Tag: Film industry

Pinewood Studios to be taken private in £323m deal with Aermont Capital

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Offer values each Pinewood share at 560p and gives film studio – home of James Bond franchise – funds for expansion plans

Pinewood Studios to be taken private in £323m deal with Aermont Capital
Sean Connery as James Bond and a gold-painted Shirley Eaton being photographed on the set of Goldfinger at Pinewood Studios. Photograph: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Pinewood Studios is to be taken private in a £323m deal as the studio where James Bond is filmed seeks financial firepower for its expansion plans.

The film studio has said it needs to go private to fund ambitious plans to expand the historic complex in Buckingamshire, which opened in the 1930s and went on to shoot long-running series such as the Carry On films and James Bond franchise.

The offer from Aermont Capital, a London-based asset manager, values each Pinewood share at 560p..

Lord Grade, chairman of Pinewood, said the takeover was an attractive offer for investors that would give Pinewood “the platform required for future growth”.

Grade, a former chairman of the BBC and of grocery delivery firm Ocado, added: “The Pinewood Group has been transformed in recent years, but has been somewhat constrained in realising its ambitions due to the lack of share liquidity.”

Shareholders will also get a special dividend of 3.2p per share, making the deal for Pinewood, where the Star Wars series is also made, worth £323.3m.

Pinewood’s directors stand to make a combined £1.82m if they sell their entire holdings, including a £1m windfall for the chief executive, Ivan Dunleavy.

Aermont said on Friday that it had secured financing from Perella Weinberg, the private equity group from which it was spun off and whose real estate funds it now advises.

The price tag is a 31% premium on Pinewood’s average closing share price of 430p in the three weeks before they hired investment bank Rothschild to perform a strategic review signalling a likely sale of the business.

Aermont said 14% shareholder Aviva had joined Goodweather Investment and Warren James Holdings in undertaking to sell their shares, meaning the deal is all but certain to proceed.

Pinewood is listed on the AIM junior stock market and did not have a large enough free float – shares available to buy – to meet requirements to move to the main market, where it would have been able to raise more cash from investors.

Grade said: “Pinewood and clients will benefit from greater opportunities in the years ahead and the board intends to recommend the offer unanimously.”

Léon Bressler, managing partner of Aermont, said Pinewood was “an iconic brand at the heart of the global creative industries”.

Kickstarter campaign launched for world's first AI-written feature film

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Horror movie Impossible Things will be co-written by artificial intelligence software in attempt to use data to engineer a failproof hit

Kickstarter campaign launched for world's first AI-written feature film
AI will be used to generate a female-friendly plot for horror film Impossible Things.

A Kickstarter campaign has been launched for the world’s first feature-length film that will be co-written by artificial intelligence.

The horror film Impossible Things will be partly written by software that has analysed successes in the genre. The software uses that data to formulate a script that utilises successful plot points . The goal: engineer a hit film.

Jack Zhang, who founded the Canadian data analysis company Greenlight Essentials, is seeking CA$30,000 (£17,300) to make the project, which has been in development for five years. “A little over 85% of movies made today don’t make a profit [at the] box office, which is the result of a mismatch between the movies being produced and audiences’ tastes,” said Zhang in a press release. “We used [artificial intelligence] to generate the premise and the key plot points of the film. Before a single word was written, our AI told us that if we wanted to match audience taste, we needed to make a horror film that featured both ghost and family relationships, and that a piano scene and a bathtub scene would need to be used in the movie trailer to increase the likelihood that our target audience would like it.”

The script and trailer have been constructed to appeal to women under the age of 25, a key demographic for the horror film genre. The plot follows a family who move to a remote country house to recover from the death of a child. But the mother and daughter soon start to experience terrifying visions that pit them against each other.

Artificial intelligence has already been used to create a short film, Sunspring. Critical response to the sci-fi drama was mixed, however. CNet’s Amanda Kooser responded: “Some day, neural networks may get better at imitating the art of coherent storytelling, but we’re not there yet.”

Toronto film festival taps into Snowden and keeps it current with Denial and The Journey

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Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic leads the charge for topical movies premiering at this year’s Tiff, including fiction features about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the aftermath of the Good Friday agreement and the trial of David Irving

Toronto film festival taps into Snowden and keeps it current with Denial and The Journey
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone’s film Snowden. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex Shutterstock

It was shunned by film studios and plagued by Pokémon, but now Oliver Stone will finally premiere Snowden, his biopic of the National Security Agency whistleblower, at the Toronto international film festival in September.

