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Force awakens around the globe next week

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On 7 September, visitors to Sandton City and Canal Walk will be able take a trip through the Star Wars universe that will showcase art gallery installations of some of the most iconic moments from the six Star Wars films.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens products are set to be unveiled in the world’s first-ever global live toy unboxing event over 18 hours in 15 cities and 12 countries, the event will see highlights from the range of epic merchandise revealed in a rolling New Year’s Eve style celebration featuring top digital stars from the Maker Studios network.

Star Wars toys have always played an important role in how our fans interact with the Saga,” says Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “They’ve inspired multiple generations to relive the experience of the movies and to create new adventures all their own. These spectacular Star Wars: The Force Awakens products will continue that tradition.”

Infographic for the countdown to Star Wars Force Friday epic global event.

Infographic for the countdown to Star Wars Force Friday epic global event.

Kicking off in Sydney, Australia on the morning of September 3, and continuing through Asia, Europe, Canada, and North & South America, selections from the new toy line will debut to global fanfare leading up to retailers around the globe opening their doors at midnight.

“Over the course of 18 hours, some of Maker Studios’ biggest stars will each be unboxing a new toy from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens product line in a different city around the world and sharing the experience live on YouTube.” said Leslie Ferraro, President, Disney Consumer Products. “We’ve seen tremendous excitement for these new products and can’t wait to see the global reaction from the Star Wars fan community.”

Star Wars fans and Internet personalities Andi Gutierrez (right) and Anthony Carboni (left) prepare to give the world a sneak peek at the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens products in the first-ever global live toy unboxing.

Star Wars fans and Internet personalities Andi Gutierrez (right) and Anthony Carboni (left) prepare to give the world a sneak peek at the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens products in the first-ever global live toy unboxing.

The Star Wars YouTube channel will host the live stream, which kicks off with the first unboxing in Sydney, Australia at 7:45 a.m. local time on Thursday, Sept. 3 (5:45 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Sept. 2), with the grand finale at Lucasfilm in San Francisco at 8 a.m. PDT  (11 a.m. EDT) on Thursday, September 3. Each of the 15 locations will reveal a new product inspired by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

These “unboxing” videos will feature online personalities sharing the excitement of opening the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys. Unboxing videos overall have captivated millions of Internet viewers and continue to grow in popularity. Eighteen of the top 100 most viewed YouTube Channels worldwide are dedicated to toys and toy unboxings. These 18 channels accounted for 8.1 billion views in Q1 2015.

Evergreen imagery of fans and families with Star Wars products.

Evergreen imagery of fans and families with Star Wars products.

“We’re excited to be part of this first-of-its-kind initiative,” said Chris M. Williams, Chief Audience Officer, Maker Studios. “The unboxing world continues to expand rapidly as audiences around the world connect with digital creators who share their passions. This shared fandom helps attract billions of monthly views and consistently puts the genre at the top of the YouTube charts.”

The global unboxing event will incorporate traditional toy unboxers such as the popular EvanTubeHD, channels featuring families such as Bratayley, lifehack specialists such as ExpCaseros, gamers such as AlexBy11 and Star Wars fans from around the world, including Chris Pirillo, bringing with them a broad audience and appeal. The global line-up includes:

COUNTRY CITY MAKER TALENT LOCAL TIME 9/3 EDT
Australia Sydney Bratayley 07:45 17:45 9/2
Japan Tokyo Einshine 11:00 22:00 9/2
Korea Seoul Dollastic 12:00 23:00 9/2
Hong Kong Hong Kong Dante Basco 12:00 00:00 9/3
France Paris AyPierre 09:00 03:00 9/3
Spain Madrid AlexBy11 11:00 05:00 9/3
Germany Berlin Reyst 12:00 06:00 9/3
England London GamingBeaver 11:30 06:30 9/3
Brazil Rio de Janeiro Malena010102 08:30 07:30 9/3
USA New York EvanTubeHD 08:30 08:30 9/3
Canada Toronto Quill18 09:00 09:00 9/3
USA Chicago HobbyKidsTV 08:30 09:30 9/3
Mexico Mexico City ExpCaseros 09:30 10:30 9/3
USA San Francisco Chris Pirillo 08:00 11:00 9/3

The full schedule also is available at www.StarWars.com.

Several countries will join the live stream from YouTube Spaces (Berlin, Tokyo, London), with Star Wars commentators Anthony Carboni and Andi Gutierrez hosting the event from the YouTube Space, Los Angeles.

Fans can tune in to watch live unboxings at home or on mobile devices, and also enjoy the latest trailers on the upcoming movie, commentary from special guests, fun product videos and demos, and footage from recent Star Wars events.

The global celebration culminates at midnight local time, when many retailers around the world will open their doors to fans to purchase Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys, collectibles, books, apparel and more. Visit starwars.com for more details on participating locations. Additionally, select Disney Store locations around the world will take part.  More details are available at www.DisneyStore.com/ForceFriday.

Fans are encouraged to document their experiences around the event on social media using the hashtag #ForceFriday.

Check out the trailer here.

Arts and Entertainment

Netflix to make SA series

The world leader in streaming movies has announced the first South African production to join its Originals roster.

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World leader in entertainment streaming services Netflix this week announced its first Original series in Africa, with South African series Queen Sono.

