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De Agostini seeks art pix distrib

Most likely candidate would be Spain's Alta Films

MILAN — Italy’s cash-rich publisher group De Agostini will acquire by the end of the year a Spanish art pics distributor and exhibitor, consolidating its strategy of investment in the audiovisual sector, Maurio Carlotti, CEO of De Agostini’s audiovisual unit DeACommunications, told Daily Variety.

Carlotti, a former CEO of Silvio Berlusconi’s TV empire Mediaset and ex-general director of its Spanish TV web Tele 5, did not elaborate, but the most likely candidate for acquisition would be Alta Films, Spain’s biggest art film distributor and exhibitor.

DeAPlaneta, the recently formed joint venture between De Agostini and Spain’s Planeta, is already in talks with Alta, owned by founder and vet distrib Enrique Gonzalez Macho. Carlotti and Gonzales Macho met at Cannes. “We still have not spent about 90% of the $500 million the De Agostini group has planned to invest in the audiovisual industry, mainly in Italy and Spain, and later in France,” Carlotti said.

Expansion slowed

Initially the expansion was planned over a three- to four-year period. “Recent developments such as the dot-com crisis, Sept. 11 and general economic recession slowed down all projects,” Carlotti said, “but we’re in no hurry.”

In April, DeACommunications acquired a 53.5% stake in Italy’s art pics distributor and exhibitor Mikado, which controls indie production company Albachiara.

DeACommunications also controls a 10% stake in Italy’s biggest indie film producer, Cattleya.

Carlotti sees a lot of potential for art films in Europe. “In Italy, quality films have a 15% market share; in other European countries, their share doubles up to 30%,” he said.

(John Hopewell and Emiliano de Pablos in Madrid contributed to this report.)

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