TF1 Studio is about to turn one year old. France’s largest commercial network launched the vertically integrated film banner in May as a way to consolidate their disparate acquisition, development and multi-platform distribution channels.
By centralizing its organization, unifying aims and offering partners a single point of contact, TF1 Studio execs say a clear brand and a steady hand will give them a competitive advantage in the country’s ever-difficult film distribution marketplace.
Run by Nathalie Toulza-Madar and Tristan du Laz, and overseen by TF1 Entertainment director Olivier Jacobs — he is also responsible for TF1 Films, a co-financing and production subsidiary that is nonetheless wholly apart — TF1 Studio will partner with local distributors for 12 theatrical releases this year, and up to 15 in the years to come.
In keeping with TF1’s mainstream brand, the slate has a decided focus on crowd-pleasing, wide-appeal features. Upcoming films “Dr. Knock,” a period piece with “The Intouchables” star Omar Sy, and “Finding Mom,” a theatrical adaptation with Catherine Frot and Christian Clavier, offer vehicles for the country’s favorite comedic stars.
Though both films won’t open until later this year, Jacobs is already quite pleased with 2017. He’s had a significant hit with “Alibi.com,” a raunchy comedy that sold nearly 3 million tickets, making the TF1 Films/TF1 Studio joint effort the second-most successful French production of the year.
“‘Alibi.com’ [is] the kind of film we want to do at the TF1 Studio,” Jacobs says. “It is at once a broad, event film with strong potential across many platforms, be it in theaters, on video or in international sales. And the fact that all of those platforms are now run from the same structure allows us to accompany the film throughout its life, as it were.”
TF1 Studio maintains a similar approach with international acquisitions. It has recently picked up all-rights deals for a number of thrillers and name properties, including Eli Roth’s “Death Wish” reboot, which will find Bruce Willis succeeding Charles Bronson; Michael Apted’s “Unlocked” with Michael Douglas and Noomi Rapace; and the Jamie Foxx starrer “Sleepless,” itself a remake of the French hit “Nuit Blanche.”
Later this year or early next year the company will release the torn-from-the-headlines disaster film “Granite Mountain” from “Transformers” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and “Maya the Bee 2 — The Honey Games” the sequel to a 2015 animated feature that sold more than 1 million tickets in France.
The group has been active on the digital front as well, heavily investing in its MyTF1VOD platform in a shifting market in which simultaneous day-and-date theatrical/VOD releases are effectively barred. The French law mandating a minimum four-month window between theatrical and video distribution is but one reason why VOD use has remained comparatively lower in France than abroad, and TF1 Studio has responded to those constraints with a multi-pronged plan.
Execs have released such starry acquisitions as the Pierce Brosnan-Salma Hayek-Jessica Alba romantic comedy “Some Kind of Beautiful” and the Blake Lively-Harrison Ford drama “The Age of Adaline” directly onto ultra-VOD service, while at the same time taking advantage of a partnership deal with Warner Bros. to stream blockbusters, including “Gravity” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in exclusivity, holding onto them for several days before their well-publicized home-video releases.
Having those films marketed on TF1’s highly watched TV network only helps. “We are the only ones active on the publicity front, in the sense of how much we promote our service,” says Regis Ravanas, exec VP, advertising and diversification. “When you say this film is available on MyTF1VOD, of course you’re promoting the film, but at the same time you’re promoting your service. Even if the film is available on other platforms, you’re directing the customer to your own.”
It seems like TF1’s synergistic gambit paid off. While MyTF1VOD claimed only 14.6% of the VOD market share in 2011, a December report from the Centre National de la Cinématographie upped that to 32.2%. In a growing market, it is now the No. 1 VOD platform in France.