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Studiocanal Revs Up Production, Including Idris Elba’s Directorial Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

Studiocanal, already Europe’s biggest film and TV producer and distributor, is doubling down on production.

With projects like Idris Elba’s directorial debut “Yardie,” a new adaptation of children’s classic “The Secret Garden” and a film about Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved corgis, the studio expects to have 10 or 11 international English-language movies in production this year, CEO Didier Lupfer told Variety.

The Vivendi-owned powerhouse also plans to produce 40 movies out of France, Germany and Britain by 2018, and 180 hours of TV in 2020, up from the 60 hours that it produced or distributed last year.

“Over the past 18 months, there was a focus on a wave of development. We are going to start seeing the fruits of that right now,” said Ron Halpern, Studiocanal’s executive vice president of international production and acquisitions. He cited the Liam Neeson thriller “Hard Powder” and the new “Radioactive” project, in which Rosamund Pike has just been cast as Marie Curie.

“Royal Dogs: Corgis of the Queen” is an adaptation of “Titus Rules OK,” an illustrated book that tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite corgi pup. The book was written by the late Dick King-Smith, author of “The Sheep-pig,” the basis for the movie “Babe.”

“Royal Dogs” will be a live-action movie with actors but animated dogs, Lupfer said. The screenplay is being written by Mark Burton, whose credits include “Madagascar,” “Gnomeo & Juliet” and “Shaun the Sheep Movie.”

Studiocanal also has two projects in development with British romance novelist Jojo Moyes: movie adaptations of her novel “The Last Letter From Your Lover,” a double love story spanning 40 years, and her humor-laced short story “Paris for One,” about a shy young woman’s solo trip in Paris.

Building on their “Paddington” partnership, Studiocanal and producer David Heyman (“Harry Potter,” “Gravity”) are developing family-friendly fantasy film “The Secret Garden,” from a Jack Thorne adaptation of the classic Edwardian children’s novel.

Elba is making his directorial debut with 1980s cocaine thriller “Yardie” for Warp and Studiocanal U.K. Postwar romantic drama “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” with Lily James, is currently shooting. And production has begun on TV movie “The Child in Time,” produced by and starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Lupfer also unveiled “Balloon,” a German co-production based on the true story of a daring airborne escape from East Germany to the West. “Especially after ‘Heidi,’ which sold 750,000 tickets in France, we know that some German movies can travel,” Lupfer said.

Studiocanal already produces or finances about 50 movies a year. With €416 million ($453 million) in revenue last year, the company can afford to make bigger-budget films that buyers are clamoring for. Unlike many sales agents, Studiocanal still sells on the open market in many territories, which is crucial for independent distributors.

The company has also set its sights on partnering with telecom companies throughout Europe and supplying them with premium content.

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