PARIS – Francois Clerc, the former boss of distribution at Gaumont and Studiocanal, is joining forces with CGR, France’s third-biggest multiplex chain, to launch Apollo Films, a production and distribution company.

Julien Moreau, the former head of digital at Gaumont, and Bertrand Fleury, a business affairs exec who notably worked at Havas, round out the new outfit’s leadership team and will be co-managing directors. Clerc, who worked as head of distribution at Studiocanal for two years before stepping down last month, will preside over Apollo Films.

Apollo will kick off with the distribution of Nicolas Bary’s comic book-based “Le petit Spirou” in partnership with French distribution outfit La Belle Company on Sept. 27.

“We were eager to join forces with CGR for various reasons. It’s the third biggest multiplex chain, a thriving company led by forward-thinking executives. I know Jocelyn [Bouyssy, CGR’s managing director,] and his team very well, and they have a deep knowledge of what audiences want to watch, as well as trends,” Clerc told Variety.

Clerc, a well-respected distribution exec who was a driving force behind box-office hit “Intouchables” during his eight-year tenure at Gaumont, said Apollo’s lineup will be essentially made up of French movies, with an emphasis on popular comedies, drama-comedies, directorial debuts, and, to a lesser extent, animated films and documentary features.

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“French movies have a bright future,” said Clerc. “Our box-office market is still going strong and local movies continue to clinch a significant market share. We believe in French movies which can bring together people from all walks of life.”

Apollo will have an in-house development unit and will place an emphasis on data analysis and viral marketing, said Clerc, who had developed that aspect of the business at Gaumont, notably on Cedric Klapisch’s “Back to Burgundy,” “Alibi.com” and “Porn in the Hood.”

Bouyssy at CGR said the group came on board Apollo thanks to Clerc’s vision, which is to “deliver films that are developed with an audience in mind and have the potential to appeal to a broad range of moviegoers, not only Parisians.”

Studiocanal will announce its new head of distribution early next week.