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German Distrib SquareOne in ‘Race’ to Grow Production Arm

Al Munteanu, head of German distributor SquareOne Entertainment, walked the red carpet on opening night at Cannes with a purpose, though the longtime exec didn’t exactly plan it that way.

“We acquired ‘Grace of Monaco’ exactly two years ago at the script stage,” says the media industry veteran. “At that point, it wasn’t even clear  Nicole Kidman was doing the movie. We’ve never had a Cannes opening-night film before, but this year I am bringing my tuxedo.” The next day, Munteanu rolled up his sleeves to help the distrib open the film in Germany, with Universum.

Already, it’s been a busy year for SquareOne, which grossed $3 million in the territory from the release of “Philomena” (with Universum) and has 13 movies on its slate, including French laffer “Eyjafjallajokull” (The Volcano), starring Dany Boon. The company has made a move into co-productions, and recently hired an acqusitions exec.

“The German market is extremely fickle, and there are 10 new releases every week, which is a lot,” Munteanu noted. “We did very well with ‘Philomena’ and ‘That Awkward Moment,’ but ‘Lone Survivor’ has not done so well, just like ‘Act of Valor.’ ”

Munteanu founded the shingle in 2002, and has built the company mainly on English-language pickups, with some classy Euro titles, like Pascal Chaumeil’s “Heartbreaker” and Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent.” It’s partnering with Telepool for the German distribution rights to “The Imitation Game,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

A year ago, SquareOne expanded its horizons past distribution, exec producing prestige projects like Jesse Owens biopic “Race,” starring Geoffrey Rush and Jeremy Irons, which starts shooting soon in Germany and Montreal.

“ ‘Race is something that we shepherded for a year,” Munteanu reflected. “The 1936 Olympics are ingrained on the German mind.”

Other co-productions include “Streetdance Kids,” a spin on the “StreetDance” film franchise; and “The Love Punch,” starring Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan, which SquareOne will release in Germany this year.

To expand the production unit, SquareOne in February tapped exec Lars Wiebe for the newly created role of head of German productions.

Munteanu said it makes sense for the company to develop co-productions. “It really (means) taking care of our own destiny at a time when fewer projects are being offered. And we’re also developing a portfolio securing rights to local-language comedies and doing German versions of them.”

SquareOne has partnered with Universum in the VOD market, but Munteanu cautioned that the sector should not be viewed as a savior. “VOD is clearly growing with many new platforms,” he noted. “(But) we’re a year or two behind the U.S. (in penetration), and there’s a very healthy free TV market in Germany.”

Upcoming releases include “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” starring Liam Neeson; “Face of Love,” toplining Ed Harris and Annette Bening; “Vice,” with Bruce Willis; and Kevin Connolly’s “The Right Girls.”


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