Besson shingle produces first small-screen skein

PARIS — Luc Besson’s powerhouse EuropaCorp has greenlit a “Transporter” series, produced with Takis Candilis’ Atlantique Prods.

Move marks the first TV series, and a big one at that, for EuropaCorp as it diversifies into TV, producing spin-offs from its hit movies.

Series will be shot in English, and will start lensing in early 2011 in Canada and France. Atlantique will finance and line-produce the 12 one-hour episodes from the first season. The producers are in talks with major international television channels.

Budgeted at $4 million per episode, the series stands as one of the most expensive drama skeins made out of Europe to date. But, by U.S. broadcast network standards, it’s still being made on a low budget.

EuropaCorp has already achieved international recognition delivering tightly-budgeted pics with international crossover potential. The “Transporter” pics, for instance, were budgeted at an average $31 million and grossed a collective $238 million worldwide.

Besson’s outfit could eventually become a key provider of high-end foreign fiction dramas for the international market.

The Paris-based company has just acquired Gallic TV-film production house Cipango, producer of NBC-aired miniseries “XIII” and other highly popular French skeins.

“For EuropaCorp, the launch of this series forms part of the strategy of enhancing the value of the group’s brands, as well as the desire to strengthen the level of recurring revenues with international expansion plans,” said EuropaCorp.

As a publically-listed firm, EuropaCorp is looking for regular sources of revenue to mitigate the current volatility of its results, driven by inevitably irregularly timed movie releases.

“‘Transporter — The Series’ fits in fully with the focus on international productions developed by Atlantique as part of Lagardere Entertainment,” said Lagardere’s senior VP Takis Candilis, former TF1 head of fiction. “This proves that France, and by extension Europe, can be the driving force behind international productions when they are based on such strong concepts as Luc Besson’s ‘Transporter.’ “

“Transporter — the Series” is the second-biggest fiction assignment to date by Candilis.

Candilis’ Atlantique Prods is also moving into prodction on $35 million “The Borgias” with French paybox Canal Plus and Germany’s production-distribution giant Beta Film.

John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.

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