Hello, and welcome to International Insider, I’m Jake Kanter. On the newsletter this week, your usual dose of the best international stories from Deadline. As always, I’m on [email protected] if you want to send comments, feedback or stories. And to get this delivered directly to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.
Blow To Cannes UK Delegates
New rules: UK participation in the 2021 Cannes Film Festival is in major doubt after the French government imposed new quarantine regulations on travelers arriving from Brit shores. As of May 31, UK visitors will be required to have a “compelling reason” to enter France and will have to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival, a measure that will be largely prohibitive for festival delegates. The UK is the third biggest country in terms of Cannes attendance, so it would be a significant blow to the festival.
International Insider: Merger Mayhem; BBC Diana Disaster; Netflix Moves; BBC Studios Remains Rudderless
Why now? The French government’s move is an anticipatory one, not directly related to current Covid infection rates. At the time of writing, France is clocking a seven-day average of just under 9,000 positive cases, while the UK is sitting at a little over 2,500. Rather, the fear is over the emergence of the so-called ‘Indian variant’ (B.1.617.2), which has been spreading and is set to become the dominant strain in the UK. Testing has shown that fully vaccinated people are resistant to the strain, and the spread is largely among unvaccinated parts of the population, but Europe is lagging behind in the vaccination stakes.
Changing situation: This is an ever-evolving situation and don’t expect the picture to look the same once Cannes arrives on July 6. In response to this week’s news, the fest said it was looking into potential solutions, including the possibility of introducing a waiver on quarantine for executives and talent traveling from the UK. Organizers said they were having active discussions and are hopeful of providing a clearer picture by early June. The situation currently looks more positive for travelers from the U.S., who should be able to arrive in the country quarantine-free from June 9, as things stand.
Amazon Moves On MGM
Amazon’s IP play: The M&A mayhem spilled over into its second week, as Amazon dried the ink on a much-rumored $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos summed up his “acquisition thesis” for the deal like this: “MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-beloved intellectual property… we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21st century.” In bald numbers, MGM’s empire spans 4,000 feature films and 17,000 hours of TV programming. As for the iconic titles, Amazon can now lay claim to the likes of James Bond, Rocky, Fargo, and Legally Blonde.
No Mr Bond, I (don’t) expect you to Prime: It will take time before we see how the integration shakes down, given Amazon’s takeover will need the green light from antitrust hawks at the Justice Department and perhaps the Federal Trade Commission. Amazon has welcomed back top Bezos acolyte, Jeff Blackburn, to bring together its media and entertainment empire, which will involve flexing Prime Video with MGM’s added muscle. We got clarity on one thing, however, and that is that No Time To Die will stick to its theatrical release plan of October 8, scotching any fears it will bypass cinemas for a streaming premiere amid the pandemic.
Some international questions: What will become of Mark Burnett, the British producer behind The Apprentice, who runs MGM Worldwide Television Group? He worked with Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke on The Voice when she was running NBC Entertainment, but industry observers indicate that Burnett may leave after the transaction is completed, according to my colleague Peter White. Similar questions will be asked about MGM’s International Television Productions unit, which hired Studiocanal executive Rola Bauer as president last June. Bauer is based in Munich and reports to Burnett, while the division also has a presence in the UK through former Channel 4 commissioner Dom Bird. Will they join Amazon’s global team? Keep up with all our Amazon/MGM content to find out.
World Of Wonder Interview
Globe strutting: To celebrate the launch of the “indescribably hot” Drag Race España this weekend, we sat down with World Of Wonder producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey. They expect their iconic format to sashay its way into 10 territories before too long, which is not bad work for a show that has been rejected by many major network executives around the world. Bailey says they never lost faith, embodying the spirit of drag itself. “Drag is pure inspiration and incredible artistry. It combines painting, fashion, style, music, dancing, and above all, the ability to make something out of nothing,” he says.
Dream stream: But World Of Wonder is no one-trick pony. The company plays in live events, features, comedy, and documentaries. It also has its own streaming service, WOW Presents Plus, which Bailey boasts is bigger than Quibi, the doomed short-form streamer that reportedly had 500,000 subscribers when it closed last year. World Of Wonder won’t give details on subscriber numbers, but says that it has been an “extraordinary rocket ride of growth.” WOW Presents Plus will increasingly become the home for WOW originals, with Barbato explaining that lengthy development processes can be skipped to deliver fans content with “joie de vivre.” Read the full interview.
