×

Ex-Ubisoft, EuropaCorp CEO Launches Studio Specializing in Video Game Movies (EXCLUSIVE)

“Assassin’s Creed” producer Jean-Julien Baronnet is opening Marla Studios, which will specialize in adapting video games into movies, following a five-year stint as the CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures.

The move comes three months after Baronnet left Ubisoft and five months before Fox opens “Assassin’s Creed,” starring Michael Fassbender, amid high hopes that the popularity of the nine-year-old video game franchise will translate into box office glory. He worked on four other Ubisoft franchises, mostly notably “Splinter Cell” with Tom Hardy.

Barronet, who is also the former CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, has already initiated talks with video game companies and is hoping to begin development on a film by next year.

“Producing a video game adaptation is a special process that not only requires movie production know-how, but also a deep understanding of gamer values and the video game creative process,” he told Variety. “The key is to have a close relationship with the game designers and to work with them on the key creative angles that will best cope with the game’s DNA. The key is to recognize the passion of gamers, given they spend hundreds of hours in that world. That makes it essential for the ‘universe’ of the game to be as accurate as possible.”

Marla is named after Baronnet’s daughters Margot and Lana. He said 10-year-old Lana already wants to be a film director.

Popular on Variety

“There was no other choice but this name for the new company because our project is mainly driven by passion,” Baronnet said. “My daughter has already asked for royalties since I took her name!”

Hollywood has a tricky relationship with video game companies, with mixed results emerging from Universal-Legendary’s “Warcraft” — which grossed a respectable $420 million worldwide, despite a disappointing U.S. performance.

“Studios have had difficulty recognizing the need for the stories in video game adaptations to have a universality to them,” Baronnet said. “Most of the time they try to copy the video game’s story and/or characters which is exactly what should not be done.”

He contends that video games are making much more money than movies, and the superhero era in film may be starting to come to an end, noting that “Deadpool” parodies the superhero. “People are starting to tire of superheroes, but still have a big appetite for big franchises,” he added.

“Marla Studios will help the video game companies consecutively in three areas: determining, along with the video game companies, the artistic angle and the artistic package that will serve best the IP; negotiating with the Hollywood studios a contract that will give the game company a strong creative control and high pay back; and last, but not least, implementing a deep collaborative process with the key creative people at the video game company at each stage of production.”

Marla Studios will staff up with people from the movie and the game industry. Lara Voloshin, former head of development at Metropolitan, has joined as a business development exec VP and head of development. A senior production executive from a big Hollywood studio and a video game developer will also soon board the company.

“We want to make it lean and diverse,” Baronnet said. “Our clients are the video games companies. We will work our butts off for them and try to get the best deals with the studios without any conflict of interest. This is truly a new business model that we think will finally make a success of the video game adaptation into film. On the flip side, movie studios will be able to exploit big new IPs and make them successful.”

More Film

  • Cineworld

    U.K.'s Cineworld Poised to Buy Canada's Cineplex for $2.1 Billion

    U.K.-based movie theater chain Cineworld is to acquire Cineplex, Canada’s leading cinema chain. The deal, announced Monday, values the Toronto-listed Cineplex at $2.1 billion (C$2.8 billion). Cineplex says that it has secured unanimous approval from Cineplex’s board of directors, and that Cineplex’s leading shareholder Global City Theaters, with 28% of the shares, has also accepted [...]

  • Trailer to Fedor Bondarchuk Sci-Fi Actioner

    Fedor Bondarchuk's Sci-Fi Actioner 'Invasion' Debuts Imax Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the Imax trailer, dubbed into English, to Fedor Bondarchuk’s sci-fi actioner “Invasion,” the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Attraction.” In the first film Moscow becomes the battleground for all-out war against an army of alien invaders. In the sequel, an alien spaceship crash lands in Moscow, and an [...]

  • Sheep Without a Shepherd

    China Box Office: ‘Shepherd’ and ‘Skyfire’ Lead Local Film Dominance

    Chinese-made films “Sheep Without A Shepherd,” “Skyfire” and “Gone With the Light” dominated weekend takings at the mainland Chinese box office. Hollywood’s holdovers were consigned to the lesser rankings. “Shepherd” is a remake of 2013 Indian thriller “Drishyam” and tells the story of a man trying to cover up for his daughter’s killing of a [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    COLA Announces California On-Location Awards Winners

    “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Dolemite is My Name,” and HBO’s “Ballers” are among the winners of this year’s COLA awards. The COLAs recognize location managers, public employees and other professionals who help facilitate on-location production across the Golden State. This year’s awards program was held at the Universal Hilton. Finalists and winners are [...]

  • French movie director Jean Luc Godard

    How Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard Immortalized Each Other (Guest Column)

    With the passing of Anna Karina, a curtain has fallen on the French New Wave, that fabled cinematic movement that brought fame to the man who made her name, Jean-Luc Godard. Yes, Godard is still with us, as is “Breathless” star Jean-Paul Belmondo (practically the last of the living New Wave legends), but his moviemaking [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    Box Office: Clint Eastwood Suffers Worst Opening in Four Decades With 'Richard Jewell'

    Clint Eastwood might end up with a lump of box office coal after “Richard Jewell” sputtered in its domestic debut. Despite critical acclaim, Warner Bros.’ drama about the security guard falsely accused by the media for playing a part in the 1996 Olympics bombing ignited with a dismal $5 million from 2,502 theaters. It’s a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content