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Obi-Wan Kenobi: Ewan McGregor Says Racist Trolls Are Not Real Star Wars Fans




By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 2 June 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi star Ewan McGregor hit back Wednesday at people targeting fellow Star Wars actor Moses Ingram with racist abuse, saying they are not true fans.

Ingram — who stars alongside McGregor in Obi-Wan Kenobi — highlighted racist messages she had received online in a story on her Instagram account, prompting him to respond with a video on the site.

“We stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind,” said McGregor, who plays the title character in the Star Wars series.

“She brings so much to the series, she brings so much to the franchise. And it just sickened me to my stomach that this had been happening,” McGregor added.

The Star Wars Twitter account also took aim at those attacking Ingram, a Black actress who plays a Jedi-hunting Inquisitor in the Disney+ series, available on Disney+ Hotstar in India.

“We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold,” it said in a tweet, that included an image of Ingram with a red lightsaber in hand.

“If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”

It is not the first time that racism has been directed against a Star Wars actor of colour.

Vietnamese-American actress Kelly Marie Tran, who made her Star Wars debut in 2017’s The Last Jedi, was hounded off social media by racist and sexist abuse.

Black British actor John Boyega has meanwhile criticised the treatment of non-white characters in the most recent three Star Wars films, saying they were marketed as important elements in the franchise but were ultimately “pushed to the side.”

New episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi air Wednesdays on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.

Obi-Wan Kenobi

  • Release Date 27 May 2022
  • Genre Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi
  • Duration 1h 31min
  • Cast Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Bonnie Piesse, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Sung Kang, Simone Kessell, Benny Safdie
  • Director Deborah Chow
  • Music Natalie Holt
  • Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan, Deborah Chow, Ewan McGregor, Joby Harold
  • Production Lucasfilm
  • Certificate 13+


Netflix Says Its $7-a-Month Ad-Supported Subscription Tier Now Has Nearly 5 Million Monthly Active Users




The streaming video pioneer launched a $7-per-month (roughly Rs. 580) option with commercials last November in 12 markets.
By Reuters | Updated: 18 May 2023

Netflix’s recently launched ad-supported tier reaches nearly 5 million active users per month, executives said on Wednesday in a pitch that emphasised the breadth of its programming to potential advertisers.

The streaming video pioneer launched a $7-per-month (roughly Rs. 500) option with commercials last November in 12 markets, including the US, as an alternative to ad-free plans that start at $10 (roughly Rs. 1,000) a month. It was designed to attract more customers and add a new revenue stream as competition for online viewers intensified.

On Wednesday, Netflix made its first presentation to advertisers at the annual ritual known as the upfronts, where networks aim to lock in ad commitments for upcoming shows. Walt Disney, Comcast and other companies also are vying for digital ad dollars.

Netflix executives stressed the company’s wide range of programming, from sci-fi hit Stranger Things to Korean drama Squid Game and upcoming action movie sequel Extraction 2.

“No other entertainment company aspires to create great movies and shows across so many genres in so many countries, and for such a broad, diverse audience,” said Bela Bajaria, chief content officer for Netflix.

Jeremi Gorman, Netflix’s president of worldwide advertising, said that global monthly active users had reached 5 million. Monthly active users count all adult profiles used on one account with ads. Children’s profiles do not run commercials.

Netflix reported 232.5 million paying subscribers around the world as of the end of March.

Executives said they wanted to work with advertisers to create new types of advertising that could only be done on a digital service. For instance, a 30-minute commercial could play out over several days, with a story unfolding each time a viewer watches a show on Netflix, co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos said.

“You can’t do that in linear TV because people don’t live on one channel,” Sarandos said.

Netflix had planned to make the ad presentation live in New York but switched to a virtual event to avoid protests from striking members of the Writers Guild of America.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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PVR-INOX Will Shut Down Around 50 Loss-Making Cinema Screens Over the Next 6 Months




The investors' update stressed that the properties are loss-making and have reached the end of their life cycle with little hope of revival.

