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EuropaCorp in Early Talks to Acquire Millennium

Gallic shingle is looking to ramp up its presence on the U.S. market

EuropaCorp, the Paris-based powerhouse topped by Luc Besson and Christophe Lambert, is in early negotiations to acquire Avi Lerner’s distribution banner Millennium Entertainment.

Millennium Entertainment, the sales division of Nu Image/Millennium Films that is run by Bill Lee, has been up for grabs since April. Lerner hired Salem Partners in the run up to Cannes to start shopping the company.

Lerner’s Nu Image currently owns 60% of the company, while Exclusive Media  and hedge fund Prentice Capital owns 20% each.

“We’re not yet ready to walk the altar with Millennium Entertainment: We’re still in early negotiations and it’s not the only U.S. company we’re interested in,” Lambert told Variety. “We’ve been looking to forge an alliance with a U.S. company to keep a better handle on the distribution of our films in the States.”

Added Lambert, “Millennium Entertainment could be a good strategic partner for us because it’s a very modern company that has ties with key digital players and we think it’s capable of handling mainstream releases.”

Millennium has pacts with Netflix and iTunes, among other media outlets, and it boasts a library comprising about 600 films. Its recent releases include James Franco’s Cannes-preeming “As I Lay Dying.” It will distribute “Charlie Countryman” with Shia LaBeouf on Nov. 15.

EuropaCorp signed co-production/co-financing deal with Relativity Media in May 2012. The three-picture deal covered “The Family,” Besson’s crime thriller toplining Robert de Niro, McG’s “Three Days to Kill” with Kevin Costner and “Brick Mansion” starring Paul Walker.

One of France’s top film majors, EuropaCorp is the production/distribution/sales company behind such international blockbuster franchises as Liam-Neeson starrer “Taken” and “Taken 2” ($603 million worldwide) and the “Transporter” trilogy ($238 million worldwide). Founded by Besson, EuropaCorp is also a shareholder in La Cite du Cinema mega-studio located on the outskirts of Paris. Two of shingle’s latest English-language productions – “The Family” and “Three Days to Kill” — lensed there. The outfit posted a record €19.6 million ($26.6 million) net profit with a robust 16.3% in operating profit margin for 2012-13.

The French company’s 2014’s slate comprises Scarlett Johansson starrer “Lucy,” as well as “Taken 3″ (set to begin production in February) and a new “Transporter” trilogy co-produced with China’s Fundamental Films. Its co-production roaster includes Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman” with Meryl Streep. Under Lambert’s leadership since July 2010, EuropaCorp has been looking to ramp up its presence in the U.S., which Lambert describes as “EuropaCorp’s alpha market.” Last year, the Gallic major set up an L.A.-based movie studio and tapped vet Hollywood producer Lisa Ellzey to run U.S. film production with the aim to produce three to four English-language films per year.

Deadline.com first reported the rumors of talks.

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