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Monday, April 16, 2012

Titanic set records but could not sink Battleship. John Carer impresses European audiences. Stooges could no hold off Hunger Games. Walmart launches cloud uploads today. MGM movies coming to YouTube an Google Play.

"Battleship" gets a solid launch overseas

Titanic set International Box Office records but could not sink Battleship. The sci-fi action flick "Battleship" got off to a solid start overseas this weekend, grossing $58 million from 26 foreign countries. That sounds good — until you compare it with the receipts for "Titanic 3-D," which simultaneously collected that much in China alone.

Indeed, the revamped version of James Cameron's 1997 classic posted the biggest opening of all time in China, surpassing the $55-million debut of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" in the country last year. The film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet dominated at the international box office this weekend, raking in $88.2 million from 69 foreign markets and bringing its total abroad to $146.5 million, according to distributor 20th Century Fox.

Upon its release in China 14 years ago, "Titanic" only played in 180 theaters, compared with the 3,500 locations the 3-D reissue screened in over the weekend. In six days, "Titanic 3-D" has already made 32% more in China than the $44 million the original made during its entire theatrical run in the country.

"Battleship," meanwhile, doesn't hit Chinese theaters until next weekend. The Universal Pictures production is so far performing best in Southeast Asia, debuting with $8 million in Korea — more than action films such as "Transformers" or "Iron Man" opened to in the country.

The movie has yet to play in 24 foreign countries, including Russia, and won't hit U.S. theaters until May 18. The movie, featuring "John Carter" star as a member of a naval fleet who fight aliens at sea, cost Universal $211 million to produce. The movie is expected to ultimately perform far better abroad than domestically, considering its heavy use of special effects, which generally resonate more strongly with international audiences.

Daily Dose: Although there is no official word yet, fans of TNT's police drama "Southland" don't have to worry about the show getting pulled from active duty. The John Wells-produced drama, which ended its season several weeks ago, is all but guaranteed a pickup from TNT, which snagged the show after NBC tossed it after one season.

 Photo: Will Sasso, left, Chris Diamantopoulos and Sean Hayes star in "The Three Stooges." Credit: 20th Century Fox

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk. As expected, "The Three Stooges" got their heads smacked by "The Hunger Games" in the weekend box office race. For the fourth weekend in a row, "The Hunger Games" finished first. This time around, it took in $21.5 million. It's the first time since 2009's "Avatar" that a movie has finished first for four weeks straight. "The Three Stooges" took in a solid $17.1 million, good enough for second place, while "The Cabin in the Woods" was third with about $15 million. Box office coverage from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.

Here are the Top 10 movies at the domestic box office, with international results when available, according to studio estimates: 1. "The Hunger Games" (Lionsgate): $21.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 35%. Domestic total: $337.1 million. $15 million overseas in 60 foreign markets. International total: $194 million.

2. "The Three Stooges" (Fox): Opened with $17.1 million.

3. "The Cabin in the Woods" (Lionsgate/MGM): Opened with $14.9 million.

4. "Titanic 3-D" (Paramount/Fox): $11.6 million on its second weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $44.4 million. $88.2 million overseas in 69 foreign markets. International total: $146.4 million.

5. "American Reunion" (Universal/Relativity): $10.6 million on its second weekend, down 50%. Domestic total: $39.9 million. $11.8 million overseas in 34 foreign markets. International total: $40.8 million.

6. "Mirror Mirror" (Relativity): $7 million on its third weekend, down 37%. Domestic total: $49.5 million.

7. "Wrath of the Titans" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $6.9 million on its third weekend, down 53%. Domestic total: $71.3 million. $16 million overseas in 63 foreign markets. International total: $188 million.

8. "21 Jump Street" (Sony/MGM): $6.8 million on its fifth weekend, down 32%. Domestic total: $120.6 million. $4 million overseas in 19 foreign markets. International total: $34 million.

9. "Lockout" (FilmDistrict/Open Road): Opened with $6.3 million.