By Press Trust of India | Updated: 17 May 2023

Leading cinema exhibitor PVR INOX plans to close around 50 loss-making screens, having an accelerated depreciation. “The company plans to shut down approximately 50 cinema screens over the next 6 months,” said PVR INOX in its investor’s update for the fourth quarter and financial year ending on March 31, 2023.

These properties are loss-making, or housed in malls which have reached the end of their life cycle with little hope of any revival. “The company has taken an accelerated charge of the depreciation in its books and written off the WDV of assets,” it said.

PVR-INOX has been created after the merger of two leading cinema brands PVR and INOX Leisure. The merger was effective from February 6, 2023.

The merged entity is operating 361 cinemas with 1,689 screens across 115 cities by the end of FY23 in India and Sri Lanka.

The merged entity is operating 361 cinemas with 1,689 screens across 115 cities by the end of FY23 in India and Sri Lanka.

“Of these, 9 screens have been opened till date, 15 screens are awaiting license for commercial opening and 152 screens are currently under various stages of fit out,” it said.

It has realigned all upcoming handovers of new sites for fit-outs till the time business fully recovers. “The company has robust pipeline of screens signed up for development over the next 5 years,” it added.

PVR INOX had on Monday reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 333.99 crore and revenue from operations was at Rs 1,143.17 crore for the fourth quarter that ended on March 31, 2023.

“We believe increased footfall growth is the only key driver of revenue growth in FY24, as SPH (Spend per head)/ATP (Average Ticket Price) are 16 percent/ 30 percent higher than pre-COVID level,” said Taurani.

Management is not concerned about losing some screens in the pipeline since there is a huge opportunity.

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Streaming Giants Like Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video Battle for Anime Supremacy




The global anime market was valued at $28.6 billion (about Rs. 2,34,825 crore) in 2022, as per Grand View Research.
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 11 May 2023

From R-rated sci-fi to teen biker gang adventures, streaming platforms are locked in an intensifying battle for dominance in one of the entertainment sector’s hottest and most lucrative mediums: anime. Fuelled in part by the pandemic, the popularity of the cartoons pioneered in Japan has created a goldmine for streaming giants such as Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime.

The global anime market was valued at $28.6 billion (about Rs. 2,34,825 crore) in 2022, according to Grand View Research, and is forecast to double in value by 2030. “The peak may still be ahead of us,” Aya Umezu, CEO of Tokyo-based entertainment consulting firm GEM Partners, told AFP. “We doubt the competition in anime will slow down soon.”

Globally, demand for anime increased by 35 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to industry specialist service Parrot Analytics. It is little wonder, then, that international streamers are scrambling for ways to capitalise on the surging interest. Recent years have seen Disney+, a relative latecomer to anime, start offering fan favourites also found elsewhere like Demon Slayer, Spy x Family, and Jujutsu Kaisen.

“Having them can prevent subscription cancellations — that’s how strong these IPs (intellectual properties) are,” Umezu said. Offering these titles is seen as a baseline, and far from sufficient to win the loyalty of anime fans with increasingly diverse options available. That has meant platforms are looking to either secure exclusive rights to the content or co-produce their own original anime in a bid to stand out.

Breaking open the market
Last year, Disney+ announced exclusive streaming rights to season two of the smash-hit teen biker gang saga Tokyo Revengers, part of a lucrative deal with publishing giant Kodansha.

Amazon Prime has also sought to ‘monopolise’ blockbusters, said anime expert Tadashi Sudo, including One Piece Film: Red — Japan’s highest-grossing movie last year.

Netflix has proven something of an outlier in this market, going beyond snatching up existing hits to work directly with animation studios, granting them an unusual amount of creative leeway to make new stories.

Traditionally, Japanese anime emerges from ‘production committees’ made up of publishers, TV broadcasters, toy-makers and other industry players. These have long had a key role in broadening revenue possibilities for a series, from character merchandising to gaming. Netflix ruffled industry feathers when it teamed up directly with Tokyo animation studio Production I.G in 2018, bypassing the system.

