European Commission Unveils “Film Support Rules” For EU
European Union member states provide films with an estimated €3B ($4.03B) per year in grants, soft loans and tax incentives. About 80% of that goes toward film production — one reason pricey indies are turning to the UK and the Continent. Today, in a long-awaited move by the European Commission, the body has published its new “film support rules” for the EU. The revised criteria for assessing member states’ support systems for film and other audiovisual works is being referred to as the “Cinema Communication.” It allows aid for a wider scope of activities, highlights individual countries’ discretion in defining support targets, introduces the possibility for more aid for European co-productions, and promotes film heritage. Among the highlights (the full text is here) is that co-productions funded by more than one member state now will be eligible to receive aid of up to 60% of the production budget. There are no limits on aid for script writing or development. In-country spend requirements will remain at the discretion of the individual states. The new Communication was met today with praise from both the UK and France. The BFI welcomed the news that the Cinema Communication “safeguards the UK’s film tax relief and Lottery funding for film. … The continuation of the successful UK film tax relief framework is a huge reassurance to the UK film industry and will support the growth of the sector.” French filmmakers also hailed the EC’s decision to “preserve the complex but efficient fabric of European cinematic support.” Commission VP Joaquín Almunia said, “The objective of these revised rules is to encourage vibrant audiovisual creation in Europe while preserving cultural diversity everywhere in the EU.”

U.S. Writers Will Head East With AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship
The American Film Institute announced today its AFI/IDG China Story Fellowship, a scholarship program at the AFI Conservatory aimed at developing screenplays that foster greater understanding of Chinese history, culture and literature. The fellowship provides nine AFI Fellows with travel to China for cultural research. They will write a feature-length screenplay and receive a full scholarship for their second year at the AFI Conservatory. “Too many Americans only know Chinese culture through animated films like Kung Fu Panda and Mulan,” said Hugo Shong, Chairman of IDG Greater China. “Americans deserve to see other types of movies about China, ones that hopefully can entertain them, educate them and at the same time touch their hearts.”

60,000 Watch ‘Richard II’ Production in Cinemas
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II was seen by over 60,000 people on Wednesday night as part of the Live From Stratford-upon-Avon series. The play, which stars David Tennant, was distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment in 364 cinemas across the UK and generated more than £1M in box office. The production also was broadcast live across Northern Europe, Ireland, Canada and Malta. It will further screen in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Russia over the next two months. Live theater broadcasts to moviehouses are increasingly gaining traction in the UK with the recent success of the National Theatre Live’s programming that has included Helen Mirren starrer The Audience and Danny Boyle‘s Frankenstein with Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. The Live From Stratford-upon-Avon series will continue next year with Henry IV and The Two Gentlemen Of Verona.

New Streaming Platform For ITV Soaps ‘Coronation Street’, ‘Emmerdale’
They’re not headed to the States yet, but ITV soaps are getting a new platform from which they can be seen internationally. ITV Essentials launched this week in 12 European territories at a subscription rate of just over $7 a month. The service will stream all episodes of immensely popular sudsers Coronation Street and Emmerdale (no Downton Abbey) over a 30-day catch-up window. Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Gibraltar, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Spain are the first to receive the service.