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Jennifer Lawrence to Star in Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Burial Rites’ (Exclusive)

16 hours ago

Luca Guadagnino, currently drumming up Oscar buzz for the ravishing “Call Me by Your Name,” will direct Jennifer Lawrence in “Burial Rites,” Variety has learned. Lawrence will produce, as well as star in the true-crime drama. TriStar Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures, has worldwide rights to the picture.

The film draws on Hannah Kent’s 2013 novel of the same name, and centers on Agnes Magnusdottir (Lawrence), the last woman to be publicly executed in Iceland in 1830. Agnes was sentenced to death for killing two men and setting fire to their home. The story takes place as Agnes awaits confirmation of her death sentence by the high court, a period of time that finds her reluctantly forging emotional and romantic bonds, while reflecting on her supposed crimes.

In addition to “Call Me by Your Name,” a romantic drama that’s received critical raves and just picked up three Golden Globe nominations, Guadagnino directed »

- Brent Lang

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Rockets Toward $425 Million Global Launch Weekend

20 hours ago

The Force is seriously powerful financially, with Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” tracking to deliver about $425 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

More than a dozen international markets will open Wednesday, led by France and Italy along with Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan. On Thursday, key markets include Germany, the U.K., Australia, Korea, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico.

Previews begin at 6 p.m. Thursday in North America. On Friday, the domestic launch will take place at about 4,175 theaters in the U.S./Canada including nearly 410 Imax screens, 640 premium large format, 3,600 3D locations, and 212 D-Box locations. The total will be slightly higher than last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which opened at 4,157 locations.

The largest Thursday night preview gross in North America is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with $57 million two years ago. “Rogue One” opened with $29 million in Thursday night previews.

Domestic tracking »

- Dave McNary

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Universal Crosses $5 Billion Mark at 2017 Worldwide Box Office

15 hours ago

Universal Pictures has topped $5 billion at the global box office for the second time in the studio’s 105-year history, led by “The Fate of the Furious” and “Despicable Me 3.”

The global total for the studio passed the milestone on Dec. 11 to reach $5.003 billion, including $1.605 billion domestically and $3.398 billion internationally. Universal joined Disney and Warner Bros. in reaching the mark this year, with Disney hitting the milestone on Nov. 30 and Warner doing so five days later.

The Fate of the Furious” had the biggest global opening weekend of all time at $542 million — breaking the record set by 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It was also the top international opening ever at $443.2 million.

The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth film in the franchise, earned $1.23 billion worldwide in what’s the 11th-largest total of all time. It is only the sixth film in history to cross $1 billion at the international box office and is also the »

- Dave McNary

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Dubai: Arab World Women Directors – Hala Elkoussy

1 hour ago

After a personal artistic practice centered on photographic installations and video, Cairo-born, London-trained artist Hala Elkoussy explores the border area between the visual arts and film in her feature debut, “Cactus Flower,” which has just won best actress for Menha El Batroui’s performance at the 2017 Dubai Festival.

This independently made, alternative cinema selection, which world premiered in the Rotterdam Film Festival’s Bright Future section earlier this year, differs from the other films in the Dubai Festival Muhr competition on a visual and structural level.

Elkoussy notes that her move into features was not easy. She says, “Particularly challenging were issues related to the size of the production. It is the biggest thing I’ve done so far.” She worked seven days a week for over nine months, handling the direction, art direction and many production issues. “What made things easier,” she says, “were the key members of my team, most of whom »

- Alissa Simon

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Palestinian Annemarie Jacir’s ‘Wajib’ Wins Big at Dubai Festival

1 hour ago

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The 14th Dubai Int’l Film Festival handed out prizes Dec. 13 at an afternoon awards ceremony preceding the evening gala premiere of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The Muhr feature jury, headed by prominent German actress Martina Gedeck, gave the best fiction feature nod to the poignant Palestinian father-son drama “Wajib,” helmed by Annemarie Jacir. The film also nabbed the best actor kudo, shared by real-life father and son co-stars, Mohammed and Saleh Bakri.

Syrian director Ziad Khalthoum secured the best non-fiction prize for “Taste Of Cement,” focusing on the dire situation for Syrian construction workers in Beirut.  Lebanese helmer Lucien Bourjeily scored the special jury prize for the drama “Heaven Without People.”

Rounding out the feature awards, Algerian Sofia Djama took best director for the France-Belgium-Qatar production “The Blessed,” while Menha El Batroui earned the best actress nod for her work in indie Egyptian drama “Cactus Flower.”