The film, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, is based partly on a book by the Guardian journalist Luke Harding and follows the former security analyst from his time in the US military to his exile to Russia after he leaked thousands of classified documents.

Clips of the film were shown at San Diego Comic-Con last week, where the director said the major studios’ wariness over the film had “almost killed” the project. He also attacked Pokémon Go, criticising the level of data collection intrinsic to the world’s most popular mobile game by describing it as “surveillance capitalism”.

Other high-profile films making their debut in Toronto also take their notes from news headlines: Deepwater Horizon, directed by Battleship’s Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg, will tell the story of the 2010 oil rig disaster that lead to BP paying out the largest environmental fine in US history. Meanwhile, The Journey will focus on how an unlikely friendship developed between Northern Ireland’s late Democratic Unionist party leader Ian Paisley and his deputy Martin McGuinness. Colm Meaney is McGuinness, while Timothy Spall will play Paisley.

Spall also stars in Denial, an account of American historian Deborah E. Lipstadt’s legal battle against writer David Irving who took her to court after she accused him of denying the Holocaust. With libel courts in the UK putting the burden of proof on the accused, it was up to Lipstadt to legally prove that the Holocaust happened. Directed by The Bodyguard’s Mick Jackson, it stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt.

A fleet of UK films travel to Toronto this year. Among them is Adam Smith’s Trespass Against Us, which stars Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson as two generations of a warring crime family. Also arriving will be Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest, previously known as We Happy Few. Set during the second world war, it follows a gang of film-makers (lead by Gemma Arterton) making a patriotic film to boost morale during the blitz. Another Brit in attendance will be Amma Asante, whose A United Kingdom tells the story of the 1948 interracial marriage between Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the first president of Botswana and Ruth Williams Khama (Rosamund Pike), who was an English bank clerk.

Noel Clarke will bring Brotherhood, the culmination of his London crime trilogy, while Ewan McGregor will make his directorial debut with American Pastoral. Based on the Philip Roth novel of the same name, it stars Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning, with McGregor himself as Seymour “Swede” Levov, whose life is thrown into turmoil when his daughter explodes a bomb to protest against the Vietnam war.

Toronto film festival taps into Snowden and keeps it current with Denial and The Journey
Director Denis Villeneuve. Photograph: Sarjoun Faour Photography/WireImage

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, currently filming the Blade Runner reboot, will bring Arrival, a sci-fi adventure in which a team of linguists, lead by Amy Adams, must decipher the desires of visiting aliens. Meanwhile, Rob Reiner will bring LBJ, a biopic of Lyndon B Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. Woody Harrelson plays the man thrust into the highest office after the assassination of John F Kennedy.

Violence comes to the fore in two of the other American offerings. Catfight will star Sandra Oh and Alicia Silverstone as members of a scrap-happy sorority, while Miles Teller will take to the ring as struggling boxer Vinnie Paz in Bleed for This. On the more sedate end of the scale, Eleanor Coppola, the wife of Francis, will introduce Paris Can Wait, a romantic comedy starring Diane Lane as the wife of an inattentive Hollywood producer (Alec Baldwin), who finds herself on a journey of discovery while driving from Cannes to Paris. It’s the 80-year-old documentarian’s feature debut.

Classy kids fare headed for Canada includes Sing, director Garth Jennings’ musical comedy about a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who holds a singing competition in order to save his theatre from closure. Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and Taron Egerton provide backing vocals as a warbling pig, an alt-rock porcupine and a soulful gorilla, respectively. Also for younger viewers, JA Bayona’s A Monster Calls will introduce Conner O’Malley playing a boy dealing with his mother’s terminal illness by confiding in a talking yew tree (voiced by Liam Neeson).

Jonathan Demme, who famously caught a classic Talking Heads show on tape with Stop Making Sense, will press play on JT and the Tennessee Kids, a Justin Timberlake concert film. Also on rotation is The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! – A Trip Across Latin America, directed by Paul Dugdale and following the veteran rockers on their recent tour.

The Toronto international film festival runs from 8 to 18 September, opening with Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven and closing with The Edge of Seventeen, a high school romance in which Hailee Steinfeld’s awkward teen is mentored by Woody Harrelson.

