Quebec kids show gets new life on DVD

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TORONTO -- Canadian independent movie distributor Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution LP on Tuesday reported big first-day sales for the DVD release of "Passe-Partout," Quebec's French-language version of "Sesame Street.

Noah Segal, senior vp of home entertainment at Alliance Atlantis, said an initial shipment of 45,000 DVD units of "Passe Partout," containing the first 25 episodes of the series that was produced from 1977 to 1987 and last aired in Quebec in 1998, nearly sold out Tuesday after their first day on sale.

"You get a property that you know has some overall value in the marketplace, but nothing prepared us for this kind of velocity," Segal said as Alliance Atlantis fielded calls from Walmart, Archambault and other major Quebec retailers indicating empty store shelves required restocking.

Segal added that an estimated 150,000 units of "Passe-Partout" could be sold by Christmas, enabling the kids series to eventually surpass the previous top-selling Quebec DVD, the 2002 period drama "Seraphin: Un Homme et Son Peche" (Seraphin: Heart of Stone).

"Passe-Partout" was originally conceived by the Quebec provincial government as a TV series for kids 3-to-6 years of age to rival the popularity of U.S.-based "Sesame Street." The live action "Passe-Partout" series, featuring three clown characters -- played by Marie Eykel, Claire Pimpare and Jacques L'Heureux -- and a host of puppets, aired on Radio-Quebec and TVOntario.

Segal said the decision to release the series on DVD followed persistent pirating of the kids series over the last decade. He added that Radio-Canada gave the DVD rights to Eykel after she and her fellow actors failed to participate in the merchandising of "Passe-Partout."

After complicated negotiations, Segal said Eykel succeeded in pulling off the DVD release, with Alliance Atlantis as a partner.
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