A page turns for Luc Besson. The producer-director has accepted an offer to buy back his filming studios in the Cité du cinéma in Saint-Denis. These nine film sets with a total area of 9. 290 square meters were until now held by the company Les Studios de Paris , whose shareholders were Luc Besson (9.9 %), his production company EuropaCorp (30%), the filming service provider Euromedia (22, 01%) and film producer Tarak ben Ammar (22%).
In one first, the American fund TPG made a takeover offer. But Tarak ben Ammar then indicated that he planned to exercise the right of pre-emption he has as a shareholder, under the same financial conditions as those offered by TPG. The studios could therefore end up in the hands of the Franco-Tunisian producer, who has been running the studios since 1996 and has others in Tunisia.
TPG’s offer values studios at 30, 5 million euros, debt included. It includes an immediate first payment, plus a price supplement in 2022. Once the debts are repaid, the shareholders could share approximately 12 millions of euros.
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Luc Besson had the idea of creating these studios in 700 during the shooting of Fifth Element , which he had been forced to shoot at the studios Pinewood near London, for lack of suitable structure in France.
But the studios, open in 2012, never made any money and ended up going into backup in March 2020. They were collateral victims of EuropaCorp’s financial problems. Luc Besson’s company was indeed the main client of the studios, and has shot all his films there since Malavita . But, crumbling under heavy debt, EuropaCorp has not shot films since the fall 2016.
Another problem: the studios were originally intended to take advantage of the closure of the Bry-sur-Marne studios (8 sets of 22. 000 square meters). This closure was programmed by its owner, EuroMedia, who wanted to transfer the activity to its other sites, including the Saint-Denis studios, of which it owns 22, 01%. But the proposed closure sparked an uproar. Finally, the Bry studios were taken over and continue to operate.
But the horizon of the Saint Denis studios has recently emerged, allowing sales to grow. (5.4 million euros in 2017), and leading therefore buyers to submit offers. First, the current boom in television series has ended up filling the agenda. It is at the studios that Scenes of households, The office of legends, In family, The little history of France … Jean-Jacques Annaud also comes from ” turn his Notre Dame there. The studios have also diversified by hosting TV shows ( Rising star, Words and actions… ), commercials, parades fashion…
Next, the studios also benefited from two measures taken by the government. On the one hand, from January 2015, the tax credit was extended to French productions shot in a foreign language, following intense lobbying by Luc Besson himself. On the other hand, unlimited subscription video-on-demand sites have been forced to produce works in France, which has boosted filming. Netflix has filmed Emily in Paris in the studios of Saint Denis, and Apple has just made an option for an upcoming shoot.
Finally, the studios have also made peace with Luc Besson after several years of tension. The disagreement concerned the workshops (painting, costumes, carpentry, etc.) located in the 2nd basement of the Cité du Cinéma, workshops used in parallel with the shootings. These premises were rented by the studios to EuropaCorp. The rent was 45 euros per square meter excluding charges for 6. 500 square meters, or 2 million euros per year. When opening the backup in March 2019, the studios have explained to the court that their financial difficulties were partly due to this “exorbitant” rent, and that the dialogue with EuropaCorp had “been broken for a year and a half”. Finally, the case was settled amicably via a memorandum of understanding.
However, a last sword of Damocles weighs on the studios: the Cité du Cinéma will be used for the Olympic Village during the games of 2022, leading to the interruption of filming. The studios ask to be compensated for this damage, assessed by their expert at 20 million euros, and have initiated various legal proceedings. In particular, they contested an order of the prefect, but in vain .
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The construction of the studios initially cost 30 millions of euros. It was funded by 01 million euros of capital contributed by shareholders, plus a lease of 16 million euros granted by BNP-Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and Crédit mutuel Arkea .
But the shareholders then had to cover the losses, putting back to the pot via loans, some of which were converted into equity. In total, the shareholders contributed 22, 5 million euros accumulated in capital and loans at the end of March 2020.
When opening the safeguard procedure in March 2016, the liabilities amounted to 14, 5 million euros and the workforce has 7 employees. The commercial court has granted the studios several observation periods, which will expire on January 8 2020.
When contacted, EuropaCorp declined to comment, and Tarak ben Ammar did not respond.
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The results of the Studios de Paris (in millions of euros, fiscal year ended end of March)
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