“Some [in the anime industry] were upset because they thought we would destroy what they had built over all these years,” Production I.G president Mitsuhisa Ishikawa said. He went as far as likening Netflix to the ‘Black Ships’ — the 19th-century US vessels that forced the opening of Japan after hundreds of years of trade isolation. “The domestic way of making anime was suddenly forced open,” he said.

Netflix has reaped the rewards, with its original content making it “the platform that drove the largest increase in global demand for anime in 2021”, said Christofer Hamilton of US-based Parrot Analytics.

‘Experimental’ push
But even streaming goliaths with worldwide influence have comparatively small audience numbers in Japan. That raises red flags for some industry players, especially publishers who want maximum exposure for anime adaptations of their manga titles and worry exclusive streaming deals would limit their reach in Japan.

There is “a clash of two opposing interests — between platforms who want more exclusives and production committee players who want as little of a monopoly (for streaming services) as possible”, said anime specialist Sudo. Experts say this conflict often leads to Netflix original deals being based on works that are less likely to become national sensations like Demon Slayer.

None of Netflix’s original anime made their top-20 most-watched list for Japan users in 2022, according to GEM Partners senior data analyst Shota Ito. The streamer is, however, an attractive prospect for studios with more commercially challenging projects that the traditional market could find too niche.

Early original content on Netflix reflected this, and was heavy on shows critics say evoked the hardcore sci-fi anime of a few decades ago. Among these was Devilman Crybaby, the tale of a ‘demon-boy’ that featured violence and nudity galore.

“My sense is that creators wanted to do something with us that they had little chance to do under the existing system,” Netflix chief anime producer Taiki Sakurai told AFP. That initial ‘experimental’ push has since given way to a broader roster, including comedy, traditional ‘shonen’ targeting young boys and even a stop-motion project starring a teddy bear. Long-standing fans also have other dedicated services to turn to, including the huge online anime library Crunchyroll.

Netflix content director Yuji Yamano is convinced the market is far from saturated, though, and believes competition will only make “the industry even more exciting”. “Globally, I only see more room for growth in anime.”

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Modern Love Chennai to Stream May 18 on Amazon Prime Video




This is the third Indian adaptation of Modern Love, following Modern Love Mumbai (Hindi) and Modern Love Hyderabad (Telugu).
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 8 May 2023

Streaming service Prime Video on Monday announced that the Tamil version of its Modern Love anthology series will premiere on May 18. This is the third Indian adaptation of Modern Love, the internationally acclaimed Original anthology helmed by John Carney, following Modern Love Mumbai (Hindi) and Modern Love Hyderabad (Telugu).

Modern Love Chennai brings together six brilliant creators of Indian cinema Bharathiraja, Balaji Sakthivel, Rajumurugan, Krishnakumar Ramakumar, Akshay Sundher, and Thiagarajan Kumararaja.

According to the makers, the upcoming six-episode anthology presents “a bouquet of compelling and unique love stories set in the city of Chennai that explore relationships, push boundaries, and open minds”.

After the successful launch of Modern Love Mumbai and Modern Love Hyderabad, Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals, Prime Video, said the streamer is excited to bring the third Indian edition of the well-acclaimed international franchise, Modern Love, to the service.

“At Prime Video, we are constantly working towards bringing locally rooted stories that have a universal appeal. Modern Love Chennai celebrates and explores love in all its beauty, joy, and glory, hand-in-hand with the intricacies and complexities that go with the emotion. It has been wonderful collaborating with Thiagarajan Kumararaja and all the other wonderful directors to tell these heart-warming stories that explore the city’s culture and nuances,” Purohit said in a statement.

Kumararaja, the creator of the series and writer-director of one of the episodes ‘Ninaivo Oru Paravai’, said Modern Love Chennai was an interesting challenge since love stories were never his cup of tea.

“It has been a pleasure to partner with Prime Video to bring the latest Indian edition to the viewers. With these stories, we have explored and celebrated the old-world charm of the city, which remains rooted in a distinct blend of tradition and modernity. All the stories in this anthology take us through the journey of exploring the very complicated, and yet very simple, emotion — love — in all its eclectic forms,” he added.

