La Belle et la bete

Pathe’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the bigscreen adaptation of the classic fantasy tale, is proving to be a hit in Italy, where it’s tallied €1.8 million ($2.4 million) in five days for indie distributor Notorious.

Helmed by Christophe Gans, the French-German co-pro toplines high-profile French stars Lea Seydoux (“Blue Is The Warmest Color”) and Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”). Eskwad produced with Pathe, in association with Babelsberg Film.

The $41 million “Beauty” has had a modest run at the French B.O., grossing an estimated $12 million since opening on Feb. 12. In Italy, however, “Beauty” has lured 300,000 moviegoers since its Feb. 27 bow and currently tops the box office.

Pic marks Notorious’ second French-language hit of the year in Italy.  Shingle just scored with Gaumont’s “Belle And Sebastien.”

“The extraordinary result of ‘Beauty’ is as usual a mix of circumstances: It’s a franchise, it’s got starpower, it’s very well produced and like ‘Belle and Sebastien,’ it appeals to a wide demographic and we went after all of them,’ said Notorious’ managing topper Roberto Proia.

Notorious’ results with these two Gallic pics is perceived as a good omen for European sellers, as it will likely inspire other Italo distributors to regain interest in foreign arthouse films. French sales agents have been lamenting that Italy has become, along with Spain and Germany, one of the toughest European territories to break into.

Proia concurs, “Italy is very tough and I believe these back-to-back successes will dramatically help, especially when the production level is on par with U.S. blockbusters.”

Pathe’s international sales team – led by Muriel Sauzay — has sold “Beauty ” in 20 territories. Recent deals include Latin America (California), Japan (Live Viewing), China (E-Stars), Indonesia (PT Amero), South Korea (Sun Distribution), Philippines (Pioneer), Singapore (Shaw), Malaysia (Suraya), Thailand (IPA), Vietman (Sahamongkol/Rainfilm), Middle East (Phars) and Turkey (Bir Films).

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

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