10. "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" (Universal): $3 million on its seventh weekend, down 40%. Domestic total: $204.5 million. $8.6 million overseas in 51 foreign markets. International total: $74.3 million.]

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest entertainment news.

John Carter does better oveseas and is on road to recovering cost. Overseas, Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter" crossed the $200-million milestone at the international box office. The film, which is currently playing in 55 foreign countries, collected $2.9 million over the weekend to bring its total abroad to $200.6 million. Stateside, the film barely made a dent at the multiplex in its sixth week of release and has only made $68.7 million. While that means the film's global total is now $269.3 million, that's not nearly enough to make up for the production and marketing costs on the $250-million-plus film.
RobocopPhoto: Peter Weller in "Robocop 2." Credit: Orion Pictures

MGM Movies coming to YouTube and Google Play, Goodbye to Netscape. Seeking to make more money from a library that still provides virtually all of the independent studio's revenue, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has signed a deal to rent more than 600 of its movies through Google's YouTube video site and its digital media store.

The partnership unveiled Monday covers more than 600 of MGM's best known titles, including "Rocky," "Terminator," "West Side Story," "Rain Man," "Robocop" and "Moonstruck." They will be available directly on YouTube or via Google Play, the tech giant's digital media store that offers movies, music, books and games to rent on the web and Android mobile devices.

Google already has similar movie rental deals with all of Hollywood's major studios, save 20th Century Fox, and 10 independents, including Relativity Media and Miramax. Typically, it charges $3.99 for new releases and $1.99 for older titles.

Though it is the leading player in online video-watching through YouTube, Google has a tiny share of the fast-growing but still nascent Internet video-on-demand business, which is dominated by Netflix and Apple's iTunes. The company is trying to grow its content collection, however, in order to better compete and make more revenue from online video.

MGM, meanwhile, wants to make its movies available as broadly as possible as it starts moving back into production under a new ownership and management team. Many of the titles it is offering through Google are already available to stream, rent or buy via Netflix and iTunes.

YouTube has stuck  rental deal with Parmount, and Apple's cloud has non-exclusive deals with Parmount, Sony and Lionsgate.

PussBootsPhoto: A scene from "Puss in Boots." Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

DreamWorks Animation is joining Wal-Mart's disc-to-digital service as it launches today.
The Glendale studio will make all of its previously released DVDs, including the "Shrek" and "Madagascar" series and "How to Train Your Dragon," available for consumers to convert into digital copies stored on Wal-Mart's Vudu service.

It's the sixth Hollywood studio to join with Wal-Mart, which will charge $2 to make a copy of a movie in the "cloud" that can be accessed from any compatible digital device ($5 to convert the movie to high-definition). It launches Monday in about 3,500 Wal-Mart stores across the U.S.

The lone holdout among the major film companies is Walt Disney Studios. However DreamWorks is the first independent to take part -- Lionsgate and The Weinstein Co. are also not yet participating.
Getting as many studios to particpate -- and to offer as many of their movies as possible -- is critical for Wal-Mart in growing the service, which it hopes will help stem declining revenue from DVD sales. The more movies from their shelves that they find they aren't able to convert to digital, the more discouraged potential customers are likely to be.

Media test runs say the service works, but has come on-line problems such as tiling and freezing without the support services in place for other cloud, on-line and streaming services.

Iron man 2

 Photo: Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark in the movie "Iron Man 2." Credit: Francois Duhamel / Marvel Entertainment 
Disney and DMG have teamed up to make "Iron Man 3" a Chinese Co-Production. The Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel Studios subsidiary said Monday that "Iron Man 3" will be a co-production with China, as the Burbank company teamed with DMG Entertainment of Beijing to co-finance and distribute the film.

Robert Downey, Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle will return for the third movie in the hit franchise, whose two films grossed more than $1 billion worldwide and $42.8 million between them in China. The third installment of the movie will be directed by Shane Black unlike the first two installments which were directed by Jon Favreau. Filming in the U.S. is to start in May, and in China in late summer; the movie is slated for release in May 2013.

