WB pals up with Pathe in U.K.

Pact to begin on April 13

LONDON — Warner Bros.’ U.K. arm has inked a strategic alliance with Pathe that will see WB distribute all of the French major’s films in the U.K. and Ireland as well as work together on English language co-productions.

Pact, which starts April 13, means that Pathe has effectively pulled out of U.K. distribution to focus on its desire to become a production powerhouse in the wake of its Academy award-winning triumph with “Slumdog Millionaire,” which it co-produced.

Pathe inked a five-year development, production and sales pact with “Slumdog Millionaire” producer Christian Colson’s new shingle Cloud Nine Films on Monday.

Pathe’s U.K. division aims to produce four or five English-language features a year in addition to its French language productions. Its U.K. office will continue to devise the marketing campaigns for the titles, which WB will release.

“To address the challenges of a rapidly evolving digital world, we felt the most rational response was to develop an alliance with a U.S. studio,” said Pathe exec VP Francois Ivernel and Pathe U.K. managing director Cameron McCracken.

“By our continuing management of the whole filmmaking process from development, through production to the marketing of our films, we will continue to provide a bespoke service to filmmakers whilst also allowing them to benefit from studio backing.”

The Pathe-WB deal will not affect Pathe’s distribution and production in France or the Gallic company’s home vid distribution deal with Fox in the U.K.

Pathe will also continue to operate its international sales arm for both its own productions and third party titles.

Pathe and WB have already teamed up to co-produce a $50 million live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale “The Jungle Book.” The test shoot, directed by John Downer, is in post-production.

Stephen Frears’ “Cheri,” starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend, will be the first former Pathe title to be released under the Warner Bros. banner in the U.K. and Ireland.

It is believed that Pathe execs initiated the conversation with WB about the studio taking over its distribution.

“We didn’t need any convincing about the benefits of the relationship though,” Josh Berger, prexy and managing director of Warner Bros U.K. told Daily Variety. He said the financing model for future co-productions will vary from project to project.

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