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Constantin pops into zitpix

Teutonic producer scoring with teen comedies

Teutonic producer Constantin has been making its marks with local pics.

In the past year, Constantin’s top four films have all been German. And current box office hit, “Der Schuh des Manitu,” has outdone most of the summer blockbusters, including “Tomb Raider,” “Shrek” and “Cats & Dogs.”

All in all, the company has garnered a 9.4% box office share since the year began, placing it third behind UIP and Buena Vista in the German market.

Constantin studied the German market, discovered an underserved audience and has subsequently collected boffo biz from Teutonic teen comedies — and that much-anticipated genre, the Bavarian Western.

“We noticed around three years ago that there was too little being made for 12- to 18-year-olds, especially local product,” says Constantin topper Bernd Eichinger, whose international production credits include “In the Name of the Rose” and “The Neverending Story.”

Constantin’s “Ants in the Pants” hailed the arrival of the German zitpic, hitting screens in March 2000 to some of the best B.O. figures this side of “Run Lola Run.”

That success was matched by a string of German-lingo youth-skewed fare including “The Bunnyguards,” “Emil & the Detectives” and “No More School.” Teen sex comedy “Girls on Top” and teen drama “Crazy” both brought in the crowds.

“People like to see international films, but they are hungry for local product, and if you see a hit subject, you can have a lot of success,” Eichinger says.

Constantin has three more comedies aimed at younger auds in the pipeline as well as a sequel to “The Bunnyguards.” And Eichinger doesn’t rule out a sequel to “Der Schuh des Manitu.”

Constantin has been a stalwart among German film companies for more than two decades, and is active in distribution and exhibition as well as production. Going public in the fall of 1999, the company struck deals with U.S. firms including Propaganda Films, Key Entertainment and Impact Pictures on the heels of its IPO.

Eichinger says the deals were not a step away from its local focus.

“Where the IPO coin came in was in buying some companies and developing our infrastructure,” he says. “It’s one thing to develop, but another to produce, so we needed a bigger infrastructure.”

Indeed, buying into production companies like Engram Pictures has proved beneficial in bringing in even more local product, such as the upcoming “Faust & Mephisto” from Rainer Matsutani.

Constantin also holds a 51% stake in Olga Films, which produced “Girls on Top.”

Meanwhile, Constantin’s international production pacts have resulted in key product such as the Milla Jovovich starrer “Resident Evil,” which has been sold to Sony for the U.S., and “Slap Her She’s French” with Key Entertainment. “Girls on Top” was a re-make of the Key Entertainment pic “Coming Soon.”

Eichinger decided to step down from the Constantin board earlier this year to focus on production. Projects include developing the script based on the Patrick Susskind novel “Perfume” and an animated version of music-driven fantasy “Rhine Gold.”

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