Movie mogul Ben Ammar takes over French labs, eyes Europe

20th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Ben Ammar, eyeing the consolidation of a pan-European movie distribution empire, takes control of France's film labs

   PARIS, December 19, 2007  Franco-Tunisian movie mogul Tarak Ben Ammar,
already eyeing the consolidation of a pan-European movie distribution empire,
on Wednesday bolstered his hand by taking control of France's film labs.
   Ben Ammar, the 58-year-old owner of Tunisia-based film studios used to
shoot Hollywood blockbusters such as George Lucas' "Star Wars" and Steven
Spielberg's "Indiana Jones" series, on Wednesday bought one of the country's
largest and oldest post-production facilities.
   A nephew of President Habib Bourguiba's wife and producer of such films as
Monty Python's "Life of Brian" in 1979 and Peter Webber's "Hannibal 4" this
year, Ben Ammar told AFP he had acquired a 57 percent stake in France's Eclair
film lab.
   The 13-million-euro purchase on behalf of his Quinta Communications firm,
which deals in production, distribution and technical problems for film and
TV, follows a February purchase of a 43 percent stake in the post-production
   The buy-out, which values Eclair at 23 million euros, brings Quinta's
turnover to 160 million euros with 820 staff, Ben Ammar said.
   The acquisition also makes Quinta Industries -- 83 percent owned by Ben
Ammar and 17 percent by Technicolor studios -- owner of all of France's film
labs: Eclair and LTC, acquired in 2002, as well as GTC and LNF, both
previously bought out by Eclair.
   "I bought labs that were almost bust, I invested 50 million euros over five
years to bolster them and get them ready for digital and I've kept the staff,"
Ben Ammar told AFP.
   The move would help the labs to negotiate the price of film, which
represents half their costs, with US supplier Kodak, he said.
   But in a brief statement, Culture Minister Christine Albanel said she would
meet soon with Ben Ammar to discuss what she described as an "operation of
   Three key French organisations grouping screen-writers, directors and
producers, ARP, SACD and SRF, also issued statements of concern.
   "I am a man of the cinema, not a banker nor a speculator, I manage
companies in true family spirit," he told AFP.
   But Ben Ammar's ambitions are far-reaching.
   Thanks to revenue from the audiovisual sector in Italy, where his Holland
holding, which owns a bouquet of digital TV channels, last year registered a
record 237-million-euro profit, Ben Ammar has ramped up enough cash to buy
distribution companies across Europe.
   Early this month he acquired 75 percent of Italy's leading independent
distributer Eagle Pictures for 85 million euros and said he is looking at
Scandinavia and Germany for further acquisitions.
   He also recently took 15 percent of Canada's Alliance, which specialises in
US indie films and has exclusive distribution deals with New Line, Mirmax and
Focus Features.
   "US bank Goldman Sachs asked me to be its partner in Europe, I bought Eagle
and together we set up a European distribution network," he said.
   "I am going to use the French industry to make films that we will
distribute across the continent. The US majors control 70 percent of the movie
distribution market in Europe, leaving 30 percent for a European major," he
told AFP.
Rebecca Frasquet


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