'Exorcism' keeps giving; 'Tourist' dollars loom

PARIS — Payday has arrived at StudioCanal.

Having spent four years building the foundations of Europe’s biggest production-distribution operation, the Canal Plus-owned movie giant is beginning to cash in on the results and looking to expand further.

At last year’s American Film Market, StudioCanal unveiled project-by-project production-distribution partnerships with Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum’s Spyglass Entertainment, Joel Silver’s Dark Castle and Neal Moritz’s Original Films.

Based in Paris and producing-distributing in France, StudioCanal also owns production-distrib ops Optimum Releasing in the U.K. and Germany’s Kinowelt.

In its latest move to reap the benefits of its distribution clout, StudioCanal will do a near day-and-date release of December opener “The Tourist.” Produced and financed by Graham King’s GK Films, “Tourist,” with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, will open Dec. 10 in the U.K. and U.S., and Dec. 15 in France and Germany.

The major advantage of three-territory releases, said StudioCanal chairman-CEO Olivier Courson, is “a unified marketing policy,

absolutely key for the heavy work on a title like ‘The Tourist.’?”

There are other upsides.

In 2009, total B.O. for the U.K., France and Germany was E3.2 billion ($4.5 billion), 43% of the U.S. take.

“We consider these three territories as our domestic market,” said Courson. “For certain titles, box office is comparable to the U.S.”

Outlining his 2011 game plan, Courson said StudioCanal is looking to increase the number of its triple-territory buys and will, when possible, release them day-and-date across France, U.K. and Germany.

Of high-profile Hollywood titles, Moritz’s Original and StudioCanal have the remake of “Escape From New York” and “Cliffhanger 2″ in advanced development.

StudioCanal also will fire up its local prod-distrib ops. Courson points to Optimum, which will distribute Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Unknown,” opening in February; Duncan Jones; “Source Code”; and “Larry Crowne,” with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

StudioCanal’s U.K. production slate features sci-fi thriller “Attack the Block”; Rowan Joffe’s “Brighton Rock”; “Rafta, Rafta”; and StudioCanal’s fully financed “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” produced by Working Title.

“We have a mix between big U.S. movies, which are very good for European audiences, and very strong British movies, which are good for an international audience,” Courson said.

StudioCanal, Courson added, will base its productions on four pillars: genre “but not gore” (think “The Last Exorcism,” “Psycho Killer”); “elevated genre” (Guillaume Canet’s upcoming “Rivals,” “Tinker, Tailor”), blockbusters, produced with U.S. partners (“Tourist,” “Unknown”); and animation (“Sammy’s Adventures”).

On Wednesday at the AFM, “Last Exorcism” creators Eli Roth, Eric Newman and StudioCanal announced they were reteaming on “Psycho Killer,” written by “Seven” scribe Andrew Kevin Walker.

In animation, StudioCanal will produce “two to three, maybe four titles at a very high level, 3D and 2D, French and non-French,” Courson said.

Distributing its own productions creates certain financial safeguards, Courson argues. “We don’t take a project for production and foreign sales unless there is a very strong interest from our distribution execs in our territories,” Courson says. “If there isn’t, we don’t do the movie.”

“Exorcism” grossed $41 million in the U.S. and around $60 million worldwide on a pic budget of under $2 million.

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