Fast track linkup

Canal Plus, Pathe talk U.K. distrib'n deal

LONDON — Studio Canal Plus has entered exclusive negotiations with Pathe for a long-term theatrical distribution partnership in the U.K.

Canal Plus, which recently took control of Tobis in Germany and Bac Distribution in France, is trying to fast-track its strategy of creating a pan-European distribution network.

It has been mulling a number of options in the U.K., including deals with Alliance Atlantis/Kinowelt, to whom it recently sold a large package of pics, and FilmFour.

But its quest for a partner has now zeroed in on French-owned Pathe Distribution, which has been granted an exclusive negotiating period of five weeks to seal a deal.

Three options

Sources close to the talks, which are being headed by Studio Canal Plus chief Brahim Chioua and Michel Schmidt of Canal Plus Image, say three options are available. “Either we take an equity stake in Pathe Distribution, or we set up a joint venture, or we use Pathe as a traditional distributor for our films,” said the source.

Canal Plus and Pathe go back a fair way. They are partners in C+P, the joint venture to invest in U.S. pics in return for Euro rights, which has a 12-pic output deal with Mandalay Pictures. Those films, including “Sleepy Hollow” and “Enemy at the Gate,” already go through Pathe in the U.K.

But while Canal Plus is now in talks to route all its big U.S. films through Pathe, the company will continue to sell its artsier fare on the open market.

“We will maintain a business where we will finance films against international rights and sell them, territory by territory, to the highest bidder,” said a C Plus exec.