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Paramount joins race for Gallic pics

Flurry of French co-productions in works

PARIS — France hasn’t exactly laid out a welcome mat, but the Hollywood majors are greedily eyeing Gallic cinema’s growing box office share — and they are determined to own a piece of it.

A flurry of co-productions are in the works involving Warner Bros., Buena Vista France and Fox, while Columbia and Paramount are in hot pursuit of suitable projects.

Par recently announced the appointment of French acquisitions exec Karen Adler, who will study scripts with a view to boarding three to five Gallic pics a year.

“We are looking at everything from big-budget comedies to small films,” Adler says. “There’s no fixed budget, just the objective to be profitable.”

As a newcomer, Paramount will have some catching up to do before it reaches the 33 million Gallic admissions Warner Bros. has garnered in more than a decade of co-producing French films.

Its biggest hit was France’s box office topper last year, “Les Bronzes 3: Friends Forever,” which notched some 10.5 million admissions.

Buena Vista came close to achieving the same distinction this year, but in a decision that bosses must be bitterly regretting, the major opted not to board the Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose.” Pic’s 5 million admissions went instead to TFM, Gallic broadcaster TF1’s distribution subsid.

Still, BVI has high hopes for its year-end Gallic release “The Fox and the Child,” helmer Luc Jacquet’s follow-up to “March of the Penguins.”

It will also release “Le premier cri,” a docu about birth in different parts of the world, and has other projects cooking via its Paris-based docu shingle Disney Nature.

Despite clashing with French authorities over Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement” — the Warners-backed film was deemed ineligible for French aid — Warners is still a key player in the Gallic arena.

It has a remake of Claude Autant-Lara’s “L’Auberge rouge,” featuring three of the “Les Bronzes” talents, plus “La jeune fille et les loups” (The Young Girl and the Wolves), a costumer with Laeticia Casta, Stefano Accorsi and Jean-Paul Rouve, directed by Gilles Legrand; and “Chapeau de roue,” a road movie directed by Tonie Marshall with Nathalie Baye and Edouard Baer.

Fox will make its Gallic cinema bow May 23 with Gael Morel’s “Apres lui,” starring Catherine Deneuve as a grieving mother who gets dangerously close to her dead son’s friend. Pic is slated to unspool May 22 in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.

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