Back to the future: Canal+ and Mars Films join forces through StudioCanal
by Fabien Lemercier
- Already the director of cinema at Canal+, Didier Lupfer has become the president of StudioCanal, with Stéphane Célérier becoming vice president
There’s been a new development in the ‘forceful’ taking back of the Canal+ group by Vincent Bolloré, who has been sending heads rolling since the beginning of the summer after taking total control of Vivendi (the owner of Canal and Universal Music, he notably bought out video platform Dailymotion in July). After completely changing the organisational structure by appointing Jean-Christophe Thiery as president of Canal+ (in the place of Bertrand Méheut), throwing out managing director Rodolphe Belmer and appointing Didier Lupfer as director of cinema (replacing Nathalie Coste-Cerdan), the Breton business man has just finished reshaping the hierarchy of ‘major’ European player StudioCanal, which produces, purchases, distributes and handles international sales of films and TV series (notably under its own brand in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and New Zealand) and holds the global rights to some 5000 films.
The president of StudioCanal since 2007, Olivier Courson has stepped down from office and left the group, with Didier Lupfer taking up the position and full powers in addition to his existing powers as director of cinema at Canal+, an unprecedented combination. This return to power of a person who left Canal in the mid-2000s (he went on to work at One World Films and Ubisoft Motion Pictures) comes with another repetition of history, as Canal+ has just become a 30% shareholder in Mars Films, the distribution and co-production company led by Stéphane Célérier, who has also just been appointed as vice president of StudioCanal. As a reminder, Mars Distribution was incorporated into Canal+ and headed up by Célérier before the latter was ousted in November 2006 (see news article). Célérier went on to reclaim the name and set up an independent company in 2007.
Mars is currently the 5th biggest distributor in France, with StudioCanal in 10th place, but nobody yet knows what Dider Lupfer’s strategy actually is. Will the two companies join forces? Will they work well another? Will StudioCanal outsource distribution in theatres to Mars? To what extent will Mars remain independent? So many questions being quietly passed around the microcosm of French cinema (in which Canal+ is a major source of funding and StudioCanal and Mars are important distribution channels) and in Europe too, given the links forged by StudioCanel with the biggest countries through direct distribution, international sales (see news item), agreements such as those with Aardman Animations and Svensk Filmindustri (see news item), and investments in the production of a number of films such as Paddington [+see also:
film profile] and the latest films by Luca Guadagnino and Tobias Lindholm.
(Translated from French)