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Luc Besson’s ‘Anna’ Flops at French Box Office, Adding to Pressure on EuropaCorp

Luc Besson’s latest film, the Helen Mirren-starring thriller “Anna,” is failing at the French box office, dealing a further blow to his financially ailing EuropaCorp, which is in talks to be taken over by one of its lenders.

After falling flat at the U.S. box office with a mere $7.6 million in nearly five weeks, the action-packed “Anna” has managed to gross only $3 million (€2.7 million) in two weeks in Besson’s native France, where distributor Pathe gave it a wide release backed by ample marketing muscle. It’s Besson’s second-biggest flop after “The Lady,” his 2011 biopic with Michelle Yeoh.

The failure of “Anna” to catch fire increases the pressure on Besson and EuropaCorp, which is in negotiation to be taken over by its junior lender, the New York investment fund Vine Alternative Investments. Up till now, Besson has been regarded as one of EuropaCorp’s key selling points, but the poor performance of “Anna” may cast doubt on that idea. The studio currently has no other movies in production.

“Anna” was released on 620 screens across France on July 11 and has sold 436,399 admissions, including about 40,000 tickets from the sneak premieres Pathe organized. Although Pathe increased the number of screens to 818, the film’s tickets sale dropped by about 40% between the first and second week.

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Besides the poor critical reception that the film has garnered, some French journalists have noted that the movie suffered from the absence of Besson during the promotion – the helmer didn’t do any press or TV – and the fact that Besson’s reputation has been hurt by the rape accusations filed by the actress Sand Van Roy last year. A nine-month police investigation into Besson was dismissed in February. Shortly after the case was dropped, Van Roy said she filed another complaint, and her testimony has been featured in the French press, including in Le Monde newspaper, which ran a long article right before the release of “Anna.”

Besson’s home turf is usually a safe territory for his movies to find an audience, even with English-language pics that fail to conquer the U.S. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” for instance, achieved 2.4 million admissions in two weeks in France.

In the last decade, “Lucy” is the only film directed by Besson that has turned out to be a global box office hit.

Pathe is releasing “Anna” in France as part of its three-year distribution deal with EuropaCorp. The two companies were previously in discussions for Pathe to take a majority stake in EuropaCorp, but those talks eventually failed.

EuropaCorp confirmed the talks with Vine on July 14 and said negotiations were ongoing with both Vine and EuropaCorp’s senior lender, JP Morgan, which would also have to sign off on the deal.

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