International Insider: French Focus; Big 12 Months For Spacey; China’s New Year; United Agents Buzz

Good afternoon Insiders, Max Goldbart here relaying a hugely busy week in the world of film and TV as the post-Christmas blues are very much washed away. Read on.

French Focus

Rendez-Vous: Mel Goodfellow here reporting from the 25th edition of French film and TV promotional body Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous in Paris, which unfolded in the French capital this week in its first fully physical iteration since 2020. Some 450 buyers from 50 territories attended its film market and screening program, showcasing some 80 new French language titles and presentations by nine broadcasters and content companies including Mediawan, Newen, Arte, Federation Entertainment and France Télévisions. The event kicked off with Unifrance’s third Export Day on Tuesday looking at the fortunes of French film and TV content internationally. Its annual international box office report revealed less than stellar results – with French minority and majority productions clocking just 27M admissions outside of France in 2022, against an average of 40M for the preceding decade. The general mood was optimistic, however, as sellers and buyers met face-to-face in Paris for the first time in three years, with the former also pointing out that box office results are no longer the only measure of a film’s success and reach in the age of the streamers. Another highlight of the Export Day was a brief in-conversation with Mediawan CEO and co-founder Pierre-Antoine Capton (pictured), who put more flesh on the thinking around his company’s acquisition of Brad Pitt’s Plan B in December. “I’m very happy we did this deal with Brad Pitt. There are lots of French producers who have contacted me since and said, ‘It’s fantastic for the whole sector because you’re going to represent us and allow others to make it too’,” he said. “It’s true. Today, we’re getting access a lot more easily.” Rendez-Vous concurrently put on the French TV Screenings and Jesse wrote up this handy analysis of goings on in the space, with the likes of Mediawan Rights, Newen Connect and Studiocanal all present to rep the small screen.

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“Forever Wild,” no more: One major talking point emerging yesterday was Wild Bunch founders Vincent Maraval and Brahim Chioua bidding farewell to their 21-year-old company name, although confirmation on the new one is yet to arrive. Taking inspiration from Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 classic, the name emerged at a characteristically rebel-rousing party in Paris bannered “Forever Wild Whatever The Name!” and the following two decades have been a blur for the successful sales agents. Local and international collaborators flocked to the Annette K barge on the banks of the Seine for the rebranding event, featuring a Céline Dion tribute act and a set by DJ Kiddy Smile who appeared in Gaspar Noé’s Climax. Funky. Mel sat down with Maraval and Chioua that evening to elaborate on a move that has seen the separation of Wild Bunch’s assets from pan-European Wild Bunch AG cemented. Read the interview here.

Banijay pulls back curtain: Plenty going on then in French TV and film so it felt a good moment for Banijay to pull the curtain back on its earnings for the first time since the Endemol Shine Group takeover. Who better to pull said curtain than Jake, and he found that the world’s largest independent TV production group, which is headquartered in France, will reach €3B ($3.2B) for full year 2022, though this figure remains unaudited. The Big Brother and Survivor powerhouse stands head and shoulders above the likes of ITV Studios and Fremantle in terms of revenue, per Jake’s nifty roundup that can be found at the bottom of the story.

Spacey’s Day In Court… & Day Of Honor

Contrasting appearances: As Insider goes to press, disgraced-but-hanging-on-in-there Hollywood star Kevin Spacey has pled not guilty to seven charges as he appears via video link at London’s Southwark Crown Court. This is Spacey’s second appearance in a trial related to charges that are alleged to have taken place between 2001 and 2004: three of indecent assault, three of sexual assault and one count of causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent, with trial date set for June 6 2023. While today’s hearing is still preliminary, it sets the stage for Spacey’s big year of attempting to clear his name. And on Monday that campaign begins in earnest as the House of Cards star makes his first voluntary public appearance for five years – honored at a special Turin event hosted by Italy’s National Cinema Museum where he will give a public masterclass, present a special screening of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty and receive the institution’s Stella della Mole Award for lifetime achievement. Taking place within just 72 hours of each other, the contrasting appearances are testament to how the court of legality and court of public opinion can move in wayward directions when it comes to celebrities. Mel’s handy primer has all the details.

China‘s New Year

Reading the tea leaves: When it comes to China, reading the tea leaves for 2023 is even more difficult than usual but our Nancy gave it a shot in her annual analysis. On the menu: the implications of the winding down of China’s longstanding zero-Covid policy along with major geopolitical shifts and the economic strife impacting just about everybody everywhere. Lots to take in. Nancy and Tom Tapp consider just how many of the coming year’s blockbusters will make it to the nation, and weave this in with considerations over how teething problems in global cinema-going are going to impact a country still struggling to contain the pandemic. Fear about the infection spikes was initially a drag on the opening of Avatar: The Way of Water, but signs have been encouraging as the movie saw strong holds and is now projected to final at about $220M by local ticketing platform Maoyan. Plenty to get your teeth into here.

