A U.S. broadcaster is already on board the new Transporter TV show, based on the hit movie franchise from Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp movie factory. EuropaCorp won’t say who the US partner is, “but it’s a big one,” chairman Pierre-Ange Le Pogam tells me. Shooting on the $48 million 12-part series will start early next year, with the first episodes being delivered early November. French producer Lagardere Entertainment is fully-financing the show, having licensed The Transporter from EuropaCorp. Jason Statham starred in all three Transporter movies as the driver who delivers anything, anywhere – no questions asked. CW recently gave a full-season order to Nikita, another TV show based on a EuropaCorp franchise. EuropaCorp is also thinking about a Taken TV series, but only after Taken 2 begins filming in the spring with Liam Neeson. Le Pogam says they’re still locking down who the director will be.
Both shows are part of EuropaCorp’s push into TV production. Paris-based animation house Zagtoon is adapting another Besson movie, Arthur and the Invisibles, as a $13 million animated TV series. Le Pogam said he wanted to get 10-year-old EuropaCorp into TV as a way of smoothing out the company’s revenues. Being a publicly-quoted company on the Paris Stock Exchange doesn’t sit well with the ups-and-downs of the movie business. EuropaCorp made its first-ever net loss of €9.8 million ($13 million) during the 2009/10 financial year. “We’ve had to educate the financial market as to how the movie business works,” says Le Pogam.
Both Lagardere and Zagtoon are fully-financing their shows based on EuropaCorp characters. But EuropaCorp will start making its own shows from now on. It bought TV producer Cipango in April to kick-start its television production business. Cipango is currently shooting the 2nd series of conspiracy thriller XIII, starring Stuart Townsend, for French TV producer Canal Plus and NBC Universal.
On the movie side, Luc Besson begins filming his next as-yet-unannounced action movie this month. Lock-Out, a $30 million sci-fi action movie starring Guy Pearce as an astronaut who has to rescue Maggie Grace (Lost) from an orbital prison riot – think Escape From New York in space – is currently shooting in Poland and will wrap just before Christmas. FilmDistrict will release in the US early 2012. And Sony plans to release Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) and directed by Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3), next September. The film is currently in post.
EuropaCorp has also picked up on the craze for animated 3D, and is currently finishing two children’s films A Monster In Paris, starring Vanessa Paradis, and the Tim Burton-ish La Mécanique du Cœur based on the concept album by French band Dionysos.
EuropaCorp will make between 4 and 5 English-language movies in 2010/11, as well as another 6-7 French-language movies aimed at the home market. This is a third down on the number of movies it made last year. The company blamed its loss on how much cash it spent on production. French critics say the company is too American, producing movies like From Paris With Love, starring John Travolta, especially for the export market. That movie just made $2.8 million in France but grossed $24 million in the US. “From Paris With Love was not a success in France,” Le Pogam sighs. EuropaCorp began life in September 2000 as a producer/distributor before floating on the Paris Bourse in 2007. Like any big indie production company, the endgame is building up a library. Once all the movies are paid off, the library will generate revenue for decades to come. Just look at any of the studios. EuropaCorp tells me around 25 features are fully paid off so far. It bought the 450 title Roissy library three years ago, bringing its total library up to 600 titles. This library is currently valued at being worth $162 million.
Hollywood was buzzing round EuropaCorp earlier this year hoping to tie Besson into a multi-picture deal. Sony Worldwide Acquisitions Group was the front runner, along with Fox and Universal. In the end, EuropaCorp has decided to keep working on a movie-by-movie basis, trying to find the right home for each project. “We show US studios respect,” he says in a voice as rich as a good Burgundy. “We have a beautiful relationship with many people within the studios.”
But it is talking to European distributors about signing output deals in territories such as Spain, Italy and the UK. EuropaCorp recently signed a 3-year distribution deal with Germany’s Universum Film, with the German distributor putting up cash advances for movies about to start filming. It may sign a second European output deal next year.
Besson and Le Pogam have been working together since 1985, when Besson was directing Subway and Le Pogam ran distribution at Gaumont. They collaborated on The Big Blue, Nikita, Léon and The Fifth Element.