Pan-European major StudioCanal has announced a three-year, €150m slate financing deal with London-based private fund Anton Capital Entertanment [ACE], bringing its total production and acquisitions budget for the period to €500m.
“I’m very proud to present a new stage in the development of StudioCanal. We have just closed a transaction with Anton Capital Entertainment to co-finance our productions over the next three years, which I think I can describe as ‘exceptional’, especially against the current economic backdrop,” StudioCanal CEO and chairman Olivier Courson [pictured] told a news conference at headquarters in Paris today.
Under the deal, ACE will cover 30% of the budget of StudioCanal productions and acquisitions of an international nature over the coming three years. In return, ACE will get a 30% cut of the profits.
“This type of slate financing deal has been used by the US studios in the past but it’s the first time it has been done in Europe,” said Courson.
The deal, which recently came into force, includes recent productions and acquisitions such as the UK box-office hit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the acquisition of the rights to Tarsem Singh’s The Brothers Grimm: Snow White for the UK and Germany.
“Essentially it includes anything we release over the next three years from now, so some 100 films,” said Courson.
ACE was founded in 2009 by Sébastien Raybaud, who worked within the media structured finance team of French bank Société Générale from 2004 to 2008, where he closed transactions with leading media conglomerates including NewsCorp, Time Warner, Viacom and Disney.
Raybaud said the fund’s investors included Bank of America, Union Bank and Falcon Investment, which previously backed Legendary Pictures (investors in Batman Begins and Superman Returns), and well as a number of European institutional investors.
Courson said the deal was unique in that it was based purely on investment and profits, rather than debt or capital exchange.
He said ACE had been convinced to invest on the back of StudioCanal’s pan-Euroepean strategy and underlying financial fundamentals. Citing preliminary forecasts, Courson said the company was expecting a 10% jump in its turnover in 2011 to €400m with a profit margin before taxes and interest of 14%.
Speaking more generally about StudioCanal’s strategy, Courson said its productions could be divided roughly into four categories: international (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), family entertainment and animation (Samy), genre films (Last Exorcism, Unknown) and features aimed specifically at one of its base territories of Britain, Germany and France (Cloclo).
He reiterated that StudioCanal would remain focused on the European market and its filmmakers, producers and talent, citing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as the sort of production the company would like to repeat.
“It was produced by British producers, Working Title, directed by a Swede and features a British cast – this is an example of the sort of intelligent, European production we want to make,” he said.
When pressed on whether StudioCanal was developing more adaptations of John Le Carré’s novels featuring the author’s legendary spy character Smiley, Courson laughed good-naturedly and replied: “For now we are focusing on the UK release of the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy followed by its US release in December.”
The film is due to hit cinema theatres in France and Germany in March 2012 after the Awards Season.
In terms of confirmed StudioCanal productions, Courson highlighted the Coen Brothers New York set picture Inside Llewyn Davis and Michel Gondry’s upcoming adaptation of Boris Vian’s French literary classic L’Ecume des Jours. Courson confirmed the latter would shoot early next year with Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Jamel Debbouze and Benoit Poelvoorde in the cast.