Hello International Insider readers, Jake Kanter here. As usual, I invite you to take a walk with me through the biggest global film and TV stories of the week. And just to say, we’ll be taking a break next Friday for Easter weekend in the UK. We hope you have a prosperous couple of weeks in our absence. Want to get in touch in the meantime? I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Scoop: BBC Comedy Changes
A scoop to start you off: We have got wind of some changes in the BBC comedy team. Head of comedy Kate Daughton is leaving after five years, while commissioning editor Sarah Asante is off to UKTV, which is owned by BBC Studios. The departures come after comedy controller Shane Allen brought in I May Destroy You producer Tanya Qureshi as a commissioner, and plucked Hannah Rose from BBC Sounds to work as an assistant commissioner in the north of England. Our full story.
All-conquering comedy: The changes are a reminder of the global power of the BBC’s comedy output. Daughton was a commissioning editor on the second season of Fleabag, a little show you might have heard of. She also greenlit two seasons of Stephen Merchant’s upcoming community service series The Offenders, which will star Christopher Walken and is co-produced by Amazon. Elsewhere this week, it was revealed that Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is plotting a U.S. remake of BBC parenthood comedy Motherland.
Theatrical Windows Bend, Don’t Break
Cineworld plans for survival: Firmly mixed news from the world of theatrical exhibition this week. On Tuesday, Cineworld, the second-largest exhibitor on the planet, confirmed it would finally reopen its Regal sites in the U.S. from April 2, ending a six-month period of closure. In the UK, the company will move in line with government guidelines by reopening at the first available date of May 17. CEO Mooky Greidinger told us that this date could come earlier, however. The news arrived two days prior to the exhibitor’s annual financials, which painted a troubling yet entirely unsurprising picture of hefty losses during the pandemic. The $2.26 billion operating loss was the company’s first-ever annual loss, but there is some light on the horizon, with enough additional financing raised to ride out the current challenges.
Warner pact: Accompanying the Cineworld announcement was the intriguing news that the exhibitor has struck a deal with Warner Bros to screen the studio’s films day-and-date this year. Warner previously announced that it was shifting its entire 2021 theatrical slate directly to HBO Max, with cinema owners given the option for simultaneous play, in response to pandemic challenges. In the past, the large multiplex exhibitors have said a firm “no” to day-and-date and have remained staunchly committed to existing theatrical windows. Clearly, in a Covid world, that is now no longer feasible. The deal with Warner will, however, change in 2022 to see the studio’s movies given a 45-day theatrical exclusive window at Cineworld before they head online. Could that be the model for the future?
Disney bombshell: Never to be outdone, Disney then announced on Tuesday that it was pivoting several high-profile titles including Black Widow and Cruella (pictured) to day-and-date on Disney+ at a premium charge for subscribers ($30 in the States). The move puts the House of Mouse in step with Warner’s plan for 2021, a further blow to exhibs who were banking on big-ticket titles to get audiences flowing back in. The question now becomes whether exhibitors such as Cineworld can carve out similar agreements to the WB deal and also screen those Disney titles. If they aren’t able to agree terms, don’t expect to see those pics at your local multiplex any time soon. Adding salt to the wound was the news that Pixar movie Luca has dropped entirely off the theatrical schedule and is heading directly to Disney+ for free.
Vaccine certificates: Like much of Europe, cinemas in the UK are still grappling with both how and when they will be able to resume business. As noted above, the government has set May 17 for theaters to reopen, and the details are now being ironed out ahead of that. Today, the CEO of indie chain Curzon suggested in The Guardian that moviegoers with so-called vaccine certificates (confirmation that someone has been inoculated) could attend screenings that are separate from those without jabs. Tom Grater spoke to industry folks about the idea, finding that the message from elsewhere in the sector is loud and clear — cinema owners do not want vaccine certificates.
Netflix & Amazon Told To Handover Data
Show me the metrics: Eyebrows will have been raised at Netflix and Amazon on Thursday after influential lawmakers on UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMSC) called on the streamers to share viewing data with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5. The committee argued that UK public service broadcasters have a right to know how shows they originally commissioned are performing on major streaming services, and such information would allow for a “full analysis of PSB reach.” Full story.
Not without a fight: Netflix and Amazon are likely to staunchly oppose any attempt to legislate data sharing. In evidence to the DCMSC, they argued that it would be commercially sensitive to simply surrender viewing information to rivals. They are also working to address DCMSC concerns around how UK-commissioned content is labeled in their libraries. Netflix, in particular, places BBC and Channel 4 logos in the thumbnails of shows, which are also discoverable through its search function. Indeed, type BBC into Netflix and you’re presented with a smorgasbord of the broadcaster’s greatest hits, including Peaky Blinders (pictured) and Bodyguard.
