Filmmakers want guaranteed hits

Remakes are ringing up box office gold in Europe, prompting a proliferation of local hits being redone for neighboring markets and causing some curious cases of cross-pollination.

Consider the following:

n Spain’s 2010 B.O. champ, teen romancer “Tres metros sobre el cielo” (Three Meters Above the Sky), is a remake of Italy’s hit “Tre metri sopra il cielo,” which in 2004 became key to weaning Italo kids off a purely Hollywood diet, luring them back to watching homegrown fare. Italy’s Cattleya now has a Gallic remake of “Three Meters” in the works and also tentative plans for a Teutonic redo.

n Italy’s 2010 box office phenom, “Benvenuti al Sud” (Welcome to the South) is a remake of Dany Boon’s Gallic B.O. monster “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” (Welcome to the Sticks). The Italo “Sticks” remake was recently released in Gaul, where, understandably, it bombed. But there are high hopes “Benvenuti” will click with German auds when it is released there.

n Spain’s top 2002 hit, sexy musical “El otro lado de la cama” (The Other Side of the Bed), will be soon redone by Cattleya in Italy.

n Gallic psychodrama “Crime d’amour” (Love Crime) and romantic comedy “L’arnacoeur” (Heartbreaker) are both being remade and set in the U.K.

Italian producer Riccardo Tozzi, topper of Cattleya, the Rome shingle in which Universal holds a stake, considers Europe’s remake surge the result of globalization, which rather than bolstering the domination of American product all over the planet, as some assumed it would do, is increasingly causing auds to seek movies that come from their own back yards.

“With globalization, everybody is looking for a mirror, for something to identify with,” says Tozzi. “Italians want to see Italian movies, French want to see French movies, Spaniards want to see Spanish movies; but their imaginations and types of narratives are becoming increasingly similar.”

That’s why remakes are becoming a great way for films to circulate outside national confines, he argues.

Tozzi recalls that until recently in Italy remakes were stigmatized as “an American cheap trick,” but he took a bold step in 2004 when he shepherded an Italo remake of “Groundhog Day,” titled “E’ gia ieri,” to Italian screens. It flopped.

But the following year, Cattleya scored with “L’uomo perfetto,” a redo of slick Spanish romantic comedy “Cha-Cha-Cha.” And Cattleya’s subsequent Italo redos of European titles have all scored, most notably “Benvenuti,” which was co-produced with Medusa, Pathe and Germany’s Constantin Film, and has pulled in more than a whopping $50 million in Italy.

With hauls like that, remake rights have become more interesting, but their prices have not necessarily risen accordingly.

That is why Cattleya is much more interested in co-producing a Gallic adaptation of “Three meters” than merely selling off the rights.

Still, remakes rights are an increasingly hot commodity on the European market circuit.

“I have always been eager to sell them and now it’s finally happening because there is tangible evidence that they work,” says Italo sales agent Adriana Chiesa, who was at Berlin’s EFM selling remake rights to three “Three meters” sequels, all based on the teen book franchise phenom behind the pics.

“This remakes trend is quite logical in a crisis context,” points out Geraldine Gonard, sales director at Spain’s Imagina Intl. Sales, which is selling Spain’s “Three meters” internationally.

“Producers want to try to invest in a sure thing, or at least something for which they are have a frame of reference which entails less risk,” says Gonard. “It’s been the same in the TV industry. In these past few years we’ve been selling a lot more formats for adaptations because it’s less expensive than starting a project from the outset.”

It’s also similar to — and goes hand-in-hand with — the logic behind co-production deals, she says, which are a lot more evident these days within the European industry “because even big companies want to limit their budgets and cover a broader audience from the get-go.”

Hot remake rights hawked at EFM included Gallic thriller “Point Blank,” sold by Gaumont and helmed by Fred Cavaye, whose “Anything for Her” became Paul Haggis’ “The Next Three Days”; and Nicolas Couche’s romantic comedy “Second Chance,” for which Wild Bunch has been fielding remake offers.

“Lots of producers these days are thinking about doing remakes of movies that have been huge successes in single European countries when the subject of these movies is universal,” says Paris-based producer Said Ben Said, who is shepherding a Brian De Palma-directed remake of Alain Corneau’s psychodrama “Crime d’amour” (Love Crime), which he also produced.

Genre movies, he notes, often make for great remake material, as has been the case with horror pics in Asia.

And, of course, French genre movies have long been remade for worldwide auds, most recently “The Tourist,” which is a redo of 2005 French action film “Anthony Zimmer,” while the reverse is rarer because the Hollywood majors generally don’t want to sell their rights.

Jacques Audiard’s “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” the widely praised Gallic adaptation of James Tobak’s Harvey Keitel starrer “Fingers,” is a notable exception.

Still, Ben Said cautions “there are plenty of movies that can’t be remade, even though they are huge hits locally.”

A hot title in which the cultural gap might get in the way is Boon’s “Welcome to the Sticks” followup “Nothing to Declare,” which plays on the uneasy rapport between France and Belgium and is scoring mightily in France.

“Pathe pitched it to us, but we passed because we just could not find an analogous context in Italy,” says Tozzi.

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