Herbert Kloiber

German exec lauded for being champion of French film for decades

Herbert Kloiber, chairman of Germany’s Tele Munchen Group, has been named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France.

The order goes to one of French cinema’s staunchest supporters. At Berlin, for instance, TMG’s Concorde, also Lionsgate’s Teutonic distributor, has sealed German-speaking territory rights to the Pathe-produced and sold “Sufragette,” with Carey Mulligan. It also pre-bought Pathe’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “La Famille Belier,” from helmer Eric Lartigau (“The Big Picture”) and produced by Vendome’s Philippe Rousselet and Stephane Celerier’s Mars Films, and Rose Bosch’s Gaumont’s ’ “A Summer in Provence,” with Jean Reno.

Concorde releases French hit “Me, Myself and Mum” in the spring.

Multiple film industry figures have become Chevaliers of the Order of Arts and Letters: Kloiber was bestowed with that honor in 1978. The Legion of Honor, an order established by Napoleon in 1802, is rarely won by foreign film figures, and usually given to artists and not businessmen. Steven Spielberg, Satyajit Ray and Charlotte Rampling are some figures whi have been feted with the honor in the past.

The official bestowment, said Kloiber, an Austrian, will take place in Vienna.

French cinema has had few stronger supporters.

Kloiber first dipped his toe in the film business in 1978, buying a French film from Alexandre Mnouchkine’s Les Films Ariane, Ariane Mnouchkine’s “Moliere” a 255-minute biopic.

“We saw it, loved it. Ingmar Bergman came to the opening night in Munich. The film worked. We said: ‘Four hours, 15 minutes. If there are 400,000 Germans who want to see “Moliere,” it must be easy.’ So that’s how we embarked on distribution,” Kloiber recounted, in Berlin to catch “Nymphomaniac,” which Concorde releases Feb. 20.

Kloiber’s early ’80s slate was predominantly French films: Truffaut, Chabrol and Louis Malle.

“Some Germans thought we were sponsored by France’s Ministry of Culture,” Kloiber joked. “Later, in Germany, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ and ‘Delicatessen’ proved huge hits. Even now, of Concorde’s 18-22 title annual release slate, four to five will be from French companies, Kloiber said.

“The number of films seems to go down year after year, but the one or two great findings are monumentally successful.”

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