‘Ninaivo Oru Paravai’, directed by Kumararaja, features Wamiqa and PB, and has music composed by veteran director Ilaiyaraaja. Ilaiyaraaja has also scored for ‘Margazhi’, directed by Akshay Sundher, and Bharathiraja’s “Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal”.

Rajumurugan has directed ‘Lalagunda Bommaigal’, an episode that has music composed by Sean Roldan, and features Sri Gouri Priya, Vasudevan Murali, and Vasundhara.

Director Balaji Sakthivel’s chapter is titled ‘Imaigal’, starring Ashok Selvan and T.J. Bhanu, with music composed by Yuvan Shankar Raja.

‘Kaadhal Enbadhu Kannula Heart Irukkura Emoji’ is directed by Krishnakumar Ramakumar and has a score composed by G.V. Prakash Kumar. It features Ritu Varma, Samyuktha Viswanathan, Pawan Alex, and Aniiruth Kanakarajan.

‘Margazhi’ features Sanjula Sarathi, Chu Khoy Sheng, and Srikrishna Dayal, and ‘Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal’ stars Kishore, Ramya Nambessan, and Vijayalakshmi.

Modern Love Chennai is produced under the banner of Tyler Durden and Kino Fist.

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Hollywood Strike Intensifies Due to Claim That AI Could Do Writers’ Jobs




Hollywood screenwriters claim that nothing written by AI can be considered “literary” or "source" material.
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 8 May 2023

The Hollywood writers’ strike broke out this week over pay, but the refusal of studios like Netflix and Disney to rule out artificial intelligence replacing human scribes in the future has only fueled anger and fear on the picket lines. With their rapidly advancing ability to eerily mimic human conversation, AI programs like ChatGPT have spooked many industries recently. The White House this week summoned Big Tech to discuss the potential risks.

As part of the weeks-long talks with studios and streamers that collapsed Monday, the Writers Guild of America asked for binding agreements to regulate the use of AI. Under the proposals, nothing written by AI can be considered “literary” or “source” material — industry terms that decide who gets royalties — and scripts written by WGA members cannot “be used to train AI.”

But according to the WGA, studios “rejected our proposal,” and countered with an offer merely to meet once a year to “discuss advancements in technology.”

“It’s nice for them to offer to have a meeting about how they’re exploiting it against us!”, joked WGA negotiating committee member Eric Heisserer, who wrote Netflix hit film Bird Box.

“Art cannot be created by a machine. You lose the heart and soul of the story… I mean, the first word is ‘artificial,'” he told AFP on the picket line outside the streaming giant’s Hollywood HQ Friday. While writers already know this, the danger is that “we have to watch tech companies destroy the business in an attempt to find out for themselves,” he said.

Not just scripts
While few television and film writers who spoke to AFP on the picket lines believe their work could be done by computers, the apparent conviction of studios and streamers that it can has been an extra slap in the face.

They fear that belt-tightening executives in Hollywood, where Silicon Valley companies have upended many traditional practices such as long-term contracts for writers, may seek to cut costs further by getting computers to write their next hit shows.

Comments by top Hollywood executives at this week’s Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills will have done nothing to quell writers’ concerns. “In the next three years, you’re going to see a movie that was written by AI made… a good one,” said movie producer Todd Lieberman.

“Not just scripts. Editing, all of it… storyboarding a movie, anything,” added Fox Entertainment CEO, Rob Wade. “AI in the future, maybe not next year or the year after, but if we’re talking 10 years? AI is going to be able to do absolutely all of these things.”

The studios’ own account of the breakdown in WGA talks offered a more nuanced take. In a briefing note shared with AFP, they said writers do not in fact want to outlaw AI, and appear happy to use it “as part of their creative process” — so long as it does not affect their pay.

That scenario “requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing,” the studios said.

For Leila Cohan, a 39-year-old writer on Netflix smash hit Bridgerton, the only usefulness of AI for writers is limited to “busy work” such as coming up with names for characters. But she predicted that studios “could start making incredibly bad first drafts with AI and then hiring writers to do a rewrite.”

