Cohen Media Group Inks Eight-Film Gaumont Classics’ Deal for North America (EXCLUSIVE)

Deals go down at Lumière Fest’s upbeat Classic Film Market

LYON – In a deal involving two key players in the two key markets for classic film, Charles S. Cohen’s New York-based Cohen Media Group has acquired North American rights to eight films from Gallic mini-major Gaumont for release via the Cohen Film Collection.

The agreement is led by five titles from French master Maurice Pialat, including three Cannes competition players, plus Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Married Woman” and Federico Fellini’s “City of Women.”

The deal was closed at the Lyon Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market (MFC), which wrapped Friday in France’s Lyon, by Tim Lanza, VP of Cohen Film Collection, and Virginie Royer, Gaumont international sales manager.

Titles will be released via CMG’s Cohen Film Collection, created by CMG’s acquisition in 2012 of the 700-plus Rohauer Film Collection. Twinned with CMG’s purchase, concluded August, of New York’s four-screen Quad Cinema arthouse, and its upcoming renovation and technical upgrade, the CFC has positioned CMG on the cutting-edge of systematic heritage film restoration, distribution, U.S. exhibition and international sales.

At least one of Quad’s four screens will be devoted to classic film.

The agreement takes in five Pialat features, led by 1987’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner, “Under the Sun of Satan,” with Gerard Depardieu and Sandrine Bonnaire, a quintessential Pialat film combining an apparent naturalism that has drawn comparisons with John Cassavetes and large themes: Faith, good and evil.

Two other famed Pialat titles make the deal: Cannes competition player “Loulou,” a tortured love triangle tale with Isabelle Huppert and Depardieu, and “Van Gogh,” a chronicle of the painter’s last days, also selected for Cannes competition.

Pialat’s third feature, 1974’s terminal illness drama “The Mouth Agape,” and 1979’s withering teen life portrait “Get Your Diploma,” also make the deal. Beyond the fiction features, it takes in 2007’s docu-feature “L’Amour Existe” (Love Exists), narrated by Gerard Depardieu and featuring archival interviews with Pialat. Jean-Pierre Devillers and Anne-Marie Faux direct the portrait that takes its title from Pialat’s breakthrough 1960 short.

“The Festival Lumière has long been a favorite of mine and it is the perfect fit for classic cinema.  I cannot overstate the importance of preserving, restoring and re-releasing classic films to ensure that they are available for generations to come and I’m delighted to bring so many of them to U.S. audiences,” said Charles S. Cohen, chairman-CEO of Cohen Media Group.

“Through our ongoing strategic partnership with Gaumont, we are able to consistently bring critically acclaimed classic films to North American audiences. We are thrilled to add these films to our existing slate of upcoming releases,” Lanza added.

The Gaumont-Cohen Media Group sale was not the only deal to go down or be unveiled at Lumière’s second Classic Film Market.

France’s Argos Films is in “advanced and very enthusiastic negotiations” to sell Alain Resnais’ “Muriel” and a fim of Jean-Daniel Pollet to global Internet film SVOD film service Mubi.

A director whose work “is weirdly divided into chilly, precise art films and low-brow sentimental comedies,” in the words of Mubi critic Dan Sallitt, Pollet is featured in the Argos Films Collection by 1967 poetic meditation “Imagine Robinson,” and 1968 laffer “Love Is Gay, Love Is Sad.”

“I really like Mubi’s principle of a film being available one month and because Mubi approached me mentioning two titles that are very good movies,” said Argos Films CEO Florence Dauman.

“‘Muriel’ is among the very best of Alain Resnais’ films, and the first film which he did on color, and Jean-Daniel Pollet: It’s such a lovely change to talk to people who are in the business but from the point of view of film culture.”

“Muriel” will soon have a restoration with the aid of France’s CNC film board, said Mubi general manager Quentin Carbonell. “Mubi aims to be eclectic, putting forward known classics by great directors and less-known classics by amazing auteurs,” he added.

