'Intouchables' Revives Germany's Senator Entertainment

12:29 AM PST 05/01/2013 by Scott Roxborough
The French comedy earned more than $82 million at the German box office.

The surprise French blockbuster boosted revenues at the German producer/distributor by more than 76 percent in 2012.

COLOGNE -- The come-from-nowhere blockbuster success of French comedy The Intouchables in Germany reversed and revived fortunes at German distributor Senator Entertainment, sending sales soaring and turning red into a sea of black.

Directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, the cross-culture comedy about a rich paraplegic white man and his street smart black caregiver broke all records for a French film in Germany, selling nine million tickets for some $82 million at the box office.

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Combined with similarly stunning home entertainment revenues, Intouchables boosted sales at Senator by 76.1 percent last year to $65.5 million (€50 million) and an operating (EBIT) profit of $9.1 million (€7 million) against €0.9 million a year earlier. The €300,000 net loss Senator booked in 2011 was turned into a $6 million (€4.6 million) net profit.

A few of Senator's other titles performed decently last year, including the Jean Reno culinary comedy Comme un Chef (box office $1.3 million) and the documentary More than Honey ($1.2 million), but it was largely a one-film show.

Further helping Senator's bottom line was a new share issue, worth $15 million (€11.5 million) -- cash earmarked for the company's new output deal with Relativity Media. The company also has a new output agreement in place with film financing group Silver Reel for such titles as Scott Hicks' fantasy adventure Fallen and Jonathan Glazer's upcoming sci-fi feature Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson.

"We’re on track to fulfill our goal of long-term profitability,“ said Senator CEO Helge Sasse. “For 2013, we expect total sales in the double-digit millions, as well as profits (EBIT) in the single-digit millions. Long-term positive growth remains secure for the next few years going forward".

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So far this year, Senator has had an impressive-sounding but largely under-performing slate with such releases as Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, David O Russell's Silver Linings Playbook and Steen Soderbergh's Side Effects.

An attempt to recapture the Intouchable magic with De L'Autre Côté Du Périph, the latest French comedy with Intouchables star Omar Sy, fell short, with a box office of just $2.6 million. Senator's top title so far this year has been the Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, earning $4 million in Germany.

But the company is going full-out for 2013, with 17 more releases planned, including the best agers hopeful A Late Quartet starring Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, the Josh Boone-directed rom-com Stuck in Love and Anton Corbijn's John Le Carré adaptation A Most Wanted Man.

The latter is an in-house co-production, another area Senator has put into high gear, fueled by the Intouchables boom. Other Senator productions that have gotten the green light include literary adaptation The Cook directed by Vincent Wants to Sea helmer Ralf Huettner and the children's film Dr. Proctor's Fart Powder, a co-production with Tradewind Pictures and the Norwegian production house Maipo Film.

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