Brit pics get P&A coin

The Film Council has tweaked its plans for supporting the distribution of “commercial” British movies. It has shelved its original idea of a “rental reward” scheme, which would have offered distribs a bonus for reaching certain box office targets. Instead it will use £1 million ($1.58 million) a year to underwrite a portion of the P&A risk for a handful of low-budget movies deemed to have breakout potential.

In other words, a policy of upside enhancement has been replaced by one of downside protection. This, the Film Council believes and distribs agree, is far more likely to encourage aggressive releases for borderline Brit pics. It’s also much simpler to administer.

Majors and indies alike will be able to apply, if they have suitable movies — inexpensive, but aimed at a mainstream multiplex audience, the kind of films too easily muscled out by the big Hollywood blockbusters. Examples from last year might have included “24 Hour Party People,” “Birthday Girl” and “Anita and Me,” per Film Council insiders.

The Film Council will offer a £300,000 ($470,000) P&A guarantee per film, on condition that distribs commit to spend at least £750,000 ($1.19 million), and to release a minimum 150 prints. Distribs would only claim the Film Council coin if they fail to recoup their P&A from theatrical rentals.

That means that if a pic passes $4 million at the box office, it shouldn’t cost the Film Council a penny, but if it only reaches $2.5 million, it would draw down its entire guarantee. The number of films the Film Council can back will thus depend on how successful they are, but the minimum will be three a year.

‘La Mancha’ clears Gallic block

“Lost In La Mancha,” Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe’s documentary about the unmaking of Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” is finally set for theatrical release in France, after the resolution of a court case that was blocking its French sale.

Gallic outfit Haut et Court has picked up the movie, after rival distrib James Velaise of Pretty Pictures failed in his attempt to convince London’s High Court that he had a prior claim on the French rights. Velaise originally agreed to buy the movie last May from producer Lucy Darwin, but the deal fell apart in negotiation over the fine print. Nonetheless, Velaise claimed that emails from Darwin represented a binding contract, and started legal action which prevented her finding another distrib. In February, the High Court ruled in Darwin’s favor.

France is potentially one of the pic’s biggest territories — both because of the current Gallic craze for theatrical docs, and because the movie’s central characters include local stars Jean Rochefort, Vanessa Paradis and her husband Johnny Depp, and Gallic producer Rene Cleitman. The pic has grossed $1 million in America and Britain combined (via IFC and Optimum respectively) and is about to open in Japan, Australia and Italy. But according to Darwin, it’s the French release, scheduled for the fall, that should finally tip the movie into profit — a remarkable achievement for a project that started life as a routine “making of” doc.

Loach’s Glasgow kiss

Ken Loach is prepping his next movie, “Ae Fond Kiss,” which will be the final part of his informal “Glasgow trilogy,” following “My Name Is Joe” in 1998 and last year’s “Sweet Sixteen.” All three pics are scripted by Paul Laverty and produced by Rebecca O’Brien. No story details are yet available about the latest movie, which is set to shoot in June and will be backed by Loach’s usual network of Euro distribs and U.K. subsidies. But the title comes from a verse about lost love by Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns, if that’s any clue.

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