Live in France long enough and one can become inured to the strikes and social movements that, for good or bad, happen with regularity. But, this weekend a relatively small protest particularly stood out when Martin Scorsese’s Hugo was held hostage by labor issues. On Friday, workers at the LTC post-production labs just outside Paris went on strike to protest the possible liquidation of the company. In so doing, they also blocked access to about 140 copies of Scorsese’s movie and planned to do so all weekend. Hugo opens in France on Wednesday this week on just under 700 screens, according to Metropolitan Filmexport president Victor Hadida. Hadida tells Deadline that the copies in question were 35mm and in 2D (the rest of the copies are going out in digital 3D). Attempts by Metro to get them extricated from the lab were unsuccessful. So, says Hadida, an alternative solution was needed, stat.
Calling upon the Technicolor facilities in Rome — and with the help of Hugo producer GK Films — Metro was able to mobilize a three-day effort that saw the development of the missing copies. Those copies will make their way from Italy to France sometime during the night tonight so that exhibs will have them in their hands on Tuesday, just one day before the nationwide release. Hadida, despite his compassion for the workers at LTC, admits the weekend’s exercise was “intense, especially logistically since we had to get the labs in Rome to stay open over the weekend and arrange transport for the copies.” He adds that he doesn’t yet know what the eventual financial cost will be to Metr, but says, “It was unthinkable that a film that talks about France and about George Melies and is from Scorsese, who the French adore, would not reach its audience.” Coincidentally, this is not the first time LTC has held a Metro film hostage. Hadida tells me a similar scenario came to pass back in 1992 on a much smaller film, but the personnel at the time were “more cooperative.” Now the folks at LTC, he says, are in a desperate situation. The lab is owned by Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries and back in November was put into receivership.