Solstice Slate Shifts
Primed for take-off: In a case of high-profile Hollywood volleyball, we revealed earlier this week that Lionsgate has re-acquired rights to distribute Gerard Butler action thriller The Plane in North America, Latin America, the UK, and India. Solstice Studios had boarded worldwide rights to The Plane after Lionsgate initially hit Covid-related insurance issues on the project, which was one of the hot packages at last year’s American Film Market (it was pitched with a budget of around $50M). But the final points on the Solstice deal couldn’t be agreed and the movie is now heading back to Lionsgate. With much of the world re-opening after the ravages of the pandemic, the studio now feels better about taking on the risk and we understand production is due to begin this summer in Puerto Rico.
Solstice seeks solace: The Plane is the second movie to move off Solstice’s slate this year after we revealed last week that Mark Wahlberg-starrer Good Joe Bell (pictured) is being re-routed to Roadside and Vertical. Where does that leave Mark Gill’s upstart mini-studio? The ambitious company was launched in 2018 but to date has only released Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged. Solstice, whose model is predicated on wide theatrical releases, has been hit hard by Covid, much like every other traditional film firm. In December, we revealed layoffs and pay deferrals at the company, which does sales, distribution, and production. The deep-pocketed streamers also make for tough competition. But the tarmac isn’t empty. We gather there are multiple high-profile projects likely to be greenlit this year, including Ben Affleck feature Hypnotic. We hear the company’s two principal financiers, one of whom is UK-based Ingenious, remain committed, and the Toronto Film Festival is being pinpointed as the next sales launchpad.
BBC Diana Fallout
Reviews upon reviews: The recriminations over the BBC’s 1995 Princess Diana interview continued into a second week following Lord Dyson’s explosive inquiry into how reporter Martin Bashir (pictured) forged his way into the royal’s affections. In simple terms, Dyson’s review has spawned two further investigations at the BBC, which has been engulfed in a firestorm of criticism from senior politicians, industry grandees, and nationals newspapers. The first review will examine why Bashir was rehired by the BBC as its religious affairs correspondent in 2016, when suspicions about his wrongdoing were hardly a secret. Ken MacQuarrie, the BBC’s former director of nations and regions, will report back his findings next week. The second investigation is far broader in remit and will see the BBC’s independent directors explore the culture in the broadcaster’s newsroom to ensure Bashir’s failings are never repeated. Reporting in September, it could reach conclusions about whether the BBC needs additional editorial governance — something the government wants to explore. Keep up with the latest right here.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (Con Air), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Ashley Greene (Twilight) are to star in Tim J. Brown-directed action movie The Retirement Plan. Andreas Wiseman had the scoop.
🍿 International box office: Universal’s F9 grossed an estimated $163M, breaking multiple records and logging the biggest Hollywood film debut at the international box office during the pandemic era. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
🇮🇹 Amazon’s Italian job: At an event in Rome, Amazon Prime Video this week revealed upcoming projects from its Italian office, including a pair of new original series: The Bad Guy and Prisma. Tom Grater tuned in for the event.
🎞️ Venice viewing: Denis Villeneuve’s much-anticipated Dune remake is heading to the Venice Film Festival. Speculation has been rife but we hear it’s locked in, barring an unforeseen snafu or Covid issue. Andreas had the story.
🇷🇺 From Russia with love: Netflix has set a contemporary reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s iconic novel Anna Karenina as its first-ever Russian original drama series. ANNA K will star Svetlana Khodchenkova. Go deeper.
📅 Diary date: The Edinburgh TV Festival has confirmed dates of August 23-26. Whoopi Goldberg has also signed up for the event. More here.
📝 International Critics Line: Todd McCarthy watched Mads Mikkelsen-starrer Riders Of Justice and praises its “bold and adventurous storytelling confidence.” Read the review here.
🎦 Trailer dash: Here’s your first look at some visually arresting footage from Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller Last Night In Soho (pictured above), which Focus Features will release on October 22. Check out the trailer.
📺 One to watch: We finally have a launch date for the much-buzzed-about GB News. The Discovery-backed news channel will go live in the UK on June 13. Here’s how to watch.
Writing on the shoulders of giants: Michaela Coel scooped the first BAFTAs for her BBC/HBO series I May Destroy You on Monday. Collecting her writing gong, the imperiously talented Brit didn’t just reel off the usual list of names when dishing out her thanks. Instead, Coel paid homage to the humble draft, in words that will surely resonate with writers up and down the land. “I would like to thank every draft,” she said during the virtual ceremony. “There are hundreds of them, each living only briefly and sacrificing themselves so the version we watched that won this BAFTA could exist.” Rarely has the idea of receiving notes seemed so poetic. Check out the full BAFTA TV Craft Awards winners here.
Tom Grater and Andreas Wiseman contributed to International Insider.