Global players tote up Gaul haul (article de Variety sur les exportateurs français)

Jeudi 13 septembre 2012



Global players tote up Gaul haul

Toronto Daily 2012: French Cinema

As Harvey Weinstein recently put it on the heels of "The Artist's" Oscar wins, France may be about to have a golden age of cinema.

In terms of international sales, the Gallic film sector has proved more than resilient to the financial crisis and today's contracted markets, though success is measured by an ever-diminishing number of stellar titles. At Cannes, Studiocanal, Wild Bunch, Pathe and Gaumont led the pack, announcing hundreds of deals across their slates. Year on year, international sales figures during the first half of 2012 for Gaumont and EuropaCorp skyrocketed 52.7% to €18.7 million ($23 million) and 112% to $92.2 million, respectively. Meanwhile, the breakout performance of such reasonably budgeted, crossover French fare as "The Artist" and "The Intouchables" has clearly boosted the image of Gallic cinema abroad.

"I noted at Cannes that buyers were on the hunt for strong, script-driven European material," says Gaumont sales head Cecile Gaget, citing deals on Anne Fontaine's "Two Mothers," Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "The Young and Prodigious Spivet" and Guillaume Canet starrer "En solitaire." "Companies like Momentum or Alliance that traditionally buy mostly American films were checking out French and European films again, buying 'Spivet' and Francois Ozon's 'In the House' (sold by Wild Bunch), for instance," he adds.

Over at Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, international sales topper Marie-Laure Montironi agrees. "Distributors read every script and watch everything to avoid missing the next gem," she says, noting increased interest for remakes and romantic comedies, such as Frederic Beigbeder's "Love Last Three Years," a local sleeper sold in key territories.

"What's changed is that mainstream, feel-good French films are taken more seriously by buyers as films that have a strong theatrical potential, and that's key to distributors because theatrical is holding up best, in contrast to DVD and TV," says SND sales and acquisition topper Lionel Uzan, pointing to Sophie Lellouche's romantic comedy "Paris-Manhattan," one of SND's best-selling titles, and '60s-set comedy "The Women on the Sixth Floor," an overseas B.O. success.

According to Uzan, "The investment/profit ratio on an upscale French film is more appealing than on American movies: If your film bombs, it doesn't hurt your finances as much because you paid less for it, and if you score, you win big." (Budgeted at $11.8 million, "The Intouchables" grossed more than $362 million worldwide.)

Another key trend that's positively impacting Gallic shingles is the development of multi-territory VOD platforms such as Netflix, Lovefilm and iTunes, bulwarked by the proliferation of day-and-date models outside the U.S. Even without theatrical distribution, "It allows distributors to build a single multi-platform marketing campaign and maximize P&A, facilitating films' screen access," says Regine Hatchondo, managing director of Gallic film promotion org Unifrance.

She adds that the biggest handicap for foreign-language offerings is the decline of arthouse theaters around the world, notably in Germany, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

"Even in territories like Japan, where VOD is in its infancy, video publishers and distribs operating VOD platforms like Happinet are growing and have been working hand-in-hand with arthouse distributors. They're often the ones facilitating deals," says Nicolas Brigaud-Robert at Films Distribution, which has Marina Zenovich's docu "Polanski: Odd Man Out" at Toronto.

"In the U.S., we find opportunities for straight VOD sales on French films, which wasn't the case before," says Montironi, noting that the rise of VOD and multi-territory platforms in the U.K. and South Korea have benefited EuropaCorp.

Most VOD deals are all-rights pacts. But some French sales agents can split rights on select titles.

At Studiocanal, distribution head Harold Van Lier, who sells such high-profile pics as "The Two Faces of January," says the shingle has increasingly been considering splitting rights in territories that offer attractive subscription-based VOD/TV deals or opportunities to make VOD deals directly with local platforms -- "particularly in growing markets, like Brazil/Latin America and China, where an all-rights (minimum guarantee) does not represent the territory's real value."

In 2011, Studiocanal struck lucrative deals with Amazon-Lovefilm for the U.K. and Germany.

Gaget points out on-demand services have brought substantial incremental revenues to companies like Gaumont or Studiocanal which handle large catalogs. "We've done tons of business with Russian TV on catalog titles," he says.

While many international markets remain challenging, France is making promising headway.