Magazine article Variety

Besson-Built Studio Beckons Bizzers

Magazine article Variety

Besson-Built Studio Beckons Bizzers

Article excerpt


Luc Besson is a man of many dimensions. Best known as a writer, producer, director and founder of EuropaCorp, one of Europe's largest production companies, he's also bringing to life the Cite du Cinema, the largest studio complex ever built in France - a purposeful attempt to bring Gaul's physical production facilities up to the standards of its Euro rivals: Italy, Germany and the U.K.

After two years of construction at Saint-Denis outside Paris, part of the Ile de France region, Cite du Cinema will open for business this year.

The project's corporate structure is complicated. It includes the euro30 million ($39 million) Paris Studios, France's first modern mega-studio, which is integrated into the 16-acre, $209 million Cite complex, a real estate project built around a former power station.

Paris Studios is financed by Besson's EuropaCorp (40%), his holding company Frontline (9.9%), Tarak Ben Ammar's Quinta Communications (2596) and facilities provider Euro Media France (25.1%). The rest of the real estate venture has a different constellation of shareholders.

In addition to Paris Studios, La Cite will house the Louis Lumiere National Film School, ambitious EuropaCorp office facilities, a state-of-the-art theater, 129,167 sq. feet of set construction workshops and 185,800 of office space for other film and TV companies. Nine soundstages will operate on the property.

The complex is well placed to find synergies with other production entities. "Two-thirds of French production companies are already based in the area around northern Paris," says Thierry de Segonzac, prexy of technicians' association Ficam. "There's a natural basis for creating a film and TV cluster in this zone."

But more a more important goal is to attract production from outside France. "We aim to bring in foreign shoots interested in spending over $50 million in France," says OlivierRene Veillon, director of the De de France Film Commission. "La Cite du Cinema, with nine world-class soundstages, will attract major Hollywood productions."

In keeping with this international vein, most EuropaCorp movies target global markets. The company aims to be a major user of Paris Studios alongside other big Hollywood, European and French outfits.

EuropaCorp's first film is booked for early July; Paris Studios says it has inked deals to bring in two additional high-budget shoots before year-end. …

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