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Unlovely ‘Rita’ puts Gaumont in red

DVD sales makes up for lower revs from new movies

PARIS — The flop comedy “Lovely Rita” has sent Gaumont, France’s oldest film company, into the red to the tune of E2.6 million ($3.05 million) for the first half of 2003, according to results released Tuesday.

Company posted losses of $10.9 million for the same period last year. Revenue down slightly from $39.7 million to $38.3 million, with an increase in DVD and video sales making up for lower revs from new movies.

As well as film production and distribution, Gaumont also has a 34% stake in EuroPalaces, the market-leading cinema chain created in a merger two years ago with Pathe’s exhibition arm.

Revs hold steady

The subsid, which has a 21% market share in France and is also in Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands, posted revs of $212.9 million, on par with the first half of 2002.

The painful memory is fading of 2001’s $81 million “Just Visiting,” Gaumont’s costliest-ever flop. But the film group’s productions continue to produce mixed results.

Neither actioner “The Raid” nor the English-language comedy “I’m With Lucy” proved to be the kind of hit Gaumont had hoped for last year.

In the first half of 2003 the Karim Dridi helmed actioner/love story “Rage” flopped, disappearing off screens shortly after its release, but “Who Killed Pamela Rose?,” starring comedy duo Kad and Olivier, fared much better, notching up almost 1 million admissions.

Gaumont had high hopes for “Lovely Rita,” a vehicle and producing debut for popular French star Christian Clavier — Asterix in the Claude Berri-produced films. But despite a wide release on nearly 400 screens on Sept. 23, pic will lose Gaumont $6.1 million, which has been consolidated into the first half results.

‘Sons’ succeeds

The film company’s biggest success this year has been comic actor Michel Boujenah’s helming debut “Father and Sons,” which has passed the 1 million ticket sales mark and is still doing steady business in Gallic theaters seven weeks after its release.

Gaumont is hoping to see the year out in style with “Ripoux 3,” another episode in the Claude Zidi- helmed cop franchise.

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