Cannes for me is an exercise in chasing big-money movie deals, but I took the opportunity to meet several French companies to get a view of the business from their side of the pond. Compared to the problems I hear from Hollywood, these guys struggle for growth in a French theatrical system that seems completely preposterous to an Americain.
In Hollywood, they whine about how hard it is to get a movie made; about a weekend crowded with three new releases; the inefficiency of big P&A spends to advertise on TV to ensure moviegoers show up opening weekend; and the six-month wait for DVD and VOD. In France, a heavily subsidized system makes getting movies made the easy part. The downside: 15-18 films open week in and week out; TV advertising is outlawed, and the wait for DVD and VOD is an eternity compared to the U.S. Small wonder several of the major French companies are looking outside elsewhere for growth.
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For a company like Gaumont, that means supplementing Centrée Français fare by hatching U.S. market TV hits like Hannibal. Wild Bunch’s core business is backing gutsy films like Blue Is The Warmest Color, but at this Cannes, the company created a stir showing a film before its precedent-setting straight-to-VOD release. Welcome To New York is Abel Ferrara’s lurid drama that stars Gerard Depardieu as a crass, horny money man based on former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who cut a decadent swath around the world before being arrested for allegedly mauling a maid in a New York hotel. Because Wild Bunch bypassed theaters, it could spend $1 million on TV ads, creating more awareness than if it had gone theatrical and could not advertise. Success will mean more films with bigger stars test this new market and that could be as disruptive to France’s arcane theatrical machine as the current crop of pay and cable TV series like True Detective feel compared to the derivative product churned out by Hollywood movie studios.
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There was a helping of good news for the French box office on Wednesday when local comedy Les Garçons Et Guillaume, A Table! (Me, Myself And Mum) sold 69,342 tickets to become the strongest debut of the week. It also had the fifth best opening (79,636 admissions including previews) of any French film in 2013. The French box office has had a rough year of it so far: Overall admissions are down 5.5% and French market share has dropped from 42.9% to 32.3%, according to the latest figures from local watchdog the CNC. It looks likely that when January 1st rolls around, there will be only one French film (comedy Les Profs) amongst the top 10 of the past 12 months. That’s a rare occurrence indeed after 2012 closed with three French titles in the top 10 and 2011 boasted not only the No. 1 and No. 2 overall films – The Intouchables and Rien A Déclarer – but also the Oscar-winning The Artist. This year, Intouchables studio Gaumont has Les Garçons, giving it something to crow about after the disappointment of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Young And Prodigious Mr Spivet. Les Garçons is a virtual one-man show that is written and directed by Guillaume Gallienne in his helming debut. He also plays the two lead roles. It debuted in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight this year where it was a prize winner. Gallienne, who hails from … Read More »
On the heels of getting renewals for its first two series, series Hannibal on NBC and Hemlock Grove on Netflix, Gaumont International Television, the U.S.-based TV production arm of European film studio Gaumont, has hired three new executives: Carol Trussell as Head of Production; Adam Fishbach as SVP of Creative Affairs; and Mary Carol Bulger as Director of Production Administration. All three will be based in Los Angeles, working under GIT CEO Katie O’Connell. Trussell recently produced GIT’s series Hannibal for NBC. As Head of Production, Trussell will oversee both Hannibal and Hemlock Grove. She also will be responsible for production of the upcoming Gaumont series Barbarella that is set to start filming in early 2014. Trussell previously served as a producer on Roswell, What About Brian and True Blood. Fishbach, who will be responsible for new series development, joins GIT from Chris Morgan Prods. where he served as VP and helped develop and sell four projects last season, including Gang Related, which went to series at Fox, and Big Thunder, which was picked up to pilot at ABC. Before that, Adam served as an executive at Morgan Creek Prods. Bulger, who will coordinate information and documents between GIT’s productions, previously worked at Lux Pictures, WOW Entertainment, Shooting Star Pictures and Screen Capital International. She most recently served as Production/Distribution Administrator at Exclusive Media Group. GIT recently received a 2-for-1 straight-to-series commitment from Fox.
Fox International Productions has taken distribution rights in Latin America, Germany and the U.S. on action thriller Mea Culpa which Gaumont is selling. The Fred Cavayé-directed pic stars Vincent Lindon, Gilles Lellouche and Nadine Labaki. The story follows a pair of good cops who’ve been longtime partners. Their lives go into a tailspin when one causes a tragic car accident. When his family is put in danger a few years after he exits the police force, he takes matters into his own hands. Cavayé’s previous films include Anything For Her, which was remade by Paul Haggis as The Next Three Days, and Point Blank, which is being developed as an English-language remake by Leverage and Working Title. Gaumont is screening exclusive footage of the pic for buyers here in Cannes. The $20M film bows in France in early 2014. Read More »
Here’s a shot in the arm for French cinema: Gaumont’s award-winning crowd-pleaser Untouchable has catapulted to the top of the French box-office heap for 2011 in less than four weeks of release. The studio announced today that the film has now sold over 8.2 million tickets, making it the No. 1 film this year. Another French film, Pathé’s Rien A Declarer (Nothing To Declare), is sitting in the 2nd spot in France for the year with just over 8.13 million tickets sold. The two local pics are running ahead of such fare as the Harry Potter finale, Steven Spielberg’s Adventures Of Tintin and the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean 4.
Gaumont’s Cécile Gaget tells me that Untouchable is experiencing a “Titanic phenomenon” whereby moviegoers are returning to see it multiple times. From directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, pic stars François Cluzet as a wheelchair-bound aristocrat who hires an out-of-the-ordinary assistant played by Omar Sy. The film recently won the Grand Prize at the Tokyo Film Fest with the stars sharing acting kudos. Gaumont says the film is also doing brisk business in Switzerland and Belgium. The Weinstein Co acquired Untouchable in North America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, South America and China and also took English-language remake rights.
Pathé’s Nothing To Declare, meanwhile, hails from director and star Dany Boon whose Welcome To The Sticks rode a juggernaut locally back in 2008 to become the highest-grossing French film ever and to … Read More »
I’m catching up with some film news that broke first in the French press this week: Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet will adapt the 2009 Reif Larsen novel The Selected Works Of T.S. Spivet. French major Gaumont has confirmed to me that the big budget English-language family film, working title T.S. Spivet, will be shot in 3D. The project marks a return to English for Jeunet whose last non-French foray was 1997’s Alien: Resurrection. Jeunet reteams here with longtime screenwriting collaborator Guillaume Laurant to adapt the story of gifted 12-year-old cartographer T.S. Spivet who one day receives a call from The Smithsonian informing him he’s won a prestigious prize.
Gaumont’s head of international, Cécile Gaget, is handling worldwide sales beginning early next year and expects this project to be a return to the vibrant world of Amelie, Jeunet’s whimsical 2001 smash. Shooting is to start in Spring 2012 in Canada with a release eyed for the second half of 2013. Casting is underway. Jeunet’s Very Long Engagement producer is Warner Bros France veteran Françis Boespflug who is making the film for Gaumont with Frédéric Brillion and Gilles Legrand producing for Epithète. Jeunet worked with them on his last picture, Micmacs A Tire-Larigot. Jeunet’s shingle Tapioca Films is also a co-producer.