 

Ban on smoking in movies 'infringes free speech', says MPAA

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Motion Picture Association of America faces lawsuit aimed at removing tobacco imagery from films deemed suitable for children

Ban on smoking in movies 'infringes free speech', says MPAA
No smoke without ire … Scarlett Johansson in Hail, Caesar! (2016), which is rated PG-13. Photograph: Allstar/Working Title Films

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is attempting to defend itself against a legal complaint about smoking in films deemed suitable for children by claiming that movie ratings are opinions.

The MPAA, facing a suit that hopes to see smoking imagery banned from films rated G, PG or PG-13, is arguing that the ban would be an infringement of the first amendment right to free speech. They argue that the ratings should reflect what most US parents would think suitable viewing for their children.

Now the plaintiffs, led by Timothy Forsyth, are arguing that movie ratings are not protected by the first amendment, according to the Hollywood Reporter. They argue that the link between on-screen smoking and teenage uptake is scientifically provable and their complaint is therefore about false advertising.

“The complaint asserts that defendants cannot affix a PG-13 or lower certification on movies with tobacco imagery, because they know that it has been scientifically established that subjecting children to such imagery will result in the premature death of more than a million of them,” said Forsyth and co in a new memo.

The plaintiffs had previously noted the strong link between tobacco use on screen and uptake by young people, saying that about 4.6 million adolescents were recruited by youth-rated movies to smoking. Among the blockbusters they used as examples were Spectre, Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Woman in Black. The MPAA has argued that the link between on-screen smoking and uptake by youths is “too attenuated and speculative to support damages”.

The case, which is ongoing, could significantly alter the way films are rated if it is decided in favour of the plaintiffs and potentially clear the way for further suits covering alcohol use, gambling and high-speed driving.

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The glory days return to one of British cinema’s spiritual homes

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Saved from demolition four years ago, Twickenham Studios is thriving again. Movie-loving businessman Sunny Vohra explains how he has managed to attract the likes of Ridley Scott and Stanley Tucci

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal
Twickenham Studios have had a renaissance since being taken over by businessman Sunny Vohra. Photograph: Alamy

Four years ago the historic Twickenham Studios, home to some of the best-loved moments in British cinema history, stood on the brink of oblivion. The site seemed set for demolition and redevelopment as prime residential land in west London and an era of film history appeared to be drawing to a close.

That disaster was averted is thanks in large part to British businessman and cinema-lover Sunny Vohra. As the studios prepare to announce major investments in independent British films and television dramas, business is booming again. Studios that were suffering six-figure losses before he acquired them are now in profit and film-makers are plying their trade in south-west London.

Those being drawn to Twickenham include Sir Ridley Scott (for Alien: Covenant, the next instalment in his science fiction series), Stanley Tucci (for The Final Portrait, starring Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush as artist Alberto Giacometti), and John Madden, whose previous films include Shakespeare in Love (for Miss Sloane, a gun-control drama).

For Vohra, financing the Twickenham renaissance was a no-brainer. Asked whether he was under some obligation, having purchased the site, to keep it as a film studio, he said: “Technically, no. Morally, I was – because of the history.”

Carol Reed, Sam Peckinpah and Richard Attenborough are among the directors who worked at Twickenham. Seminal films made there include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Italian Job and The Eagle Has Landed. Vohra has spent big in an attempt to bring back some of the spirit of the glory days. So far, in what he describes as “a labour of love”, Vohra has invested £16m.

“Before we took it over,” he says, “[the studios] were losing about half a million pounds a year. The first year we had it, we lost half a million. Then we turned it around and made a small profit. A large part of it was changing the management and … the infrastructure.”

Actress Vanessa Redgrave now has an office there, making documentaries, and Angelina Jolie has just spent several months on site producing her next film, First They Killed My Father, a true-life drama about Cambodia’s deadly Khmer Rouge regime. Stephen Frears, director of The Queen, starring Dame Helen Mirren, opened an office there last week for his new film, Victoria and Abdul, about another monarch – Queen Victoria – and her unlikely friendship with an Indian clerk. Dame Judi Dench is returning to the role she played in Mrs Brown.

Lions Gate to buy Starz in $4.4bn deal
The 2015 film Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep, was shot at Twickenham Studios.

Frears shot most of his period comedy Florence Foster Jenkins, with Meryl Streep as a socialite with ambitions to sing, in Twickenham. Asked why he was returning, he told the Observer: “The modesty of it is very nice. At Pinewood, you’re overwhelmed by James Bond and all the American films. Twickenham is much more domestic and feels appropriate to the films we’re making.”

