Elsa Kelslassy / Variety
PARIS– Chicago-based Music Box Films and U.K.’s Soda Pictures have acquired Anne Fontaine’s “Gemma Bovery,” a romantic comedy toplining British rising star Gemma Arterton, on the heels of its Special Presentation premiere at Toronto.
Sold and co-produced by Gaumont, “Gemma” was warmly received at Toronto where it steered a standing ovation and proved one of the fest’s arthouse crossover highlights. A satirical take on Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel “Madame Bovary,” “Gemma” also sparked two offers from Australian buyers.
“Gemma” stars Arterton as a passionate young British woman who moves with her husband to a small Norman town where she meets a quirky French baker, played by popular Gallic thesp Fabrice Luchini.
The U.S. deal with Music Box Films was negotiated by president William Schopf and managing director Ed Arentz, and Gaumont International’s boss Cecile Gaget and deputy head of sales Yohann Comte.
“I’m delighted to work with (Schopf) and (Arentz) on Anne Fontaine’s “Gemma’ — They instantly grasped all the flavor, sensuality and humor of the movie,” said Gaget. “Based on our experience working with Music Box Films on Michel Hazanavicius’ “OSS: 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies” and “The Conquest,” I know they’ll do a great job distributing ‘Gemma’ in theaters.”
Gaget also noted Music Box Films’ successful handling of Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” which grossed $3.7 million in the U.S..
The U.K. sale, meanwhile, was negotiated with Ed Fletcher, Soda Pictures’ co-founder and managing director. Recently merged with Canada’s Thunderbird, Soda Pictures also bought Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix” and Michael Winterbottom’s “The Face of an Angel” at Toronto. “Gemma” marks Soda’s first acquisition of a Gaumont movie.
“Gemma” bowed in France – distributed by Gaumont — on Sept. 10 and took the French box office’s top slot, ahead of Cameron Diaz starrer “Sex Tape” and “Lucy” with Scarlett Johansson.
The well-polished movie, which received warm reviews at Toronto, is being pushed by Gaumont as a strong candidate for this year Oscar’s foreign-language race.
Gaumont previously sold “Gemma” to Germany (Prokino), Benelux (Victory), Italy (Officine Ubu), Brazil (Mares Filmes), Scandinavia (Atlantic), Canada (Metropole), Middle East (Four Star), CIS (Exponenta), Greece (Odeon), Switzerland (Pathe) and South Korea (Sejong).
“Gemma” was penned by Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer, based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, the author of “Tamara Drewe,” which was adapted to the bigscreen by Stephen Frears and also toplined Arterton. Pic was produced by Mathieu Tarot at Albertine Productions, Philippe Carcassonne at Cine@ and co-produced by Gaumont, which also handles French distribution.
Fontaine’s last film, “Two Mothers,” an Australia-set drama with Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, world-premiered at Sundance and sold worldwide. Her 2009 movie, “Coco Before Chanel,” starring Audrey Tautou, was a commercial and critical hit.