‘Coda’ Backer Pathé Builds TV Team & Eyes Streamer Partnerships – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: European film giant Pathé, which owns more than 1,000 cinema screens across the continent, will always be a theatrical-first business. That doesn’t mean it can’t also move with the times.

The French major, whose lifeblood is film exhibition, production and distribution, is riding high off this week’s three Oscar nominations for Code. But the company is also hiring multiple staff in its fledgling TV division and lining up content collaborations with streamers as it looks to diversify its portfolio in a rapidly shifting media landscape.

Joining Pathé’s TV head Aude Albano in Paris are Development Manager for Series, Gauthier Foll, formerly of WeMake, and Legal Manager Business Affairs for Series, Lise Bouley, formerly of Lagardère and GMT. “We’re structuring the team now,” explains Pathé President Ardavan Safaee.

Also joining the group on the film side in Paris is Executive Vice President of Business Affairs Thibault Demaison who joins from local production firm Elephant.

The plan is to start filming TV productions next year. As previously revealed, the slate includes a series based on Napoleon from Jean-François Richet (Mesrine), and a drama about a Black musketeer, one of a handful of Pathé projects based in or spun off from the Alexandre Dumas universe.

TV is a long-term play. For now, Pathé is basking in the glow of her three Oscar nominations for Code, including a Best Picture nod. Pathé financed the movie, which is based on French comedy The Bélier Family.

This week the company is also busy talking to film distributors about its projects at the virtual European Film Market, where Pathé has a typically robust slate of French and English-language features.

Principal on the French slate is Jean-Jacques Annaud’s big-budget movie Notre Dame Brule [budgeted around $30M], about the fire that ripped through the iconic Parisian landmark. The film is set to be Pathé’s widest release in France this year, hitting cinemas on March 16, with a healthy IMAX component. Local partners on the movie include TF1 for free TV, Orange’s OCS for the first pay window and Amazon Prime Video for the second pay window. International buyers will get to see the movie this week and deals are hoped for in the US, UK and other major territories.

Pathé will be up against a couple of Notre Dame projects this year, including a Netflix series starring Roschdy Zem.

Also on the French-language EFM slate for Pathé are Alice Winocour’s Revoir Paris with Virginie Efira, and Nicolas Bedos’ starry French Riviera-set dramedy Masquerade with Pierre Niney, Isabelle Adjani, Marine Vacth, Francois Cluzet and Emmanuelle Devos. Both projects are in post-production (with footage available this week) and are considered strong Cannes potentials.

Pathé’s big-budget Musketeers movies, starring François Civil, Eva Green, Vincent Cassel and Vicky Krieps, began filming last summer and should wrap in the spring. The long shoot will result in two films, the first to be released by Pathé locally in April 2022 and the second lined up for December 2022.

Three Musketeers

Three Musketeers

Meanwhile, Goodbye Monsieur Haffmann – from Code producing collaborator Philippe Rousselet – and family pic King will look to round out deals.

“In coming months” says Safaee, we should get to hear about another Pathé collaboration with French comedy icon Dany Boon after their recent tie up on Netflix release Stuck Together. Pathé has a long history with Boon but the project marked the company’s first tie-up with Netflix. Pathé oversaw development and production and Netflix fully financed and has retained all rights.

Netflix has been driving hard into the French market in recent years. How transparent was the collaboration on Stuck Together? “They shared a few numbers in France and some international markets,” says former Bonne Pioche and Memento exec Safaee. “What I can say is they were very happy. It was a French family comedy and it found its audience. ”

He expands: “It was a very good experience working with Netflix. We’re thinking of IP, books and ideas we can develop with streamers. After the experience on Stuck Together it’s something we’d like to do again. “

Code also represented a first. The film was sold to AppleTV + in a record-breaking $ 25M deal at last year’s Sundance. The pact was controversial because the existing theatrical distributor deals had to be reworked. Buy-backs have become a hard new reality in a streamer-led world.

It’s a world in which Pathé itself is having to re-think its model, especially after the pandemic.

“Pathé isn’t going to make 15-16 movies a year like we used to,” Safaee says about the world’s second oldest film studio. “We’re going to make 8-10 and they have to be event movies. They have to be movies that will bring people back to the cinema. We have work to do to bring people back to the cinema after the lockdowns. Perhaps on some of the smaller, quality projects it will make more sense to work with a streamer. ”

He continues: “We’re seeing a concentration of the box office towards a few big titles. The movies in the mid-range (200-300k admissions) are having a hard time. It’s hard to know if those movies will be makeable in a few years. I know that people have many options in their homes at the moment, which means we need to provide an experience and content they don’t have at home. ”

Ardavan Safaee

Ardavan Safaee

France’s strict media chronology laws mean that exhibitors like Pathé get a good level of protection against streamers. But those strict windowing laws are finally evolving. A new deal with the local industry last month means that Netflix will have access to films 15 months after their theatrical release, versus the market’s long-held 36-month SVOD waiting period. The streamer has committed to producing at least 10 local films per year, investing about 40M euros ($ 45M). Disney + and Amazon were not among the signatories to the new model so still have to wait 17 months.

“I’m sure people from outside France look at the media chronology here and think we’re crazy but there’s also some logic given how much traditional TV networks here contribute to the whole film ecosystem,” posits Safaee.

“It’s about finding the right balance between the window and how much a Netflix will contribute to the market. Hopefully streamers like Disney in the coming years will put more money on the table for French films and in turn their window will decrease. ”

Amid the proliferation of platforms and their growing PR onslaught, Pathé recognizes the need to shout a little louder to make themselves heard. The company has for the first time hired an English-language comms firm, Premiere PR, based in London. “We thought in the new world of streamers perhaps we were under-communicating,” admits Safaee. “We thought it was time to share more. Until now we haven’t communicated about ourselves because there wasn’t a need. About our films, yes, but not ourselves. But it’s our job to get ourselves out there too and not let others take all the space. ”

Meanwhile, despite the success of Code, Pathé’s French office is not developing a slate of English-language film projects. The English-language slate continues to be driven by the company’s successful London division run by Cameron McCracken. Current projects for the blue-chip UK arm include Stephen Frears’ The Lost King Judi Dench drama Hallelujah and Michael Caine pic The Great Escaper. It was McCracken’s division that two years ago brought Pathé its last Oscar win for Judy. Hopes are now high that Code might replicate.

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