Born in Kenya, Vohra came to Britain aged 13. His family built up their business, which includes the Rembrandt hotel in south Kensington, from a bicycle shop opened by his Indian grandfather in Kenya. “That’s why I like riding bicycles,” he said. His grandfather emigrated from India to Kenya to work on the railway: “He was one of the workers that laid the tracks. Then they bought a bicycle shop.” The family still have that shop. “We will never close it,” he said, repeating his grandfather’s words: “Remember where everything started.”

He added: “We’re probably the biggest retailers and wholesalers of bicycles in Kenya, and probably Africa.”

A film studio, of course, is a very different proposition from a hotel. “The operational side is different,” said Vohra, “but, in the hotels, we’re renting out rooms for people to sleep in. Here we’re renting out offices, stages and sound theatres for people to come and work in. But it’s still the same thing – commercial space available for rent.”

 

Twickenham came to his attention after a chance visit to a friend’s office there. While the friend tried in vain to persuade him to invest in movies, Vohra told him that, if the site itself ever became available, he “could be interested”. The friend told him: “Actually, they’re in trouble.” Twickenham was eventually placed in administration, but post-production supervisor Maria Walker organised a campaign to save it, drawing support from Steven Spielberg and other major film-makers.

She said: “I’d worked here a lot and knew it was a great facility. But it was obvious to an outsider that no money had been spent on it. The owner had died about seven years before and it was just a rudderless ship. So I started the campaign. I was so angry, I just couldn’t imagine it not being here.”

Vohra was so struck by her passion that, on acquiring the studio, he appointed her as chief operating officer. He said: “The studio had the wrong management in place. That needed changing. The first thing to do was to bring the right person in.”

From the outside, a series of unprepossessing studio buildings, some rundown and ramshackle, give little clue to the state-of-the-art technology and facilities at the UK’s oldest studio.

But if there is one film that Vohra would have liked to have invested in, it is Casablanca, the classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman: “I have watched that movie once a month for the past 40 years.”

Asked about his budget for investing in independent British films, he said: “There’s no set figure. We’re going to look at every project that comes along. We want to attract strong scripts. It’s about going to the cinema and being able to say: ‘You know, that movie was done at Twickenham.’”

STILL FLYING THE FLAG

Pinewood

Merged with Alexander Korda’s Denham in 1938 by Sir Charles Boot and J Arthur Rank. Will open five new sound stages this week.

Famous for: The Red Shoes, Carry on Sergeant, Dr No.

Recently home to: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Victor Frankenstein.

Ealing

Synonymous with comedies and thrillers in the 1940s; revamped last year with new plans and money.

Famous for: The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers, Passport to Pimlico, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Man in the White Suit.

Recently home to: Downton Abbey, Weinstein Company’s One Chance and Working Title’s The Two Faces of January.

Shepperton

Its 15 sound stages are part of the Pinewood Studios Group.

Famous for: The Third Man, I’m Alright Jack, Oliver!, The Day of the Jackal, The Elephant Man, Blade Runner, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Billy Elliot, Bend it Like Beckham and Atonement.

Recently home to: Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Into the Woods and Gravity.

Elstree

Just received planning clearance for an expansion to be completed late next year.

Famous for: The first British talkie, Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail, The Hasty Heart, with Richard Todd and Ronald Reagan, the original Star Wars trilogy, The Dirty Dozen and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Dam Busters used the water tank.

Recently home to: The Danish Girl and Paddington.

Warner Bros, Leavesden

A newcomer first built as a factory more than 70 years ago.

Famous for: Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Sleepy Hollow and all eight of the Harry Potter films.

Recently home to: Tarzan, Pan, In the Heart of the Sea.

Calls for boycott after Cinemark requests legal fees from victims of 2012 shooting

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Cinema chain is asking victims of attack in Aurora, Colorado, to pay $700,000 legal fees after they unsuccessfully sued the chain

Calls for boycott after Cinemark requests legal fees from victims of 2012 shooting
A vigil for victims of the July 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The relatives of people killed by James Holmes at a 2012 screening of The Dark Knight Rises have called for a boycott of Cinemark following news that attorneys for the cinema chain are demanding they pay $700,000 (£526,000) in legal fees.

The request comes after jurors in May ruled in Cinemark’s favour over 28 victims and their families, who argued that the chain – the third-largest in the US – should have done more to prevent the attack that killed 12 people and left more than 70 injured. They sued in state court, saying security lapses allowed for the 20 July 2012 attack at a midnight premiere of the new Batman film.