Tamasa Distribution acquired French rights to Nocturnes Productions’ “Edgar Morin, chronique d’un regard,” a documentary about the French sociologist’s love for cinema, analyzed at a Classic Film Market panel on docu production.

Il Cinema Ritrovato Al Cinema will distribute “Rebel Without a Cause,” restored by the Film Foundation and the Gucci Project, released on around 90 theaters in Italy, playing off its partnership with Italian arthouse chain Cinema Circuito, said Cineteca di Bologna’s Rossana Mordini.

TF1 DA has sold Claude Sautet’s “Classe tous risques,” a gangster thriller with Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo, to Carlotta U.S. French distrubutor Les Acacias has bought John Ford’s “The Sun Shines Bright,” purchased from Universal, and the Cohen Media Group-sourced “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.”

A dedicated market for a classics business that is still niche, but has growth potential and is fast evolving in the last five years, Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market looks like becoming a fixture.

“I’ll certainly be coming back,” said Benjamin Cowley, at South African content owner, distributor and restoration op Gravel Road Ent. Group, who indicated initial talks with sales, distribution and exhibition outlets in France on its slate, led by Gravel Road’s flagship title “Joe Bullet,” which screens Nov. 8 and 13 at New York’s MoMA.

“Deals will come out of the Classic Film Market,” said Liz Mackiewicz, senior VP, international distribution, Cohen Media Group. “It’s extremely helpful to be here. I’ve met buyers whom I’ve corresponded with by email. Even in the age of social media, face-to-face relationships are still extremely important. And it’s very interesting to see how companies are handling films in France, a market where classics films get a lot of theatrical exposure.”

Theatrical was indeed a buzzword at the Classic Film Market, especially when applied to France. Many companies are getting into the theatrical sector, one way or another. Cinémas Gaumont-Pathé opens its five-screen Cinéma les Fauvettes, devoted to only to classic cinema, next spring in Paris.

“Having a multi-screen cinema theater dedicated only to classic films is very exciting,” said Park Circus’ Van Papapoulos.

Previously focusing on DVD/Blu-ray distribution, Gaumont will release theatrically five-to-seven movies a year, probably beginning with its Louis Malle titles. Until recently a private screening theater, Paris’ Club de l’Etoile has recently re-opened to the public, broadcasting heritage films. Carlotta Films is looking to raise the bar, re-releasing “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” on 100 screens Oct. 29.

“We’re releasing more movies in theaters, the big movies from great directors” said Anne-Loure Brénéol at Malavida, which bows “Closely Watched Trains,” with director Jiri Menzel in attendance, in a fortnight.

Several factors are in play. One is the general vibrancy of France’s classic film sector, especially when compared to the rest of Europe. Keys to this are the digitization of film and cinemas, facilitating releases, demand for content and variation of programming, the willingness of companies to restore/digitize content and France’s unique approx. 1,000 park of official arthouse screens, Park Circus’ Papapoulos said.

Since moving into France in early 2013, Park Circus has worked with 15% of them. That suggests considerable growth potential, he added.

Beyond that, the big exhibition loops – Gaumont-Pathé, UGC – are creating dedicated classic film slots in their theaters. Once Upon a Time, a bi-monthly Gaumont-Pathé classic film series presented one night a week by critic Philippe Boyer, allowed “Taxi Driver” to screen at 40 locations in France. The moves may change how classic movies, and what classic movies, are screened in cinemas in France.

“It works extremely well. The audiences are extremely happy. Circuits are allowing for a wider release of films, but for less time,” Papadoulos said of Once Upon a Time.

The initiatives have grown theaters’ demand for classics’ rather than their overall box office, commented François Causse at Cine Sorbonne, confirming he too is moving into theatrical distribution. Especially in demand were classics that can play arthouse and multiplexes, he added. Audrey Hepburn movies, for instance, are very much in demand.

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