Richard Lechartier, the former CEO of French producer and distributor Marco Polo, has launched new U.K. film distribution company ILY Films, with Bruce Willis actioner “Open Source” as its first acquisition.
ILY Films is focused on acquiring film rights for digital download releases.
Lechartier tells Variety that ILY Films will concentrate on buying English-speaking commercial, high concept and genre movies with an international cast.
“Open Source” is set for a late 2020 or early 2021 release. Starring Willis, as well as Jesse Metcalfe and Lala Kent, it was acquired through international sales agent Highland Film Group. Producers are Randall Emmett and George Furla at Emmett Furla Oasis Films. Vertical Entertainment has U.S. rights.
Other titles have been agreed and will be announced in the coming months. ILY Films is also working on striking output deals with producers, as well as looking at co-production opportunities.
ILY Films has also acquired the French rights to 2016 Tom Hanks-starrer “Hologram for the King,” Andy Garcia-starring spy thriller “Against the Clock” and family film “Bernie the Dolphin 2.”
Lechartier said ILF Films intends eventually to acquire packages of films for multiple countries.
Eschewing cinema distribution, the company will focus on digital distribution of films to download platforms like Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and Sky Store, as well as to TV broadcasters and streaming platforms.
Asked if it is a challenging time to launch a distributor in the midst of a coronavirus lockdown, Lechartier said that demand for content, which has been at historically high levels for some years, is likely to rise further as a result, particularly from digital platforms.
ILY Films also intends to keep its operations lean and flexible. Backed by a number of private investors, ILY Films plans to acquire content and then subcontract releases through existing distributors. Its first release, “Open Source,” will be distributed via The Movie Partnership (TMP).
Lechartier says he plans to attend, virtually or in person, all major film markets.
The ILY Films name itself is a reference to Marvel Comics, with the ILY hand sign used by Doctor Strange and Spider-Man and is a combination of the sign language symbols for the letters I, L & Y (I Love You).
French businessman Lechartier has been based in the U.K. for the past 25 years. He co-founded Aventi Group in the U.K. in 1999. In the U.K., Aventi primarily imported computer accessories from the Far East for distribution into Europe while in France it operated DVD distribution through an exclusive DVD distribution deal with French e-commerce player cdiscount.com.
This all changed in 2005 following the total destruction of their head offices and warehouse in a fire that ultimately forced the company to concentrate all activities in France.
During this time, Aventi became a significant home entertainment distribution firm with a catalogue of over 4,000 movies and distributing titles for M6, BAC Films, and E1 (Entertainment One) among others.
In 2011, Paris-based investment fund Rothschild became a 30% shareholder. Aventi was then sold to France-based Marco Polo Production, producer and distributor of predominantly U.S. movies.
Lechartier was CEO of Marco Polo until June 2018. Lechartier said: “We are excited to start distribution in the U.K. with such a strong film in ‘Open Source,’ and of course a strong lead in Bruce Willis. We hope to acquire more films across the coming months and get straight to work when the current situation begins to settle.”