StudioCanal will still float

'We simply don't make the same products,' Grimond sez

PARIS — StudioCanal chief Vincent Grimond has vehemently defended the role of Canal Plus’ production and distribution subsidiary, saying that it and Universal would “remain two distinct companies.”

In his first public pronouncements on the expected Vivendi/Seagram deal, Grimond said it would be “suicidal to ignore” the “profound differences” in the way the two operate.

“We simply don’t make the same products,” he told Tuesday’s Le Monde. “Not one of our big successes would have made it (into production there),” he emphasized.

“The studio is founded on vertical structures defined by national and cultural areas, while the structure of an American major is horizontal and envisages the world as an integrated market,” he added.

The fate of StudioCanal, which was floated on the stock market earlier this year, is one of the big question marks hanging over the Vivendi/Seagram deal. Many believe the purchase of Universal robs the fledgling European studio of its raison d’etre.

Financial independence

But Grimond argued that the stock market flotation, which raised 200 million euros ($191 million), had made StudioCanal an autonomous structure that depended “neither on Canal Plus nor on Vivendi nor on an eventual evolution like today’s.”

In terms of their respective distribution networks, Grimond said, neither one nor the other would give up existing structures in the short term. “For now, Universal is staying with UIP, which works well for their kind of films, even if an evolution is possible in the long term,” he said.

“We’ll continue to distribute our own films, which doesn’t rule out, for certain films, calling on their strength of intervention … film by film.”

American muscle

Grimond sees advantages to having access to the U.S. distribution network.

“There’s no question of releasing all of StudioCanal’s films at 2,000 cinemas in the U.S., but it is advantageous that from now on, I can use the powerful distribution of a major in the U.S.”

The strengthening of Canal Plus is “an opportunity for us insofar as we do not change our orientation. For those like Luc Besson, who want to try their hand at a more American approach to the cinema, it is clear that we will be able to facilitate the future for them.”

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