Prolific Egyptian »

- Alissa Simon

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Mamoru Hosoda Animation ‘Mirai’ Set for July Release

3 hours ago

Japanese animation maestro, Mamoru Hosoda will release his new feature on July 20, 2018 distributor Toho announced.

Titled “Mirai of the Future” (“Mirai no Mirai”,) the film centers on a four-year-old boy who feels his place in his parent’s affections threatened by the arrival of a baby sister, Mirai. Then she reveals herself as a girl from the future.

Hosoda has credits that include the 2006 teen fantasy “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” and the 2015 hit “The Boy and the Beast” He is making the film with Studio Chizu, the animation house he founded in 2011. Nippon Television is  among the committee of co-producers.

Early in the millennium Hosoda was hired by Studio Ghibli to direct “Howl’s Moving Castle,” an animation based on a children’s novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones. Studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki took over the project, however, and Hosoda left Ghibli under a cloud.

Ironically, Hosoda was hailed as the next Miyazaki when he »

- Mark Schilling

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Once-Powerful Indie Player Wild Bunch Seeks a White Knight

3 hours ago

Wild Bunch is teetering on the financial brink as it tries to restructure its debt, raise capital, deal with an exodus of high-level executives and shore up its once-promising TV unit and flailing distribution activities, multiple sources say.

Over the past couple years, the flamboyant European powerhouse has been able to weather a growing financial storm and continue backing prestige movies thanks to its reputation and the help of friendly lending institutions. But it has recently taken steps to find a buyer to acquire the company in full or in part, and/or to sell some assets. It will have to do so within the next four or five months to stay afloat, an industry source close to Wild Bunch tells Variety, adding that two investment funds that specialize in turnaround situations are now circling the company.

Wild Bunch, headed by Vincent Grimond, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua and Max Sturm, declined requests for comment. »

- Elsa Keslassy

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Palestine’s Foreign Oscar Candidate ‘Wajib’ Scores Multiple Sales (Exclusive)

3 hours ago

French sales company Pyramide International has scored multiple sales on Palestinian auteur Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib,” which is Palestine’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar and just had its Middle East bow at the Dubai Film Festival.

The wry comedy toplining prominent Palestinian actors Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri, working together for the first time, has been acquired by Satine Films for Italy; Festival Films for Spain; Potential Films for Australia and New Zealand; Astro for South East Asia; and Times Vision for China. Amazon has taken streaming rights for the U.S. where theatrical rights remain open.

Wajib” takes place in a day during which a divorced father and his visiting son drive around Nazareth in an old Volvo delivering invitations to their female sibling’s wedding and the twists and turns in their uneasy relationship unfold. It “encapsulates the differences between Palestinians living in Israel and those living abroad,” wrote Variety »

- Nick Vivarelli

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CineAsia: India’s PVR Signs Bumper Deal With 4Dx

6 hours ago

Nearly two dozen additional cinema auditoriums with moving seats, smells and water effects will be coming to India. That follows an agreement between the country’s leading multiplex chain, PVR, and the Korean equipment manufacturer 4Dx.

PVR opened its first 4Dx theater in Noida, near New Delhi, and is currently adding three more. The deal, signed at the CineAsia convention in Hong Kong, will see the multi-sensory equipment installed as new in PVR’s upcoming multiplexes and a handful of retrofit locations.

The company expects to have 21 4Dx screens in operation by the end of 2019. The deal requires that no other cinema operator can operate a 4Dx screen within a 10-kilometer radius of PVR’s.

PVR said that the equipment has been well received by Indian filmmakers and audiences. “We’ve seen people traveling 40 km or 50 km to visit the Noida facility,” said Gautam Dutta, PVR CEO. “Indian filmmakers were hesitant when we had only one site »

- Patrick Frater

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‘Titanic,’ ‘The Goonies,’ ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘Memento’ Added to National Film Registry

6 hours ago

James Cameron’s disaster epic “Titanic,” the beloved fantasy “The Goonies,” Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” and 1989’s “Field of Dreams” are among the 25 films selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.

The 2017 selections range from obscure documentaries to a Mexican-American family’s home movies from 1920s Texas to Disney’s 1941 animated classic “Dumbo” to the 1979 Luis Valdez-directed drama “Boulevard Nights” to 1960’s “Spartacus,” the Kirk Douglas-Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal drama that helped end the era of the blacklist.

The titles will be added to the Library’s collection of films designated as having cultural, social or aesthetic significance.

