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Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone Topline Stellar Marrakech Fest Opening

29 November 2013 2:35 PM, PST

Marrakech — Traditionally known for its thick French accent, Marrakech’s glamorous opening night, held on Friday at the Congress Palace, had a definite Hollywood flavor with Sharon Stone getting a career tribute, as well as jury president Martin Scorsese and fellow members Marion Cotillard and Patricia Clarkson, among others international guests.

“It’s good to be home again here in Marrakech. I’ve made two features here. It’s also a precious moment for cinema, as you can tell from the roster of guests – there are so many talents in attendance this year,” said Scorsese, after being welcomed on stage with a long standing ovation.

Marrakech’s opening night gathered the jury members: directors Paolo Sorrentino, Amat Escalante (“Heli”), Anurag Kashyap (“Ugly”), Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy”), Fatih Akin (“New York, I Love You”) and Narjiss Nejjar (“Les yeux secs”), thesps Golshifteh Farahani, Elsa Zylberstein, Tahar Rahim and Francois Cluzet, Cesar Academy »

- Elsa Keslassy

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Could James Gandolfini Win a Posthumous Oscar?

29 November 2013 12:27 PM, PST

In awards consideration, a voter tries to be objective. But when any human watches a film or TV show, they bring along all their thoughts and feelings about life — and death.

By any standard, James Gandolfini’s performance in “Enough Said” is a gem. But it is hard to watch the film without occasionally thinking about his shocking death in June at age 51. Should those thoughts affect his awards chances? Absolutely not.

In conversations, many people have told me they like the film, but they almost never mention him. If I bring up Gandolfini’s name, they say “He’s wonderful, it’s so sad, isn’t it?” or something similar. People don’t like to be reminded of death, and I fear he is getting more pity than appreciation, as if his performance belongs in a different, lesser category.

I just hope everyone will consider his work with the »

- Tim Gray

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Sight & Sound Names ‘Act of Killing’ Top Film of 2013

29 November 2013 11:48 AM, PST

London — Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” has been voted film of the year by Sight & Sound, the U.K. magazine for cinephiles.

The magazine, which is published by the British Film Institute, published its top 30 films of the year after polling more than 100 international critics, curators and academics. Each contributor nominated their top five films, from which the final list was constructed.

1. “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/U.K./Norway/Germany/Finland/Sweden/Netherlands/Poland

2. “Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron, Mexico/U.S.

3. “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” Abdellatif Kechiche, Belgium/Spain/France

4. “The Great Beauty,” Paolo Sorrentino, France/Italy

5. “Frances Ha,” Noah Baumbach, Brazil/U.S.

=6. “A Touch of Sin,” Jia Zhangke, China

=6. “Upstream Color,” Shane Carruth, U.S.

8. “The Selfish Giant,” Clio Barnard, U.K.

=9. “Norte, the End of History,” Lav Diaz, Philippines

=9. “Stranger by the Lake,” Alain Guiraudie, France

Meanwhile, somewhere in France, the magazine »

- Leo Barraclough

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‘Catching Fire,’ ‘Thor’ Lift Fandango to Sales Record

29 November 2013 10:59 AM, PST

Online ticket seller Fandango has set a new monthly U.S. sales record in November, topping its previous record by more than 12% and citing strong performances by “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Frozen” and “The Best Man Holiday.”

Fandango had set its previous record in November, 2012, which included the opening of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Skyfall,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi.”

The company, which made the announcement Friday, also pointed to several contributors to the increase: paperless mobile ticket scanning, reserved seating expansion and new platforms apps,  new exhibitor partnerships and distribution deals.

Fandango also saw a 13% increase in monthly visits to its site and mobile apps year over year.

Fandango President Paul Yanover said in a statement: “Our best-selling month is a significant milestone for our company, and we anticipate the holiday season will keep the momentum going with such highly-anticipated »

- Dave McNary

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Box Office: Spike Lee’s ‘Oldboy’ a Thanksgiving Disaster

29 November 2013 10:33 AM, PST

Not even Spike Lee can teach an “Oldboy” new tricks.

Lee’s reboot of director Chan-wook Park’s South Korean revenge thriller of the same name, surrounded by bad buzz, is getting clobbered at the Thanksgiving box office. Playing in merely 583 locations, “Oldboy” could earn just $2 million for the five-day weekend in what’s shaping up to be one of the worst performances of the year.

Enthusiastic fans of the original had been waiting to see how the auteur would put his stamp on the cult sensation, released in 2003, but the movie’s distributor (Film District) doesn’t appear to have plans for an expansion.

The film’s current per-screen average of over $3,000 is one of the worst counts since DreamWorks’ “The Fifth Estate” and Universal’s “R.I.P.D.”

