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Metropolitan FilmExport at 35: Hadida Brothers Use Savvy to Sell Big European Pics

Metropolitan Filmexport has been involved in some of Europe’s biggest international co-productions over recent years, ranging from genre franchises “Silent Hill” and “Resident Evil” to more auteur-driven pics such as “Perfume,” “Railway Man” and “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.”

“We’re a distributor, so we have to find what audiences are looking for,” says Metropolitan’s co-prexy, Samuel Hadida. “We don’t just want blockbusters, we also want to work with renowned auteurs such as David Michod and Martin Scorsese.”

Hadida views co-productions as a natural extension of his distribution activity: “If the underlying property and the package are right, instead of just paying the minimum guarantee for the distribution rights, we put up equity because we want the movie to happen and support the director’s vision.”

Many of Metropolitan’s co-production projects involve long-term partners, the most prominent being those with Lionsgate and Germany’s Constantin Film.

“We like to co-produce with trusted partners who share the same vision and with whom we can build together. If the script, cast and director is right, we can then work out the right equity and tax structure for the movie.”

A key aspect of co-production is to structure the project in order to maximize access to local financing sources, in particular tax rebates.

“There’s always a financing gap to be filled, so you have to explore local tax funding,” Hadida says. “It all depends on the underlying property. You have to find the right locations that serve the script and also offers the best financing mix.”

He nonetheless tries to avoid the so-called Euro pudding scenario.

“When you do co-productions, this can sometimes involve compromises between different local producers, especially in terms of including local cast, and this can sometimes undermine the film.”

Via inhouse production company, Davis Films, the Hadidas increasingly focus on developing international projects with franchise potential, such as TV spinoffs from their “Silent Hill” and “Solomon Kane” films, plus vampire pic, “House of Night,” based on P.C. & Kristin Cast’s bestselling novels, and an upcoming adaptation of Japan’s longest-running manga, Golgo 13.

“We want to try to bring Golgo 13 to the world, a bit like how the James Bond character was brought to the world,” says Hadida, who foresees lensing in 2015, in a variety of locations in Asia, North America and Europe.

But financing possibilities for setting up major international co-produtions have tightened since 2010. Average co-production budgets have fallen by 30% over the past three years — per data from France’s national film org CNC — with particularly severe drops in the mid-budget range of $10 million to $15 million.

“It’s a little bit more difficult now,” Hadida says. “Homevideo is down and broadcasters are much more selective, so you have to focus on projects that will work theatrically.”

In the tighter financing climate, the total number of English-language co-productions in the top 20 Euro films at the European B.O. has slumped from nine in 2011 to four in 2013, per data from the European Audiovisual Observatory.

By contrast, record-breaking national comedies have come to the fore, such as Italy’s “Sole a catinelle,” Germany’s “Fuck You Goethe” and Spain’s “Spanish Affair.”

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