“Our love affair with motion pictures is a testament to their enduring power to enlighten, inspire and inform us as individuals and a nation as a whole,” said Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. “Being tasked with selecting only 25 each year is daunting because there are so many great films deserving of this honor »

- Cynthia Littleton

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Showbiz Event Planners Compete for the Glam Slam

7 hours ago

Awards season’s social marathon is upon us. For event planners, Los Angeles and New York City have what it takes to entertain and entice the glitterati. Venues pull out all the stops with of-the-moment menus for showbiz’s particular eaters, free-flowing craft cocktails and vintage bubbles. Eye-popping decor is a given. Here are some new or newish places that will please the glammed-up crowd this awards season.

Los Angeles

Above It All: 18 Social at Hotel Indigo Los Angeles

Downtown L.A.’s latest venue options include the 350-room Hotel Indigo, close to the Nokia Theater and Staples Center. There’s a nod to old Hollywood in the hotel’s graphic wall coverings. Hotel Indigo opened in April with more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space: the neon-accented 18 Social is the hotel’s view-rich 18th floor bar and lounge where there’s a private room for 50 or space for 200 via a buyout.

899 Francisco St. Los Angeles, »

- Kathy A. McDonald

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Weinstein Asian Executive Bey Logan Accused of Sexual Misconduct

10 hours ago

Bey Logan, a Hong Kong-based film executive who has a close relationship with Harvey Weinstein, has been accused of sexual harassment. Logan denies any criminal wrongdoing, but admits to “mistakes” and a “too carefree attitude towards physical encounters with women.”

Logan, who was a consulting producer on The Weinstein Company’s “Shanghai,” has been the object of conversation on social media since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October. The rumors about his conduct took more solid form Wednesday with the publication of three investigative reports by Hong Kong online magazine HK01.

The report accused Logan, a martial arts expert, of sexually harassing actresses in his offices and on film sets. It also says that Logan sent actresses to Weinstein’s hotel room, where unwanted sexual advances were made. The HK01 report carries accounts by seven women, only one of whom was identified by name.

One of the actresses, formerly with Tvb, said Logan told »

- Vivienne Chow

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12 of the Craziest ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Fan Theories

11 hours ago

Since the credits rolled on “The Force Awakens,” fans have taken to the Internet to theorize the answers to the dangling mysteries left unsolved. Who or what is Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? What’s the deal with the reclusive Luke Skywalker? In the two years since “Episode VII,” theories have ranged from possible, unlikely, to straight up baffling.  With “The Last Jedi” right around the corner we’re looking at some of the best — and craziest — theories from around the web.

The Knights of Ren were Luke’s Students

Of all the theories out there, this one rings seems pretty plausible. Around the halfway point of “The Force Awakens,” Rey is given Luke’s old lightsaber — the one he lost in his fight with Darth Vader in “The Empire Strikes Back.” When she touches it she sees a number of visions, one of them being of Kylo Ren and a group of equally hooded baddies »

- Jacob Bryant

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Fashion Flashback: Laura Dern Remembers Her Favorite Frocks

11 hours ago

Laura Dern — daughter of Oscar-nominated actors Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern — first attended the awards ceremony at age 7. “The Oscars to me as a kid were about achievement, and the achievement was connected to really raw human characters,” says Dern. In 1992, she and Ladd made Oscar history with their mother-daughter nods for “Rambling Rose,” and she earned another Oscar nom, plus three Globe victories and two noms on top of that. Dern stars in series “Big Little Lies” and “Twin Peaks,” where style and storytelling go hand in hand.

2009 (1)

Dern served as the youngest-ever Miss Golden Globe in 1982 — and went on to receive Globe nods for “Rambling Rose” in 1992, “Afterburn” in 1993 (also her first win), and “The Baby Dance” in 1999. The year of her fourth nom, for docudrama “Recount,” she wore this linear design by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton. “I knew Marc, and so it was a great privilege to wear him specifically,” says Dern, who »

- Jasmin Rosemberg

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TV Animators Tooned Up for Big Screen Features

12 hours ago

The creative lines between film and television are blurring ever more frequently these days, with many live-action directors, writers and other talent moving with increasing ease between the two media. But in the animation industry, only a handful of directors and writers have made the transition.

One of those is Rich Moore, who is directing Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” alongside Phil Johnston and who earlier this year won the animated feature Oscar for Disney’s 2016 hit “Zootopia” with director Byron Howard. Moore has an extensive background in TV animation, working on “The Simpsons,” “The Critic” and “Futurama” for many years before making his feature directing debut on the first “Wreck-It Ralph” film in 2012.

Moore himself realizes he’s part of a rare breed.