Foreign films co-produced in China have an easier time getting cleared by Chinese censors and do not fall under the country's annual import cap.

“The popularity of the Marvel franchise globally creates a huge opportunity to deliver fans yet another action packed film,” Stanley Cheung, Disney’s greater China managing director, said in a statement.
DMG and Disney did not reveal how much DMG would invest in the production, nor did they give specifics about what plot elements would be shot in China. Last week, DMG's chief executive Dan Mintz told the Los Angeles Times that the film's budget was $200 million.  A Disney spokeswoman said she had not heard what the budget was to be.

DMG is a 19-year-old private Beijing advertising firm-turned-film producer and aspiring distributor. It is a partnership between two Chinese and Mintz, an American.

DMG will manage the Chinese production elements of “Iron Man 3’’ and keep the China distribution rights.

“Our collaboration with Disney and Marvel marks a milestone in the global entertainment landscape, as this signifies the first multi-billion dollar franchise to be produced between Hollywood and China,” Mintz said in the statement.

DMG boasts close working ties with the state-run China Film Group, the country’s biggest studio and monopoly importer. DMG helped CFG with the production and marketing of two recent major propaganda films, one made to mark the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic in 2009 and the other the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Both films were hits but were still out-earned by Hollywood imports.

Last spring at a black-tie party, Mintz emceed the announcement of DMG’s partnership with Endgame Entertainment to make Rian Johnson's film “Looper.” DMG added little-known Chinese actress Xu Qing to the time-travel action film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt, which will arrive in U.S. theaters this fall.

In an interview with The Times last week, Mintz said DMG was going to “talk to the whole world but try to infuse Chinese elements.”

The announcement on "Iron Man 3" comes just days after Disney said it would join an initiative with an animation arm of China's Ministry of Culture and China's largest Internet company, Tencent Holdings Ltd., to develop China's animation industry. Disney said it would offer its expertise in areas such as story writing and market research to help develop local Chinese talent.

In the first quarter, China overtook Japan as the world’s second biggest box office market after the U.S. Last year, China's box office posted its 10th consecutive year of double-digit growth to gross $2.08 billion, up 31% from 2010.

The next "Iron Man" will be made in China
Photo: "Iron Man." Credit: Zade Rosenthal/Paramount.

Will there be bananas at the concession stand? Walt Disney Co.'s  "Chimpanzee," a documentary that follows a baby chimp and his family, is getting movie star treatment. The movie, which opens Friday, is the fourth film from Disneynature. The first three all did very well. Making it a family affair, Tim Allen, the star of a sitcom on Disney-owned ABC, is the narrator of "Chimpanzee." More from the Wall Street Journal.

Reading material. The Wrap has obtained the script that Joe Eszterhas penned for “The Maccabees," which was to be produced by Mel Gibson until those two got into a nasty feud. I don't have the time or desire to thumb through what's been dubbed the Jewish "Braveheart," but maybe you have some time to kill today.

The world according to Bruce. Warner Bros. Television chief Bruce Rosenblum talks Netflix, Hulu, running the TV Academy, and political drama at the studio in an interview in Broadcasting & Cable.

Status update. Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings took to Facebook to bash Comcast Corp. In a nutshell, Hastings said Comcast favors its own Xfinity platform over Xbox with regard to caps the cable giant applies for data usage. Hastings writes: "If I watch last night’s SNL [Saturday Night Live] episode on my Xbox through the Hulu app, it eats up about one gigabyte of my cap, but if I watch that same episode through the Xfinity Xbox app, it doesn’t use up my cap at all." That example is particularly interesting given that Comcast is a co-owner in Hulu.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Fourth Wall Studios wants to reinvent the way television connects to the audience. A look at how Jeffrey Schlesinger went from making documentaries for eccentric scions to running Warner Bros. International Television.

-- Joe Flint

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From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for the latest entertainment news.

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