The news comes immediately in the wake of local rival Showmax announcing it’s first original drama production. In this context, it heralds a new phase in the evolution of streaming video-on-demand in South Africa.

The action-packed series follows Queen Sono, the highly trained top spy in a South African agency whose purpose is to better the lives of African citizens. While taking on her most dangerous mission yet, she must also face changing relationships in her personal life. The series will be created by Director, Kagiso Lediga and Executive producer Tamsin Andersson.

South African actress, Pearl Thusi, will star as Queen Sono, with the character having been created with her in mind. Thusi is also known for her performance in the romantic dramedy, Catching Feelings, available on Netflix.

Pearl Thusi stars as Queen Sono in Netflix’s first original series in Africa.

“We are excited to be working with Kagiso and Pearl, to bring the story of Queen Sono to life, and we expect it to be embraced by our South African users and global audiences alike.” said Erik Barmack, Vice President of International Original Series at Netflix.

“We are delighted to create this original series with Netflix, and are super excited by their undeniable ability to take this homegrown South African story to a global audience. We believe Queen Sono will kick the door open for more awesome stories from this part of the world” added the director and executive producer of the series, Kagiso Lediga.

The series is due to start production in 2019.

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Showmax shoots its first local drama

Showmax has completed filming its first commissioned drama, as it builds out its roster of original content.

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The Girl From St Agnes, Showmax’s first original drama, wrapped on 28 November 2018 after filming in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and Johannesburg. The eight-part whodunnit premieres on Showmax on 31 January 2019. It is the second series in a programme designed to build out its roster of exclusive, original content.

As Netflix takes hold as South Africa’s preferred streaming video-on-demand service,  Showmax owner MultiChoice has made a string of strategic announcements designed to take the DStv paid satellite broadcasting service into the streaming era. Original content is critical to this strategy, as Netflix is on track to become the world’s biggest movie studio.

Showmax is available in 70 countries.

Photographer: Patrick Toselli

“Our first Original – last year’s light-hearted comedy Tali’s Wedding Diary – had the most successful launch day of any series on Showmax ever,” says Candice Fangueiro, head of content at Showmax. “This is a complete change of direction: The Girl From St Agnes is a dark murder mystery that will keep you guessing and taps into the current conversations in South Africa about #metoo and teen sexuality.”

At St Agnes, a prestigious all-girls boarding school in the Midlands, a popular and beautiful student is found dead at the base of the old mill. Fearful of the scandal it might cause, the school is quick to declare the death of Lexi Summerveld a tragic accident.

But drama teacher Kate Ballard doesn’t believe it. On the night of her death, an upset Lexi had been trying to contact her, and Kate had ignored her. Now wracked with guilt, Kate attempts to piece together the terrible truth.

The more she investigates, the more Kate realises that she didn’t know Lexi or the school at all. Behind the imposing walls of St Agnes, Lexi’s killer won’t be the only person exposed…

Newcomer Jane De Wet was handpicked to play Lexi by legendary South African casting director Moonyeenn Lee (Tsotsi), who’s been nominated for two Emmy Awards in the last three years, for The Looming Tower and Roots.

Kate is played by Nina Milner, who modelled for Vogue Germany and at Paris Fashion Week last year and most recently starred in Troy: Fall Of A City as Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons.

Jane and Nina are joined by an impressive supporting cast that includes internationally recognised South African talent like Robert Hobbs (District9), Tyrone Keogh (24 Hours To Live), Tessa Jubber (Wallander), Karl Thaning (Dredd) and Shamilla Miller (Troy: Fall Of A City) opposite local favourites like Celeste Khumalo (The Queen), Richard Lukunku (Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word), Zakeeya Patel (High Rollers), Graham Hopkins (The Lab) and three-time South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) winner Jerry Mofokeng (Heist, Tsotsi), not to mention hot new talent like Paige Bonnin and Tristan de Beer.

The Girl From St Agnes is being produced by Quizzical Pictures, winners of the SAFTA for Best Drama for six of the last eight years, as well as a Peabody. Producer Harriet Gavshon, Quizzical Pictures’ managing director, is drawing on her own private school experiences, which sparked the original idea for the show. This is the first time Harriet has produced a series, rather than just executive producing, since 2009’s Hopeville, which won Best Drama and Miniseries at Rose d’Or, was nominated for an International Emmy, and was a finalist at Monte Carlo.

Catharine Cooke, who won this year’s Best Director In a TV Drama SAFTA for iNumber Number, co-directed the shoot with Cindy Lee, a commercials director helming her first drama series, having previously worked as the social media director on the Emmy-winning Black Mirror. Double SAFTA winner Gillian Breslin (Umlilo; 4Play: Sex Tips For Girls) is head writer. This makes Girl From St Agnes a rare TV series commissioned, produced, written and directed by women.

“What links Girl From St Agnes, Tali’s Wedding Diary and the other Showmax Originals in the pipeline is our aim to work with the best South African talent and be the home for brave, quirky and at times edgy local stories you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says Candice. “Creating new characters that audiences come to love and follow is an incredibly rewarding experience and we want to establish a platform for more ‘Tali’s’ across varied genres.”

All eight episodes can be binged on Showmax from 31 January 2019.

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