Cinemark’s lawyers told a judge they need the money to cover the costs of preserving evidence, retrieving and copying records, travel and other expenses, according to court documents filed this month. The request was not immediately ruled upon, yet Colorado courts allow the winning side of a court case to recover legal fees.

An appeal by the victims is said to be pending; some family members of those who were killed or injured in the shooting are now calling for a boycott of the chain, which recently posted quarterly revenue of $704.9m (£530m).

“Please boycott Cinemark,” tweeted Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was among those killed. “Don’t add to their $194m profit while they come after Aurora victims who have lost everything.”

The hashtag #BoycottCinemark began trending in the US on Thursday night with California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, among those registering distaste at the chain’s actions.

Among those the cinema is requesting repayment from are the families of two men who saved others in the cinema.

A judge last week dismissed a similar lawsuit in federal court, saying Cinemark’s lack of security was not a substantial factor in the deaths.

In both lawsuits, victims cited a lack of guards and no alarm on an emergency exit door that would have sounded when James Holmes slipped into the crowded cinema and started shooting.

Cinemark argued it could not have foreseen the attack, and nothing could have stopped Holmes, currently serving multiple life sentences after jurors could not unanimously agree on whether he deserved the death sentence.

Categories: Movies

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Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters

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As part of new measures, Ampas has promised merciless action if members attend ‘any screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote’

Party hardball: Academy clamps down on wining and dining for Oscar voters
Party’s over … the Elton John AIDS Foundation party after the 1996 Oscars. Photograph: KMazur/WireImage

The Academy for Motion Pictures and Sciences has taken drastic action to try and prevent further accusations of latent prejudice among its members.

On 29 June an unprecedented number of new members – 683, more than double the usual figure – were invited to join, in the hope that their improved levels of diversity (46% women and 41% people of colour) might help avoid another year in which no ethnic minorities were nominated for acting awards.

But other measures, announced on Thursday, were also approved at the board of governors meeting on 28 June, chief among them measures that draw a clearer line between social events and lobbying.

In an attempt to level the playing field for less well-funded films, the new campaign regulations state that “Academy members may not be invited to attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote”.

The consequences of non-compliance includes losing membership; the onus falls on members themselves, as well as those seeking to butter them up.

“Members who fail to comply with this regulation,” explain the rules, “will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations.”

The Academy has also outlawed any screening that includes a live performance of a song from a soundtrack that is eligible for an award. As the Hollywood Reporter has pointed out, this could become problematic when many members are required to attend crossover events, such as the Producers Guild of America awards, at which this year Lady Gaga performed Till It Happens to You. That song lost out to Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall at the 2016 Oscars.

More stringent requirements were also demanded of features, which must now not only complete a week’s run in Los Angeles before the deadline but also guarantee at least three screenings a day, including one at prime time. A similar rule concerning documentaries and New York has been loosened, however, so that those which complete the required run in any of the city’s borough’s are now eligible.

The Secret Life of Pets repels alien invasion at UK box office

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Family-friendly animation scampers to No 1 ahead of Independence Day: Resurgence, while Elvis & Nixon are all shook up on the indie circuit

The Secret Life of Pets repels alien invasion at UK box office
Biggest animated opening of the year so far … The Secret Life of Pets. Photograph: Universal

The winner: The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment, maker of Despicable Me and Minions, has scored another big hit with its latest animated feature, The Secret Life of Pets. The opening weekend gross of £9.58m includes £3.63m from previews the previous Saturday and Sunday. Although the film was accompanied by a Minions short, the Universal-owned animation house will be pleased that these numbers have been achieved by a new property that isn’t a Despicable Me sequel or spinoff.

With or without previews, Pets has delivered the biggest animated opening of the year. Disney’s Zootropolis began with £5.31m including £1.73m in previews. Kung Fu Panda 3 kicked off with £4.77m including £1.59m in previews. Angry Birds started with £2.14m.

As for former Illumination hits, Despicable Me began its run in October 2010 with £3.66m including previews of £205,000. Despicable Me 2 followed three years later with a stunning debut of £14.82m including £4.87m in previews. A year ago, Minions launched with £11.56m.

Warm word of mouth has propelled Zootropolis to £23.65m. Given the stronger start, Universal will surely be hoping to push Pets beyond that tally. No direct competition arrives until Ice Age: Collision and Finding Dory in July.