Unlike with other Thanksgiving movies, “Oldboy’s” marketing and TV campaign has been all but invisible in recent weeks »

- Maane Khatchatourian

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Oscar Pals With Women Producers, But Big-Budget Gigs Are Scarce

29 November 2013 10:30 AM, PST

Of the three dozen films identified as potential Oscar contenders, 22 of them have at least one female producer.

That seems to indicate women producers are gaining more equality with their male counterparts. And the Producers Guild of America says that nearly half (47%, to be exact) of its 6,000 members are women, according to Lydia Dean Pilcher of the PGA Women’s Impact Network.

But while those tallies represent some progress for femme producers over the past decade, a closer look reveals something troubling: There’s still a huge economic disparity between the sexes.

Stacy Smith, a professor at USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, says that the role of women seems to diminish in direct correlation to the cost of movies.

Of the year’s top live-action films at the box office, “Iron Man 3,” “Man of Steel,” “Gravity,” “Fast & Furious 6,” “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “World War Z, »

- Tim Gray

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Bruce Dern to George Clooney: Q&A Blitz Helps Carry This Year’s Oscar Onslaught

29 November 2013 10:00 AM, PST

Wherever you go in town this time of year you’re likely to run into a filmmaker. Or an actor. Or at least a producer.

It’s not that normally inaccessible movie stars are suddenly becoming pedestrian friendly. It’s just that in this corridor of time known as awards season, “face time” takes on great import for those who have a shot at a nomination. So they’re out there pitching their wares to prospective voters like salesmen with their fall line.

Face time takes on many different forms — Q&A sessions, cocktail receptions, dinner parties and, of course, the nonstop ritual of hosted screenings. Such figures as Emma Thompson, George Clooney or Tom Hanks become instantly ubiquitous, but this year far more so than in previous campaigns. The reason: Most studios are curtailing their ad budgets and relying much more on promotion to push awards contenders. And the »

- Peter Bart

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‘Catching Fire’ Breaks Thanksgiving B.O. Record With $14.9 Mil; ‘Frozen’ Also Setting Record

29 November 2013 9:40 AM, PST

Beating “Toy Story 2′s” previous Thanksgiving Day record, Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” lured auds away from turkey and shopping with $14.9 million in North American on Thursday.

The domestic five-day weekend for “Catching  Fire” could top out at close to $100 million, though current estimates are $90 million-plus.

Meanwhile, Disney’s animated “Frozen” is breaking records of its own, with an $11.1 million Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s also likely to break the Thanksgiving weekend opening record with approximately $90 million for five days. (The one week preview at Hollywood’s El Capitan doesn’t count as a true opening.) “Frozen” is currently at $26.6 million and is enjoying excellent word of mouth.

After opening in 16 new markets this week, worldwide gross for the behemoth “Hunger Games” sequel is now $423 million through Thursday, with a domestic cume of $222 million.

Millennium/Open Road actioner “Homefront,” written by Sylvester Stallone and starring Jason Statham, »

- Pat Saperstein

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Pakistan Oscar Hope ‘Zinda Bhaag’ Heads to Canada, U.K., Middle East

29 November 2013 6:25 AM, PST

Goa — Directors Meenu Gaur and Farjad Nabi’s “Zinda Bhaag”, Pakistan’s contender for the foreign-language Academy Award race, has concluded distribution deals for the Canada, U.K. and Middle East.

All Canada rights including theatrical, television and VoD have been acquired by Toronto-based D Films, a distributor specializing in independent features that also has a multi-picture output deal with U.K. sales and distribution company, the Icon UK group. A January release is being planned.

Boutique distributor Mara Pictures has acquired U.K. television and VoD rights.

Regional powerhouse Tanweer Group has acquired Middle East rights and will release the film in the U.A.E., Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in December.

Though there are glimmers of a revival, the film industry in Pakistan is in poor shape and the country has only 42 screens for a population of 188 million. “Zinda Bhaag” released there in September and is still running in some cinemas, »

- Naman Ramachandran

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‘Mandela’ Benefit Auction Kicks Off Black Friday

29 November 2013 6:00 AM, PST

In the spirit of Nelson Mandela’s efforts, the Weinstein Company is partnering with eBay’s charitable platform, eBay Giving Works, to auction off VIP experiences and exclusive memorabilia benefiting the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The 27-day event (a nod to the number of years Mandela spent in prison before his political ascendance) will kick off Nov. 29, coming out in three “waves” before ending on Christmas Day. All proceeds will go to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, an org dedicated to Mandela’s causes.

The auction is in conjunction with the release of TWC’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” which is based on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name and stars Idris Elba as the former South African president. It hits theaters Nov. 29.

“We are thrilled to partner with eBay Giving Works to support the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s excellent work in preserving the memory of one of the world »

- Alex Stedman

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Ken Loach to Receive Berlin Fest’s Golden Bear

29 November 2013 3:44 AM, PST

London — The Berlin Film Festival is to award the honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement to British director Ken Loach, and will also stage a 10-film homage to the helmer.

