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Fremantle’s come a long way from The Price Is Right.
The American game show, which launched in 1956 and is still on the air, laid the foundation for the global television giant, whose small-screen reality and entertainment portfolio now includes everything from American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent to Family Feud. But for this year’s Venice Film Festival, Fremantle is putting away the cue cards and shiny floors. The company — through its Italian subsidiaries Wildside and The Apartment — has two films in official competition on the Lido this year: The Hand of God, from Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), an autobiographical tale about growing up in Naples in the 1980s, and America Latina, the latest thriller from prolific Italian directors the D’Innocenzo brothers (Bad Tales, Boys Cry).
After its Venice premiere, The Hand of God will roll out in theaters and on Netflix worldwide. Vision Distribution in Italy has local rights to America Latina, with Vision Distribution handling world sales.
These aren’t one-offs. Fremantle has 14 feature films slated for delivery this year. The company has signed first-look deals with the likes of Sorrentino, Luca Guadagnino, and Michael Winterbottom — all regulars on the international film festival circuit.
For COO Andrea Scrosati, the cinema push is a natural extension of Fremantle’s move into fiction series — over the past few years, the company has backed scripted shows like the Sorrentino-directed The Young Pope; the Sorrentino-produced My Brilliant Friend; and We Are Who We Are, directed and produced by Guadagnino.
“The talent and creatives that work in movies are the same exact talent working in television drama,” Scrosati says. “We want to work with those talents. If they have a high-end documentary they want to do, if they have a feature film, if they have a series, we are here to be their partner.”
Scrosati notes that the collapse of theatrical windows, which allows feature films to go out both in cinemas and online on streaming platforms, has given “an enormous opportunity to diversify the commercial potential of movies,” particularly non-English-language films, which previously struggled to reach audiences outside their home territories.
A sampling of Fremantle’s feature slate includes L’immensità from director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro), starring Penélope Cruz; the Danish World War II drama Shadow in My Eyes from Nightwatch director Ole Bornedal; and Le otto montagne, an Italian drama from Belgium’s Felix Van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown), with The Old Guard actor Luca Marinelli and Elena Lietti of the Sky Italia series Anna.
It all seems a world away from shiny floors and “come on down!” from Drew Carey and Ryan Seacrest. But, Scrosati notes, cinema is actually part of Fremantle’s DNA.
“We were formed from the merger [in 2000] of several companies, including Germany’s UFA, which was responsible for some of the most iconic movies of European history, including Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and The Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich,” he notes. “For us, making European cinema again is like coming home.”
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sept. 2 daily issue at the Venice International Film Festival.
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