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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
September 14

Entertainment News September 14 - TOP 3 Stories for Friday

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TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL HOT, DEALS NOT

As the 32nd Toronto Film Festival heads into its Saturday closing, it seems clear that the event was a big success as a launch pad for fall films—but as a center of hot deals, not so much.

While a host of buyers were clamoring for pics to buy, the pickings were slim.

"We were looking for a needle in a haystack, but we didn't find anything," Paramount Vantage prexy John Lesher said. "Most, if not all, of the good movies at the fest were accounted for. But there was strong product with which to build awareness."

Studios like Warner Bros. brought in star power to launch such mainstream pics as Neil Jordan's "The Brave One," starring Jodie Foster, and Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton," starring George Clooney. The indies and specialty subsids also took advantage of the assembled press corps.

Focus Features and Working Title enjoyed a strong Toronto. They shared in the lavish praise afforded to Joe Wright's "Atonement," which stirred kudos buzz and served as a reminder of Toronto's role as a key stop in campaigns.

"There are only ever a maximum of 10 decent films in one year, and we've done this enough times to be able to say when one of our own is one of the 10," said Working Title co-topper Tim Bevan, who also had Cate Blanchett-starrer "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" preeming at the fest.

Focus managed the double whammy of seeing an acclaimed world preem for David Cronenberg's violent Russian mafia thriller "Eastern Promises," nearly simultaneous with the Golden Lion win at Venice for Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution."

With Terry George's ethical drama "Reservation Road" also preeming, Focus' slate was full. Focus didn't pick up anything at Toronto; in fact, it hasn't acquired a film in over a year-and-a-half.

That's something topper James Schamus wants to change, although "Toronto is not the place to do it," he said. "It's been an existential pleasure. We're not a factory, but if there's a good film, we want to make it happen. There are so many good films out there, and we're so consumed with the movies we're making, but we want to be in that marketplace."

Fox Searchlight boasted what was arguably the fest's most popular title, Jason Reitman's "Juno," starring Jennifer Garner, Ellen Page and new "it boy" Michael Cera. Described by some as this year's "Little Miss Sunshine," "Juno" establishes the Reitman scion as a topnotch director.

PIRACY PROBLEMS CONTINUE FOR EUROPE IN CHINA

Copyright violations continue to pose major problems for European companies in China, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said in a report Wednesday.

The report said that, while Chinese authorities have taken a number of measures to combat the flagrant copying of movies, music and software, piracy is still rife and undermining the efforts of European businesses looking to break into the market.

Chamber president Joerg Wuttke said that, although bilateral trade between the EU and China topped 250 billion ($347 billion) in 2006, more can be done to promote legitimate commerce.

He said that China has made "visible progress" in protection of intellectual property rights through such measures as training judges, stepping up enforcement and creating nationwide IPR complaint centers where infringements can be reported. But he also noted that piracy problems continue to outpace solutions and that the government is beginning to lose momentum in tackling the issue.

Wuttke said that protecting IPR remains a "major concern" for European businesses, and called for greater consistency in local enforcement of laws and regulations, and more effective deterrence against IPR infringements.

"For example, to obtain a business license as someone who's selling fake DVDs is sometimes faster than obtaining a business license as a European retailer who wants to sell indigenous, real DVDs," he said.

Part of the problem is that many government agencies are understaffed and there is often poor implementation at the local level, Wuttke said.

China accounted for 93% of the 23.2 million counterfeit movies, music and software seized by EU customs authorities in 2006, an increase of 139% from 2005.

'BRAVE ONE' TO STALK BOX OFFICE

Jodie Foster returns to the big screen this weekend as a vigilante in Neil Jordan's "The Brave One," which Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures bow in 2,755 locations.

The violent, R-rated drama, which also stars Terrence Howard, has a clear shot at the weekend crown.

Other wide entrants are South Korean English-language monsterfest "Dragon Wars," which Freestyle takes out in 2,275 locations. New Line opens laffer "Mr. Woodcock," toplining Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott and Susan Sarandon, in 2,231.

New players will compete with the soph session of Lionsgate and Relativity Media's "3:10 to Yuma." Directed by James Mangold and starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale and Ben Foster, the Western remake showed surprising strength in its debut, grossing $14 million and nabbing one of the top debuts for a dramatic oater. The pic plays 2,667 locations.

Elsewhere this weekend, the fall specialty race gets fully under way with the limited bows of David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises," which Focus Features opens in 14 theaters in key markets, and Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah," which Warner Independent Pictures opens in nine markets.

There's a bevy of other limited debuts, including Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe," which Sony and Revolution open in 23 locations in top markets; Michael Douglas starrer "King of California," which First Look rolls out in New York and Los Angeles; and Daniel Radcliffe starrer "December Boys," which Warner Independent likewise opens in L.A. and Gotham.

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