Magazine article Screen International

Studiocanal UK: 10 Years in the Making

Magazine article Screen International

Studiocanal UK: 10 Years in the Making

Article excerpt

In 1999, the year Danny Perkins, Will Clarke and Paul Higgins launched Optimum Releasing, they set out their stall as smart, nimble new operators in the UK distribution arena by re-releasing black-and-white British classic The Third Man (a Studiocanal film) opposite the George Lucas juggernaut Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

Fast forward to 2016: Studiocanal UK (whose French parent Studiocanal, the subsidiary of pay TV giant Canal Plus, purchased Optimum in 2006) has assumed the mantle of the UK's largest non-studio producer-distributor.

Offthe back of huge successes including Paddington and Legend, it now finds itself entrusted with delivering the key building blocks of corporate owner Vivendi's content strategy.

"A lot of the core values are still there," Studiocanal UK CEO Perkins tells Screen of the heady journey from scrappy newcomer to cornerstone player.

"It still feels like the same business, it's still fun. We've grown so much and we're being encouraged to grow even more." (Clarke departed in 2010 and now runs Altitude Films.)

"Studiocanal have very similar values in that they are film fans at heart," he continues. "They put filmmakers at the heart of everything, and are talent friendly. The companies fitted well together and have both grown in the following years because of those shared values."

Growth mandate

Since Didier Lupfer took over last September as chairman and chief executive of Studiocanal, as well as head of cinema at Canal Plus, there is a mandate from the company's owners Vivendi to grow Studiocanal as the corporation's content factory.

Studiocanal UK is an integral cog in that strategy, with Perkins given an expanded role in March to assume responsibility for UK production and securing UK talent, in line with the policy to generate more English-language productions.

"There's more investment from Vivendi in both development and production," says Perkins, who has forged strong, successful partnerships with a who's who of UK producers and production companies, including David Heyman, Working Title, Aardman Animations, See-Saw Films, Blueprint Pictures and Number 9 Films.

"We've had success getting in very early on projects and devising them from the beginning. Because of that success, we're being encouraged to invest more at the development stage and build more projects from the ground up."

Studiocanal's recent purchase of the Paddington IP feeds into the overall strategy, giving the company and its deep-pocketed owners Vivendi new opportunities to expand a beloved franchise - which they successfully re-introduced to a new global audience with the $260m-grossing 2014 hit.

"Owning the brand, we can now look at how to exploit that in terms of our television arm; with Universal Music in terms of live-stage shows; and with Havas [the Vivendi-owned advertising and communications giant] in terms of the brand side. It's a clear strategy to have bigger properties that we can exploit through all those channels, and it's a big push from Vivendi to work ever closer with those partners so we can really maximise the value in anything we're doing."

The sequel to Paddington will shoot this autumn on an increased budget from the original's $55m cost, "and on a bigger scale". Most of the main cast are now confirmed to return, including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Ben Whishaw on vocal duties as the endearing bear, with casting discussions underway for two new major roles including a new villain to take over bear-scaring duties from Nicole Kidman. …

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