It drives sales of arthouse pics

With Catherine Breillat’s fairy-tale reboot “Sleeping Beauty” opening Venice’s Horizons, France’s Pyramide is back on the Lido.

And Eric Lagesse’s distributor-sales company is demonstrating that, for top-echelon players at least, reports of the dearth of arthouse business are often an exaggeration.

“Angele and Tony” and “Naomi,” both also sold by Pyramide Intl., will world preem in Venice’s Critics’ Week.

Pyramide itself has taken French distribution rights to “Tony,” a relationship drama from France’s Alix Delaporte, and “Naomi,” Israeli Eitan Zur’s obsessive love tale.

In an early pre-sale, E1 Entertainment has bought “Naomi” for Canada.

Meanwhile, Pyramide has racked up pre-sales on Eran Riklis’ “The Human Resources Manager” to Nanni Moretti’s Sacher in Italy, Golem in Spain, Distribution Co. in Argentina, Imovision in Brazil, Potential Films in Australia and New Zealand, Imagine in Benelux, Filmcoopi in Switzerland and Cine Colombia in Colombia.

Pyramide has taken the world outside South Africa to Khalo Matabane’s Toronto player “State of Violence,” a reconciliation drama.

On other Toronto screeners, Japan’s Shibata, Mexico’s Cinemateca Nacional and Argentina’s Energia Entusiasta have bought “The Strange Case of Angelica,” by Portugal’s 101-year-old helmer Manoel de Oliveira.

Lagesse has a keen sense of strategy and of the value of Venice.

The Mostra, he says, is “a real label” — an upbeat reception “highlights your film and at least gets buyers into the first Toronto screening.”

Prizes help too. Michael Rowe’s “Leap Year,” Cannes’ Camera d’Or winner, has now closed 20 territories, a hit by current sales standards.

Crowd-pleaser “The Human Resources Manager” won Locarno’s Piazza Grande audience award — the key kudos for a sales agent — and creates confidence about Toronto sales, Lagesse adds.

When Pyramide makes a move, it can do so powerfully, offering distribution rights to France or a minimum guarantee against international sales. Or both. Few companies can equal that.

French distribution suffers a release glut, Lagesse complains, but that’s just a sign of Gallic audiences’ large appetite for foreign titles.

Some click. Italian Ferzan Ozpetek’s family dramedy “Loose Cannons” is pushing 130,000 admissions and has taken €793,000 ($1 million) in France.

Above all, says Lagesse, he goes with his emotions. Pyramide’s penchant for first-time directors such as Delaporte and Zur is a mix of “passion and business.”

That strategy has paid off. Of Pyramide’s six Cannes players, five have been sold Stateside and a deal on Chilean Patricio Guzman’s “Nostalgia for the Light” will be announced shortly.

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