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MILAN — Rome-based production outfit Cattleya has climbed into position among Italy’s leaders.

With the ink drying on output deals at Medusa and RAI, the company also got a shot in the arm from publisher De Agostini and private equity fund SanPaolo IMI — both of which recently took 10% stakes in Cattleya.

The influx of coin will help Cattleya roughly double its slate from five films in 2000, when it first got into the production biz.

“We want to make about eight to 10 features per year, including two or three English-language films, with costs ranging from $2 million up to $20 million,” Cattleya CEO Giovanni Stabilini tells Variety.

The company’s pipeline of English-lingo pics includes Liliana Cavani’s “Ripley’s Game,” produced with Britain’s Baby Prods. for Fine Line and starring John Malkovich, which is in post-production; and Franco Zeffirelli’s “Callas Forever,” a drama produced for Medusa and toplining Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons. Pic began shooting July 23.

Venice-bound

Other films in post-production include “How Harry Became a Tree,” a surreal, sexy comedy by Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic with Adrian Dunbar and Colm Meaney, which will go to Venice Film Fest; and Mike Figgis’ “Hotel,” with an international cast including Julian Sands, Burt Reynolds and Valeria Golino.

Cattleya’s pacts with Medusa and RAI are for three years each, both for nine films, an unusual setup — most agreements with producers are for two or three films.

Division of labor

Cattleya was created in 1997 by Riccardo Tozzi, Mediaset’s former head of drama. Two years later, Giovanni Stabilini, Mediaset managing director in charge of acquisitions, and Marco Chimenz, the L.A. man for Medusa — the film unit of Mediaset parent company Fininvest — came on board.

Tozzi now serves as Cattleya president and manages the creative side, with CEO Stabilini responsible for business and finance and Chimenz handling international co-productions, acquisitions and sales.

The three men are equal partners in the company.

According to Stabilini, Cattleya’s revenues have risen from $3 million in 2000, when the company started producing, to $17 million this year. He expects them to reach $40 million in 2002.

Helping fill the coffers in the next few months, Cattleya will start producing two miniseries, one to be aired by Mediaset, the other by RAI.

Italo-lingo pics in post-production include “Mari del Sud,” an Italian comedy with Diego Abantuono and Victoria Abril distributed by Medusa; and Michele Placido’s “La piu lunga estate,” with Laura Morante and Stefano Accorsi, a co-production with RAI.

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