Teuton indie keys growth on pacts

Studiocanal Germany expands into production, distribution

BERLIN — Since taking the helm at Studiocanal Germany at the beginning of the year, CEO Rodolphe Buet has bolstered the group’s operations by strengthening international partnerships, beefing up domestic production and laying out a strategic growth plan in one of Europe’s biggest markets.

In September, Studiocanal Germany expanded its distribution deal with Lionsgate for Germany and Austria, ensuring that it will get future installments of the blockbuster “The Hunger Games” franchise as well as other Lionsgate productions.

The deal marks a new step for the distrib, Buet says. Securing access to premium content on the open market had always been challenging for both Studiocanal Germany and Kinowelt, the German indie that became Studiocanal Germany last year after its acquisition by the Paris-based Studiocanal group in 2008.

“With Studiocanal Intl. and Lionsgate productions we are providing greater visibility to our partners in theatrical, homevideo and television, and we’ll be much less dependent on the sales companies than we used to be,” Buet says. “We will have no obligation to buy two or three movies per market but just the ones we need to fulfill some genre (slot) to strengthen our lineup. I decided to make this deal to bring the company to a new level and work on the long-term vision rather than the short term.”

Buet is expecting between three and five Lionsgate titles a year beginning in 2014. The agreement is a key component to Studiocanal’s growth in Germany.

It’s not ignoring the local market, though, as it sees German films as an important piece of its overall strategy. To that end, in September Studiocanal tapped former Deutsche Columbia Pictures exec Isabel Hund to head domestic production and acquisitions to drill down on local production.

“To be a key player in the German market we need to be involved in German production. With Isabel we want to be much more involved, working with our partners at the development stage, acting as producers or co-producers and, hopefully, bringing our expertise and vision.”

Studiocanal’s upcoming domestic pics include Christian Alvart’s 1960s-set crime drama “Banklady,” about Germany’s first female bank robber; Xavier Koller’s 19th-century drama “Die schwarzen brueder,” starring Moritz Bleibtreu and Richy Mueller; and Caroline Link’s family drama “Morocco.”

Buet sees more potential in the German exhibition market.

“If we look at the average numbers, per household or per inhabitant, going to the cinema, Germany is far below France or the U.K. ”

Buet points out that the development of Germany’s exhibition sector also offers new opportunities, as cinemas convert to digital, offering more programming flexibility. “(We can) be more focused on very specific target groups and address specific niches for our films.”

In addition, Buet adds that Germany’s homevideo market remains stable — unique compared with other European territories and the U.S. On the VOD front, Studiocanal last year inked an exclusive long-term deal with Amazon-owned Lovefilm for Germany and the U.K.

The distrib has strong ties with broadcasters ProSiebenSat.1, ZDF and RTL, all of which are eager for theatrical product. “We have this very solid TV market. Films are part of the success of TV broadcasters.”

While Studiocanal had 13 theatrical releases this year, Buet says in 2013, “we’ll probably have the strongest lineup we’ve ever had for Germany. We have blockbusters, German productions and arthouse films.”

In addition to the “Hunger Games” sequels, the distrib’s slate includes such high-profile fare as “Robocop,” starring Joel Kinnaman; Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight,” with Denzel Washington; “The Place Beyond the Pines,” starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper; “Paranoia,” with Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford; and Terrence Malick’s “To the Wonder.” “We need to be active in all genres and we need to reach all audiences to be seen as major players in this market,” says Buet.

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