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TF1 obtains Ariane’s 300-pic catalog

PARIS — French television network TF1 has acquired one of the last sizable film catalogs still available by purchasing Les Films Ariane’s 300-pic library.

The move effectively brings the curtain down on the 52-year-old Ariane, once a top-rated production and distribution company that turned out a string of French classics. The library includes “Fanfan la Tulipe,” “La Kermesse Heroique,” Oscar winner “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs” and Brigitte Bardot starrer “… And God Created Woman,” as well as international titles such as Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Name of the Rose” and “Cinema Paradiso.” TF1 Intl. will handle world sales of the library.

Founded in 1945 by producers Alexandre Mnouchkine, Francis Cosne and Georges Dancigers, Les Films Ariane was acquired by the giant Cora-Revillon group in 1986 as part of a costly and ultimately unsuccessful move to diversify into television and film.

Two-pronged attack

Under president Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Ariane was the French part of a two-pronged attack, with sister company Revcom testing the international film production waters. Revcom ran into trouble, partly by backing the now-shuttered Sovereign in the U.S.

On the French front, Ariane hit the skids when it took a whopping hit in the late 1980s with the two-part box office stinker “The French Revolution,” which cost $45 million to make and failed to set the local hardtops alight.

Dramatic effect

Informed sources say the loss had a dramatic effect on Cora-Revillon chairman Philippe Bouriez, who became obsessed with trying to recoup the pic’s costs and was reluctant to allow investment in the new pics required to keep the Ariane catalog fresh.

Ariane presidents came and went as the company scaled down production and distribution before finally becoming simply a library. In the early 1990s there were persistent rumors that the library was for sale but that Bouriez had put such a high asking price on the package of pics that buyers were driven away. The final sale price to TF1 has not been disclosed.

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