'Slum,' 'Sticks' spell profits for Pathe

French producer/distributor sees earnings rise 26.4%

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

Boxoffice revenue grew 14% to 58 million euros ($73 million), thanks largely to Dany Boon's boxoffice phenomenon "Welcome to the Sticks," which sold more than 20 million tickets in Gaul alone. The movie has been a hot ticket abroad as well, and a remake is in the works stateside to be produced by Will Smith.

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. I'm already thinking about our 2010 and 2011 releases, instead of focusing on the trimestrial results," Pathe boss Jerome Seydoux told Gallic newspaper Le Figaro.

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

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