3 Days to Kill

High-end TV drama production now a significant revenue driver at Luc Besson’s Paris studio

PARIS – The value of high-end TV drama production – even for one of Europe’s most famed movie producers, Luc Besson’s Paris-based EuropaCorp – was underscored by the mini-studio’s third-quarter results, announced Friday.

In a quiet three months for international and DVD sales, with no major new production brought onto the market, TV series punched €12.4 million ($16.95 million) in sales, 37%-plus of EuropaCorp’s total Jan.-March revenues, thanks to the delivery to TF1, France’s biggest commercial broadcaster, of season 2 of “No Limit,” and receipt by Gallic broadcaster France Televisions of crime thriller mini-series “Le Passager.”

An action-adventure mini co-created by Besson, and made for a budget reportedly 50% above the French average, “No Limit”’s first season was the first fruit of EuropaCorp’s purchase of indie production house Cipango, rebranded EuropaCorp TV. Starring Vincent Elbaz as secret agent with a brain tumor carrying out missions in France, “No Limit” averaged a boffo 28.2% Thursday primetime share on TF1 in November 2012.

“It has taken some time – the first years of production were a little bit disappointing – but TV series production is now a real driver for EuropaCorp,” said Jean-Baptiste Sergeant, an equity research analyst at Paris-based Gilbert Dupont.

Sergeant signalled that TV sales might get even better for EuropaCorp with “Taxi,” the small-screen makeover of the company’s blockbuster movie franchise, being delivered to TF1 in the fourth financial quarter.

Besson’s “The Family” (aka Malavita), with Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, the first pic out of EuropaCorp’s co-production and co-financing pact with Relativity Media, announced at Cannes in 2012, helped drive $4.4 million in revenues from French cinema theaters.

“Family” notched up almost $70 million worldwide and was by far the most-seen French film outside France in 2013. Results, however, for the darkly-humored action comedy are below-par by Besson’s own ultra-high commercial standards as a director and producer.

Punching $137.0 million for the first nine-months of the 2013-14 final year, EuropaCorp is currently tracking 18.4% down in revenues vs. 2012-13, when it posted $27.0 million net profits – its best ever result – and a 16.3% operating margin, thanks largely to international sales, including a Fox fee, on “Taken 2.”

Beyond the delivery of “No Limit’”s soph season, EuropaCorp Jan-March’s Q4 is a tale of many moving parts, with Relativity Media releasing the McG-directed “3 Days to Kill” (pictured), starring Kevin Costner and Amber Heard, on Feb. 21. If any other international sales are rolled into results, such as royalties on “Taken 2,” Q4 could mark an upbeat three months on the film front for EuropaCorp.

The real movie test for EuropaCorp, however, will come on August 14 when Universal opens wide in the U.S. on Besson’s action-drama “Lucy,” with Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman.

With Liam Neeson re-upping as the not-to-be-messed-with Brian Mills, “Taken 3” is expected to open worldwide Q1 2015. Add “Brick Mansions,” with Paul Walker and David Belle, slated for an April 25 release by Relativity Media, and EuropaCorp look sets to be firing on multiple movie cylinders over 2014-15.

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