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‘Panda’ Kicks Open Door to Online Chinese Market

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. extended its online reach with a deal to provide the “Kung Fu Panda” movies to Chinese audience through that country’s largest Internet-based television network. The Glendale-based animation studio has online distribution in all major foreign markets, but the deal with Youku.com Inc. is the first in China. Youku offers viewers a three-tiered system to view programming — video on demand, subscriptions and free programs. The “Kung Fu Panda” movies became available on Youku Premium on Aug. 29. The “Panda” franchise has brought in $92 million in box-office receipts in China. After the second film came out in May, the studio accelerated finding ways to get digital distribution in China, said Kelley Avery, head of Worldwide Franchise Strategy and Distribution for DreamWorks Animation. “Online distribution is a core strategy,” Avery said. “We want to make sure we are offering our franchises in the way people want to view them.” Avery would not comment on the financial specifics of the deal between DreamWorks Animation and Youku. The studio may release other movies through Youku, Avery said. It started with “Kung Fu Panda” because of the film’s success in theaters. ENTERTAINMENT – Mark Madler “We have a property that resonates with the Chinese audiences,” Avery said. As the world’s most populous nation, China is an important foreign market for U.S. companies in all industries. In entertainment, The Walt Disney Co. has invested millions into creating new theme parks and currently is building a new $3.7 billion park in Shanghai. On the same day as the DreamWorks Animation announcement, 3D exhibitor Real D announced its own deal to provide its projectors in 100 theaters owned by Beijing SAGA Luxury Cinema Management Co. Ltd. In June, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment signed on with Youku to add up to 450 titles to the Youku library. For DreamWorks Animation, online distribution is an efficient means to get its movies to viewers and to provide them in better quality than can be found in a fragmented retail market or from illegal copies, Avery said. “We like this opportunity that online now presents to us to offer high quality versions of our motion pictures,” Avery said. Festival News The Burbank International Film Festival takes place this month in downtown Burbank. Screenings of feature films and shorts in a variety of genres start Sept. 15 at the AMC Theatres. On a few nights, films showing at the four-day festival will focus on the work of women filmmakers, animation and science fiction. Organizers started the festival in 2009 as a way to get the work of independent filmmakers before audience, said Adrian Iniguez, the current president. Burbank is home to several media and entertainment companies, such as The Walt Disney Co., NBC, and Nickelodeon, so if there is any city that should have a festival it is Burbank, Iniguez said. The city last hosted a film festival in 2004 with The Method Fest. That festival left to use Calabasas as its home base. Film festivals, particularly smaller events relying on corporate sponsorships, have struggled the past few years as businesses hurt by the recession cut back in spending. The Method Fest, for instance, cancelled its 2011 festival due to a lack of funding. Funding has been an issue for the Burbank festival, which raises its money through private donations, poster sales and monthly events at Flappers Comedy Club and Video Symphony, both in Burbank, Iniguez said. “You have to take a different tactic to raise your money,” Iniguez said. Business sponsors for this year’s festival gave in-kind contributions. Screenwriting software provider Write Bros. Inc. and Hollywood Creative Directory both provided $35,000, Iniguez said. Burbank businesses sponsoring the festival include the AMC 6 and 16 Theatres, the Colony Theatre Co., Flappers Comedy Club, DVA, North End Pizzeria, Video Symphony and the Holiday Inn-Burbank/Media Center. Prior to the screening on Sept. 16, awards will be given to comedian and actor Fred Willard, “The Simpsons” show runner Al Jean, animation director Bill Plympton, Mark Kirkland and Lisa Donovan. Entertainment Networking InkTip, a company in Tujunga that brings together producers and directors with screenwriters, co-hosted a pre-release party for “InSight,” a psychological thriller released in a limited run at theaters this month. The party featured a red carpet arrival for actors and producers for “InSight” and C-list actors, dancers, musicians and models. InkTip CEO Jerrol LeBaron and Gato Scatena, vice president of marketing, also walked the red carpet outside Café Entourage on Vine Street in Hollywood. InkTip has partnered screenwriters with producers and directors looking for their next projects for more than 10 years. The firm had a hand in getting 147 films made, and so far this year, has brokered 19 film deals. “InSight” director Richard Gabai found his next film, “One Eighty” through InkTip, LeBaron said. InkTip paired up with Fete, a members-only networking organization, for the “InSight” pre-release party. LeBaron said hosting entertainment industry events is the next step for the company to take now that InkTip has an established record of matching screenwriters and producers. The goal is to set up a relaxed atmosphere where directors, producers, distributors and others on the business side can network with each other, he said. While the atmosphere inside Café Entourage may have been relaxed, outside was hectic. The line of people waiting to walk the red carpet backed up along Vine Street. The lights and photographers drew in passersby, many who took their own photos. InkTip’s next event takes place in November, and LeBaron is interested in hosting one in the San Fernando Valley. The arts district in North Hollywood would make for a nice backdrop for an entertainment industry event, LeBaron said. “I think it is real nice ambience to it,” LeBaron said. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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