Magazine article Variety

Can Euro Cinephiles Re-Create Hollywood's Classic Studio Films?

Magazine article Variety

Can Euro Cinephiles Re-Create Hollywood's Classic Studio Films?

Article excerpt

There's a gap to be filled, if not a chasm. And a growing number of European players believe that they have the savvy and resources to fill it.

It's a gap created by Hollywood which, in its ardor to serve up a menu of wall-to-wall blockbusters, has all but abandoned traditional genres like drama, comedy and other fare aimed at the broad spectrum of filmgoers.

Traveling around Europe these past weeks, I've met a number of filmmakers who grew up on Hollywood movies but feel the studios have lost their interest in making them - or the talent to do so. And they believe they can rediscover that lost art.

Here's the problem: Euro producers in the past have, by and large, failed to create pictures that can also draw U.S. moviegoers.

But there have been exceptions, most notably Luc Besson's recent action thriller "Lucy." That hit, starring Scarlett Johansson, arguably is a very Euro film in style and sensibility (though hardly an art film), yet has appealed to American as well as international audiences (it grossed $415 million worldwide). Besson and his brash production partner, Christophe Lambert, launched an American distribution entity in February, in partnership with Relativity, with the aim of releasing 12 films a year. Relativity's record as an indie distributor, to be sure, has been spotty at best, with its boss, Ryan Kavanaugh, insisting he's chasing "singles and doubles, not home runs." Besson wants home runs.

Another, more conservative, but equally ambitious, French company is StudioCanal, which is co-funding a range of international films and also exploring a link to a major distributor. Olivier Courson, its CEO, and Ron Halpern, its American production chief, are thoughtful film buffs who want to make serious auteur-driven films as well as family entertainment. Their company releases its pictures in five major territories from France to Australia, has a sprawling library to fuel and has ramped up a slate of 10 movies over the next year.

Tall, patrician, and politically well connected, Courson has helped fund films like "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and is building relationships with producers such as David Heyman, Scott Rudin, Neal Moritz, Graham King and Working Title's Eric Fellner. …

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