Koelmel sitting pretty after Kinowelt sale


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BERLIN -- Kinowelt founder Michael Koelmel is known more for his financial acumen and deal-making skills than for his emotional exuberance. But Koelmel, who oversaw the rise, fall and rebirth of the German indie giant and recently sold the company to Studio Canal for 70 million euros, can't help looking a mite pleased with himself.

The Studio Canal deal hands over Kinowelt's impressive film library, its German distribution operations and its international rights business. Michael and his brother Rainer Koelmel will retain control of their German film production operations the company's pay TV channel and the controlling stake in Munich-based rights group Intertainment. The Koelmels will also hold on to publishing and retail operation Zweitausandeins.

"For Studio Canal, my brother and I will continue to work in the way I have for the past few years with Kinowelt's management, that is as advisors and on the acquisitions side," Michael Koelmel told The Hollywood Reporter at the Berlin Film Festival. "For our (local-language) productions we will have a housekeeping arrangement with Studio Canal to release them in Germany."

Kinowelt's latest in-house production, the Dominik Wessely documentary "Reverse Angle – Rebellion of the Filmmakers" had its world premiere in Berlin on Monday night. The film, which Rainer Koelmel produced, looks at the groundbreaking work of New German Cinema directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Volker Schlondorff and Wim Wenders.

On the acquisitions side, Koelmel said he will focus on deals for German-language territories but will also be eying potential multiple-territory deals to feed Studio Canal's U.K. operation Optimum Releasing.

Looking back to 2001, when the high-flying Kinowelt was brought down by a combination of market jitters and excess debt, Koelmel said the experience has changed the way he does business.

"Kinowelt now has very little debt and we finance acquisitions ourselves, not through bank financing," Koelmel said. "That way we won't have any risk because of the financing, we only have the risk that the films don't work. And we trust that we can handle that ... If you look back to 2001, we had all the right films including 'The Lord of the Rings,' and if we could have exploited them, we would have been able to pay off our debts. But if you are debt-financed you also have to convince someone else (the banks) that you are right. I don't want a repeat of that situation."