Constantin eyeing growth as titles return to fold

Rights reverting from KirchGroup

COLOGNE, Germany -- German indie giant Constantin Film is predicting strong growth this year as the German rights to a catalog of films ranging from "The Name of the Rose" to "American Pie" revert back to the company from the insolvent KirchGroup.

Kirch originally acquired the rights from Constantin in long-term deals that are only now coming to an end.

In an interview with German business daily Handelsblatt, Constantin CEO Fred Kogel said that the bulk of the rights, including lucrative German DVD rights, will revert to Constantin between 2009-2015. With the titles from Kirch, Kogel said Constantin will greatly expand its back catalog to include "more than 200" German and international titles.

The Munich-based production and distribution group also is expanding it's rights library by green-lighting a number of high-profile local-language pictures. Following the success of Tom Tykwer's literary adaptation "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer," Constantin is forging ahead with another long-in-development adaptation: "Pope Joan." Based on the bestseller by Donna W. Cross, the story of a female pontiff is set to begin shooting in May with Franka Potente headlining and Volker Schloendorff ("The Tin Drum") directing.

"Perfume" producer Bernd Eichinger also is putting the finishing touches on his script for "The Baader-Meinhof Complex," about the wave of left-wing terrorism that hit Germany in the 1970s. Uli Edel ("The Ring of the Niebe-lungs") is attached to direct.

In total, Kogel said Constantin will invest upward of €70 million ($92 million) this year in in-house and international productions. He predicts another record year, with revenue topping last year's high-water mark of €248 million ($327 million).

The only problem child in Constantin's portfolio is television production, where the company's German-language shows and sitcoms have been hurt by the recent success of U.S. imports. Kogel, however, is confident the company can maintain its current level of TV production. He said he expects to earn €125 million ($165 million) with small-screen shows this year.

Constantin shares continue to ride high, trading up 7.4% at €20.3 ($26.8) by late afternoon Monday. Just four years ago, Constantin stock was trading at €2.3 a share.

Shares are currently soaring thanks to an unconfirmed rumor that Constantin could soon merge with German sports-and-kids group EM.TV.

Germany's largest independent distributor/producer, Constantin is controlled by Swiss-based media group Highlight Communications.        
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