The runner-up: Independence Day: Resurgence

When Independence Day arrived in US cinemas in July 1996, it set the template for the summer action blockbuster, concentrating Hollywood studio minds on high concepts and spectacle rather than A-list star packages. The following month, it reached UK cinemas, taking an explosive £7.01m, on its way to a final tally of £37.1m.

Belated sequel Independence Day: Resurgence arrives in a different landscape in which there has been no shortage of action blockbusters propelled by high concepts and spectacular visual effects. Its UK opening of £5.07m included previews of £944,000. If previews are included, that’s the ninth biggest debut of the year so far, behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (£14.62m), Captain America: Civil War (£14.47m), Deadpool (£13.73m), The Jungle Book (£9.90m), The Secret Life of Pets (£9.58m), X-Men: Apocalypse (£7.35m), Zootropolis (£5.31m) and The Revenant (£5.24m).

Indie movies stumble

Several new releases offered alternatives to the big two blockbusters, and all under performed to varying degrees. Elvis & Nixon starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey recounts an intriguing celebrity meeting, but it was always hard to imagine audiences flocking, especially outside the US. It begins with £57,000 from 107 cinemas, yielding a weak £531 average. But that result is positively joyful when compared with The Meddler, starring Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne. This film needed to be in indie cinemas to connect with its likeliest audience, but those venues had other choices, and Sony instead released it overwhelmingly in multiplexes, grossing £19,300 from 103 venues.

Including previews, arthouse titles Remainder, Suburra, Adult Life Skills and Ma Ma, rereleases Spirited Away and Poor Cow, and documentaries No Home Movie and Crazy About Tiffany’s grossed £71,000 from 143 cinemas. Meanwhile, existing indie titles suffered some surprisingly big drops, with Tale of Tales, Love & Friendship and When Marnie Was There all falling by more than 50%.

The gravity defier: Me Before You

While most films suffered big falls, Me Before You once again enjoyed the smallest drop of any title in the Top 10, down 32%. Gross after 24 days is a healthy £8.02m. The depressed state of the market beyond the top few titles is underlined by the fact that The Nice Guys saw box office fall by 52%, it yet rose from sixth to fifth place. Weekend takings of £203,000 represent the lowest for any film in the UK Top 5 since May 2013.

Heading in the opposite direction to The Nice Guys is Gods of Egypt, plummeting from third to 11th place, with an 80% drop in box office.

The future

Thanks to the arrival of The Secret Life of Pets and Independence Day: Resurgence, takings are up a welcome 96% on the previous frame. However, they’re down 10% on the equivalent session a year ago, when Minions knocked Jurassic World off the top spot.

Bookers are hoping that Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie will deliver a boost. Female friendship groups are the primary audience, but the early exit of England from Euro 2016 may embolden distributor Fox to position more aggressively for couples. Also in the mix: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence, and Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl in The Colony. Now You See Me 2 follows on 4 July, and The Legend of Tarzan on 6 July.

Top 10 films, 24-26 June

  1. The Secret Life of Pets, £9,580,039 from 592 sites (new)
  2. Independence Day: Resurgence, £5,067,855 from 610 sites (new)
  3. The Conjuring 2, £1,563,015 from 510 sites. Total: £7,735,053
  4. Me Before You, £669,924 from 483 sites. Total: £8,023,271
  5. The Nice Guys, £202,580 from 291 sites. Total: £3,467,375
  6. Alice Through the Looking Glass, £189,077 from 409 sites. Total: £9,395,165
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, £185,584 from 384 sites. Total: £5,823,141
  8. X-Men: Apocalypse, £173,187 from 238 sites. Total: £18,120,476
  9. The Jungle Book, £105,258 from 295 sites. Total: £45,629,603
  10. The Boss, £103,033 from 242 sites. Total: £1,603,314

Other openers

  • Elvis & Nixon, £56,790 (including £534 previews) from 107 sites
  • Sardaarji 2, £56,382 from 18 sites
  • The Meddler, £19,327 from 103 sites
  • Remainder, £16,569 (including £7,032 previews) from 21 sites
  • Adult Life Skills, £16,252 (including £875 previews) from 20 sites
  • Spirited Away, £14,298 from 44 sites (reissue)
  • Suburra, £11,321 (including £2,650 previews) from 27 sites
  • Ma Ma, £6,427 from 18 sites
  • Raman Raghav 2.0, £4,650 from nine sites
  • Poor Cow, £4,581 from seven sites (reissue)
  • Ekk Albela, £1,398 from 20 sites
  • Globe On Screen: Richard II, £1,059 from five sites
  • No Home Movie, £908 from two sites
  • Crazy About Tiffany’s, £621 from four sites

