EXCLUSIVE: In a major development for the UK biz, Studiocanal’s long-time UK chief Danny Perkins is leaving to set up a new London-based production company, I can reveal.

Perkins, who joined Vivendi-owned production and distribution powerhouse Studiocanal when it acquired distributor Optimum in 2006, will leave at the end of September. A successor is expected to be announced in coming months.

After his exit, Perkins — UK CEO since 2010 — will continue to independently produce a handful of projects which he developed at the studio.

Maxime Saada, Chairman of Studiocanal, said, “On behalf of the team at Studiocanal, I would like to thank Danny for his significant contribution and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

In a note sent to Studiocanal employees this afternoon Saada described Perkins’ “remarkable contribution” to the company. He also reaffirmed Studiocanal’s commitment to the UK:

“Our ambitions in the UK do not change. On the contrary. Great Britain is an essential territory for Studiocanal due to the economic weight of its market (theatrical, home entertainment, SVOD, etc.) and the very strong links we have developed locally with many world-class talents. It’s also in the UK that we’ve recorded some of our biggest critically-acclaimed successes both on TV, for example with Happy Valley, and on the big screen with Paddington 1 & 2. Studiocanal UK will continue to play a leading role in the production and distribution of films with a strong international focus, in line with the European vision of Studiocanal and Vivendi.”

Perkins’ departure is a significant one for the UK industry and for Studiocanal. During his tenure at the firm, Perkins oversaw UK distribution on box office hits including Paddington 1 & 2Legend, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Early Man and Shaun The Sheep Movie. The two Paddington movies generated more than $120M in the UK alone.

Awards hits distributed in the UK during Perkins’ tenure include Carol, Manchester By The Sea, Room, The Wrestler and The Hurt Locker while Brit breakout acquisitions under the Optimum and Studiocanal labels have included Four Lions, Alan Partridge Alpha Papa, and The Imitation Game. Early foreign language successes included Amores Perros, Pan’s Labyrinth, Spirited Away and A Prophet.

Simply put, Studiocanal UK has become one of the most important financiers in the territory with strong ties to leading UK producers such as Working Title, Aardman, Heyday Films, Blueprint Pictures and Big Talk. Perkins himself has played an important role in backing directors including Paul King, Yann Demange, Paddy Considine, Ben Wheatley and Idris Elba.

His executive producer credits include Alan Partridge, ’71, Carol, Macbeth and upcoming movies The Secret Garden and Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Idris Elba’s Yardie will be the last film Perkins releases at the company but the 2018/19 slate also includes Steve Carell-Timothee Chalamet drama Beautiful Boy, James Marsh’s crime pic The King Of Thieves, Liam Neeson pic Hard Powder and Marjane Satrapi drama Radioactive. 

Perkins told us, “I’ve been keen to do something new and a bit different and this feels like a good time to build another company. Studiocanal UK is in good shape, and for me personally it has been a 19-year journey (including my time at Optimum) and I’m in a good place to try something else.”

“It has been amazing to build the operation here from Optimum into Studiocanal,” continued Perkins who told us that movie highlights during his time included Pan’s Labyrinth, Amores Perros, Four Lions, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the Paddington franchise.

In terms of where Studiocanal UK is at today, Perkins said, “The business has changed a lot in 19 years. There’s a huge opportunity for Vivendi in the UK with their different brands. It has a unique opportunity outside of Hollywood with its capability of making movies on a global scale.”

As for his own next steps, he said, “We are in a very polarized market and we’re seeing huge results on blockbusters. For me, there is an opportunity to offer something slightly different. Beyond the big screen there are so many ways to deliver content to audiences and the thing I’m excited about is to build a nimble but multi-faceted content-creation company.”

The departure speaks to the myriad production opportunities in the market at the moment for an executive with strong ties and experience such as Perkins but also to a company and industry in transition. Vivendi has just relocated the whole Studiocanal UK team out of Soho and into plush new King’s Cross offices in a shared building with its subsidiaries Universal Music Group and video game firm Gameloft. The building is also nearer to the London branch of its advertising and communications agency Havas.

Vivendi has been keen to foster closer ties between its companies but has also pushed a busy acquisition and consolidation strategy which has meant regular shuffling of the Canal Plus and Studiocanal executive ranks in France. There has always been a delicate push and pull between Studiocanal’s Paris and UK offices and key UK staff to have left the firm in the past 18 months include long-time UK production executive Jenny Borgars, who has not been replaced, and long-time UK theatrical head John Trafford Owen. Perkins’ departure has prompted speculation of further restructure.

Meanwhile, most established film distributors are streamlining third party movie acquisitions in favor of in-house production and Studiocanal is no different. Significant market acquisitions, once the UK division’s bread and butter, are now few and far between.