Polygram a go in Gaul

Audiovisuel prexy sez group is committed to French prod'n

CANNES — The future of Polygram’s film production may have a question mark hanging over it, but the group’s French arm is continuing to back Gallic projects.

Despite the shock of last week’s announcement that Philips is considering disposing of Polygram, Jose Cove, president of Paris-based Polygram Audiovisuel, says he is still committed to French production.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has reported that Forstmann, Little and Thomas H. Lee Co., two of the largest lever-aged buyout funds in the U.S., are considering submitting a bid. The two firms have submitted leters to Philips Electronics, although the letters reportedly do not mention Michael Ovitz, the executive who brought the two parties together. If the two submit a bid, it could prompt a bidding war and cause the selling price to escalate well beyond its market value of $9 billion.

Polygram normally backs around six French pics per year, which are released in France via the group’s French distribution arm. Polygram Audiovisuel has a first-look deal with Epithete Production, which produced “Ridicule” and has a development deal with Frederique Dumas’ Noe Prods.

That second agreement is about to bring out Nicolas Boukhrief’s Mathieu Kassovitz-starrer “Le Plaisir et ses Petits Tracas,” which is set to be released in August.

Slated to start shooting Friday (May 15) is “Je Regle mon pas sur les pas de mon Pere,” which is the feature directing debut of “Ridicule” scripter Remi Waterhouse. The pic is being produced by Epithete and is being sold internationally by Flach/Pyramide Intl.

Covo tells Variety that he can commit to one bigger-budget pic — more than $10 million — per year. The next film to fall into this category is Philippe Muyl’s Middle Ages adventure “Le Faucon Blanc” (working title), starring Vincent Perez and Claude Rich. It’s budgeted at around $13 million and set to begin shooting in late July or early August. Pic is being sold internationally by TF1 Intl.

Another bigger-budget project on Covo’s list is Patrice Leconte’s “La Veuve de St. Pierre,” which is provisionally priced at around $17 million, stars Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil and which should lense in March 1999, with Epithete producing.

Polygram’s in-house producer Philippe Godeau is prepping Jean-Pierre Ameris’ “Mauvaises Frequentations” (working title), which lenses in July. The pic tells the true tale of two young teenage girls who fall for a pair of older boys. They dream about vacationing in Jamaica, but the boys can only think of raising the price of the plane tickets by getting the girls to share their “favors” with the local youth population. It proves to be more complicated.

While Covo wouldn’t go into details, he confirmed that he is looking to co-produce English-language projects “with producers who have already worked with Polygram in Britain. We’re not talking about American projects; the films have to be European to allow me to access the French CNC funding system.”