The award ceremony will be accompanied by a screening of his 1993 pic “Raining Stones.”

Ken Loach is one of Europe’s great directors. Over his almost 50-year career, he has shown an extraordinary degree of continuity, while remaining innovative at all times,” Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said.

“His profound interest in people and their individual fates, as well as his critical commitment to society have found expression in a variety of cinematic approaches.

“We are honoring Ken Loach as a director and greatly admire him for how he reflects on social injustices with humor in his films.”

Loach’s breakthrough as a director came with BBC drama “Cathy Come Home” in 1966, which centered on a young working-class family’s slide into homelessness. »

- Leo Barraclough

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‘Grandmaster’ tops Asia Pacific Fest Awards nominations

29 November 2013 12:49 AM, PST

Hong Kong — Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster” tops the nominations for the awards at the upcoming Asia Pacific Film Festival (Dec. 13-15, 2013,) which will be held in Macau for the second consecutive year.

Wong’s martial arts fantasy scooped nine nominations in the 12 available categories and competes for best picture.

Other best picture nominees are Kore’eda Hirokazu’s “Like Father, Like Son,” Ritesh Batra’s “The Lunchbox,” Tsai Ming Liang’s “Stray Dogs,” Anthony Chen’s “Ilo Ilo,” and Georgia’s “In Bloom,” co-directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross.

Judging the 25 pictures will be a jury headed by venerable Hong Kong-based producer Nansun Shi (“Infernal Affairs,” “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”). Other jurors include Malaysian director, actor, producer Afdlin Shauki; Claire Stewart, head of exhibition, British Film Institute; Christian Jeune, deputy General Delegate, Cannes International Film Festival; South Korean director Hur Jin-Ho; Taiwanese actress and »

- Patrick Frater

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Singapore Gov’t Buys Stake in India’s Eros

28 November 2013 3:00 PM, PST

Hong Kong – Fullerton, an investment fund controlled by Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, has bought a 7.4% stake in leading Bollywood film distributor Eros International.

The stake was acquired after Eros International this month completed the transfer of its primary share listing from London’s second tier Alternative Investment Market to the main New York Stock Exchange.

Eros cut back the scale and pricing of its recent share sale below its initially indicated range. Finally it sold 5 million shares at $11 apiece.

The company, which is operated from London is a major financier of Indian movies and has distribution operations that span India and 50 territories overseas. Most recently it handled Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Ram-Leela” (pictured), adding to a catalog of some 2,000 titles.

With its shares currently trading at $11 the company has a market capitalization of $252 million. It also controls Eros International Media, its Indian subsidiary which has its own separate »

- Patrick Frater

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De Niro, Stallone Fighting for Box Office Glory in ‘Grudge Match’

28 November 2013 12:15 PM, PST

With sporting events dominating TV over Thanksgiving weekend, Warner Bros. is making a major push for its Robert De Niro-Sylvester Stallone box comedy “Grudge Match.”

It opens Christmas Day against four other nationwide launches: Fox’s “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” Paramount’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” Universal’s “47 Ronin” and Open Road’s “Believe.”

Warner-based producer Bill Gerber is hopeful that “Grudge Match” will offer a parallel box office success story to the 2008 hit “Grand Torino,” which starred Clint Eastwood and went on to gross $270 million worldwide. Warner Bros. opened “Gran Torino” in limited release in mid-December and expanded it in January as the drama caught on to become Eastwood’s highest grossing film by far.

Gran Torino” was also Gerber’s biggest success as a producer. Eastwood and Robert Lorenz also produced.

“’Gran Torino’ and ‘Grudge Match’ are both movies about second chances,” Gerber notes. »

- Dave McNary

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Tony Musante, Actor Who Left ‘Toma,’ Dies at 77

28 November 2013 9:52 AM, PST

Tony Musante, who appeared on numerous TV shows, in films and on Broadway, but was best known for starring in 1973 series “Toma,” died Tuesday in Manhattan of a hemorrhage after oral surgery. He was 77.

Musante left the ABC detective show after one season to pursue opportunities onstage such as his first Broadway role, “P.S. Your Cat is Dead!,” and in films. After he left, the show was relaunched a few years later as “Baretta” and became popular with Robert Blake in Musante’s .

He had a recurring role on “Oz” and was nominated for an Emmy for “Medical Story.”

Among his film roles were “The Last Run” opposite George C. Scott in 1971, “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and 1967′s “The Incident” with Martin Sheen. He appeared on Broadway with Meryl Streep in Tennessee Williams’s “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” in 1976.

