norway has been acquired by Beta Cinema, ahead of its world premiere in competition at the Göteborg Film Festival and its subsequent bow at the EFM in Berlin. Sales already have been completed in Germany and Austria (Neue Visionen), Switzerland (Filmcoopi) and Italy (Good Films). The high-concept comedy centers on a ski resort hotel owner who is a little more racist than most but falls for the idea of turning the family business into a refugee reception center in order to save it from financial ruin. He finds himself completely out of his depth when 50 refugees arrive. And things are hardly improved by relentlessly optimistic Abdi, a refugee from Eritrea. Kon-Tiki’s Anders Baasmo stars with Slimane Dazi (A Prophet), Henriette Steenstrup (Turn Me On Dammit!) and newcomer Olivier Mukuta as Abdi. This is Langlo’s third feature after North and Chasing The Wind.
After the film made waves (and many cringes) at Sundance 2016, Dogwoof has acquired UK and foreign rights to Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner, with pan-Scandinavian rights going to NonStop Entertainment. The film originally intended to follow former congressman Anthony Weiner, still recovering from his humiliating 2011 sexting scandal, during his 2013 bid to become New York City mayor. Instead, the filmmakers serendipitously captured in excruciating detail the second sexting scandal that stopped Weiner’s attempted career resurrection dead in its tracks. Directed & Produced by Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg, it was produced by Edgeline Films and Motto Pictures, co-produced by Elizabeth Delaune Warren and Sean McGing, executive produced by Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, and Lily Fan, and co-executive Produced by James Rees, Hilary Verbuch, and Barbara Delaune Warren. Domestic rights to Weiner were previously acquired by Sundance Selects & Showtime Documentary. David Koh & Josh Braun of Submarine negotiated the foreign deals on behalf of the directors & producers, along with Anna Godas, CEO & Oli Harbottle, Head of Distribution for Dogwoof and Jakob Abrahamsson, CEO of NonStop Entertainment.
France’s SND is readying sales on culture-clash comedy An Indian Tale from director Hector Cabelo Reyes and producers Léonard Glowinski of 22h22 and Philipp Carcassonne’s Ciné@ in cooperation with UMedia. The Brand New Testament’s Benoit Poelvoorde stars as a grumpy bachelor in a small town in north France who crosses paths with Ajit, a lost and lonely Indian. Alexandra Lamy also stars. European culture-clash comedies tend to work very well in local markets and across the region, with France, Spain and Italy seeing great successes in recent years. Shooting is underway. SND will release in France and sell internationally.
Keshet UK has appointed Howard Burch as its Head of Drama. In the newly created role, the exec will work with the local team to further its goal to produce more premium drama in-house. Burch was previously Head of Television at Vertigo Films. He began his career at Channel 4, beginning as a script reader and moving to Associate Editor of the drama department from 1997-99. In 1999, he was appointed Head of Drama Development at Kudos and stayed with the company in various roles through 2010. The A Word, a Keshet UK and Fifty Fathoms co-production, is currently filming in the Lake District and at Manchester’s Space project. The six-part drama, written for BBC One by Peter Bowker, is due to air in late spring. Earlier this month, Channel 4 announced the commission of the Keshet International comedy drama Loaded, which will be coproduced by Keshet UK and Hill Billy TV.
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is heading to Spain to shoot select episodes for its third season. Shooting in the city of Almería in the Andalusia region, the episodes will follow Ethan (Josh Hartnett), Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton), new series regular Kaetenay (Wes Studi) and Hecate (guest star Sarah Greene) as they battle dark forces in the 1800s American West. The new season will premiere May 1.
Sony Pictures Television’s Chinese adaptation of the 1990s comedy Mad About You has attracted 109 million views on the AVOD platform Youku since its January 11 debut, including 50 million views in the second week alone. Airing on Dragon TV, Xin Hun Gong Yu (Wedding Apartment) maintained its position in Week 2 as the No. 1 show among the national satellite channels. driving Dragon TV to outperform its closest competitor, Jiangsu TV, by 41%in total Viewers and 62% in adults 15-49.