Viv U backs Besson

Conglom buys into TV deals, post facilities

PARIS — Vivendi Universal and Luc Besson have signed a two-pronged partnership covering pay TV rights to films produced by Besson’s Europa and sponsorship of state-of-the-art post-production facilities he is building.

Announcing the “commercial deal” to journalists Wednesday in Paris, Vivendi U chairman-CEO Jean-Marie Messier, flanked by Besson, his partner Pierre Ange Le Pogam, Canal Plus Group chair Pierre Lescure and all of the conglom’s top brass, refused to say how much Vivendi was investing in the twin enterprises. But the TV deal gives French channel Canal Plus pay TV rights to the next 10 movies produced by Besson’s Europa, as well as a first look at other movies the company may make over the next three years.

Posting priority

Vivendi Universal’s film and music operations will have “priority access,” after Europa, to the new post-production facilities it is helping to finance at Besson’s Digital Factory, which opened in 1998.

The new mixing and post studio, added on to two existing studios in a 17th-century chateau Besson owns in Normandy, will be the best in Europe, Messier boasted.

That France’s most prominent indie filmmaker has teamed up with Vivendi U is expected to raise a few eyebrows in France, where the conglom is viewed with suspicion by many in the film industry.

Indeed, Messier was pleased to point out that the deal “shows that a talented independent like Besson can associate himself with a big group like Vivendi Universal.”

People factor

Besson told Daily Variety: “Whatever the size of the company, it’s more to do with the people and the decisions they take.”

The filmmaker said that over the past 10 years, Canal Plus, as the biggest single investor in Gallic pics, had saved French cinema.

Among upcoming Europa pics included in the Canal Plus deal are “Taxi 3,” “Fanfan la Tulipe,” “Michel Vaillant,” “The Transporter,” “Special Police,” “Le Bonheur ne coute rien,” the animated films “Arthur” and “Ektor” and an unspecified Besson-helmed project.

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