PARIS — Studiocanal has an ACE up its sleeve: €150 million ($202.5 million) of investment from Anton Capital Entertainment, a London-based private-sector film fund, that will be plowed into Studiocanal’s production and distribution slate through fall 2014.
The deal gives Studiocanal, already a pan-European film giant, even greater pull as a top-echelon indie heavyweight, raising its film financing capacity to approximately $800 million over three years, the largest of any company in Europe, says Olivier Courson, Studiocanal chairman-CEO.
Since 2006, Studiocanal has bulked up dramatically, buying distributors in the U.K. (Optimum Releasing) and Germany (Kinowelt), powering up international sales and pinpointing production priorities by fully financing such genre films as “The Last Exorcism” and co-producing “Unknown” while also getting into family fare and animation such as 3D toon “Sammy’s Adventures,” which it sold internationally.
Owned by Vivendi’s Canal Plus Group, Studiocanal has also discovered a comfort zone making adult-skewing, high-quality pics that cost in the neighborhood of $30 million or less — what Courson labels “international independent films.”
With the $800 million war chest, the idea is to increase the number of such films Studiocanal will be involved with, says Courson, who points to “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” produced by Working Title and fully financed by Studiocanal, as an example. The pic has delivered Studiocanal’s biggest-ever gross in Blighty: just under $15 million in 20 days.
This year, Studiocanal has taken international rights to several U.S. productions: “Blackbird,” produced by 2929/Mutual Film Co.; Zach Snyder’s “The Last Photograph,” co-financed with Joel Silver and toplining Sean Penn and Christian Bale; and the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis,” produced by Scott Rudin.
So the ACE deal could well spell good news on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s also a slate financing deal, rather than a credit facility, a first for Europe, says ACE’s Sebastien Raybaud, with ACE taking a 30% stake in roughly 100 of Studiocanal’s English-language or international movies. Studiocanal puts up 70%.
Don’t expect a slew of similar slate financing deals in its wake, though.
The ACE pact reflects Studiocanal’s leading position in the sector, as well as its significant shareholder and production levels, says Jean-Baptiste Sergeant at stockbroker Gilbert Dupont.
Raybaud concurs: “A company operating is one territory is too risky and small to attract institutional investors. The great thing about Studiocanal is that it’s active in France, the U.K. and Germany which, in film revenues, represent 70% to 80% of Europe.”
Also, Studiocanal is profitable, and has strong nontheatrical distribution pacts — RTL for German TV, Lovefilm for U.K. and German pay TV windows, and a close relationship with France’s Canal Plus. Its 5,000-movie library yields remakes, such as a redo of “The Fallen Idol,” co-produced by Walter Parkes.
For Courson, the deal also offsets risk; Studiocanal avoids taking on debt or diluting its share capital.
Without having to search for partners on a film-by-film basis, the shingle can now pounce on films that interest it,specifically pics that figure to play well in France, Germany, and the U.K.
Europe is underserved on the family/animation front by homegrown productions, Courson says. Ben Stassen’s “Sammy’s Adventures 2,” Michel Ocelot’s “Kirikou and Men and Women” and Joann Sfar’s “The Little Vampire” are all in the Studiocanal pipeline.
There’s a highly loyal niche market in Europe and beyond for genre quality genre films, too, says Courson, who adds that “The Last Exorcism 2” from Eli Roth, Strike Entertainment and Studiocanal will shoot by the end of the year..
Studiocanal is also emerging as a leading home in Europe for cutting-edge directors with local-language hits who want to take their talents global: Tomas Alfredson segued from “Let the Right One In” to “Tinker Tailor”; Luca Guadagnino (“I am Love”) is prepping an English-language thriller for Scott Free and Studiocanal; and Daniel Monzon (“Cell 211”) is behind “El Nino,” a drug traffic actioner, with Studiocanal and Telecinco.
“The American market looks to be dominated by blockbusters and seems to mostly target teens,” says Courson. “Europe’s not quite the same.”