Leonardo DiCaprio ordered to testify in $15m Wolf of Wall Street lawsuit

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Leonardo DiCaprio will appear in court over claims that the depiction of a supporting character in Martin Scorsese’s fact-based comedy has resulted in libel

Leonardo DiCaprio ordered to testify in $15m Wolf of Wall Street lawsuit
Witness … Leonardo DiCaprio. Photograph: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Leonardo DiCaprio has been ordered by a judge to give testimony in a lawsuit surrounding 2013 comedy The Wolf of Wall Street.

Andrew Greene, a former associate of the film’s subject Jordan Belfort, has claimed that a supporting character, presented as a “criminal” and “degenerate”, is loosely based on him. He’s now suing producers, including Paramount Pictures, for $15m (£10.5m).

A judge has already rejected claims of defamation, but has allowed Greene to amend his initial objection to malicious libel.

Greene’s lawyers have been trying to depose DiCaprio but he has been “too busy”, and the defendants have stated that the testimonies of director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter should suffice. But his involvement as a producer has led to judge Steven Locke requiring him to testify “at a reasonable time and place agreed to by the parties”.

Greene, a childhood friend and ex-colleague of Belfort, believes that Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff is modelled after him. The character is played by PJ Byrne; Greene claims the portrayal repeatedly mocked his hairpiece, as well as depicting the character as a drug user.

“The motion picture’s scenes concerning Mr Greene were false, defamatory, and fundamentally injurious to Mr Greene’s professional reputation, both as an attorney and as an investment banker/venture capitalist, as well as his personal reputation,” the suit says.

The Wolf of Wall Street tells the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort and the excesses that ultimately led to his downfall and arrest.

Jackie Chan: Warcraft's success in China scares Americans

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Jackie Chan says fantasy adventure’s £156m gross during its first week will cause an influx of Chinese-language blockbusters

Jackie Chan: Warcraft's success in China scares Americans
‘People from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese’ … Jackie Chan. Photograph: VCG via Getty Images

Jackie Chan thinks the success in China of video game adaptation Warcraft: The Beginning could lead to an increase in homegrown blockbusters.

The $160m (£113m) film, which grossed a mere $24.4m in the US its opening weekend, surprised analysts with $156m at the Chinese box office from its first five days in cinemas.

Speaking this weekend at the Shanghai film festival, Chan said the result will worry Hollywood execs. “Warcraft made 600m yuan [£64m] in two days. This has scared the Americans. If we can make a film that earns 10bn [£1bn], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English.”

The annual gross of China’s box office is expected to surpass North America, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The popularity of blockbusters in China and financing from companies there have influenced both where some blockbusters are filmed and who stars in them. Transformers: Age of Extinction, for example, was partly funded by the China Movie Channel, which led to Li Bingbing joining the cast and part of the film being set in Hong Kong. Iron Man 3, meanwhile, added footage for Chinese audiences that included the Chinese actor Fan Bingbing.

A sequel to Pacific Rim, which underperformed in the US, was greenlit after it became a hit in China. Pacific Rim and Warcraft were produced by Legendary Pictures, which the Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group bought in January for a reported $3.5bn.

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year

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With no blockbusters to rival Jurassic World, failing sequels blamed for poor start to summer season in North America

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year
Down but not out: not all sequels have bombed in North America this year. Photograph: YouTube

Blockbuster season has got off to a shaky start with US profits down 14% between 1 May and 14 June compared to the same period last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The downturn was predicted by industry analysts in late 2015, after hits like Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7 and Minions helped drive a summer season that lead to the year being a record-breaker at the global box office.

Twelve months ago, Jurassic World was on its way to a $524.9m global take in its opening weekend, the highest on record until Star Wars: The Force Awakens posted a bigger tally in December. In comparison the global box office this weekend, lead by the video game adaptation Warcraft, is down 44%.

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year
Off target … The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a disappointing performer. Photograph: Universal Pictures

The summer season was kicked off this year by the release of Captain America: Civil War on 6 May. Bringing 2016’s tally forward a week increases the difference between this year and last to a 22% loss.

