President Films, the film sales division of France Television Distribution, and Italy's RAI Cinema have pre-bought all French and Italian rights (including pay-TV) to MGM's Windtalkers. The film is directed by John Woo and stars Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater and is currently in post-production.
Windtalkers carries a $120m price tag, which is unprecedented for MGM and the studio has now decided to off-load some international rights. The deal was made through MGM's international television unit headed by Jim Griffiths. Although the territories were sold under separate deals it is significant that both purchasers are companies with film and television arms.
The French acquisition - a first for France Television Distribution, an offshoot of public broadcaster France Television headed by Marc Bonduel, under president Rene Bonnell - marks a strengthening of the outfit's international film sales and rights trading activities.
President (which handles worldwide sales duties on Raoul Ruiz's 2001 Cannes closer Les Ames Fortes) intends to be involved in a limited number of hand-picked English-language titles with budgets up to $20m-$25m. Earlier this year, the outfit (which previously handled smaller Australian title Better Than Sex) picked up worldwide rights on Roger Spottiswoode's $25m The Spike, produced by Malcolm Craddock's Picture Palace.
President Films, headed by Hugo Bergson, now groups three different labels, President Films (high-end, more mainstream titles) President Classics (formerly ArtBox), under Claudia Rae-Colombani and President Catalogue. President's founder Jacques-Eric Strauss remains as consultant, overlooking the sales of titles produced by Claude Berri, including the up-coming $45m (Ffr327m) sequel Asterix Mission Cleopatra.
Recent French pick-ups include Alain Berberian's Le Boulet, a $20.5m action title.