In a drastic measure to cut its overhead, Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp is about to shut down its in-house distribution business.
In the last few months, the French company has pink-slipped several key employees, including longtime executive Philippe Kaempf, head of distribution and operations. Kaempf, who’s been at EuropaCorp for more than 13 years, is expected to continue working for the company as a consultant, according to a company source.
EuropaCorp, which is listed on the Paris stock exchange, is now exploring several options such as collaborating with another company to co-distribute in France, selling its films’ French distribution rights to other banners, and working with freelance staff and consultants to market and distribute movies under the EuropaCorp banner.
The company has two films due for release in 2019, but both have been delayed as it tries to figure out a game plan. Guillaume Canet’s “Nous Finirons Ensemble” – the sequel to “Little White Lies,” France’s highest-grossing local film in 2010 – was planned for March 27 but has been postponed to May 1. Besson’s thriller “Anna,” starring Helen Mirren, was set for a Jan. 2 rollout but has been pushed back to March 27. (Lionsgate, which owns the U.S. rights to “Anna,” has not set a release date there yet.)
EuropaCorp is currently in talks with a few French distributors, in particular Pathé, which is interested in acquiring “Nous Finirons Ensemble.” Besson is trying to package “Nous Finirons Ensemble” and “Anna” for Pathé.
EuropaCorp’s distribution business in France has always been a big part of its model because its production side has delivered some of the country’s most ambitious films, at least in terms of budget, including Besson’s sci-fi epic “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Theatrical distribution in France brought in €39.6 million ($44.7 million) and represented almost 18% of the company’s total revenue during the last fiscal year.
With 4.1 million admissions sold in France, “Valerian” accounted for more than half of that distribution revenue. But the movie cost a reported $200 million to make and turned in a disappointing performance at the international box office.
While it tries to raise capital in order to repay debt (valued at about €230 million earlier this year), EuropaCorp has taken cost-cutting measures such as layoffs in its Paris office and the sale of its French TV production unit. It’s also in exclusive negotiations with Gaumont to sell its library of Roissy Films, which comprises more than 500 titles.
The decision to axe distribution chief Kaempf from its payroll and outsource its distribution activity stems from the fact that EuropaCorp doesn’t have enough movies in the pipeline to justify the employment of permanent staff, the company source said. Indeed, the studio currently has no movie in production.
EuropaCorp has shrunk from about 100 staffers to roughly 20 employees over the last seven years, and dropped to doing two to three movies per year compared to 10 or so a couple years ago., the company source said. While there have been rumors that the company is near bankruptcy, a spokesperson said that EuropaCorp was “absolutely not insolvent” and that “no cash forecast is putting into question the operations of the company in the months to come.”
On top of struggling financially, the company has also been rocked by sexual misconduct and assault accusations against founder and chairman Besson. The director-producer is the subject of a preliminary investigation stemming from rape charges filed by actress Sand Van Roy against him in May. Several other women, most of whom were not named, also accused him of sexual harassment in reports by French investigative website Mediapart.
EuropaCorp will announce its financial results during a shareholders meeting on Dec. 13.
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