Wild Bunch to Sell Part of Its Library to Orange Studio (EXCLUSIVE)

PARIS — Aiming to steady its financial footing after a tough year marked by its merger with Senator, Paris-based Wild Bunch AG is finalizing a deal to sell a portion of its extensive library to Orange Studio, the film subsidiary of France’s leading telco company Orange, Variety has learned.

The deal, which will be officially unveiled in the coming months, is expected to cover about 10% of Wild Bunch’s library and is meant to enable Wild Bunch AG to repay its debt to Orange Studio, which is dedicated to co-producing and acquiring French and European films.

Contacted by Variety, Wild Bunch declined to comment on the deal. It comes as the company, which was behind this year’s Palme d’Or winner “I, Daniel Blake,” prepares to release its results for the 2015-16 financial year ending March 31. Wild Bunch’s numbers for the first half of the financial year showed a net debt of 84 million euros.

The debt to Orange Studio stems from movies that were either co-acquired with Wild Bunch for French distribution or for international sales, for which Wild Bunch failed to pay minimum guarantees. Although details on film titles that are part of the partial library sale were not available, Wild Bunch’s wide-ranging catalogue includes such movies as Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P,” Michel Hazanavicius’s “The Search,” Gregg Araki’s “White Bird” and Laurent Tirard’s “Little Nicholas.” These titles were co-acquired with Orange Studio.

Wild Bunch AG’s library is valued at 140 million euros, Wild Bunch’s co-founder and CEO Vincent Grimond told Variety at Cannes in May. Grimond added that it puts the global value of these library rights at an estimated 175 million euros on its balance sheet.

Addressing the company’s net debt, Grimond told Variety there was “no risk” based on Wild Bunch AG’s balance sheet because the company “sits on 175 million euros in assets”.

Since completing its merger with Germany’s Senator in February 2015 and forming the listed holding company Wild Bunch AG, the company’s share price has fallen 74% from 2.63 euros in 2015 to 0.68 euros as of Friday.

On March 27, 2015, Wild Bunch finished paying the remaining 8% bond which covered 2011 through 2016. But in a sign of some jitters over Wild Bunch’s finances, earlier this year the Banque Nationale de Paris nearly pulled out of the company’s banking pool (which also includes Neuflize OBC, among other institutions) but decided to continue backing the company, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the matter.

In spite of its financial challenges, Wild Bunch AG remains one of France’s most prestigious film companies because of its ability to attract critically acclaimed directors from across the world — from the Dardenne brothers to Cristian Mungiu, Ken Loach and Park Chan-wook.

The company’s biggest strength remains its international sales division, which is spearheaded by the outfit’s co-founder and CCO Vincent Maraval and Carole Baraton. Meanwhile, Wild Bunch’s weakest business stems from its French distribution activity, whose slate – headlined by French comedies — differs from its international sales roster and has been overshadowed by successive box office disappointments, notably “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia” and most recently David Charhon’s “Shipwrecked.” Wild Bunch’s releases’ theatrical admissions tumbled to 3.8 million last year. Founded in 2006, Wild Bunch Distribution has ranked 6th to 10th among indie French distributors over the last decade.

In Cannes, Grimond told Variety that Wild Bunch was working alongside its partners on a “balance reshaping plan” in four steps consisting of injecting more equity, refinancing its bond, setting up acquisiton and financing for 2016 and 2017 divided in two packages – one for France and the rest of Europe — and lastly working on a joint package including global refinancing and market operation. Wild Bunch is said to have found the right partner to sign this joint package.

Under the leadership of Grimond, Brahim Chioua (COO), Markus Maximilian Sturm (CFO) and Maraval, Wild Bunch operates in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Since completing its merger with Senator Entertainment, Wild Bunch AG announced the launch, in partnership with CineFrance, of an LA-based company Insiders which is presided over by Maraval and focuses on the trading of independent films with budgets above $15 million, such as Jeff Nichols’s Cannes-competing “Loving” and Natalie Portman’s Kennedy biopic “Jackie.” China’s Bliss Media has just taken a share in the company. The company has also bowed a TV division dedicated to high-end drama and an e-cinema service.

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content