Luc Besson's EuropaCorp Skips CineEurope for Comic-Con

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Luc Besson, with his wife, French producer Virginie Silla, at the Cannes Film Festival.

The director will showcase exclusive footage from the recently concluded 'Valerian' shoot in San Diego in July.

At last year's CineEurope in Barcelona, EuropaCorp made their debut on the last day of the trade show with an enthusiastic and chest-thumping presentation that showcased its emerging status as a European major.

Flush with cash from its recent international smash hit Lucy and the conclusion of the Taken trilogy, together with a new joint-venture distribution deal in the U.S., Luc Besson’s French banner offered up an impressive slate of major new titles, including the Transporter franchise prequel Refueled, Chinese co-prod Warriors Gate, Javier Bardem-starring narcotics biopic Escobar and, of course, Valerian, the big-budget sci-fi pic starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter after the 2015 show, the company was bombastic regarding its future and how managing its U.S. distribution not only enabled it control its own “destiny,” but give it a seat among the top studios.

“I have been told that when you become a distributor in the U.S. you become, as a consequence, a global studio. So, this is our first year that we’ve become a global studio, and I thought that now was the time to join that great, private membership club of CineEurope,” said its then-CEO Christophe Lambert, adding that the company would definitely be returning in 2016. “But with a better slot!”

A year on, however, and EuropaCorp’s sophomore appearance in Barcelona failed to materialize.

But much has happened over the past 12 months. While Besson has been shooting his “passion project” Valerian in France since January, his company has been weathering a couple of storms.

First came the bankruptcy at Relativity, EuropaCorp’s partner on the U.S. distribution joint-venture, RED. Besson immediately brushed off any concerns regarding the deal, asserting that RED was its own separate entity. Indeed, RED wasn’t included in Relativity’s Chapter 11 filed last July, but it wasn’t a great start for its bold U.S. ambitions.

Then in February, on the eve of the Berlin International Film Festival, an unexpected shake-up saw Lambert exit the company, to be replaced by veteran Hollywood studio exec Marc Shmuger. The move was seen by many as opening up a path towards acquisition, helping Besson’s not exactly secretive search for a buyer to help take the company off the market, removing the financial and PR restrictions that come with a public listing.

In May, during Cannes, news broke that Lambert had tragically died at just 51 from lung cancer.

But four months on from the executive shake-up with no major developments at the company, the decision not to take to the stage at CineEurope could be entirely separate from any business matters.

Just a few weeks after its 2015 presentation in Barcelona, Besson headed over to Comic-Con to give a “fireside chat” about all things Valerian, unveiling the “biggest adventure of my life” (and the biggest undertaking for his company), showing concept designs for his most ambitious endeavor yet.

And with shooting now wrapped and a stretchy spell of postproduction ahead of him, it seems he wants to honor the San Diego masses once more.

Speaking to THR, EuropaCorp marketing manager Bruno Perez revealed that Besson would be returning to Comic-Con again next month with exclusive footage from the shoot, the U.S. being seen as an essential factor in helping the film recoup some of its estimated $170 million budget.

A Comic-Con exclusive would have required EuropaCorp attending CineEurope without anything from its biggest and most hotly anticipated film.

Perez also pointed to Kirsk, the studio’s Russian submarine disaster set to star Colin Firth and Matthias Schoenarts, with Thomas Vinterberg directing. With shooting not set to start until later in the year, it again would have attended this week's confab without any footage from one of its biggest titles.

While EuropaCorp may have passed on CineEurope this year, with Valerian due for release in July 21, 2017 (likely teeing it up for a Comic-Con world premiere), Perez says the company will definitely be heading to Barcelona next year. And definitely with Valerian footage.


 

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