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Wild Bunch readies for Euro ride

Co. negotiating acquisition of distrib Manga Films

Ambitious indie Wild Bunch is poised to begin European expansion.

Paris-based international sales specialist got into French theatrical last year by taking a majority stake in indie Pan Europeene Edition.

The next piece in the puzzle is expected to be the acquisition of Spanish distrib Manga Films, with which it is in negotiations.

Wild Bunch’s long-term strategy is to create a European distribution network, as outlined recently by topper Vincent Grimond at a conference in Berlin.

Grimond tried to pull off the same thing when he headed StudioCanal. But that went belly up shortly after the Vivendi Universal merger in 2000.

With the money to match its ambitions following an injection of cash from new equity investors last year, Wild Bunch has been looking for an opening in Spain for at least two years. Manga, one of the country’s top three indies, is a good fit.

The company, headed by Luis de Val, goes in for quality mainstream fare — such as “Gangs of New York” and the upcoming “A Prairie Home Companion” — and also for genre pics with DVD potential, such as Pierce Brosnan kidnap pic “Butterfly on a Wheel” and Thai martial arts hit “Tom-Yum-Goong.”Manga has been looking for an equity partner for years.

In France, Pan Europeene has a similar profile, although in terms of international sales, Wild Bunch’s lineup tends to be wider and more eclectic, from docu hits “March of the Penguins” and Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” to Vincent Gallo’s Cannes-panned “The Brown Bunny.”

After Spain, where will Wild Bunch plant its next pawn? Speculation is centering on the U.K.