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More pix, less $

Allegro ups prod'n, lowers budgets

MONTREAL — Allegro Films is set to more than double its annual output of features to 12 per year, but the Montreal-based producer is returning to its roots with a renewed focus on pics in the $2 million-to-$3 million budget range.

In the past few years, Allegro moved into the $15 million price range with films like “Screamers” and “The Assignment,” neither of which garnered strong B.O. results in North America, and executives at Coscient, which owns Allegro, believe there is more money to be made producing a greater number of less pricey pics.

At the same time, Coscient is keeping its hand in the production of bigger films via a new Los Angeles-based joint venture with former Allegro president Tom Berry.

The company, Legend Entertainment, has already set up shop on Wilshire Boulevard, but Berry said full details of the venture will only be unveiled in January.

Veteran producer Jacques Methe, Berry’s successor at Allegro, also announced at Coscient’s annual meeting in Montreal Wednesday that Allegro has hired former Alliance production VP Stephane Reichel to take the new position of exec VP at the company. Reichel’s producer credits include “Black Robe,” “Crash” and the upcoming Cirque du Soleil feature “Alegria.”

U.S. rights to “Little Men,” which Allegro shot earlier this year, are set to be picked up by Warner Bros., per Methe, who said the studio will launch the pic theatrically in the U.S. in July.

Based on the novel by “Little Women” author Louisa May Alcott, the pic was directed by Rodney Gibbons and toplines Mariel Hemingway and Chris Sarandon. Los Angeles-based Image Organization has world rights to the film, with the Coscient-owned Motion Intl. handling Canadian distribution on the title.

Methe said Allegro will not rule out doing pics in the $15 million-to-$20 million range, but the production outfit will focus most of its energies on modestly budgeted, market-driven projects.

“I’m aiming at expanding the core Allegro business,” said Methe. “The big international projects will be more Tom Berry’s business. Allegro has been very good at producing medium-budget thrillers and I want to build on this.”

The company will also be upping its activities in the TV-production arena, with Methe hoping to shoot at least one dramatic series annually. Coscient president Richard Laferriere said Allegro will provide more dependable financial returns via this approach.

“It’s less dangerous for the company in terms of quarterly results, which is important for a public company,” said Coscient prexy Laferriere.

Other recent Allegro productions include “Random Encounter” with Elizabeth Berkley and John Wyner, “Reaper” and “Adam and Smoke,” which stars Eric Roberts.

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