Canal+ plans Euro pix

Studio Canal Plus, the film production arm of pay TV giant Canal Plus, will step up investment in European pix, according to recently appointed executive VP Pierre Heros.

In his first interview since taking over the studio’s French and European operations in August, Heros said he plans to develop a series of co-productions with Euro partners over the next year.

The company has already inked deals to co-produce two Italian pix, and Heros says he would like to join with other production partners, particularly in the U.K. and Spain.

Funding influx

Part of the funding for the expansion will come via the January launch of Studio Images, the film investment fund that allows private investors to put up cash in return for tax writeoffs. Studio Images has raised 40 million francs ($ 6.7 million), all of which will be invested in 1994.

The new European emphasis reflects Heros’ belief that the company needs Euro pix to broaden the appeal of the studio’s 400-pic catalog. It also is the result of recent management changes within the film production outfit that have freed up execs to concentrate on specific territories.

Under the new management structure, which was officially unveiled after the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, Olivier Granier oversees all of the studio’s U.S. film interests, including a stake in Carolco Pictures, while Heros manages France and Europe. Both report to Canal Plus No. 2 Pierre Lescure.

Heros’ production credits before joining Studio Canal Plus include co-production work (while at pubcaster FR3) on Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Name of the Rose” and Regis Wargnier’s “Indochine” while at Generale d’Images.

Italo ventures

Heros’ first two European co-productions have been with Italian helmers. Studio Canal Plus has backed Michele Soavi’s “Della Morte Dell’Amore,” currently in post-production, and co-produced Nanni Moretti’s “Caro Diaro.” The latter is playing in Italy and has earned more than $ 2 million in six weeks. Both are budgeted at between $ 3.4 million and $ 4.2 million and Heros says the studio took a minority position in both films.

Wandering eyes

Elsewhere in Europe, Heros is eyeing Spain and the U.K. with interest.

On the domestic front, Studio Canal Plus, in association with Rene Cleitman’s Hachette Premiere, is backing Francois Dupeyron’s $ 8 million “La Machine,” starring Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye. The second project is Belgian director Gerard Corbiau’s $ 10 million, 18th-century costume drama tentatively titled “Farinelli.”

Heros will use the freshly raised coin from the Studio Images Sofica to help bankroll the pix. French finance laws allow Studio Canal Plus to invest 20% of the 40 million franc fund in the financial markets.

Of the remaining 80%, the studio has given a commitment to the National Cinema Center that it will use a maximum one-third for pix produced by Chrysalide Films and Les Films Alain Sarde (both of which have Studio Canal Plus as a shareholder), while the rest will go to companies with no financial link to the studio.

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