United Agents Buzz

Limited liability: Cracking scoop Wednesday from Jake Kanter and Peter White either side of the pond, who revealed the sale speculation around Kate Winslet, Ricky Gervais and Kit Harrington representative United Agents. Whispers have been generated by the 16-year-old agency’s move from a limited liability partnership to limited company and buzz around the shop is now the talk of the agency sphere. The financial transaction, which went through last week, has spurred a fresh wave of acquisition rumors as British agencies become the hot new plaything for the major American outfits. Readers will remember one of last year’s biggest news stories was the UTA acquisition of Curtis Brown, and Jake and Pete consider how eyes will now move to the likes of CAA and Endeavor when pondering more M&A within the lucrative British agent scene. Our 2022 analysis of the Curtis Brown deal can be found here.

Warner Pass

Deals galore: Beady industry eyes are also currently trained on developments with the much-vaunted HBO Max Discovery streamer but in the meantime a duo of European deals were struck this week by Warner Bros. Discovery that had eyebrows raising a fraction. WBD closed quite the patchwork of content deals as it first sold 21 HBO Max Europe originals to Paramount/Comcast streamer SkyShowtime and then unveiled the Warner Pass in France, a first-of-its-kind deal with Prime Video for which French Amazon subs can watch HBO content plus 12 WBD channels as an add-on. They can even get highly-anticipated video game adaptation The Last of Us for free from next week. Both deals indicate the complexity with which streamers are set up in the continent and the opportunities for major studios to take advantage of their content prior to launching their own services. The HBO Max shows became available when WBD restructured commissioning in the majority of European territories and removed originals from its platform – leading to 29 redundancies – and they were sold to SkyShowtime just in the nick of time, with WBD’s window of time to benefit from that content having now passed. Insiders stressed HBO’s continued commitment to European shows. It will be fascinating to see what else David Zaslav’s guys come up with before launch day.

‘Spare’ A Thought

Harry on tour: Four TV appearances and at least 1.5M global book sales later, our embattled Duke of Sussex has had quite the week. The Prince, who is still pursuing “reconciliation” with his Royal Family (good luck Haz), has sat down with ITV’s Tom Bradby and 60 Minutes’ Anderson Cooper, Good Morning America and The Late Show in a flurry of appearances. Plenty for viewers to get their heads around as Harry dealt with the various extracts that were leaked in the run-up – summed up nicely in this neat little Deadline recap – while Harry frequently returned to his favorite themes of sibling rivalry, tabloid hatred and unconscious bias. The book may be selling like hotcakes but ratings were down on what one might have expected, with the ITV sit-down beaten by BBC One’s Happy Valley and only managing one-third of the audience of Harry’s 2021 Oprah interview alongside wife Meghan Markle, while the CBS’ deep-dive also fell short of the U.S. Oprah broadcast. Where next for Harry, we wonder. “Reconciliation” seems some way off and the coming weeks will see just how many records Spare can smash and simultaneously whether media interest drops off. Another book is already in the offing, along with a Harry/Meghan-helmed Netflix doc on inspirational leaders that could, for the first time in a while it feels, somewhat turn the spotlight away from the Prince.

Hirokazu’s House

Geisha culture: Hirokazu Kore-eda, one of Japan’s most successful auteurs of all time, sat down with our Asia expert Liz Shackleton earlier this week to talk Netflix’s The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House and all things Japan, while Liz gave readers her verdict on the show. The Makanai is based on a best-selling manga about two young girls who move to Kyoto to train as apprentice Geisha and Hirokazu tells Liz the topic was new to him, and he was rather drawn to the show because it was “centered around food.” Dive deeper for his thoughts on a scandal-hit Japanese film industry, training up the next generation and what he’s got coming next.

The Essentials

🌶️ Hot one: It’s … for the BBC, which is developing a Wagatha Christie drama as the next in its A Very English Scandal strand.

🌶️ Another one: James Bond star Eva Green will have her day in court following a four-year-long case that relates to A Patriot. Andreas with this one.

🌶️ I’m boiling: Jonas Dassler (The Golden Glove) will play German pastor and theologian-turned-spy Dietrich Bonhoeffer in God’s Spy, per Matt Grobar.

🚪 Exiting: Three BBC News presenters as the much-maligned international and domestic channel merger approaches, writes Jake.

Festival latest: Zac sat down with Göteborg Film Festival Artistic Director Jonas Holmberg to talk through this year’s lineup and how local filmmakers are engaging with their country’s colonial past.

More festivals: Rebecca Miller’s She Came to Me staring Anne Hathaway and Peter Dinklage will open the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival.

🕷️ Holy Spider!: Producer Sol Bondy sat down with Diana Lodderhose to talk about the challenges of bringing Ali Abassi’s Iran-set Oscar contender to light.

🧔 Buzzy hire: Former Netflix exec Ben Cavey joined 42.

🍿 Box office: Nancy’s annual roundup is of course worth a read.

🎥 Trailer: For Slow, Lithuanian filmmaker Marija Kavtaradze’s touching relationship drama.

AND FINALLY: Breaking Baz has landed. The column from our very own International Editor-at-Large Baz Bamigboye kicks off by looking at how a wild tabloid experience with Randy Andy aka Prince Andrew in the 1980s had him pondering this week’s Prince Harry memoir Spare, and what that says about the modern Royal Family. Baz calls Spare the memoirs of a “damaged man born into this fishbowl life.” Put this on your must-read list for the weekend.

Mel Goodfellow contributed to this week’s International Insider

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