Luc Besson's EuropaCorp Expands to L.A., Ramping Up Movie Acquisitions


The company behind "Lucy," which opens July 25, will seek to acquire more English-language movies to go through its new joint marketing-distribution venture with Relativity Media.

EuropaCorp., the Paris-based producer founded by Luc Besson, announced Wednesday that it is opening a Los Angeles office to focus on acquiring movies for North American distribution.

Federica Sainte-Rose will head the new outpost and John Zois has been appointed head of acquisitions. Sainte-Rose reports to Europa CEO Christoph Lambert and Zois reports to Sainte-Rose.

The new office is expected to be active next month, in time for the Toronto film festival and other fall showcase events. EuropaCorp's big budget action movie Lucy, Besson's latest directorial effort, arrives in theaters July 25.

“EuropaCorp is positioned as a new player in distribution,” said Lambert. “filmmakers can now have real expertise in terms of acquisition, production, marketing and distribution locally and internationally."

This is part of an international initiative to increase the number of films Europa handles, especially English-language movies. The acquisitions are expected to be distributed in North America by a marketing and distribution joint venture with Relativity Media, called RED (Relativity Europa Distribution), that Europa announced in February.

In the announcement, Europa noted it also may distribute acquired films in Europe and other territories, particularly in France. Europa is paying Relativity $130 million as part of the six-year  deal, which is anticipated to include co-financing and co-producing of movies as well.

To help pay for all of this, in May Europa secured a $450 million credit facility with a $100 million “accordion,” meaning it can be expanded if needed. The company is borrowing the money from a group of banks including J.P. Morgan, SunTrust Bank and OneWest Bank.

At Cannes, Lambert said that he hopes to produce about eight English-language movies a year to go through RED. Any acquisitions would appear to be in addition to those.

Europa was created by Besson in 1999. In addition to production, distribution of movies theatrically and in home video, international sales, soundtracks, licensing and other activities, last year it began to operate some multiplex movie theaters in Europe.

Europa is making one of its biggest bets ever on the release of Lucy this week — with a budget of around $40 million — directed by Besson and starring  Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. It is being distributed by Europa in France and by Universal in most of the rest of the world. It is opening on about 3,200 North American screens this weekend. Europa is currently in production on Taken 3, directed by Olivier Megaton and again starring Liam Neeson, with  Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker and Famke Janssen.

It is also about to start production on a reboot of the Transporter trilogy, directed by Camille Delamarre with Ed Skrein, which will go out through RED in North America and Europa in France.