Film4 plays it for laughs

Pubcaster invests extra $1.6 mil into Brit comedies

LONDON Film4, Channel 4’s film arm, will plow an extra £1 million ($1.6 million) per year into developing British comedy pics.

The news, announced Thursday evening by Film4 topper Tessa Ross at the outfit’s pre-Cannes party in London, will bring the pubcaster’s film financing pot to $25.8 million.

The comedy slate will be commissioned by Shane Allen, Channel 4’s head of comedy and exec producer behind hit TV series and feature, “The Inbetweeners,” which grossed more than $71 million in the U.K. last year.

“This is a fantastic adrenaline shot for more British film comedy following on from the overwhelming audience appetite we experienced last summer,” said Allen. “The recent explosion in live comedy is because it’s a very communal experience, so with the huge expertise of Film4 it’s a brilliant opportunity to tap the cinematic potential of U.K. writing and performing talent.”

Ross added that Walter Salles’ Cannes competish title “On the Road,” which Film4 backed, will have its U.K. preem on Aug. 16 at Film4 Summer Screen, the annual outdoor cinema season at London’s Somerset House.

Two other Film4-backed pics will play in Cannes this year: Ben Wheatley’s “Sightseers,” a Big Talk Pictures production, which it co-financed with Studiocanal and the BFI Film Fund, and short. “The Curse.”

Last week, Variety revealed that Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd and Olivia Colman would star in “Cuban Fury,” a Big Talk Pictures comedy which Studiocanal and Film4 are financing.

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