First two pics were Gaul's biggest B.O. hits in 2001, 2002

This article was corrected on June 4, 2003.

PARIS — A wrangle between rights holders of the “Asterix and Obelix” comicbooks and Claude Berri’s Renn Prods. threatens to put the kibosh on tentpole pic “Asterix 3: Asterix in Spain,” jeopardizing the multimillion-dollar franchise.

Pathe and Renn have talked up the production even though Albert Uderzo, Anne Goscinny and publisher Editions Albert Rene, who hold the rights to “Asterix,” created by Uderzo and Rene Goscinny, nixed it in February.

“The information that Pathe is preparing a third film is totally false,” the rights holders said. “A reading of the final script has confirmed for the rights holders that their position is the right one.”

Big loss looms

The loss of the franchise is a huge one for Renn and Pathe.

Pathe co-financed Berri’s $40 million “Asterix and Obelix vs. Cesar” and $45 million “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra,” which became Gaul’s biggest B.O. hits in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

First pic racked up 25 million admissions worldwide, including 9.5 million in Asterix’s native Gaul, while “Cleopatra” drew 14.5 million in local ticket sales.

The third pic was announced in November, with helmer Gerard Jugnot to follow helmers Alain Chabat (who directed “Cleopatra”) and Claude Zidi (who helmed the first live-action adaptation).

In Cannes, Jacques-Eric Strauss, who handles international sales of Berri’s films, said that Christian Clavier and Gerard Depardieu would reprise their starring roles after speculation that Clavier wouldn’t return for the third.

Complicating matters, French web M6 announced in Cannes that the first pic from its new production arm, M6 Studios, would be “Asterix and the Vikings,” a 22 million euros ($25.7 million) animated feature.

The M6 production brings together Danish director Stefan Fjeldmark, Belgian scriptwriter Jean-Luc Goossens and Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde.

The rights holders have approved the pic — a poke in the eye for Berri.

Pathe claims it is in negotiations with the rights holders for “Asterix in Spain,” which the rights holders deny.

“There are no negotiations going on with Pathe,” a spokesman for Editions Albert Rene told Daily Variety. “If they come to us with a good proposal, we’ll talk. But now, there is nothing.”

Renn has now changed its optimistic tune toward the productions. “For now, we aren’t doing it,” said a spokesman for Renn, without elaborating.

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