French mogul Cazes launches global push

French media mogul Jean Cazes is regrouping and expanding his empire under the new banner Lumiere in his bid to be a global player.

The restructured group spans film production and cofinancing, rights acquisition, sales and distribution, and TV animation.

With offices in L.A., Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro, Lumiere plans to majority-finance about 10 films a year, including up to six English-language productions, two costing $ 30 million to $ 40 million, the rest in the $ 3 million to $ 6 million range.

Lumiere represents the merger, first flagged last year, of two firmsheaded by Cazes — France’s Initial Groupe and rights holder IDA.

In his London office Friday, the 38-year-old entrepreneur announced several exec hires to beef up the foreign sales arm, outlined the new Lumiere structure and spoke bullishly about the production plans designed to make him a force in Hollywood.

The UCLA film-school grad already sees himself as a global player. “We’re not big, but we’re growing,” said Cazes, who first made a mark internationally by buying the 1,400-title Weintraub (formerly EMI) library for $ 57 million.

“We will be a direct operator in territories where that’s possible or needed, and we will have one of the best (foreign) sales companies,” he vowed.

Lumiere has recruited Ralph Kamp and Jamie Carmichael from Majestic Films as director of sales and sales manager, respectively, effective May 1. Adam Sutcliffe joins as head of business affairs for international distribution from Glinwood Films, and John Durie (formerly joint managing director of Polygram’s Manifesto Film Sales) has a non-exclusive marketing deal.

Kamp will work closely with existing international TV sales chiefs Christopher Cary in London and Christine Ghazarian in Paris.

Cazes serves as chairman/CEO of Lumiere and chairman of the U.K. subsid Lumiere Pictures (previously the Movie Acquisition Corp). Alasdair Waddell, who headed MAC, becomes CEO of Lumiere Pictures.

Production exex James Graham in London, Randolph Pitts in L.A. and Eric Altmayer in Paris will report to Cazes, his producer-wife, Lila, and Waddell.

Money should not be a problem. Cazes says Lumiere has $ 30 million cash available for production investment, and that will be bolstered by a $ 75 million credit line for the English-language films.

He is assembling a separate credit facility with a syndicate of seven or eight French banks.

Last year, the group’s revenues totaled 205 million francs ($ 38 million) and for 1993 he’s projecting that will grow to 320 million francs ($ 60 million).

And Lumiere has some deep-pocketed shareholders. They are Partcon (Caisse des Depots) with 54%, France Telecom 17%, Credit Lyonnais’ Clinvest 11%, Compagnie Financiere de Rombas 9%, and Time Warner 3.5%. Cazes has 5%.

Lumiere intends to minimize risk on the bigger-budget films by taking on three partners: a U.S. studio, and distrib/financiers in two territories, probably Germany and Japan.

He envisions ongoing relationships with the two foreign distribs (the German partner is rumored to be either Bodo Scriba or Willi Baer’s Connexion), which would take territorial rights plus an equity investment. He expects to finalize these deals by next month’s Cannes fest.

Cazes signaled his first foray into Hollywood production earlier this year with the announcement of a three-picture deal with the Pleskow-Spikings Partnership.

That covers “Tom Mix and Pancho Villa,” scripted by Oliver Stone, directed probably by Tony Scott and due to shoot in January; “Chinese Bandit” written by David Shaber; and “Yamashita’s Gold” by Deric Washburn. All are tagged at $ 30 million to $ 35 million.

TriStar Pictures will advance 30% of the budgets for North American rights. Lumiere will put up “more than half” of the costs, with the balance from the foreign partners, said Cazes.

He would not comment on speculation that Lumiere will also team with Pleskow-Spikings on the Beryl Markham biopic “West With the Night,” which has Roger Donaldson attached as director. Geena Davis is said to be interested in playing the lead.

Cazes says he intends to produce each year one or two films budgeted at around $ 20 million separate from Pleskow-Spikings.

As examples of the lower-cost projects he’s making, he cited “Fresh,”$ 4 million pic produced by Lawrence Bender (“Reservoir Dogs”), directed by Boaz Yakin, rolling in N.Y. in June; and the just-completed French-lensed “Time Is Money,” starring Charlotte Rampling and Max von Sydow.

Asked how he picks projects, he said, “For the smaller ones, it is an artistic and budget decision. For the bigger pictures, it’s essential to have a director and producer with track records, and a cast (that has) foreign value.”

He says he is mulling creating his own theatrical distrib in the U.K. In France, for which he’s just acquired the Kim Basinger starrer “The Real McCoy,” he says he’ll continue to pick and choose distribs.

He started his own distribution company in Brazil two years ago, and it’s handled “Howards End” and “Strictly Ballroom” and recently picked up the Coen brothers’ “Hudsucker Proxy.”

The group owns French animation studio France Animation, which made $ 500,000 profit last year and which he wants to expand, and 34% of Spanish multimedia co Esicma.

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