‘Heidi’ Punches Bullish B.O., Sales as Studiocanal Readies First German Production Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

Euro film-TV powerhouse releasing five German productions by year-end 2016

Heidi,” Studiocanal’s first flagship family production in Germany, punched through Wednesday a first-six day 215,000 tix sales (€1.75 million: $1.9 million) with previews, as the European film-TV group readies release on its first full-production slate in Germany, Europe’s third biggest movie market.

275,000 sales with Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, first-frame take puts “Heidi,” co-starring Bruno Ganz (“The American Friend,” “The Downfall”), on track to hit three-territory two million admissions, €15 million ($16.5 million) or above in B.O., said Rodolphe Buet, Studiocanal president, intl. distribution/marketing, plus chairman, Germany.

Movie is luring family entertainment audiences and adult demos, as well. “We have to wait for ‘Star Wars’’ impact over the weekend but I don’t think the two films are competing for audiences. We believe ‘Heidi’ will lead the German family film box office through till the end of the year,” Buet added.

Reassuring foreign distributors of its overseas potential, with a sturdy home market first commercial bow, “Heidi” also marks the first film in Studiocanal’s first full production slate under Buet and Isabel Hund, brought in by Buet to head up German productions/acquisitions in 2012. It comes as the studio, Europe’s biggest film producer, plans to release “Heidi” directly in France on around 400-500 screens early Feb. and reports new “Heidi” sales to SPÌ (Eastern Europe), pan-Latin America (Impacto Cine), China (Iqivi, for on demand), Spain (Abordar), Benelux (Studio 100), Hong Kong (Golden Scene), Philippines (Viva) and Indonesia (PT Amero).

Key markets – Italy (Lucky Red), South Korea (Able Enter) and Turkey (Medyavizyon) – were pre-sold by Berlin.

Adding up to 50-plus territory sales to date are Greece (Odeon), Portugal (Cinemundo), Iceland (Myndform), Baltic States (Acme), Israel (Forum), Lebanon/Gulf States (Selim Ramia) and South Africa (Times Media). Nordic states are under negotiation, per Studiocanal.

Directed by Switzerland’s Alain Gsponer, helmer of Daniel Bruhl-starrer “Lila Lila,” the rebooted “Heidi” is still a period piece, but a modern take which rolls off a brand,” Buet said.

It launches as German production’s hallmarks – family fare, comedies – are helping, along with huge U.S. juggernauts, to to give Germany its best annual results in history. By Sept. 30, at €754 million ($829.4 million), total B.O. was 16.7% up vs. same period 2014.

“In Germany, there is a real tradition of family entertainment movies which command good market shares. The FFA and regional authorities really support this genre, its production companies and filmmakers to maintain this know-how in German production,” Buet commented.

“Heidi,” however, also forms part of a larger strategy from Studiocanal to produce movies that appeal to European sensibilities, while having global potential, Buet said. “Our strategy in Germany is very close to Studiocanal’s internationally: Prestige movies, family entertainment, and comedy.”

Family entertainment is a market underserved by European producers. “Heidi” comes after Studiocanal allied on a film-by-film production basis with three of the most powerful family entertainment producers in Europe in terms of their international box office: Aardman, for “Shaun The Sheep Movie,” now “Early Man,” David Heyman, on “Paddington,” and Ben Stassen’s nWave, co-owned by Studiocanal, producer of “Sammy’s Adventures” and “Robinson Crusoe.” Family, prestige pics and comedies dominate German production arm Studiocanal Film’s upcoming releases for 2016:

*Set for Q3/Q4 release, prestige item “Tschick,” from Fatih Akin, one of Germany’s best-known auteurs (“The Edge of Heaven,” “The Cut,”), adapts Wolfgang Herrndorf’s bestselling cult novel, published in 20 territories. Aimed at the 15-30 YA crowd, said Buet, it turns on a 14-year-old misfit who hits the road with a classmate, in a stolen car.

*Also set for a second-half 2016 bow, the true-facts-based comedy “My Blind Date,” is a buddy movie, in ‘The Intouchables’ vein, said Buet, about a young man who is going blind but, with the help of close friends, disguises the fact when working at a top hotel in Munich. Director is Marc Rothemund, helmer of 2005’s Oscar-nominated “Sophie Scholl – the Final Days,” before moving into comedy with the Bernd Eichinger-produced “Pornorama.”

*”Fog in August,” a drama from Kai Wessel (“Die Flucht”) about a young boy who battles to save some young hospital inmates from a Third Reich euthanasia program, which continued weeks after the end of World War II. Munich-based Collina Filmproduktion produces with Studiocanal Film and Vienna-based DOR Film. Ivo Pietzcker (“Jack”) and Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”) co-star. “It’s a very strong moving story, though its charm lightens some moments, filmed by a talented young director and based on true facts but seen through the eyes of the kid,” Buet commented.

* “A charming real family film,” pre-school 3D animated feature “Mullewapp 2,” whose first installment Studiocanal distributed in Germany, will bow April/May, targeting 3-7 tykes.

The four movies come after Studiocanal released no German production in 2014, and just “Heidi” this year. Studiocanal now has five German productions in development, per Buet. It is also pursuing in Germany its global production policy of teaming with top producers, he added, citing in the case of “Heidi” Munich-based Claussen Putz Filmproduktion (“Anatomie”), which already teamed with Hund to produce family film “Vampire Sisters.”

Punching a 13% revenue growth in 2014 and the first nine months of 2015, to €336 million ($369.6 million) Jan.-Sept of this year, per an Enders Analysis note, Studiocanal can also bring muscle to the table to produce movies at the budget required, and guarantee that they get made. Most of “Heidi,” produced out of Switzerland by Zodiak Pictures, was shot on location, partly in the same village of Latsch used in the 1952 movie version. The cabin used was at a height of nearly 6,000 feet . Considerable VFX work was needed to eliminate roofs, change buildings’ facades, remove overhead cable from railways.

Adapting such a brand as “Heidi,” said to be the third most translated book in the world after the Bible and “The Communist Manifesto,” is a tremendous international sales platform. Also, said Buet, “the production values and scope were other reasons we were able to have a large success internationally.”

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