Magazine article Variety

Debutante Ball

Magazine article Variety

Debutante Ball

Article excerpt

SINCE HITTING A NERVE with the worldwide B.O. smash hit "The Intouchables" ($426 million), Gaumont hits ramped up its commitment to debut features and has turned into Gaul's film champion for diverse young talents emerging from France's Web, TV, stage and street culture.

That strategy has delivered: In a gloomy year marked by a wave of big-budget B.O. bombs, Gaumont's theatrical distribution biz, which is headed by Francois Clerc, managed to generate an estimated $107 million from 12.3 million admissions with 14 Gallic movies.

Among France's indie distributors, Gaumont outperformed Bathe, Studiocanal, UGC and EuropaCorp, and ranked second to Metropolitan Filmexport, which sold 12.5 million admissions with twice as many films, including Hollywood franchises like "The Hunger Games."

While the Gallic major released a couple of English-language films - "The Young and Brodigious T.S. Spivet" and "Two Mothers" - in France last year with less-than-stellar results, Gaumont has been pulling its best results for the past three years with tightly budgeted local movies reflecting the facets of French society.

These include first-timer Franck Gastambide's R-rated comedy "Kaira," based on a Web short; former TV comedian Reem Kherici's "Baris or Berish"; and Jerome Enrico's comedy "Baulette."

"For the past 10 years, multiplexes have been spreading all over the suburbs around Baris, and the film culture of these French communities - many of which are minorities - belongs to Hollywood movies," says Clerc, who started his career as an exhibitor and later worked as theater programmer for Gaumont. "But as the success of'Intouchables' showed us, these folks who live in underprivileged suburbs have a desire to see their own world onscreen, watch films with characters and stories they can relate to, and Gaumont strives to tap into that rising market."

Indeed, "The Intouchables," a reallife friendship between a caretaker from the wrong side of tracks (Omar Sy, in his first leading role) and a rich quadriplegic (Francois Cluzet), underscored the appeal of comedies featuring young minority characters and exploring contempo social themes like immigration, unemployment and race relations in France. …

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