‘Paddington’ Becomes Studiocanal’s Biggest B.O. Hit

At $241 million, family CGI-live action comedy bows in China Friday

A TWC-Dimension release in the U.S., “Paddington,” the biggest-ever movie bet of Euro film-TV group Studiocanal, has also become Studiocanal’s biggest theatrical earner.

Storming to $241 million through Sunday, the CGI live-action comedy, which is budgeted at $55 million, passed the $236 million for “Non Stop,” making it Studiocanal’s high-grossing movie title in its corporate history.

Of major territories, China, where “Paddington” bows Thursday on 4,000-plus screens, and Japan, which will give it a Jan. 2016 opening, are still in play. It will now most certainly cross $250 million in global box office, “the level of a significant success for a family movie,” Studiocanal chairman-CEO Olivier Courson told Variety at Berlin.

The question is whether it could get to $280 million or more. With Prince William honoring “Paddington” with a royal premiere in China, prospects are intriguing.

Directed by Paul King and starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Nicole Kidman and Ben Whishaw, and already the highest-grossing family film of all-time released by a non-U.S. studio, “Paddington” is the fruit of several strategies out into place since Olivier Courson took over the reins of the indie studio.

One is its allying with the best creative talent out, which doesn’t just means directors. Financed, distributed and sold by Studiocanal, “Paddington” is produced by David Heyman (“Harry Potter,” “Gravity”). “Paddington’s” results also reflect its drive into direct distribution outside France in the U.K., then Germany and finally Australia/New Zealand. “Paddington” has grossed $71 million Stateside for TWC-Dimension. Its U.K. gross, $57 million, is not far behind and the biggest for any Brit pic last year. Of other home territories, “Paddington” is tracking for two million tickets in Germany and has notched up 2.8 million admissions in France from a Dec. 3 bow.

“Paddington” also reps Studiocanal’s drive into family entertainment, an area undeserved by indie production in Europe and beyond, Courson has maintained, and where many of the best-loved properties seem to be British. Returns have been healthy in Benelux ($5.5 million), Scandinavia ($6.3 million) and Russia/Ukraine ($7 million), as well as Australia/New Zealand (a standout $10.6 million) and Latin American ($9.6 million), where families make up a large part of the region’s cinema going constituency.

Little wonder that, with its first big bet under its belt, Studiocanal could now contemplate “one or two” big family audience plays a year, Courson said at Berlin, adding that Studiocanal is in talks with Heyman for a “Paddington” sequel.

Leo Barraclough contributed to this article

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