PARIS — Boasting one of Europe’s biggest movie libraries, the 120-year-old French company Gaumont is seeking to expand the scope of its activities linked to heritage films.
Launched about five years ago, Gaumont’s work around its heritage movies is starting to pay off.
The studio has recently started partnering with international festivals, markets and film institutions to showcase its films as well as team up on restoration.
The French company recently hosted a film retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and showed a portion of its “Gaumont: 120 Years of Cinema” exhibit and film retrospective in Singapore. Next up, Gaumont’s classic films will travel to Myanmar (formerly Burma) for the fourth edition of the Memory! festival, which will pay tribute to Gaumont’s president Nicolas Seydoux.
After restoring director Louis Malle’s movies last year, the Paris-based mini-major will also be partnering with a prominent filmmaker on the restoration of works by another French master, Jean Vigo, the subversive director of “Zéro de Conduite” and “L’Atalante.”
With an annual budget of approximately 3 million euros ($3.3 million), Gaumont has so far restored 400 movies out of its 1,000-title library.
Ariane Toscan du Plantier, who heads up Gaumont’s communication and heritage films, said the company was particularly eager to develop events and partnerships in the U.S., Japan, China, and Vietnam. “These are all countries that have a rich film culture, so there is a natural curiosity and appetite for all kinds of classic films.”
Toscan du Plantier noted the critical success of Bertrand Tavernier’s sprawling feature documentary “Journey Through French Cinema,” whose North American rights were scooped by Cohen Media Group. Since opening at Cannes, the doc sold worldwide and has played at Toronto and Telluride.
Aiming to build events around its film restorations, the French company has also been working with film festivals. In Venice, Gaumont hosted an homage, given by Sophie Marceau, to Jean-Paul Belmondo, who remains an icon in Italy; at the Champs Elysees fest in Paris, the French studio showed a restored copy of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Coup de tête” during the Euro 2016 soccer tournament. And this week at the Lumiere festival, Gaumont will unveil the sneak premiere of “Journey Through French Cinema” with Tavernier, who presides over the fest and works hand-in-hand with Cannes’ Thierry Fremaux.
Gaumont has recently teamed up with Celluloid Angels, the world’s first crowdfunding platform dedicated to classic films, to help with the financing of 4K restorations. One of the handful movies which Gaumont listed on Celluloid Angels, Georges Lautner’s “Monsieur Gangster” (pictured above), has proved a huge hit, Toscan du Plantier said.
“We launched a campaign at Cannes to raise 45,000 euros to restore ‘Monsieur Gangster’ in 4K and as we’re ending the campaign tomorrow, we’ve managed to raise an outstanding 52,000 euros from 572 contributors, many of whom come [from] a small French village in the Val d’Oise,” Toscan du Plantier said. She added that Gaumont was now considering re-releasing the cult film in theaters.
Gaumont has, however, not been highly involved in re-releasing classic films. The few movies it has re-released include Louis Malle’s “Elevator to the Gallows.”
Classic movies sell an average of 8,000 or 10,000 theater tickets in France and require a whole new promotional campaign with new posters and new trailers, according to Toscan du Plantier.