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Ben Stassen’s nWave Acquired by Production Group MZM (EXCLUSIVE)

Matthieu Zeller’s production group MZM has acquired a majority stake in nWave Studios, the thriving Brussels-based company behind Ben Stassen’s “The Son of Bigfoot” and “Sammy,” among other European animated hits.

MZM was founded in 2016 by Zeller, a former Studiocanal executive, with the aim to produce and co-produce French and international films and TV series. MZM, which regroups the production banners Octopolis and Bamboo Film, has joined with Belgium’s leading distribution company, Belga Films, as well as its tax-shelter arm, Belga Films Fund Holding, and regional fund Wallimage Entreprises to form a new entity, Next Wave, to complete the acquisition of nWave.

Since launching MZM, Zeller has added two new partners: Olivier Sulpice and, most recently, Matthieu Gondinet, who just joined after working at Canal Plus for 15 years. Zeller and Gondinet had collaborated with nWave and its teams over the past years when nWave was partly owned by Studiocanal.

Sulpice is the founder of Bamboo, a 20-year-old French publishing house of comic books and graphic novels with labels such as Bamboo, Grand Angle, Doki Doki, Fluide Glacial and Drakoo. Bamboo recently started doing TV, notably the animation series “Les Sisters,” which aired on commercial network M6.

nWave Studios, which was created in 1994 by Stassen, Caroline van Iseghem and Eric Dillens, has become a pioneer of 3D animation in Europe and a leading purveyor of ambitious European animated features for independent distributors. Its best-known film credits include “A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures,” “The House of Magic,” “The Wild Life,” “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Son of Bigfoot.” All have been directed or co-directed by Stassen and have racked up more than $300 million at the worldwide box office. Its upcoming feature, “The Queen’s Corgi,” is being sold worldwide by Charades and will be released next spring.

“nWave, its founders and teams, are an amazing European jewel. They have become an indisputable reference in the worldwide animation market, thanks to the exceptional technical quality of their films and their capacity to produce quality content with an international potential,” said Zeller. “The nWave films are distributed successfully worldwide. With the founders and the teams already in place, and the support of our partners, our ambition is to make nWave studios and its productions a worldwide brand, a reference of excellence in family entertainment.”

Belga Films is a key film company in Belgium which co-finances and distributes the biggest European and American films, from “Pulp Fiction” to “Twilight,” “Hunger Games,” “Paddington” and “La La Land.” Belga Films has distributed several nWave films. Belga Films Fund Holding has financially backed some of them, along with Wallimage Entreprises, the Wallonian regional fund. Under the deal, nWave and Belga now have an output deal.

“We are very happy to continue the nWave adventure with historical partners of the studio, with whom we have this long experience,” nWave’s founders said. “This partnership will enable us to continue and develop the studio’s activity, to produce more and more ambitious content.”

Patrick Vandenbosch of Belga Group said the acquisition of a stake in nWave was a “strategic move aimed at supporting the development of the studio’s activities with ambition,” creating synergies with other shareholders and “capitalizing on Belga Group’s expertise in distribution, marketing, content creation and film financing.”

Jérôme de Béthune of Belga Films said: “nWave plays and will continue playing a leading role in the development and diversification of the audiovisual content, from being a pioneer in 3D content to future virtual reality.”

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