StudioCanal nabs Kinowelt

Three nations, one Euro network

French movie powerhouse StudioCanal has closed its deal for 100% of German distributor Kinowelt (HR 1/11).

The estimated €70 million ($103 million) deal makes StudioCanal the largest Pan-European film distribution company, with operations in the continent's three largest markets: France, Germany and the U.K. (The Gallic company bought London-based Optimum Releasing in 2006.)

"We're the only European company to have such a direct presence in the top three markets," StudioCanal chairman and CEO Olivier Courson said. With a stake in the three territories, StudioCanal will control a market worth €3 billion ($4.4 billion) in boxoffice receipts and €7 billion ($10.2 billion) in home video sales. StudioCanal will add Kinowelt's 7,000-plus library titles to its already 5,000-strong catalog.

"Our priority is to develop our strategy in each of these three countries and band them together to create a European network," Courson said. StudioCanal is hoping to not only profit from Kinowelt's massive library of DVD rights and distribution benefits but also aggressively develop the company's international production activities.

StudioCanal plans to invest $292 million per year in local and international film production, $44 million more than the group's current investment. "We want to be the choice for a European co-producer," Courson said.

"We're going to partner more and more with the U.S. majors and take advantage of remake rights," he added.

StudioCanal wholly funded Wong Kar Wai's "My Blueberry Nights" in 2006 and already has a slew of international co-productions in the works, including Johnny To's next film and a prequel/remake of John Carpenter's "Escape From New York."

Kinowelt has been distributing StudioCanal's films in Germany for years, and the companies plan to extend their strong professional relationship. Michael and Rainer Kolmel will remain as senior advisers to Kinowelt, Michael for strategy and Rainer for acquisitions.

Both companies declined comment on the price tag of the merger, rumored to be in the $100 million range.

The deal, signed late Wednesday, will be set in motion "as quickly as possible," according to StudioCanal, which hopes to see the acquisition in place by the beginning of March.

Rebecca Leffler reported from Paris; Scott Roxborough reported from Berlin.