Hot Markets Drive Biz

Paul Walker

EuropaCorp, Luc Besson’s Paris-based mini-studio, is becoming ever more a Europe-U.S.Corp, while ramping up biz in China.

The year, moves in Hollywood have come fast: Lisa Ellzey was tapped VP of U.S. motion picture production to drive project development out of Los Angeles; Paul Walker has been attachment to Brick Mansions, the third film in EuropaCorp’s co-production deal with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media; Scarlett Johansson has been cast in Lucy, Luc Besson’s next action movie; the shingle is in talks with Louis Leterrier to helm Sea at War; the shingle’s Kevin Costner starrer Three Days to Kill is shooting at EuropaCorp’s co-owned Cite du Cinema studio in Paris; and the co-production of Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman with Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank is on track.

Now EuropaCorp is unveiling plans to produce Transporter 4, 5 and 6, co-producing all three installments with China’s Fundamental Films, its Chinese distributor.

The Relativity deal, Lucy, Sea and the new Transporter triptych form part of a ramp-up in English-language movie production from three to five a year at EuropaCorp, said its CEO Christophe Lambert, who added that it’s a real challenge.

The English-language movie surge certainly hasn’t come about by chance.

The reality is that, with select notable exceptions, it is becoming far harder to finance, let alone sell, foreign-language films with larger budgets.

EuropaCorp’s stock — it has been listed since 2007 on the Paris stock exchange — has risen quite literally on the back of its English-language production, from $1.55 a year ago to $4.50 on May 18.

EuropaCorp can also bring a lot to the table for Hollywood, Lambert said. Like Summit-Lionsgate and Relativity, it is in the privileged position of holding down distribution output deals in international territories, such as China (with Fundamental Films), Germany (Universum) and Scandinavia (Scanbox), among others. The minimum guarantees yielded by these deals, as well as cash flow that comes from international sales, drives EuropaCorp’s business model, he said.

“Hollywood knows that EuropaCorp knows how to finance a movie. (And) we are well-known for taking young talent to the next level, ” Lambert said

He predicted thesp Dianna Agron’s career will never be the same after Malavita, Luc Besson’s latest movie and first in its Relativity pact, starring Robert De Niro and Michele Pfeiffer and skedded for an Oct. 18 U.S. release.

Making movies out of France, with interiors often shot at the newly opened Cite du Cinema, offering talent profit participation, and tapping tax rebates, EuropaCorp’s movies cost 30%-40% movies less than studio pics while maintaining the highest of production values, Lambert said.

The U.S. remains “EuropaCorp’s alpha market,” said Lambert, with EuropaCorp commiting with foreign distributors to its movies receiving a wide U.S. release. “The U.S. is still 35% of the world market.”

But the Transporter deal with China’s Fundamental adds another twist to EuropaCorp’s expansion.