You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Pathe accents opportunity

Seydoux touts globalization, classic film, state-of-the-art cinemas

When Jerome Seydoux, the scion of the Seydoux-Schlumberger industrial empire, bought Pathe in 1990, he helped not only to modernize Europe’s oldest film company, but also to internationalize France’s movie business by setting up a U.K. office and producing mainstream, bigger budget and English language fare such as “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Founded in 1896, Pathe recorded $1.2 billion in revenues in 2011, and distributes pics in France and via Fox in the U.K. Seydoux also helped revamp French cinemas, leading its multiplex revolution, and helping French movies’ market share hit 35%-45% in a $1.3 billion market.

From his sunlit office at Pathe’s Paris H.Q., just off the Champs Elysees, Seydoux, 78, a man of aristocratic mien, charm and discretion, talked to John Hopewell and Elsa Keslassy about Pathe’s possibilities for expansion, the rise of premium theaters, Pathe’s future with Danny Boyle and the importance of not being “too French.”

Q: Pathe Intl., your overseas sales operation, is at Berlin selling not only new French-language films from Dany Boon, Sylvain Chomet and Christophe Gans, but also movies in English: “Zulu,” with Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker; Stephen Frears’ “Philomena”; Denis Villeneuve’s “An Enemy.” Are you looking to make more films in English?

JS: For me, it’s quite simple. You have Hollywood, and I don’t think we can compete with Hollywood. Then the French market: Hollywood can try to compete with us there, but we’re pretty solid. Then, you have mostly English-speaking movies not from Hollywood, which Pathe can make out of London and from time to time Paris. English-language movies do travel better than French-language movies. If you look just at Europe, that’s a fact. We’re a French company. But it’s important for us to remain international, and not to be too French.

Q: So, you’ll be increasing your English-language movies?

JS: Yes, I think we should try to move more in that direction, probably making two or three English-language movies per year, perhaps a bit more. Not all French directors can shoot in English, however, though we do have “Zulu,” by a very talented French director, Jerome Salle.

Q: What budget ranges are you looking at for English-language films?

JS: We won’t make $100 million movies. Hollywood does that much better. But you don’t make movies because of their budgets, you make movies because you believe in them. Setting limits doesn’t matter to me.

Q: You’ve produced two of the three highest-grossing French movies in France since 2011: Dany Boon’s “Nothing to Declare” ($69.2 million) and “Houba! On the Trail of the Marsupilami” ($45 million). What do box office results suggest about audience trends?

JS: Audiences are getting a little bit older. But that’s true in the U.S. and in Europe. Populations are aging.

Q: Are audiences also getting more sophisticated?

JS: To some extent, yes. But I think you should never forget that cinema is entertainment.

Q: With 740 screens, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathe is France’s biggest theater chain. Pathe also owns cinemas in Holland and Switzerland. You’ve said the company is ready to invest in chains in other countries if the opportunity is there. Is it?

JS: If we bought another company, we’d buy most logically in Europe, a complementary company with high exhibition standards in another country.

Q: Have you identified territories?

JS: We have some ideas.

Q: On Jan. 15, Francois Ivernel, Cinemas Gaumont Pathe’s CEO, presented Pathe Plus, Pathe’s new generation of high-comfort, high-tech theaters, with the debut of Paris’ 3D Pathe Wepler. The theater has two 4K projectors, 48-image High Frame Rate capability, Dolby Atmos and 108 premium seats. Do you see cinemagoing as a premium entertainment?

JS: Yes, I believe strongly that in order to compete against VOD, the Internet — any competition — exhibition has to achieve higher standards, more comfort in everything.

Q: Do you see Europe’s first-phase multiplexes, built in the late 1980s, as dated?

JS: Cinema is haute couture or, if that’s a little too ambitious, at least it should approach (that standard). Pathe Plus is just part of the business. We have to improve all our cinemas. In France, we’re not looking to open many more screens, but rather to raise the standards of our current cinemas.

