PARIS — Columbia TriStar and Richard Dassonville, long-serving head of its French distribution outfit, are parting company.
Dassonville’s shoes will be filled by Eric Brune, current head of sales at UFD, the distribution venture of Fox and French group UGC.
Brune confirmed he would be joining Columbia TriStar in coming weeks, but said the deal was too recent to give further details. Dassonville was unavailable for comment.
The change at the top adds fuel to speculation of an imminent distribution deal between Columbia TriStar and the French major Pathe.
Such a deal would complete a trio of Franco-U.S. distrib partnerships, mirroring UGC’s relationship with Fox, and Gaumont’s partnership with Disney in Gaumont/Buena Vista Intl.
Both sides have much to gain from joining forces. In Pathe’s case, a deal would give access to Columbia TriStar’s crowd-pulling movies, while Pathe, France’s third-largest exhibitor, brings to the table its nationwide chain of cinemas and multiplexes.
Last year, Columbia TriStar’s market share slipped 32% on 1998 to 4.8% in France, while Pathe Distribution enjoyed the biggest increase, up 110% to 12.8%, placing it second behind leader Gaumont/BVI, with a 14% market share.
UFD was down 49%, due largely to the wake of the “Titanic,” which had taken it to the top of the distribution league in 1998.