“No matter how you slice or dice the calendar, there is no question that the summer of 2016 thus far has been a bit of a bummer, with the underperformers outnumbering the overperformers, and a general malaise that has struck the early part of this most important movie-going season,” comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the Hollywood Reporter.

He went on to blame failing sequels for the slump, a theory that was put forward by commentators from the main trade papers last week. Big budget seconds that failed to make the same impact as the original include Alice Through the Looking Glass and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. But, more recently The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 posted opening weekend takes equal to their source material, suggesting the industry’s bout of “sequelitus” was not as severe as some had feared.

Emilia Clarke nominates herself as a Jane Bond contender (and DiCaprio as a 'Bond boy')

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Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke says playing a gender-swapped version of the 007 agent is an ‘unrealised dream’ and says DiCaprio would be her ‘ultimate leading man’

Emilia Clarke nominates herself as a Jane Bond contender (and DiCaprio as a 'Bond boy')
Actor Emilia Clarke has raised her hand to become the next Jane Bond. Photograph: Victoria Will/Invision/AP

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has thrown her name into the ring to play a female version of 007.

In an interview with the UK’s Daily Star, Clarke said, “I have a lot of unrealised dreams. I would love to play Jane Bond. My ultimate leading man would be Leonardo DiCaprio. No doubt about it.”

Clarke made the comments while promoting her drama Me Before You, the 29-year-old’s first major leading romantic role.

The self-nomination comes on the heels of The X-Files star Gillian Anderson retweeting a fan made poster casting her as the next 007 agent along with the words: “It’s Bond, Jane Bond.”

Not everyone is interested in a gender swapped version of Bond. The Guardian’s film editor, Catherine Shoard, said in an editorial that the campaign to make Bond female “sits oddly” with a vision of a world in which women leaders effect progress by adopting an approach not previously applied. “Shouldn’t we be cooking up new heroines, rather than just sticking old ones in a frock?”

But among fans speculation over who will nab the coveted role from the current Bond actor, Daniel Craig, remains rife. At this point it is hard to find a British actor of a certain vintage who hasn’t been mentioned, with Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner, Idris Elba, Damian Lewis and Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell all having their names tossed around by both fans and film industry pundits.

The franchise’s outgoing director, Sam Mendes, recently told audiences at the UK’s Hay festival that the decision lay in the hands of producer Barbara Broccoli and that the final choice “will not be what you expect”.

“There’s this constant debate about who’s going to be the next Bond,” he said. “The truth is – and here’s the headline – it’s not a democracy. It’s not the X Factor, it’s not the EU referendum, it’s not a public vote.”

Bookmakers recently suspended betting on Hiddleston landing the gig after reports he was seen meeting with Mendes and Broccoli in London.

The most unexpected person to play Bond may be Craig himself who – while not exactly sounding keen on it (at one point he said he would rather slash his wrists) – has not actually ruled out returning to the role.

Next James Bond will not be who you expect, Sam Mendes says

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Outgoing director’s remarks suggest Tom Hiddleston not a shoo-in for the part of 007

Next James Bond will not be who you expect, Sam Mendes says
Tom Hiddleston has been the favourite to take over from Daniel Craig as Bond. Photograph: Des Willie/BBC/The Ink Factory

The actor chosen to play the next James Bond will be an unexpected candidate, the franchise’s outgoing director has said, suggesting favourite Tom Hiddleston may not land the 007 role.

The British film-maker Sam Mendes said the choice for the next star of the hugely successful franchise lies solely with producer Barbara Broccoli. He also confirmed he will not be returning to direct the next film, saying he is ready to work on something new, the Telegraph reported.

Speaking at the Hay festival, Mendes, who directed Skyfall and Spectre, said: “I’m a storyteller and at the end of the day I want to make stories with new characters.”

He said he had loved the “incredible adventure” of working on Bond, but that he thought it was “time for somebody else to do a great job”.

Speculation is rife as to which actor will next step into the spy’s impeccably polished shoes to replace Daniel Craig 10 years after he first took the helm with Casino Royale. Tom Hiddleston, Aidan Turner, Idris Elba, Damian Lewis and most recently Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell have all been touted as possible 007s.

Bookmakers recently suspended betting on Hiddleston landing the gig, after the star of the BBC’s hit series The Night Manager was pictured meeting with executives linked to the Bond franchise.

Mendes said the director and lead role were likely to be unexpected. “I can guarantee whatever happens with it, it will not be what you expect. That’s what she [Broccoli] has been brilliant at, and that’s how it’ll survive.”