Q: To what extent is exhibition key in driving profits?

JS: Exhibition is certainly the safest part of the cinema business, but it’s very capital intensive.

Q: Regarding production, in late 2009, Pathe and Fox Searchlight announced a three-year deal to co-produce Danny Boyle’s projects. Will Pathe be renewing?

JS: The deal is still running, but I hope we’ll renew. I like him very much. He has a new movie, “Trance,” out this year, shot before the Olympic Games and edited afterwards.

Q: Is continuing relationships important for you, or developing them via, say, the English-language debut of a French director?

JS: That’s the idea: To keep working with the same talent. It works for us, in both London and Paris, to be faithful, and talent has also been faithful to us. We like it that way.

Q: EuropaCorp has entered TV production, and Gaumont has bowed an international TV division in Los Angeles. Will Pathe be moving into that arena?

JS: Everybody’s going into TV. But Pathe won’t. We’ll focus on cinema.

Q: Last October, Pathe announced it would restore and digitize 100 Pathe catalog titles, and you showed a magnificently restored print of 1934’s “Les Miserables” at Lyon’s Lumiere Festival.

JS: Restoration is to some extent part of the digital age. These days, if you re-issue a movie in theaters or on Blu-ray, it has to be in high-quality condition: You have to restore. We plan a Paris cinema theater dedicated totally to classics. If we think there’s an audience, we will release classics in theaters, as we did for “Tess.” People will discover that it’s worth going to the cinema to see great movies of the past in perfect condition. I believe a lot in that.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • David Goodman

    WGA West's David Goodman on Agency Strategy: 'We'll Start Meeting as Soon as Possible'

    David Goodman, who was resoundingly re-elected president of the Writers Guild of America West on Monday, said the guild plans to meet with several talent agencies soon in an effort to ease the impasse over packaging fees and affiliated production. “Many agencies had indicated that they wanted to wait to see the results of the [...]

  • Australian Outback

    Legend Media Seeks Trio of West Australia-China Co-Productions (EXCLUSIVE)

    Perth, Australia-based production company Legend Media is preparing a slate of three feature films to be produced with partners in China. The company styles itself as one that recognizes the opportunities for Asian engagement that have fallen to Australia, through geography, trade and culture. The company aims to make use of the bilateral film co-production [...]

  • David Goodman

    David Goodman Re-Elected President of Writers Guild of America West

    David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents. Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA [...]

  • Issa Rae Portrait

    Issa Rae Developing Re-Imagining of Crime Thriller 'Set It Off'

    “Insecure” star and co-creator Issa Rae is in early development on a re-imagining of New Line’s crime thriller “Set If Off,” which starred Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica Fox and Kimberly Elise. Rae will produce with plans to star in the project. Syreeta Singleton and Nina Gloster have been hired to pen the script. [...]

  • Thomas Golubic8th Annual Guild of Music

    Guild of Music Supervisors President: 'The Economics of the Job Don't Work Anymore'

    The Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS) hosted its 5th annual “State of Music in Media” conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Los Angeles Film School. Featuring a wide array of panel discussions on all manner of issues related to music in film, television and advertising, the confab drew top composers, music supervisors, licensing and [...]

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Film News Roundup: Documentary 'Gay Chorus Deep South' Bought for Awards Season Release

    In today’s film news roundup, the documentaries “Gay Chorus Deep South” and “Tread” find homes, Tobin Bell’s latest horror film completes production and Emilio Insolera joins “355.” ACQUISITIONS MTV Documentary Films has acquired “Gay Chorus Deep South” for release during the fall for awards season consideration. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, the film world premiered [...]

  • Bad Education

    What 'Bad Education' Taught Us About the Slow Toronto Film Festival Market

    “Bad Education,” a dramedy starring Hugh Jackman as the embezzling superintendent of district of schools in Long Island, N.Y., was set to be this year’s “I, Tonya.” The movie has the same biting tone, shifting between comedy and tragedy. It received strong reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival. And like “I, Tonya,” it even [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content