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StudioCanal sets up int’l base

Senior execs set up in London

BERLIN — Following its acquisition of Brit distrib Optimum last year, Studio Canal has taken a big liking to London.

In a surprise move, the company is dispatching some of its senior execs across the English Channel to establish an international base there.

Move involves Frederic Sichler, managing director of international production, acquisitions and development, and Ron Halpern, VP of remakes and international productions.

Sichler and Halpern will move into Optimum’s London offices as of July. Sichler said he expects to spend around three days a week in the U.K.

“All of the Hollywood studios have their international offices in London,” Sichler said. “It makes sense for us to do likewise.” France’s Pathe also runs its international ops out of London, via its Brit arm Pathe U.K.

Back in France, Olivier Courson, Studio Canal’s prexy, is now assuming overall operational responsibility for the company. The topper recently stepped down as Canal Plus’ legal affairs topper.

While seeking out production and acquisition opportunities in London, Sichler will plot Studio Canal’s next European distribution move.

“An objective is to acquire or establish a partnership with a distributor in another major European territory — Germany, Spain or Italy,” Sichler said.

Despite the permanent French presence in London, Optimum’s Will Clarke will continue to call the shots as CEO, Sichler promised.

“My coming to London won’t affect anything on a day-to-day basis,” said Sichler, who was named chairman of the U.K. company when Studio Canal took it over last year.

Since then, Opimum has contributed 10% of Studio Canal’s total revenues. By comparison, the company’s French ops contribute 50%, with other international business making up the remaining 40%.

However, the Brit company is destined to play a bigger role.

“Optimum is as important to us as France,” Sichler said. “It is Studio Canal in the U.K.”

With Studio Canal’s backing, Optimum has started to step up for more mainstream movies.

The acquisition of the Paul Haggis pic “In the Valley of Elah” is the first of what’s likely to be a stream of bigger pickups in the coming months. Studio Canal has said it wants to establish a pan-European distribution network to release big international titles, both acquisitions and Studio Canal titles such as Mathieu Kassovitz’s “Babylon AD,” starring Vin Diesel, which is slated for release in the fall, and Wong Kar-wai’s Norah Jones starrer “My Blueberry Nights.”

A distribution network also is potential exposure for Studio Canal’s French films.

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