Cost cutting measures, such as ditching animation, alongside strong international sales led by Colombiana put company back in the black.
Luc Besson’s production powerhouse EuropaCorp has reported its first profitable 12-month period after ending two consecutive financial years in the red.
The Paris-based studio, which released its consolidated results for the financial year to March 31, 2012 on Thursday evening, reported an operating income of €6.8 million against a €47.4 million loss in the previous 2010/2011 period.
Balancing its books for the first time in two years, the company said it had made a small net profit of €100,000, against a net loss of €30.2 million in the previous year.
Turnover dipped by 6% to €168.3 million in 2011/12 period, against €178.7 million in the previous years.
EuropaCorp noted the figures did not include proceeds from the international sales of Olivier Megaton’s Taken 2, reprising Liam Neeson as CIA agent Bryan Mills, which straddle 2011/12 and the current financial year.
Fox paid a €20 million tranche of its €27 million minimum guarantee for the picture in the final quarter of 2011/2012 but settled the final tranche on the film’s delivery in the first quarter of 2012/13.
“Fox’s total minimum guarantee will be included in the 2012/13 figures,” the company said.
The international release of Taken 2 is scheduled for October 2012. Its predecessor Taken took $227 million at the international box office.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, EuropaCorp managing director Christophe Lambert said net income would have come in at around €12 million if the first tranche of Fox’s MG had been included in the 2011/12 figures.
“We chose to be conservative in our accounting,” he commented.
Breaking the turnover figure down, the company said there had been a strong increase in international sales, due in large part to the success of the Zoe Saldana-starrer Colombiana, which sold to 60 territories worldwide including the US where it was picked up Sony Pictures Entertainment. Lock Out also did well.
The company noted that it had spent €23 million on the promotion and distribution of Colombiana in the United States under its deal with SPE.
On the French distribution front, EuropaCorp released 10 films over 2011/2012 – including A Monster in Paris, Love Lasts Three Years,Colombiana, The Lady and The Tree of Life — generating turnover of €14 million.
French video sales – led by Colombiana, A Monster in Paris and The Tree of Life - added another €18 million.
The sale of film titles from the company’s back catalogue to French broadcasters generated a higher-than-expected turnover of €38 million.
Returns from the company’s TV series were lower than forecast, amounting to €9 million.
Lambert said the company’s objective remained for TV series to account for 30% of turnover by 2014. He added that four productions were currently underway for M6, Canal+ and TF1.
Asked what measures had helped return EuropaCorp to profitability, Lambert replied: “We took a long hard look at our problems and took some difficult decisions – starting with the withdrawal from animation films.”
He said that the long-developed animation The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart (La mécanique du coeur), which may re-start production in July, would be EuropaCorp’s last animation film.
“The accumulated losses of the animation films are greater than all of EuropaCorp’s accounting losses since its creation,” he noted.
Lambert revealed the company had also ditched it literary publishing activities, publicity production arm and closed down its subsidiary in Japan.
Lambert stressed that English-language productions remained at the heart of EuropaCorp’s activities.
“EuropaCorp’s activities rest more than ever on the virtuous model of the production of English-language films generating important international sales. They account for 50% of our turnover,” he told Le Figaro.
“Our English-language films make on average 50% of their box office in the North-American market, when the US accounts for 35% of the world market. Our films outperform in the United States,” he added.
Looking at the on-going 2012/13 financial year, the company said the Besson-directed Malavita – the first of two English-language films being co-produced with US film financing group Relativity Media – is due to start shooting at the beginning of August with Robert de Niro, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer in the cast.
World Petank Tour (Les Boulistes) – a comedy revolving around France’s national game of boules and starring Gérard Depardieu, Atmen Khelif and Edouard Baer – is due to start shooting in mid-July.
A number of films are already in production including Eric Rochant’s thriller Mobius, starring Jean Dujardin in his first big role postThe Artist, opposite Cécile de France.
Also currently on set are the romantic comedy It Boy (Détournement Mineur), about an ambitious 30-something magazine editor who feigns a romance with a younger man to aid her promotion, and Philippe Lellouche’s road movie romance Un Prince (Pas Trop) Charmant, previously entitled The Voyage (Le Parcours).
The company noted that Jean-Pierre Améris’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs (L’homme Qui Rit), starring Depardieu, and David Marconi’s Morocco-set thriller Intersection, starring Roschdy Zem and Frank Grillo, were both in post-production and would be released before the end of 2012.