Deal invests in European, French movies

Giant Gallic telco France Telecom-Orange sealed an agreement with French trade orgs Tuesday to invest a minimum of € 80 million ($120 million) in European and French movies via Orange’s premium pay TV service Orange Cinema Series.

The financing deal was inked with nearly all film industry orgs, including Blic, Bloc and Arp. One large producers org, the Union of French Producers, has yet to sign.

The $120 million will be spent over the next three years. About 60% — $72 million — will be earmarked for pre-buys at the screenplay stage of French-language films; the remaining coin can be spent on movie co-productions, an Orange rep said.

Orange has committed to compensate producers’ sales of online distribution rights and spend 25% of its $72 million commitment for French-language films on pics budgeted at $8 million or below. Orange is also offering financial support to distribs and exhibs for the digitization of both sectors.

The landmark deal, the first signed by a telco with French film industry orgs, builds on Orange’s burgeoning investments in French film production via Orange production arm Studio 37.

Studio 37 has co-produced to date with multiple indie producers including One World Films (“Gainsbourg”), Fidelite and Onyx (“Prodigies”) and Forecast Pics (“Lullaby for Pi”). Studio 37 co-prods are not necessarily pre-bought by OCS.

Orange’s pact with the French film industry hits back at complaints that while feevee Canal Plus faces huge financing obligations on French and European movies — plowing $260.9 million into pre-buying 142 Gallic films in 2008 — Orange, whose upstart OCS launched a year ago, had no such official obligations.

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