Magazine article Variety

Pathe Accents Opportunity

Magazine article Variety

Pathe Accents Opportunity

Article excerpt


French mogul sees growth in English-lingo pix, premium screens

When Jerome Seydoux, the scion of the Seydoux-Schlumberger industrial empire, bought Pathe in 1990, he helped not only to modernize Europe's oldest film company, but also to internationalize France's movie business by setting up a U.K. office and producing mainstream, bigger budget and English language fare such as "Slumdog Millionaire."

Founded in 1896, Pathe recorded $1.2 billion in revenues in 201 1, and distributes pics in France and via Fox in the U.K. Seydoux also helped revamp French cinemas, leading its multiplex revolution, and helping French movies' market share hit 35°/ch15% in a $1.3 billion market.

From his sunlit office at Pathe's Paris H.Q., just off the Champs Elysees, Seydoux, 78, a man of aristocratic mien, charm and discretion, talked to John Hopewell and Elsa Keslassy about Pathe's possibilities for expansion, the rise of premium theaters, Pathe's future with Danny Boyle and the importance of not being "too French."

Q: Pathe Intl., your overseas sales operation, is at Berlin selling not only new Frenchlanguage films from Dany Boon, Sylvain Chomet and Christophe Gans, but ateo movies in English: "Zulu, " with Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker; Stephen Frears' "Philomena"; Denis Villeneuves "An Enemy. "Are you looking to make more films in English?

JS: For me, it's quite simple. You have Hollywood, and I don't think we can compete with Hollywood. Then the French market: Hollywood can try to compete with us there, but we're pretty solid. Then, you have mostly English-speaking movies not from Hollywood, which Pathe can make out of London and from time to time Paris. English-language movies do travel better than Frenchlanguage movies. If you look just at Europe, that's a fact. We're a French company. But it's important for us to remain international, and not to be too French.

Q: So, you'll be increasing your English-language movies?

JS: Yes, I think we should try to move more in that direction, probably making two or three English-language movies per year, perhaps a bit more. Not all French directors can shoot in English, however, though we do have "Zulu," by a very talented French director, Jerome Salle.

Q: What budget ranges are you looking at for English-language films?

JS: We won't make $100 million movies. Hollywood does that much better. But you don't make movies because of their budgets, you make movies because you believe in them. Setting limits doesn't matter to me.

Q: You've produced two of the three highest-grossing French movies in France since 2011: Dany Boon's "Nothing to Declare" ($69.2 million) and "Houba! On the Trau of the Marsupilami" ($45 million). What do box office results suggest about audience trends?

JS: Audiences are getting a little bit older. But that's true in the U.S. and in Europe. Populations are aging.

Q: Are audiences also getting more sophisticated?

JS: To some extent, yes. But I think you should never forget that cinema is entertainment.

Q: With 740 screens, Les Cinemas Gaumont Pathe is France's biggest theater chain. Pathe also owns cinemas in Holland and Switzerland. You've said the company is ready to invest in chains in other countries if the opportunity is there. Is it?

JS: If we bought another company, we'd buy most logically in Europe, a complementary company with high exhibition standards in another country.

Q: Have you identified territories?

JS: We have some ideas.

Q: On Jan. 15, Francois Ivernel, Cinemas Gaumont Pathe's CEO, presented Pathe Plus, Pathe's new generation of high-comfort, high-tech theaters, with the debut of Paris' 3D Pathe Wepler. …

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