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Burbank to Berlin

Warners inks with Ufa for German co-prods

In another move by a Hollywood major to boost its commitment to localized production abroad, Warner Bros. has struck a long-term alliance with Germany’s Ufa to co-produce and co-finance local-lingo series and TV movies for that market.

The move by the Warner Bros. Intl. TV Prod. unit is the first-ever foray into foreign-language production for the U.S. studio.

It follows similar efforts in local-lingo TV production by Sony in Germany, Spain and Italy.

Through the new alliance, WBITP and Ufa’s year-old international film and TV production division will produce German-lingo TV series and TV movies specifically for the Teutonic territory.

Following U.S. system

In a structure similar to the traditional U.S. network system, these projects will be licensed to the commissioning German broadcaster for a set number of runs. Warners and Ufa will retain domestic second-cycle rights in Germany as well as international distribution rights, including the U.S.

Warners Bros. Intl. TV Distribution will handle the sales outside Germany.

The arrangement was worked out by WBITP senior VP Catherine Malatesta and WBIT prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger on behalf of the studio, and by Konstantin Thoeren and Wolf Bauer, co-presidents of Ufa Intl. Film & TV Prod.

WBITP and Ufa have committed substantial resources to cover development, production and overhead costs, which include dedicated personnel based in Berlin and Burbank, Calif. The parties would not discuss specific figures.

Building on pact

Bauer told Daily Variety that the alliance builds upon the current development pact between the two parties that has already resulted in several jointly produced English-lingo programs.

These include the telepic “Terror in the Mall,” which has aired on Fox and will be broadcast soon on Germany’s RTL, as well as the action series “Code Name: Eternity,” which is in post-production in Toronto.

“Local production has really been boosted in Germany in the last few years,” Bauer said. “But no local broadcaster alone can afford to make high-end event programming.” That’s where the deal with Warners come in, he explained.

Several current MOW projects being readied by the two partners will be folded into the new alliance, including the psychothriller “A Deadly Weekend” (for ARD) and actioner “Last Minute Kasbah” (for RTL).

“We are taking over part of the financing risk in exchange for the revenues generated from second-cycle and worldwide exploitation,” Bauer added. He also pointed out that the quality of local Teutonic production has risen exponentially over the past decade and now has export potential.

Malatesta said that the relationship with Ufa in Germany is just the beginning of her studio’s foray into local-lingo production in Europe. She said Warners is currently negotiating a similar deal in France.