Back in ‘Bronze’

Warner resurrects '70s Gallic franchise

The mega-budget comedy sequel “Les Bronzes 3” (Friends Forever), Warner Bros. France’s next big Gallic release, has begun shooting in the Aga Khan’s luxury Sicilian resort Porto Cervo.

The e35 million ($44 million) laffer was written by and stars a posse of Gallic comedians including Thierry Lhermitte, Gerard Jugnot, Michel Blanc and Josiane Balasko, and is helmed by Patrice Leconte.

Team were the original talents behind “Les Bronzes” and “Les Bronzes Font du Ski,” two cult pics from the 1970s that still break ratings records whenever they are aired on French television.

The first “Bronzes,” which followed the antics of a group of young people in a Club Med resort, notched up 2.5 million admissions. The second pic, set in an Alpine ski resort, was another hit but came in at under the 2 million admission mark.

New project produced by Christian Fechner drew frenzied competition between rival distribbers and France’s pay TV operators, before Warner Bros France and TPS finally nabbed it. There has been uproar in the Gallic film biz over TPS allegedly paying up to $12.6 million for the pay TV rights — nearly a third of its annual spend on French film acquisitions. TF1 has terrestrial rights.

Optimism is high in Gaul that the new Bronzes pic will be huge. Practically unknown two and a half decades ago, the talents associated with it are now big names in France.

But they are also all a quarter of a century older — and look a lot less attractive in swimsuits.

Will the pic excite the appetites of foreign distribbers? In Cannes international seller Roissy Films has shown the script to a handful of buyers from key European territories, while modestly notching up a first pre-sale to Greece’s Rosebud. Several Chinese distribbers are showing keen interest, Roissy’s Raphael Berdugo said Tuesday. In most territories distribbers will be waiting to see the finished film, as they usually do with Gallic fare.

“This film will sell to the distributors of films by Francis Veber and other commercial French comedies,” said Berdugo.

In Cannes, Roissy has notched up a dozen or so deals on Vincent de Brus’ “Entente Cordiale,” a purely French spy comedy set in London and Paris and starring Daniel Auteuil, Jacques Villeret, John Cleese and Jennifer Saunders. Pic was produced by Fechner and will be released in Gaul in October by Warner Bros France.

Roissy is also handling de Brus’ previous film, “The Antidote,” another Fechner/Warner Bros France pic that has sold to Italy.

Unusually, Chinese distribbers have picked up both de Brus comedies and the $15 million “Never Say Never” a romantic comedy costumer starring Gerard Jugnot and Jean Dujardin, of “Brice de Nice” fame. Pic was produced by Manuel Munz.

“The Chinese seem to have the same sense of humor as the French,” suggested Berdugo. Another Gallic comedy, “Double Zero,” has made $1 million in China since it was released on 100 screens mid March.

Roissy has two officially selected titles on its slate, Jan Kounen’s out of competition docu “Darshan: The Embrace” and the Un Certain Regard title “Marock,” a Romeo and Juliette style star-crossed love story between a Muslim girl and a Jewish boy set in a wealthy Casablanca neighborhood.