France’s Carlotta Creates Carlotta Films US (EXCLUSIVE)

U.S. revival distributor bows with Leos Carax’s ‘Mauvais Sang,’ ‘Boy Meets Girl’ and ‘Sidewalk Stories’

MAUVAIS SANG, Lumiere Film Fest

LYON – Paris-based Carlotta Films, one of France’s leading classic film players, is launching a U.S. distribution company, Carlotta Films US.

As in France, the American operation will focus on independent film revivals, working the same distribution outlets – cinema theaters, film festivals, DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and TV – as in France. Creating a French connection in the U.S., U.S. operation will have a strong line in French movie releases or re-issues from the 1970s to 1990s. It will be run by Calantha Mansfield.

Screened at the New York Festival, Carlotta Films US’ first theatrical releases will be restored prints of “Boy Meets Girl” and “Mauvais Sang,” the feature debut and second movie from France’s Leos Carax, who made a critically-feted comeback with 2012’s Cannes Competition player “Holy Motors,” plus Charles Lane’s 1989 U.S. indie modern classic “Sidewalk Stories.”

“Sidewalk” will open Nov. 8 for a one-week run at the Film Forum in New York, “Mauvais Sang” on Nov. 29, said Carlotta partner Vincent Paul-Boncour.

“Boy Meets Girl” will have an early 2014 U.S. release, he added at Lyon’s Lumiere Festival Monday.

Already teaming Carax with a young Denis Lavant, star of “Holy Motors,” “Boy Meets Girl,” which shot in black-in-white already establishes Carax’s poetic persona and focus on relationships, or the lack of them, “Boy Meets Girl,” starring Lavant, Juliette Binoche and Michel Piccoli, his taste for broad allegory, here within a futuristic fantasy framework.

Carlotta acquired U.S. rights to “Boy” and “Sang” from Paris-based sales company Films Distribution at this year’s Cannes Festival. Per Films Distribution’s Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, the two new Carax restorations will be re-released around the world starting September in territories such as Brazil, Korea, Italy, Israel, Taiwan, Spain, Sweden and the CIS.

Paul-Boncour founded Carlotta Films with Jean-Pierre Gardelli in 1998. It has already launched new initiatives to expand its business, creating an in-house VOD platform in 2010 and, more recently, launching an international sales operation.

“Our idea is to handle a small number of titles, normally launch in France and then propose them to other distributors all over the world,” Paul-Boncour said at Lyon’s Lumiere Festival.

Carlotta will not automatically acquire U.S. or U.S. and French rights. One example: Carlotta is handling world sales right on “The Little Fugitive” rights but Kino has DVD rights in the U.S. French rights for the first two Carax titles are already taken.

If it does take U.S. rights to a revival, it will attempt to take all U.S. rights, Paul-Boncour added.

Carlotta’s new U.S. distrib arm reps an attempt to transfer acquired know-how, contacts and supplier confidence to one of the world’s key classic films market. Paul-Boncour names the U.S. along with France and the U.K., as one of the three top classic films market in the world.

Prospects for the U.S. market is sure to be one major debating point at a extensive panel on The New Economy and Business Models of Classic Films, which takes place Wednesday in Lyon, on the first day of the Lumiere Festival’s inaugural Classic Films Market (MFC).

One major challenge for U.S. classic film distribution is now the plunge in DVD and Blu-ray sales.

“The ability to amortize the preservation cost through a DVD or Blu-ray release is becoming less and less likely,” says Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The days where studios or specialty distributors would make a DVD edition with 5,000 to 10,000 copies are over.”

On the upside, however, “the spotlight thrown onto classic films by prestigious international festivals like Cannes or Venice on classics and the digital switchover have energized this industry, especially in the U.S.” Paul-Boncour told Variety.

He went on to cite non-commercial circuit opportunities for distribution created by American universities and film societies, as well as art-house theaters on the East and West coast, notably the Film Forum in New York, programmed by Rialto’s Bruce Goldstein, and the Alamo Drafthouse, which is opening up new theaters in New York and San Francisco.

The U.S. does not suffer France’s distribution crush, which can see three-to-four re-issues every week.

Carlotta Films US can also count on backing from sales agents that have moved into the classic films business.

“We have been working with Vincent [Paul-Boncour] for many years in France,” said Brigaud-Robert.

“His work on classic films is now a reference in Europe. We felt it was natural to accompany him in his new American adventure. We know his dedication to movies and trust his marketing intuitions.”