“I think that’s certainly a very scary possibility… it’s very smart that we’re addressing this now,” she said.

Indeed, the last Hollywood strike in 2007–08 won writers the right to be paid for online viewing of their shows or films — highly prescient, at a time when streaming was in its infancy. Back then, Netflix had barely started online viewing, and the likes of Disney+ and Apple TV+ were more than a decade away.

Even for sci-fi writer Ben Ripley, who believes there is no role whatsoever for AI in writing, introducing legislation now “to put guardrails up” is “very necessary.” Writers “have to be original,” he said. “Artificial intelligence is the antithesis of originality.”

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JioCinema Likely to Focus on Pricing, Local Content as It Challenges Disney, Netflix in India




JioCinema is set to host Warner Bros. and HBO content in India from May onwards.
By Reuters | Updated: 28 April 2023

The video streaming business of Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest person, is likely to focus on pricing and local content following a deal with Warner Bros as it seeks to challenge the likes of Disney and Netflix, industry sources said. Under the content deal announced on Thursday, popular series from HBO and Warner Bros, such as Harry Potter and Succession, will be available from next month on the JioCinema platform, which Ambani’s Viacom18 has promoted for weeks by offering popular IPL cricket matches for free.

A pricing strategy for JioCinema is still under discussion internally, an industry source said, but Ambani has a reputation of disrupting rivals in the price-sensitive Indian market with cheap offers. In 2016, he offered mobile data for free, making his Jio telecom service India’s top player. He is adopting a similar strategy to promote his consumer goods to rival Coca-Cola and Nestle.

Viacom18, the broadcast division of Ambani’s Reliance Industries, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Its shareholders also include Paramount Global as well as Bodhi Tree, a joint venture between James Murdoch and former top Disney executive, Uday Shankar. The Warner deal, industry executives and media analysts said, will boost Viacom18’s already announced plans to ‘innovate and disrupt’ the sector, and help to attract the premium English speaking audience in India.

At stake is a slice of a video streaming market that is expected to grow annually by 22-25 percent to reach $13-$15 billion (in the vicinity of Rs. 1,20,000 crore) by 2030, according to a 2021 report by Indian lobby group CII and the Boston Consulting Group. That compares with projected annual growth of 8.63 percent in the US market, which is expected to hit $54.66 billion (around Rs. 4,50,000 crore) by 2027, according to Statista.

While Netflix and other rivals boast of content specially created for the India audience, JioCinema’s current free offerings largely include old Hindi and local language movies. In sports, it has IPL cricket streaming rights until 2027 and in March bagged exclusive rights for MotoGP in India. The big challenge is the lack of fresh local and global content on JioCinema, something that will be become even more critical as the IPL season ends next month.

JioCinema is in talks with various production studios and has plans to introduce dozens of TV shows and movies on the platform in the coming months, in Hindi and other languages, a second industry source told Reuters on Friday. “There are many Indias within India. While IPL is for the masses, partnership with Warner is a precursor to JioCinema’s entry into the premium subscription segment,” said Mihir Shah, vice president at Media Partners Asia.

Nitesh Kripalani, former country head of Amazon’s Prime Video in India, said he expects Reliance’s venture to do more such deals, but pricing remains key. “India is a value conscious market. For any media business, anywhere in the world – you need to get consumers to pay. Advertising can only pay so much,” he said. Netflix, Amazon and Disney Hotstar have become popular in India by launching exclusive movies and web series starring Bollywood actors. They have also diversified into regional local language content.

At present Netflix — which has most the expensive subscription plans — has just 8 million subscribers, Amazon has 17 million, while Disney+ Hotstar, which earlier had the digital rights for IPL, leads with 49 million, according to Media Partners, which doesn’t have data for JioCinema’s free service. Karan Taurani, vice president of India’s Elara Capital, sad JioCinema’s success will hinge on quality of its content. “They may make so many films and series but (what if) more than 70-80 percent of them bomb? The only way to scale up is to really differentiate your content and make sure execution is right,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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