“I’ve noticed that, too, and it’s a shame because there are some amazing TV directors out there who should be making features,” says Moore. “If »

- Terry Flores

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Film News Roundup: ‘Get Out’ Named Top Film of 2017 by African American Film Critics Assn.

13 hours ago

In today’s film news roundup, “Get Out” wins top awards from the African American Film Critics, Fred Rogers gets a stamp, and Lyor Cohen is selected as a keynoter at SXSW.


Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” has won four awards from members of the African American Film Critics Association, taking the trophies for best film, director, actor, and screenplay.

Aafca recognized Frances McDormand as best actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Laurence Fishburne won the supporting actor trophy for “Last Flag Flying” and Tiffany Haddish won supporting actress for “Girls Trip.”

Lakeith Stanfield, who also appears in “Get Out,” won the breakout star award for his lead role in “Crown Heights,” which also won the best independent award.

“The films released in 2017 captured a plethora of lifestyles, experiences and emotions that allowed our members to engage with a different range of storylines from previous years,” said Aafca co-founder and president, Gil Robertson. »

- Dave McNary

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Shelter PR Expands With New Film and TV Division, Hires Veteran PR Exec Alicia Ramirez Wyld

14 hours ago

Shelter PR is expanding their agency with the launch of its new film and television division, and has also hired former Paramount exec Alicia Ramirez Wyld as exec VP.

Wyld has held senior positions at Focus Features, Warner Bros., and, most recently, Paramount where, for nearly 10 years, she oversaw regional publicity and promotions as well as all experiential marketing, in addition to sports, religious, and family outreach for the company’s films.

“On the heels of our three-year anniversary of opening the doors at Shelter PR, we are excited to take the company to the next level,” said Shelter PR partners Cara and Christine Tripicchio and Marla Farrell. “Alicia is a highly respected, savvy, and smart executive who is known for her innovative ideas and ability to execute campaigns on a global scale. We couldn’t be more thrilled that she is joining our team and look forward to expanding the company with Alicia playing a key role »

- Justin Kroll

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From ‘Lego Batman’ to ‘Ferdinand’ to ‘Boss Baby,’ These Actors Inspire the Animators

14 hours ago

From “the Lego Batman Movie” and “The Boss Baby” to “Ferdinand,” theaters are full of animated films showcasing premiere acting talent. Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, John Cena and Miranda Cosgrove are just a few of the actors who’ve entered the booth this year to give a vocal performance that will inspire animators as they create a character.

Voice-acting gigs were not always seen as plum jobs and voice actors often didn’t receive the same respect accorded other performers. That started to shift in 1992 when Robin Williams gave one of the most memorable voice performances as the Genie in “Aladdin.”

“A lot of people think it’s like an Adr process, like a post process when you’re directing a vocal performance,” says Tom McGrath, the helmer behind “Boss Baby” and the “Madagascar” films. “The main thing is to create a safe place for the actors so they can try things. As a director »

- Karen Idelson

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Jordan Peele Praises His ‘Get Out’ Below the Line Crew

14 hours ago

The Universal-Blumhouse film “Get Out” has been winning awards for first-time feature writer-director Jordan Peele, but he’s quick to salute his behind-the-camera colleagues. “They trusted me with a crazy premise and I owe them a great deal,” Peele said. He spoke about his collaborators on the envelope-pushing movie that was filmed in Alabama.

Rusty Smith

Production designer

“I wanted everything about the house to be comforting, so we could subvert that comfort. For the other locations, there weren’t sets built, but there was a complex where we co-opted spaces to create a few sets, like the detective office, the operating room. The creepy rec room was originally a judge’s chambers. In the script, it was called the games room, and it could have gone many different ways. I wanted an evil feng shui, but with was a curious warmth. I almost wanted a sense that you could have fun in the room — partly for the »

- Tim Gray

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Oscars: Best Picture Field Shifts Into Focus

15 hours ago

Critics group superlatives and top 10 lists may have been flying around for two weeks, but now that Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” and the Hugh Jackman musical “The Greatest Showman” have finally screened, and with Disney’s epic “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” premiere out of the way, everything in the Oscar hunt has really and truly been seen. So let’s take the first real educated pulse of this year’s best picture landscape.

It has been the year without a frontrunner since the Venice/Telluride/Toronto starting gun, and the news is: It still is. Even with highly anticipated prestige players like Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” on the board, no film has stepped up and seized the burdensome status of being “the one to beat.” Ask around and you’ll probably get a half-dozen answers: “It’s ‘Dunkirk’s’ to lose.” “‘Lady Bird’ could »

- Kristopher Tapley

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