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After Movies gets Medialab

Canal, NOB sell off animation service

PARIS — French pay TV group Canal Plus and Dutch audiovisual services company NOB have sold off their animation services joint venture Medialab to Paris-based services group After Movies.

The deal, which will be officially announced in Paris on Thursday, involves Canal Plus keeping two feature film projects developed by Medialab and Canadian toonsters Cine-Groupe.

Just how much After Movies paid for Medialab, which had a hit in North America and Europe with its 3-D TV series “Donkey Kong Country,” is not known, although sources said Canal Plus had to assume considerable debts before the agreement was finalized.

Under chairman Jose Clipet, After Movies is building itself up as a powerful services company, handling digital post-production, video clips and special effects, as well as offering studio facilities and playing host to several digital TV channels.

“What is important for us, as a European film and television studio, is to have a strong local services industry near at hand, which is why it made sense to sell Medialab to After Movies,” noted Vincent Grimond, exec vp in charge of Canal Plus’ subsidiaries division.

Medialab was set up in 1990 and acquired by Canal Plus in 1993. Observers say the company ran into trouble by mixing the role of animation producer with services provider. Grimond split the company in two in the late 1990s, separating production and services.

“What we have done is to close down production and sell off the services business,” he told Daily Variety.

Canal Plus’ Ellipse group, which includes animation production company Ellipsanime, is retaining rights to two animated feature projects, “SphinxCom” and “Pinocchio 3001.”

With 1998 revenues in the region of 60 million francs ($9.6 million), Medialab is expected to break even this year and turn a profit in 2000, according to Clipet.

“We’ll be concentrating on Medialab’s core activities which are special effects for film and television, real-time animation and 3-D animation,” he said.