CANNES, France — The European film industry gained a new heavyweight over the weekend as U.S. producer Miramax joined forces with French broadcaster TF1 in a venture the U.S. company said could spark further movie marriages across Europe.
Walt Disney Co.-owned Miramax, which backed blockbusters such as "Shakespeare in Love" and "Life Is Beautiful," said it would produce and finance European films with TF1 and set up a joint company to distribute their movies in France.
"It's certainly possible this could lead to similar deals across Europe. Right now we're concentrating on this venture ... it's very important that it succeeds," said Rick Sands, Miramax's worldwide distribution chairman.
The venture, which will rival Vivendi Universal's French arm Canal Plus, will kick off with a remake of last year's French hit "Tanguy." Films slated for the first year include Italian-language drama "The Gate of Heaven" and the war movie "Colditz."
The distribution venture will promote films from Paris-based TF1, New York-based Miramax, Miramax's sister company Dimension and possible third-party producers.
Director Steven Soderbergh's "Full Frontal" is among upcoming releases to be promoted under the deal. However, it will not include Miramax's big release this year, Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York" with Leonardo DiCaprio.
"This is not about bringing more Hollywood movies on to the French market. This is mainly about finding new European talent and developing that talent for international appeal," TF1 International Chief Executive Didier Sapaut said.
The venture takes TF1 closer to its goal of creating a major European player along the lines of the big Hollywood studios and filling TF1's hole in distribution.
TF1 owns France's leading commercial TV channel as well as a film production company.
It also hands Miramax a foothold in one of Europe's biggest markets. Miramax has a strong tradition in non-English-language film and was behind the U.S. success of French film "Amelie."
However, the new European player had several competitors running for cover.
Some industry executives fear it could fill French movie screens with television-quality productions given TF1's background in television.
But others welcomed a strong player in distribution as the cost of marketing films rockets.
Anticipating criticism that the venture may further Americanize the French film industry, Miramax stressed the "Frenchness" of the project.
"It will be staffed by French and run by French," Sands said.