Gaumont profits rise up

'L'Enquete,' 'Quai' popular in theaters

PARIS — The success of “L’Enquete corse” and “36, Quai des Orfevres” helped Gaumont, France’s oldest film company, post a 26% hike in sales for 2004 to e88.6 million ($117.4 million) from $93 million in 2003.

Net profits rose from $3.7 million at the end of 2003 to $12.8 million at the end of last year.

The company said ticket sales in its theaters rose 108%, while TV sales rose 31%. Gaumont said international sales and video sales remained stable.

Exhib arm Europalaces, which Gaumont owns jointly with Pathe, saw a $21.9 million rise to $540.2 million in 2004, compared with the previous year’s $503 million. Gaumont Pathe Archives, another joint venture between the two film giants, said it posted sales of $4.3 million in its first year.

The company said its free cash flow stands at $75.3 million, compared with $58 million at the end of 2003, while its equity rose to $210.9 million from $199 million the prior year.

Gaumont affirmed that it had $108.2 million in credit, of which it had spent $96.2 million at the end of 2004 to finance its projects.

Gaumont has been beefing up production and plans to release seven films in 2005, including “L’Empire des loups,” from helmer Chris Nahon; Eric Valli’s English-language adventure thriller “The Trail”; and “Palais Royale,” directed by Valerie Lemercier and headlining the helmer and Catherine Deneuve. The company said all seven pics, whose budgets range from $5.3 million to $30.5 million, had wrapped lensing.

The company is looking at four films in preparation with 2006 release dates, including the next pic from Francis Veber and Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep,” the Gallic helmer’s first French-lingo pic, starring Alain Chabat, Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Former prexy Nicolas Seydoux and his No. 2, Patrice Ledoux, stepped down last year after years of running the family-owned business. Sidonie Dumas, Seydoux’s daughter, is the current chairman.

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