×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

France’s Mars Films Put Under Court-Ordered Financial Restructuring, Plans to Focus on Production & Scales Down Distribution (EXCLUSIVE)

Mars Films, a leading French distribution company that released American indie films such as Oscar winners “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight” in France, has been put under financial restructuring and monitoring for six months by a business court in Paris.

The company, which has 23 employees, went into receivership Aug. 1 after it stopped paying creditors. Mars Films has an annual revenue of €36.8 million and a debt of €78.6 million, including more than €20 millions in current liabilities, according to court documents filed earlier this month. Headed by Stephane Celerier and Valerie Garcia, Mars Films was rescued from financial struggles once before, in 2015, by Vivendi, which took a 30% stake in the company.

In spite of its large debts, Mars boasts a strong library of more than 200 films among its assets, which together are worth a total of €107.3 million, according to the court documents. While it’s under financial restructuring, the company will proceed with the release in France of Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York” on Sept. 18, and has four other films on its slate.

Although the company did well this year with select French films such as the Berlin Silver Bear-winning “By the Grace of God” and “Love at Second Sight,” some high-profile English-language releases, including Xavier Dolan’s “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” and the Oscar-nominated “Vice,” fell short. “Vice” is one of the prestige films that Mars released under its deal with Annapurna Pictures, which has itself been going though a rough financial patch.

In the last five years, Mars began co-producing and producing films, including Eric Lartigau’s “La Famille Bélier” and Hugo Gelin’s feel-good “Two Is a Family,” both of which were big successes locally and traveled well. But the company suffered many setbacks, with several pricey movies acquired at premium prices that underperformed in France’s crowded distribution landscape in the last two years.

Going forward, Mars Films will shift its focus from distribution to production, mainly feel-good films like “La Famille Belier” and “Two Is a Family,” Celerier told Variety. The company will scale down its distribution slate by half and will be releasing up to 10 films per year, including in-house productions, co-productions and third-party acquisitions of French and foreign films. Next year’s distribution roster is comprised of a handful of films, notably Viggo Mortensen’s feature debut “Falling.”

“Our strong track record as producers has encouraged us to focus our activity on making movies – that’s where we can make use of our creativity and the relationships with talent and filmmakers that we’ve developed through the years,” he said. “When you’re a distributor, you have to take a gamble on others’ creativity, and when you’re a producer, you bank on your own creativity.”

Celerier said Mars Films is now looking for investors to come on board the company as it concentrates on production.

The crisis at Mars underscores the difficulties faced by French distributors from the declining commercial potential of French movies in theaters, as well as the fact that local TV channels have cut back on buying non-European films. That has made it nearly impossible for distributors to compensate for poor box office in secondary markets, a veteran film financier told Variety.

Celerier said that distributors have also been hurt by streamers in France. “Our industry has been rocked by the launch of streaming services, which has led to an overabundant supply of scripted content and changed the way people consume this content. It’s a completely new world, and it’s crucial for us to adapt our model to these changes,” Celerier said.

EuropaCorp stopped its distribution business earlier this year. Previously, MK2 also stopped its distribution activities in France to focus on its thriving exhibition and international sales business.

Along with Metropolitan Filmexport and ARP Selection, Mars Films was one of the last remaining key purveyors of independent U.S. movies in France. Besides “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight,” its biggest successes include “Captain Fantastic,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Spring Breakers” and “Amy.” With the company pulling out of distribution almost completely, there won’t be many outfits left in France willing to splurge for local rights to those films.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • the two popes

    How Luca Canfora Recreated The Papal Vestments for 'The Two Popes'

    Luca Canfora is no stranger to designing papal vestments; his previous projects include “The Young Pope” and “The New Pope.” Coming into Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” meant Canfora knew where he could have costumes made with the highest quality, and when it came to fabric choice and constructing his costumes. Canfora had to create [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Pom Klementieff Lands New Role in Next 'Mission: Impossible' Film

    “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Pom Klementieff is set to join the latest installment of Paramount and Skydance’s “Mission: Impossible,” joining Tom Cruise, who is reprising his role of Ethan Hunt. Christopher McQuarrie announced the news on Instagram on Tuesday, and is returning to write and direct the seventh and eighth movies, which will be [...]

  • Fede Alvarez

    'Don't Breathe' Director Fede Alvarez Developing White House Horror Movie With Legendary

    “Don’t Breathe” director-producer Fede Alvarez is teaming with Legendary Pictures for an untitled White House horror movie. The project, described as “The Shining” set in the White House, will be directed by Alvarez from a script by Joe Epstein and produced by Alvarez’s Bad Hombre Films. Legendary announced the horror movie Tuesday as part of [...]

  • Awkwafina Actors on Actors

    How 'The Farewell' Changed Awkwafina's Understanding of Grief and Mercy

    Awkwafina’s film “The Farewell” explores the Chinese tradition of not disclosing terminal illnesses to elderly family members. The actor discussed her evolving thought process on the subject matter with Taron Egerton (“Rocketman”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” Egerton began the interview by asking Awkwafina about her personal opinion of the film’s [...]

  • Kristen Bell and idina menzel Walk

    Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel Took Parallel Paths to Hollywood

    Once upon a time in New York City, two young talents set off on a near-impossible quest: a successful Broadway career. Since childhood, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell had focused on their quest with a ferocious drive — and learned to avoid the trolls. In Long Island, Menzel, the daughter of a pajama salesman, spent [...]

  • Catherine Deneuve'Joker' premiere, 76th Venice Film

    Catherine Deneuve Is 'Feeling Fine' but Still Recuperating From Recent Stroke

    Nearly two weeks after suffering a stroke reported as minor, French screen icon Catherine Deneuve is “feeling fine” but still recuperating in a Paris hospital, her publicist said Tuesday. The 76-year-old actress suffered what her family called a “very limited” ischemic stroke – an incident caused by reduced blood flow to the brain – on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content