Senator looks inward after FilmFour demise

Co. puts emphasis on own prod'ns

BERLIN — The demise of U.K. mini-studio FilmFour means the end of another output agreement for German partner Senator Entertainment — and an opportunity for the Berlin company to increase its focus on inhouse production and other international projects.

Senator inked an output deal with FilmFour in 1999 to coproduce and distribute up to 21 pics from the London-based outfit. Senator was to get German distribution rights and a share of worldwide distribution profits, but did not have any creative input into the films.

While Senator Chairman Hanno Huth said FilmFour’s closure wasn’t good news, “it’s not bad either. It’s just business as usual.”

Senator’s track record with FilmFour productions has been anything but stellar. Last year’s “Gangster No. 1” and “Lucky Break” bombed locally, while current release “Sexy Beast” also fizzled. Senator is releasing two other FilmFour titles, “Crush” and “Charlotte Gray,” later this year.

Huth added that current coproductions like the Che Guevara film “The Motorcycle Diaries” starring Gael Garcia Bernal would not be affected by FilmFour’s shutdown.

Nevertheless, it’s not surprising Senator is using FilmFour’s closure to its advantage. The termination of the agreement with FilmFour is “consistent with its strategy to dissolve output deals, exclusive agreements and first look deals in favor of inhouse productions,” Huth adds.

While Senator has not backed away from new multi-picture deals with foreign partners, Huth said Senator now retains ultimate greenlighting power on all of the projects in which it’s involved. In April, Senator renegotiated an output deal with Revolution Studios, drastically downsizing its investment and distribution commitments.

Senator will be diverting the money it saves from its FilmFour agreement to its own productions, targeted film acquisitions and international projects handled by its L.A.-based international distribution arm Senator Int’l.

Senator’s first inhouse English-language production, “The Virgin of Liverpool,” starts shooting next month in the coastal English city, with U.K. producer Mob Film.

Company also has teamed with Sam Raimi to produce a series of modest-budget horror, sci-fi and fantasy films, the first of which, “The Boogeyman,” is in preproduction.

Senator also is on board Volker Schlondorff’s upcoming “Pope Joan,” based on the novel of Donna Woolfolk Cross, which it’s coproducing with UFA Filmproduktion.

Sonke Wortmann (“The Hollywood Sign”), is shooting Senator’s “Das Wunder von Bern,” about the 1954 World Cup soccer championship.

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