Paddington Bear

French studio also ups the ante on producing family film production

Europe’s biggest movie financier-producer Studiocanal, galvanized by “Paddington’s” $200 million-plus to-date box office worldwide, the highest gross ever for an family film released by a non-U.S. studio, looks set to drive even more into filmed family entertainment.

Studio canal chairman-CEO Olivier Courson said that it’s in talks with “Paddington” producer David Heyman for a sequel.

“Paddington” was financed, distributed and sold by Studiocanal. The film is scheduled to open in  China next month and has a 2016 date for Japan. It should cross at least $250 million in global box office, “the level of a significant success for a family movie,” Courson said.

“We have to be selective, work with strong brands, top talent, take the time we need,” Courson said. But, “obviously, the result on ‘Paddington’ is a strong incentive to us and the partners on the movie to work on a sequel, and a strong incentive for Studiocanal to continue in this area (of ambitious family movies),” Courson said.

He added: ” ‘Paddington’ has been our biggest bet. Even the development costs, such as creating the bear, were significant. But it shows we can be ambitious in this area of family entertainment, even if it brings us into more direct competition with U.S. studios.”

With its first big bet under its belt, Studiocanal could now contemplate “one or two” big family audience plays a year, Courson added.

Studiocanal’s family entertainment drive comes as “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” Studiocanal’s first movie with Brit animation champs Aardman, bowed Friday in the U.K., its first major territory theatrical run after its Sundance Fest premiere.

And, sold at Berlin’s European Film Market, Ben Stassen’s 3D toon feature “Robinson Crusoe,” the latest fruit of an alliance between Stassen’s nWave Pictures and Studiocanal, which has bought into the Belgian company, is garnering enthusiastic reactions from international distributors.

Studiocanal’s strategy “is to have strong brands –‘Paddington,’ ‘Shaun the Sheep,’ ‘Robinson Crusoe’ – and then find a new way in to tell the story,” Courson said.

Studiocanal’s family push is of large importance for international markets. Though Studiocanal distributes its own films in the U.K., Germany, France and Australia/New Zealand, it sells the titles on the open market to other territories, including the U.S.

With “Paddington” budgeted at $55 million, making it the company’s biggest film ever, Studiocanal’s future family fare, like its genre action-thrillers, such as the upcoming Sean Penn/Javier Bardem starrer “The Gunman,” looks set to count among the biggest films offered to international distributors.

The challenge for big Euro marquee draws has always been the cost of U.S p&a. Studiocanal can, however, fully finance its productions, even at the level of “Non Stop” and “Paddington.” Given that, Courson signaled that, on certain types of movies like action-thrillers, in order to maximize the upside, he might be willing to waive a U.S. distribution minimum guarantee if the distributor puts up the p&a.

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