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AUDIOVISUAL France

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Vivendi affair veiled in mystery

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- Messier´s «departure» drags French cinema into the eye of the storm. What strategies will new CEO Fourtou adopt?

The serious difficulties that Vivendi Universal is experiencing have contributed to industry anxiety and speculation about the fate of the French film industry. The sacking of Jean Marie Messier failed to stem rumours about a likely dismemberment of the media colossus that includes Studio Canal and Canal+, two of France and Europe´s most prolific production houses. Even though neither is officially on the market, potential buyers are lining up with public and private television channels, TF1 and M6 joining Pathé and Lagardère. One of the more interesting theories being put forward has Studio Canal divorcing from Vivendi Universal Entertainment and carving out a better niche for itself in the European production and distribution markets. This would depend directly on Studio Canal´s holding onto its 5000-film library, a veritable treasure house of French and European cinema.
It remains to be seen how Studio Canal will react to ulterior changes that include the announced departure of its DG, Brahim Chioua at the end of August.
Another important issue on the table is theatrical distribution. Canal Plus´ dedicated department, Bac Distribution is said to be on the look-out for a third partner to join Bac Majestic. While it remains to be seen what strategies the new CEO, Jean-René Fourtou will adopt, the dances are officially open.

(Translated from French)

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