Although “Toma” was performing fairly well against highly-rated “The »

- Pat Saperstein

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BAFTA Moves to Strengthen Ties with Asian Biz

28 November 2013 9:28 AM, PST

London — The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is making a renewed push into Asia with a series of events in Hong Kong, and the setting up of an advisory board to oversee its charitable work in the continent.

BAFTA’s Hong Kong events kick off on Dec. 1 with a screening of BAFTA Shorts 2013, a selection of BAFTA-nominated short films and animations from the film awards earlier this year, at Clockenflap, Hong Kong’s music and arts festival.

The first meeting of the new BAFTA Hong Kong Advisory Board takes place on Dec. 2, and then on Dec. 3 actor Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables,” “My Week With Marilyn”) will take part in the Academy Circle event, hosted by Hong Kong actress and presenter Lisa S at The Peninsula Hong Kong, for local supporters of BAFTA’s charitable activities in Asia.

On Dec. 4, Redmayne will take part in an acting masterclass with »

- Leo Barraclough

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‘Frozen’ Solid Wednesday with $15.2 Million; ‘Catching Fire’ Still No. 1

28 November 2013 9:09 AM, PST

With only a small lead over Disney toon “Frozen,” Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is expected to win the Thanksgiving extended frame with upwards of $85 million.

The actioner earned $20.7 million Wednesday, bringing its domestic cume to $206.4 million in only six days. It is now the sixth fastest film to cross the $200 million mark after “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “The Dark Knight Rises” (“Rises” also took six days, but wound up with $211.8 million).

“Frozen” bowed Wednesday to $15.2 million and is expected to earn between $70 million and $80 million catering to families with young children this weekend. Though Thanksgiving Day isn’t generally a big moviegoing day, “Frozen” should see about 11% of its five-day haul from the holiday itself.

Other openers counterprogramming the weekend’s big bows are doing so with mixed success.

Open Road bowed »

- Michael Sullivan

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Fox Star Studios Readies India Mega Slate

28 November 2013 7:40 AM, PST

Hong Kong — Fox Star Studios India is making claim to be the biggest film distributor in the world’s second most populous nation. The company will next year release 28 movies across India, it announced today.

Fox Star Studios is a five-year-old joint venture between 21st Century Fox’s Indian pay-tv market leader Star Television and Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox.

The 2014 slate comprises 9 Hindi films, 4 in Tamil and 15 Hollywood pictures, sourced from Fox and through Fox’s five year international distribution relationship with DreamWorks Animation.

Though their market share is still under 10%, Hollywood films are making a growing impression at the Indian box office due to dubbing in multiple local languages and nationwide releasing, practices which have rarely been applied to Indian movies.

Ffs’s line-up for India release includes “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Jan.3, 2014), “Rio 2” (April 11, 2014), “X Men First Class: Days of Future Past” (May 23, 2014), “How to Train Your Dragon 2 »

- Patrick Frater

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Variety’s Picks: Van Damme’s Epic Split Stunt, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones’ New Album, ‘Frozen’ App, More

28 November 2013 7:30 AM, PST

Variety selects the videos (below), games, apps, books, music and more (photo gallery, above) you should know about each week.

Volvo Trucks Live Tests — The Epic Split Feat

Volvo’s Internet-only series of Live Test commercials have gone viral, with the latest starring the Muscles From Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, already spawning parodies from the likes of Channing Tatum. Earlier installments featuring a ballerina and a hamster were clever, but when Van Damme did the splits between two moving trucks, the Internet nearly broke.

Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Ikea’ — Official Trailer

What’s worse than being stranded in space? Trying to navigate Ikea, as shown in writer-director Daniel Hubbard’s amusing riff about a couple spinning through a massive Ikea warehouse. Those spheres you see are an emergency helping of Swedish meatballs.

See More: Photos: ‘Man of SteelHenry Cavill’s Training Regimen, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones’ New Album, »

- Pat Saperstein

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Goteborg Fest Turns Spotlight On Iceland

28 November 2013 6:35 AM, PST

The Icelandic film industry will feted at the upcoming 37th edition of Goteborg Intl. Film Festival, Scandinavia’s biggest film fest, as part of the annual Nordic Focus tribute.

Baltasar Kormakur, Iceland’s best-known helmer/producer who’s now also working in Hollywood, will receive the inaugural Nordic Honorary Dragon Award.

Repped by Wme and attorney Peter Nelson, Kormakur’s credits include “The Deep,” the previous Icelandic candidate for the foreign-language Oscar, and “Two Guns” with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. He’s also reportedly set to direct Christian Bale in Universal’s disaster movie “Everest.”  While leading a prolific career in the U.S., Kormakur is also, via his outfit Rvk Studios, a leading force within the Icelandic film biz, producing ambitious local movies and TV series, such as real-life survival tale “The Deep” and the skein project “Vatnajokull.”

“Whether Iceland’s economic turmoil has spurred the creativity of »

- Elsa Keslassy

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