"We're not coming here to make Spider-Man," said an ebullient Harvey Weinstein, as he unveiled a ground breaking alliance with France's TF1. "This is about fostering European film and European talent."
Patrick Le Lay, TF1 chairman and chief executive, presented the partnership as a two step-deal involving the creation of a joint venture French theatrical distribution company, and second the co-production of a slate of European films by TF1 International and Miramax International.
"These are supplementary steps in our strategy of acquisition, co-production and production in feature films, an area in which we have moved slowly but surely," said Le Lay.
"It will be staffed by French and run by French," explained Miramax worldwide distribution chairman Rick Sands, who said that a French executive will shortly be named to direct the operation. Le Lay confirmed that it will launch in the summer. The unnamed distribution entity will handle films from Miramax, Dimension, TF1 and potentially third party pick-ups.
Forthcoming titles include Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal, Rob Marshall's Chicago, Tom Tykwer's Heaven, Jez Butterworth's Birthday Girl and George Clooney's Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind from Miramax and Dark Blue World from TF1.The distribution venture will be jointly financed by TF1 and Miramax with Miramax putting up p&a on its pictures. The films that are co-produced by the partners will "as of right" be handled by the new distributor.
The two companies also identified pictures they intend to co-produce together including the remake of French hit Tanguy, Italian-language drama The Gate Of Heaven, The Rose and war action movie Colditz which will be shot in Europe. According to Didier Sapaut, CEO of TF1 International "The jointly produced pictures will be co-distributed internationally with a sharing out of territories."
In a potshot at TF1's deadly rival, the beleaguered Canal Plus group, Weinstein said: "For people who have been disaffected recently [by the hiatus in film financing and acquisitions] this could be one of the answers."
Meanwhile Miramax's pay-TV arrangement with Canal Plus remains in place for at least a year or two to come, meaning that pay-TV is not part of the new arrangement for the Miramax films and that TF1's TPS pay-TV platform does not automatically have access to them. Whether films co-produced by the new venture will go to TPS is as yet undecided. "We haven't got to that stage yet," said Sands.
It marks the first pure distribution venture for Miramax, which already works with sister company BVI in the UK, Italy and Australia, and represents TF1's first foray into distribution in France.
Sands denied suggestions that it had shopped the deal around to other French companies such as Europa, Gaumont Buena Vista or SND. "It made perfect sense to come to TF1, to do something they were not doing and build on their strengths in finance, TV and video."
Previously in France, Miramax released its films through Jean Labadie's Bac Films in which it has a 5% stake. It either sold its movies to Labadie or partnered with Bac and paid for its own P&A in France on movies such as Kate & Leopold and Serendipity. But recently Bac has faced a cash crisis after big box office disappointments such as We Were Soldiers and Ali. "We have a great relationship with Jean and Bac," said Sands, "and they are a going concern. But we were able to get together with a French partner which has a passion about movies and produces its own movies and which is a really strong player."
Nancy Tartaglione & Patrick Frater also contributed to this report