Besson says Cite studios on course

EuropaCorp denies that project has stalled

Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp has hit out at French media reports that the plugs have been pulled on his E160 million ($217.1 million) Cite du Cinema film complex in Paris.

Patrick Braouezec, local council president at Plaine-Commune, the Paris suburb where the Cite is being built, was quoted last week as saying that the Cite had failed to hit financial targets. Consequently, it was being halted.

That’s just plain wrong, EuropaCorp management told Daily Variety on Thursday.

“The Cite du Cinema project is in very good shape. Financing discussions are in a final phase. We expect them to be concluded shortly,” EuropaCorp management said.

After financing is inked, construction will take around two years, per EuropaCorp.

Braouezec’s comments, whether misquoted or not, had upset the French film industry.

The Cite is a Besson passion project, which he devised when he was forced to shoot 1997’s “The Fifth Element” at Pinewood Studios in the U.K. for lack of a local studio of sufficient size.

Project is also strongly supported by the French government. The Cite is owned and financed by La Nef Lumiere, a joint venture of French property developer Vinci and, crucially, Gallic state investment bank Caisse des Depots.

EuropaCorp is teaming with Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications, facility provider Euro Media Group and Besson’s own Frontline to invest in Paris Studios, France’s first modern soundstage complex.

The Cite will house Paris Studios, along with the Louis Lumiere National Film School, offices, workshops and a state-of-the-arts cinema theater.

The Paris Studios are budgeted at a much slimmer $40.7 million, with EuropaCorp’s investment capped at $8.1 million.

In December, France launched 20% tax rebates for international shoots filming in France or using Gaul’s post-production facilities.

A lack of a modern, custom-built studio is an issue, said Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of promo org Film France.

“Thanks to the tax rebates, France is back on track as far as prices are concerned,” he said.

But he added, “When we speak to big productions, such as American line productions wanting to shoot in France, as soon as shooting on soundstages gets involved, the fact that we don’t have studios the way Americans have studios is a strong drawback.”

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