Deal between Besson, Kavanaugh companies includes U.S. distribution

In a trans-Atlantic link-up of indie heavyweights, Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp and Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media have struck a co-production and co-financing deal on two movies, which includes U.S. distribution.

“The deal could be extended to more films,” EuropaCorp CEO Christophe Lambert told Variety on Sunday in Cannes. Under the pact, EuropaCorp will continue to fully finance film development.

First up is a Besson-penned and -directed gangster thriller, with the working title “Malavita,” toplining Robert De Niro as a retired American gangster living with his family under the witness protection program in Normandy. Pic is based on Tonino Benacquista’s book “Badfellas.”

Pic will start shooting Aug. 14. EuropaCorp will distribute in France and rep international sales.

The other pic in the deal is an actioner penned by Besson and Adi Hasak with the working title “Three Days to Kill.” Lambert characterized the film as in the same vein as EuropaCorp’s “Taken” but with “lots of humor.”

“Taken,” budgeted at $25 million, grossed $226.8 million worldwide.

The deal teams two of the indie business’ highest-profile and, to a large extent, like-minded players that have been producing English-language films at similar budget levels.

“EuropaCorp and Relativity share similarities: We’re both creativity and production-focused,” Lambert said. “(Relativity president) Tucker Tooley is a very talented studio prexy, with a sharp artistic vision.”

For Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity, pact is its second move in Europe, as it’s reportedly in negotiations to buy Germany indie distrib Senator, in which it already owns a stake.

Crucially, the EuropaCorp-Relativity deal sees Relativity putting up prints and advertising for the two films’ U.S. releases.

The U.S. is a crucial market for EuropaCorp actioners, such as “Taken,” with Liam Neeson, and Zoe Saldana starrer “Colombiana.” It now has a partner to access this market.

(Jeff Sneider contributed to this report.)

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