Celerier says Mars can do it all


PARIS -- This man is from Mars, and his films are from ... well, pretty much everywhere on the planet. After a self-described "forced departure" from StudioCanal's theatrical arm last year, super-distributor Stephane Celerier is back with a solo operation already shaking up the French film industry.

Mars Distribution may be keeping its maiden name after its divorce last year from StudioCanal, but Celerier has given his company a complete makeover. Not only does Mars have an eclectic lineup of titles set for Gallic release, the distributor also is branching into production and international sales. "We want to create a label that does everything," Celerier says.

After releasing smaller films like Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi's "Actresses" (Dec. 26) and Emir Kusturica's "Promise Me This" (Jan. 30), Celerier is hoping Cedric Klapisch's "Paris" will put Mars on the map with strong boxoffice results when the film is released Wednesday. The dramatic comedy whose A-list cast includes Juliette Binoche, Albert Dupontel, Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini and Francois Cluzet is among the most anticipated national titles in the country this season.

Celerier plans to release 15-20 films a year, down from about 30 when Mars was still part of StudioCanal. "We're passionate film lovers here to discover how to distribute good films," Celerier says. "We want to focus on quality. I plan to distribute a lot of first films and discover new talents, both French and American."

Mars will release Universal's Adam Brooks comedy "Definitely, Maybe," starring Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher and Kevin Kline, and recently signed for the rights to distribute the Jessica Alba-starrer "The Eye," tentatively scheduled for a June release date. While Celerier says "it's too early" for any major U.S. studio deals, "we're really going to attack the American angle this year."

Mars bought and will distribute seven films from France Telecom's new film production subsidiary Studio 37. While Studio 37 and Mars may have "privileged ties," the deal is not exclusive.

On the production end, Mars will co-produce author-turned-director Frederic Beigbeder's big-screen version of best-selling novel "L'Amour Dure Trois Ans."

Celerier is also planning to pilot Mars across borders with new international sales unit Elle Driver. Headed by Eva Diederix and Adeline Fontan Tessaur, Elle Driver started off at Unifrance's market in January with Fred Cavaye's first feature, "Pour Elle," and has brought several other titles to Berlin. Mars and Elle Driver will have a first-look deal for each other's titles, but again, no exclusive agreement.

Before Mars' films can travel, however, Celerier wants to make sure that people see them in his home territory. "We have a lot to do in France to defend the movie theater -- which should be the first window to view films -- against piracy. Seeing a movie on the big screen is different than seeing it on TV or the Internet," he says.

"We need to make good mo-vies because the public is increasingly demanding (now that) they can see films everywhere. We need to make movies that people want to see urgently," Celerier says.