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Celluloid Dreams, uMedia Tie Knot

Expanded pact opens up multiple options

PARIS — Hengameh Panahi’s Paris-based Celluloid Dreams, one of Europe’s most respected sales companies, and Brussels’ uMedia, a burgeoning Euro mini-studio, have tied the knot on an alliance that ranges across film financing, production, acquisition and international sales.

The partnership marks out uMedia’s status as one of the Europe’s fastest-growing go-to movie companies for European and U.S. indies alike. It also gives Celluloid Dreams the bigger company backing that specialty film sales agents, however well connected, now crave in tougher times.

UMedia’s sales arm uConnect and Celluloid shared offices at Berlin, with uConnect taking joint responsibility with Celluloid Dreams for the sale of Celluloid Dreams’ slate. Now sealing a long-term expanded alliance, uMedia and Celluloid Dreams can explore fully the options on an enviable range of film operations.

Raising a reported Euros110 million ($145 million) in tax shelter coin last decade, uMedia has diversified rapidly from 2010 into production, setting up a London office, and post-production, via a joint venture with London’s VFX house MFX.

In 2011, it tapped former Lakeshore Intl. prexy Peter Rodgers to head up sales subsid uConnect. It announced last week that Peter Bevan and Lauraine Heftler will head up new operations in L.A. and Paris respectively.

Launched in 1993, Celluloid Dreams has built long-lasting talent relationships with heavyweight auteurs worldwide — such as Takeshi Kitano (“Outrage Beyond”), France’s Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet,” “Rust and Bone”) and Italy’s Marco Bellocchio (“Dormant Beauty”).

At Cannes, it is selling competition entry Takeshi Miike’s bloodbath thriller “Shield of Straw” and Katrin Gebbe’s Un Certain Regard religious faith drama “Tore’s Pogo.”

Just how uMedia and Celluloid Dreams collaborate will be decided on a project-by-project basis, uMedia CEO Adrian Politowski told Variety.

At Cannes, Rodgers and Panahi will again share offices and join forces on international acquisitions and sales operations.

Celluloid Dreams’ genre label, Celluloid Nightmares, will also be included in the mix.

“The partnership with Hengameh Panahi and Celluloid Dreams allows us to work with a person who has a huge expertise in specialty films and genre films,” Politowski added.

Celluloid and uConnect’s slate includes U.S. director Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” Catriona McKenzie’s “Satellite Boy,” Takeshi Kitano’s “Outrage Beyond,” Daniel Algrant’s “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” with Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl”) and “Fright Night” star Imogen Poots, and S. Craig Zahler’s “Bone Tomahawk,” toplining Timothy Olyphant, Peter Sarsgaard, Jennifer Carpenter, Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell.

Pact also allows Panahi to bring projects from her vast talent connections to uMedia’s now considerable international co-production and tax-financing structures.

“We’re bringing to the table different expertise and different networks of talent relations, which makes for a very rich partnership,” Panahi said.

UMedia has “a win-win attitude of sharing rights and upside with creative talent which is hugely attractive and will make for better films,” she enthused.

“We can help producers structure their projects in the most effective way, not only financially, but also logistically and creatively,” Politowski added.

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