News in Brief

Alliance Atlantis lays off 80; the Beeb trumps ITV in 2001 ratings; IMAX shares soar.
January 10, 2002

Toronto-based Alliance Atlantis Communications is scaling back. In an announcement yesterday, the parent company of AAC Fact said it will be eliminating 80 full-time positions across the board and will consolidate its TV production and distribution units with its in-house motion picture production arm under one banner, called the Entertainment Group.

The BBC trumped ITV in the annual ratings for the first time, with BBC1 pulling ahead of ITV1 by 0.1% – the Beeb’s annual share of available audience was 26.8% to ITV1′s 26.7%.

In other BBC news, The Guardian reports that in 2002 the U.K. pubcaster will pump £20 million (US$29 million) into marketing its new and existing digital channels. This amount is four times the sum spent two years ago.

IMAX Corporation shares surged 48% on the NASDAQ this week as the large-format film company reduced its debt by a further $42 million. The company has now bought back 90% of $100 million worth of notes which were coming due in April, 2003.

London-based archive Moving Image Communications has added a second agent for the Spanish/Portuguese region. Barcelona-based DCR will now represent the collections that MIC’s current agent, Shots Film and Video of Madrid, does not.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute of Panama (a branch of the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.) has signed a coproduction deal with Latin-American prodco Centauro Productions for a 13 X 52-minute series focusing on scientific research in the tropics.

Boston production company The Smash Entertainment Group has launched the 9/11 Email Archive, a project designed to preserve the emails sent in the hours following the terrorist attack on September 11. The prodco has created a website to explain the initiative:

U.S. pay channel Cinemax will air five foreign-language Holocaust docs on consecutive nights, from April 15 to April 19, on its Reel Life strand under the series banner ‘Broken Silence’. The films are: I Remember (Andrzej Wajda); Eyes of the Holocaust (Janos Szasz); Some Who Lived (Luis Puenzo); Hell on Earth (Vojtech Jasny); and Children From the Abyss (Pavel Chukhraj). Steven Spielberg and the Shoah Foundation are presenting the films.

Australian pubcaster ABC has launched a pan-Asian satellite service. While the pay feed currently runs to a four-hour repeated block, plans see it growing to six hours by May 2002.

TechTV has signed a programming deal with Sun Television Cybernetworks Holdings of China. The three-year deal will see Sun TV providing Mandarin-language versions of TechTV programming for viewers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

New York-based Winstar TV & Video will debut under its new name – Wellspring Media – at NATPE later this month. The former entertainment arm of Winstar Communications was purchased by a group of private investors in December. Wellspring president and CEO Al Cattabiani says the company remains committed to docs and other non-fiction programming.

The projects featured in the Sundance Online Film Festival (which includes docs) can be found at

The Sheffield International Documentary Festival takes to the road on January 27 with the best offering from the October 2001 fest, stopping at 18 venues across the U.K.

The first edition of DISCOP FORMATS will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, from February 6 to February 8, 2002. The event will focus on creative, production and marketing issues related to the development of television formats around the globe.

The Cannes International Film Festival will now be called Festival de Cannes thanks to a recent image make-over. (The city of Cannes will now be called ‘Ville Incroyablement Chère’.)

In case you missed out on any of the 20 professional development sessions offered at last year’s Hot Docs festival in Toronto, summarized content is now available online at under the heading ‘Knowledge Capture of Hot Docs 2001′.

The International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, Montana, is looking for a new Festival Coordinator. Applications should be sent by mail only, c/o: Executive Director, 27 Fort Missoula Road, Suite 2, Missoula, MT, 59804.

Prince Edward has incurred the wrath of his big brother Prince Charles yet again through the actions of his production company, Ardent. According to a report in The Guardian, Prince Edward is moving ahead with a doc about Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles as part of a 13-part series commissioned by the L.A.-based E! Entertainment network.

Recent promo spots that called CNN anchor Paula Zahn ‘sexy’ have been unceremoniously yanked from the air after only a few days. While the spots were produced in house, CNN CEO and chairman Walter Isaacson said the spots were ‘inappropriate’ and that they had not been cleared with anyone outside of the promo department before airing.

Infamous German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl plans to celebrate her 100th birthday this August with the release of her latest doc, Impressions Under Water. Riefenstahl is perhaps best known for her Nazi propaganda films, including Triumph of the Will.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.