French fare getting thrills and chills

Distributors increase horror, suspense films

Gallic film distribs are diving headfirst into genre films, including thrillers and fright pics.

The ramp-up comes after some Hollywood studios folded their specialty film divisions and amid the continuing global recession.

Known primarily for its arthouse fare, Films Distribution recently acquired four genre projects, including vampire slasher pic “The Horde,” produced by “Hitman” exec producer Xavier Gens.

Gallic pay TV network Canal Plus also has increased its financial backing for genre pics in the past year, furthering the trend in France, according to La Fabrique de Film’s head of sales Mathieu Robinet.

Gallic telco Orange launched the actioner and genre feed Cinechoc last October. Orange’s cinema branch, shingle Studio 37, is financing the live-action pic “Prodigies,” set for a 2009 theatrical release.

Paris-based shingle Wide Management is representing two genre pics this year: “Ultra,” a police thriller partly financed by Canal Plus, and horror pic “Unfailing,” an inhouse production for Wide.

La Fabrique du Film co-president Franck Ribiere has even created a shingle, Overlook Entertainment, which will be dedicated to genre films, with an emphasis on gore pics like “Humans.”

La Fabrique has had success with genre pics, such as Alex de la Iglesia’s upscale serial killer thriller “The Oxford Crimes,” starring Elijah Wood. It sold strongly worldwide.

“There is a new wave of young French filmmakers who grew up watching American films who are not interested in making auteur films,” says Ribiere.

Still, in a country that generally loves arthouse films, genre fare doesn’t fly with some Gallic moviegoers.

” Genre films just don’t have enough audiences even to create modest hits,” says “Martyrs” producer Richard Grandpierre.

Indeed, “Martyrs” and “Vinyan” were highly rated by fanboys, but the two pics performed poorly at the local B.O. “Martyrs,” for one, grossed just $568,818 in France.

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