'Sticks' props up Pathe earnings report for year

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French producer and distributor Pathe posted a 26.4% increase in annual earnings for 2008, hitting €770 million ($969.4 million), the group said Monday.

Boxoffice revenue grew 14% to $73 million thanks largely to Dany Boon's boxoffice phenomenon "Welcome to the Sticks," which sold more than 20 million tickets in France alone. The movie has been a hot ticket abroad as well, and a remake to be produced by Will Smith is in the works stateside.

Pathe is the biggest distributor in France via Europalace, its exhibition subsidiary with Gaumont that owns 834 screens.

"These results will allow us to work on long-term projects," Pathe boss Jerome Seydoux told newspaper Le Figaro. "I'm already thinking about our 2010 and 2011 releases, instead of focusing on the (these) results."

Seydoux, a co-producer on "Slumdog Millionaire," put up more than half the film's budget ($8.5 million of a total $15 million) and thus saw profit soar thanks to the film's success at home and abroad in territories including the U.K.

Pathe has high hopes for 2009, with major releases on the way including Jean-Francois Richet's "Mesrine," the French boxoffice hit that will open in the summer in U.S. theaters. (partialdiff)
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