French bank puts up multimillion equity

MADRID — Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has struck a multimillion dollar equity financing deal with Gallic bank BNP Paribas for the upcoming second part of its “Arthur” saga, “Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard,” to be directed by Besson himself.

With the accord, BNP Paribas becomes the exclusive bank-insurance sector partner on “Revenge,” one of the biggest-budgeted productions in Europe this year.

BNP Paribas put up Euros 4.5 million ($6.9 million) for the first part of the franchise, “Arthur and the Invisibles.”

Given that the budget for “Revenge” is 15% higher — $96 million to $84.6 million for “Minimoys” — and “Minimoys” turned a profit for investors, BNP Paribas’ finance for “Revenge” will most probably come in somewhat above its shell-out for the first installment.

A vote of confidence for the franchise, BNP Paribas’ coin is in the form of straight equity investment, not a bank loan.

The investment also gives BNP Paribas the right to link the film’s image and characters to its corporate, event and client communication campaigns.

Pioneered by EuropaCorp, big company tie-ins look set to become more common in France after La Petite Reine and lead co-producer Pathe Renn Production ratcheted down risk on “Asterix and the Olympic Games,” which bowed in France Jan. 30, striking tie-in licensing deals with Nestle, Volkswagen and Toshiba.

Like “Minimoys,” “Revenge” is again a live-action/CGI animation medley, based on a Besson book. In it Arthur answers a distress call from Princess Selenia, who is menaced by the untiringly dastardly Maltazard.

Live actions scenes for both “Revenge” and the last part of the trilogy, “Arthur and the Two Worlds War,” were shot last summer in Normandy with Freddie Highmore and Mia Farrow reprising their roles as Arthur and his mum. EuropaCorp is currently producing the movies’ animation sequences.

“Revenge” will get its Gaul release Dec. 9 2009, “Worlds” in Dec. 2010.

“Sagas such as ‘Arthur’ and ‘Transporter’ are part of our production strategy, capitalizing on the success of the first parts,” said Severine Madinier, head of EuropaCorp investor relations.

“‘Minimoys’ budget was more than 100% covered before being released,” she added.

Though underperfing in the U.S., “Minimoys” grossed $113 million in worldwide B.O., EuropaCorp said.

EuropaCorp is currently shooting “Transporter 3,” with Jason Statham.

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