China’s 2012 Box Office Up 30% To $2.74B
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has released updated box office figures for 2012 with sales hitting $2.74B for a 30.18% increase over last year. SARFT said the nation produced 893 total films last year including 745 features and 33 animated pictures, the Xinhua news agency reported. On its way to an estimated 16,000 screens by 2015, the country is adding 10.5 screens a day. As noted last week, however, those screens are increasingly drawing crowds for foreign films which have eaten into the local share. Imports took $1.4B in box office for 51.54% of the market in 2012. Still, homegrown hit Lost In Thailand recently became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time with nearly $190M in less than a month of release. SARFT Film Bureau chief Gang Tong allowed that the local share exceeded expectations issued after the U.S. and China signed a pact in February to allow more imports into the country, but he still called the situation “severe.” He said, “China’s film industrialization is still far from other film powers, and there is plenty of room for improvement in Chinese movies’ variety and diversity.” Also unsettling: Outside China, there was a 48% drop in ticket sales in 2012, according to SARFT statistics, leading Tong to encourage filmmakers to better express Chinese images and stories and enhance marketing techniques.

Jeremy Piven’s ‘Mr Selfridge’ Gets Home Entertainment Deal
ITV Studios Global Entertainment has locked a deal on Jeremy Piven-starring series Mr. Selfridge with NBCUniversal for worldwide DVD and DTO rights, excluding the U.S. and Canada. The show, about the founder of London Oxford Street shopping mecca Selfridge’s, debuted in the UK on ITV this past Sunday to an average audience of 7.3M viewers. It begins airing on PBS in March and has also sold to Australia’s Seven Network, Sweden’s SVT, Israel’s Yes, Ireland’s TV3, Norway’s NRK and Finland’s YLE.

UK Phone Hacking Settlements Update
News Corp.’s UK press arm News International has reportedly agreed to settle 130 of a possible pending 167 civil claims in the News Of The World phone-hacking case. Individuals included in the settlements are Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the father of soccer star David Beckham. According to The Guardian, sources say that News International has settled the cases that were filed by September of last year and that the total number will be confirmed at a high court conference in February. The company previously settled more than 50 claims including those brought by Jude Law and Sienna Miller. In related news, Scotland Yard police detective April Casburn has been found guilty of misconduct for attempting to sell information about the phone-hacking investigation to the News Of The World, The Wall Street Journal reported. She admitted making a phone call, arguing it was in the public interest, but denied asking for money. The trial is the first in a series of new criminal trials related to the phone-hacking scandal that will start later this year, notably with former News International chief Rebekah Brooks facing charges of the interception of voice mail messages and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Banijay’s Celebrity High Diving Format Set For Italy
Banijay International has agreed a deal with Ambra Multimedia for the Italian production of the diving format Stars In Danger: High Diving. The Italian version will be produced for Mediaset and will air in 4 parts this year under the title Stasera Mi Tuffo (Tonight I’m Gonna Dive). This marks the 5th license deal for the show in the last three months with V Canada, Fox US, Jiangsu Satellite Television China, TV2 Norway and TV3 in Sweden all signing on for local versions and still more to be announced. Most reent was the U.S. version, which launched Wednesday on Fox and drew 3.369 million viewers.