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Pix button up Gallic B.O.

Warring adaptations of French classic also need ancillary

PARIS — Released one week apart in France, the two “War of the Buttons” movies remain neck-and-neck near the top of the Gallic box office.

Adapted from Louis Pergaud’s classic novel, which recently fell into the public domain, “Buttons” turns on two rival gangs of kids from neighboring French villages who wage a merciless play-war against each other.

Producer Thomas Langmann’s “Buttons,” directed by Christophe Barratier (“The Chorus”), was released Sept. 21 and had taken $9.6 million as of Oct. 12. The other “Buttons,” directed by Yann Samuell and produced by Marc Du Pontavice’s One World Films (“Gainsbourg”), was released on Sept. 14 and had cumed about $10.6 million as of Oct. 12.

But while the two “Buttons” have certainly eaten into each other’s box office potential, Barratier’s version seems to be winning the race for ancillary markets.

That pic, budgeted at approximately $20 million — about $2.5 million more than its rival — has scored many more deals with local TV channels and international distributors. The Wild Bunch-sold pic also has benefited from Barratier’s mainstream popularity. “The Chorus,” which he directed in 2004, was a major box office hit in France and abroad, earning a flurry of international kudos, including two Oscar nominations.

” ‘War of the Buttons’ is a big financial success for La Petite Reine (Langmann’s outfit) and all its partners on this film,” says Emmanuel Montamat, La Petite Reine’s managing director. Wild Bunch has sold the film to most major European territories including Germany and Spain, and is closing deals for the U.S., U.K. and most of Asia, according to Montamat.

La Petite Reine also snatched a generous minimum guarantee from Mars Distribution, the pic’s French distributor, and sold DVD rights to Gaumont, although figures were not disclosed. In terms of TV sales, Montamat says the film pre-sold to French commercial net TF1, which bought two broadcasts, and paybox Canal Plus.

Meanwhile, Du Pontavice says his film was acquired by TF1 for one airing, but hasn’t yet been picked up by Canal Plus. The paybox had previously declared it wouldn’t acquire both pics.

But Du Pontavice says he’s chosen to see the situation in a positive way: “The French box office is satisfying and we’ve sold it to nearly 15 territories. We think it’s a family comedy that will have a long life and do very well in ancillary markets.”

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