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Miramax, Canal Plus Enter Broadcast Deal

Film: The French pay television company will show all of Miramax's movies under the three-year agreement.


CANNES — Miramax and Canal Plus said Thursday the two companies have agreed on a three-year deal for the French pay television company to broadcast all of Miramax's films.

Rick Sands, president of Miramax International, said he hopes the deal will lead to more co-productions between the specialty film company owned by Walt Disney Co. and Canal Plus, one of the largest media companies in Europe.

"The future is doing business with large pan-European television companies," Sands said.

The value of the deal was not disclosed by either company, but sources said it is worth tens of millions of dollars. The value is dependent in part upon how Miramax films perform at the French box office.

Miramax will continue to work with theatrical distribution companies in France as well as license video and other rights.

Sands estimated the deal will cover 20 to 25 films a year. But Evi Fullenbach, head of acquisitions for Canal Plus, said that historically only seven to 10 Miramax films are distributed theatrically each year in France.

Canal Plus has output deals with all of the major studios except Paramount and MGM. The Miramax movies will be shown on the Canal Plus pay TV channels and on CanalSatellite's pay-per-view service.

Party Animal: Last year, eccentric billionaire Paul Allen spent a few of his millions to have one of the grandest parties here at the International Film Festival. He flew in guests from Los Angeles, New York and other spots around the world, put them up in Cannes and then hosted a bizarrely extravagant party at a local villa.

This year there have been no Allen sightings in Cannes. But the DreamWorks investor and Microsoft co-founder is holding another party. This time he's flying guests from all over to Venice for a masked ball this weekend.

As usual, Allen is secretive about his plans. One journalist who was invited to join the bash as a companion to one of Allen's guests was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before he could participate.

But some of Allen's guests didn't get the message. Robin Williams, visiting Cannes on Thursday to promote an upcoming movie, "What Dreams May Come," spilled the beans at a lunch with the press.

In the course of riffing on various and sundry topics, including why the Tyrannosaurus Rex went extinct ("Hey Mom, I can't pick up anything"), how John Wayne would sound in French, and Deep Blue celebrating after beating Garry Kasparov, Williams said he would be flying to Venice today for Allen's costume party.

"I've never met him," Williams said. "I guess it's a 'Hi-I'm-a-billionaire, let's-have-a-party' kind of thing."

Williams said he was't certain yet, but he might dress as a torreador.

Cannes Bits:

* Liz Daly Byrne, wife of Variety Publisher Gerry Byrne, was attending a formal party Wednesday night for "L.A. Confidential" in the Piper-Heizig villa when she heard a splash and noticed a man struggling in a nearby swimming pool. While others watched, she shed her jacket and shoes and pulled the man, who apparently had had a seizure, from the deep pool.

After saving his life, Byrne casually draped a shawl over her soaked evening dress and sat down to the elegant dinner.

* At the annual AmFAR fundraiser sponsored by Miramax in Cannes on Thursday night, the auction included some unusual items. One was actor Paul Sorvino, father of Cannes festival juror Mira Sorvino, offering to sing a love song to whomever the top bidder desired. Sorvino ended up singing a love song to actors Johnny Depp and Sean Penn, for which Miramax Chairman Harvey Weinstein paid $30,000.

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