Wild Bunch adds punch

Shingle plans pan-Euro expansion

CANNES — France’s Wild Bunch has inked with new equity partners and several production funds to finance ambitious plans for pan-European expansion.

The company said Thursday that it has access to almost double the $20 million target it set itself a year ago via the sale of minority stakes to U.S. investment firm Daedalus Media Partners, making its first foray into the French film biz, and to France’s Iris Capital and via production funds it that it can potentially tap, including one with Daedalus.

The financing will allow Wild Bunch to evolve from an international sales outfit dealing with predominantly arthouse pics to bigger budget films and set up its own theatrical distribution network in Europe.

It’s an ambition that the Wild Bunch team has nurtured since exiting StudioCanal last year. Prexy Vincent Grimond was the driving force behind plans to turn StudioCanal into a fully fledged European major — a project shelved after the Vivendi Universal merger in 2000. As part of the merger, Grimond was transferred to a senior position at Universal.

“We are convinced that there is a market for and money to be made from the creation of a pan-European entity,” Grimond told Variety. “Today no one else is doing it and there is an opportunity to be seized.”

The new coin has already enabled Wild Bunch to get a foothold in video with the recent acquisition of former Bac Majestic subsids Wild Side Films and Wild Side Video. The company plans to launch a French theatrical distribution operation by the end of this year, closely followed by Spain or Italy.

For Daedalus Media, the stake in Wild Bunch adds a European sales and distribution component to its investments in movie production.

Said Daedalus Media Partners’ managing partner Mark Kimsey: “This is a strategic relationship that will allow us to potentially own larger pieces of the films we are doing and brings us new financing options.

“The market in America is dominated by a handful of major players, but Europe is a much more open field where there is a great deal of room for growth.”