In an unexpected switch of allegiance, leading French production house Telema has broken its alliance with Le Studio Canal Plus in favour of free TV broadcaster TF1, which has acquired a controlling 49% stake in the company.

Telema has produced a string of French hit comedies such as La Vie Est Un Long Fleuve Tranquille, Le Bonheur Est Dans Le Pre, Un Air De Famille and most recently Le Gout Des Autres, which has sold 3 million tickets on its sixth week of release in France.

The company previously had a wide-ranging production alliance with Le Studio and was also partnered with the Canal Plus film subsidiary in London-based production venture TOC, which shut down last year.

As part of the deal, Telema chief Charles Gassot will join TF1's management as consultant in charge of the development of the broadcaster's film activities both on a national and international level.

Telema's next project is an English-language live-action adaptation of Edward P Jacobs' comic book La Marque Jaune, to be directed by James Huth.

TF1 already owns a controlling 49% share in another French production outfit, Film Par Film, headed by Jean Louis Livi. Under local legislation, the broadcaster is prevented from owning a larger stake in a production entity.

TF1 is also involved in international production through its international production and sales arm TF1 International, headed by Didier Sapaut. TF1 International is co-financing Wayne Wang's The Beautiful Country, starring Nick Nolte, with Sony Pictures Classics, and has a three-picture deal with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant's Merchant Ivory Productions (MIP). The company co-financed MIP's The Golden Bowl, directed by Ivory, which is expected to be selected for competition at Cannes.