Boon for the Beeb: And cause for celebration at the BBC after the DCMSC said the license fee remains the “preferred option” to fund the corporation until 2038. The lawmakers lashed the government for failing to rollout high-speed broadband across the UK, which could allow for an alternative funding model to be delivered before the next BBC charter renewal in 2027. They added that implementing a replacement to the license fee would be too expensive and disruptive at this time. Go deeper.
Netflix Borrows TV Trick
TV guides at the ready: Netflix might not handover its data, but it’s not shy about borrowing a trick or two from its linear television peers. Two British shows are going to teleport Netflix back to the future, as the U.S. streamer makes hump days a thing by dumping batches of The Circle and Too Hot To Handle episodes every Wednesday from May. My colleague Peter White, who reported on the strategy, called it traditional TV scheduling with a “bingeable twist.” Read his story here.
The thinking behind the move: These reality shows usually take on their own momentum through word of mouth, which Netflix hopes will propel weekly viewing spikes. Netflix’s unscripted chief Brandon Riegg said Wednesdays are “getting real” this spring. “We’re experimenting with the release format so you have time to dissect and dish on every step of the competition as it unfolds,” he added.
Made in Britain: The UK has a great tradition of reality shows, and Studio Lambert’s The Circle and Fremantle UK’s Too Hot To Handle are just the latest in a long line of global hits that include Love Island and I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!. And there’s more coming down the Netflix slipstream, as it prepares to hatch Lion TV’s genre-bending dating show Sexy Beasts at some point this year.
📽️ In the frame: Above is the second image of Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s Spencer. The feature has also cast Poldark’s Jack Farthing as Prince Charles, while Andreas Wiseman revealed that Olga Hellsing and Thomas Douglas have been cast as Sarah Ferguson and Earl Spencer. Read more here.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Netflix has boarded its latest BBC drama, taking the international rights to Steven Moffat’s limited series Inside Man. It’s also assembled a hell of a cast, including Stanley Tucci, David Tennant, Dolly Wells, and Lydia West. Our scoop.
🍿 International box office: James Cameron’s Avatar held the top spot at the global and international box office this weekend with $14.1M in China for the Friday-Sunday frame. You’ll remember that last week, it reclaimed the title of highest-grossing movie worldwide from Avengers: Endgame. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
🏆 Awards news: Another week, another gong for The Crown. It took home the Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television – Drama at the Producers Guild of America Awards on Wednesday. Patrick Hipes has the full winners.
🚚 On the move: Tim Mutimer, Banijay Rights’ executive vice president of EMEA, is to become the new CEO of Cineflix Rights. He is replacing Chris Bonney, who is retiring to the golf course. More here.
🇪🇸 Spain’s charm offensive: Spain will redouble efforts to establish itself as a European production hub for film and TV content, with the government announcing a €1.6B ($1.9B) package to further attract foreign investment. Go deeper.
✍️ Read the screenplay: Take a look at the script for Rocks, which is up for a total of seven BAFTAs at next month’s ceremony. Click here.
🎦 Trailer dash: Here’s the first trailer for Hot Docs opener Artificial Immortality by filmmaker Ann Shin. The documentary explores the latest advancements in AI, robotics and biotech. Watch now.
Flag-waving: If you want an insight into what Brexit has done to the psyche of some in Britain, then you need only have watched BBC director general Tim Davie’s appearance in front of a select committee of lawmakers on Monday. What did one MP choose to grill Davie on? The future of the license fee, perhaps? The broadcaster’s decision to move 400 staff out of London, or its plans to scrap TV channel controller roles? No. Conservative James Wild quizzed the BBC’s chief on how many union jack flags were contained in its annual report last year. “Of all the briefings I got for this meeting, that was not one of them, I’m afraid,” replied a bewildered Davie. “It’s zero,” Wild said with some satisfaction. “That’s a strange metric,” Davie retorted, with all the bemusement of a man who knows the flag flies high above the British Broadcasting Corporation’s HQ (see above). Wild was roundly ridiculed for the intervention, but the fact is that parading the flag has become a preoccupation for the UK government, with Whitehall buildings being ordered to hoist the emblem and ministers draping it in the background of Zoom interviews. Just don’t tell them that ITV’s annual report published this week didn’t contain any union jacks either. You can watch the Davie exchange here.