Italys Lucky Red On The New Woody Allen & Luc Besson Movies, Its Enduring Netflix Partnership & What The Chances Are Of A Company Sale

EXCLUSIVE: Distributor-producer Lucky Red is one of Italy’s most respected independent film and TV companies. Run by former actor Andrea Occhipinti since 1987, the firm has released more than 500 titles and produced more than 50 films.

The company has worked with filmmakers including Paolo Sorrentino, Lars Von Trier, Wong Kar Wai, Ang Lee, Park Chan Wook, Michael Haneke, Francois Ozon, Hayao Miyazaki, the Dardenne brothers, Wes Anderson, Paolo Genovese, Denis Villeneuve, Paul Thomas Anderson, Pablo Larraín and Asghar Farahdi.

It has also released more obviously commercial titles such as Angel Has Fallen, Hustlers, Den Of Thieves and Hereditary, and had fruitful theatrical partnerships with companies such as Netflix, Universal and Studio Ghibli.

Related Stories

Breaking News

'Only Murders In The Building' Lands At No. 9 On Nielsen Streaming List After Season 3 Debut; 'Suits' Tallies Another Week On Top

Breaking News

'One Piece' Cast Photos: Luffy & The Straw Hats Share Thoughts On Their Characters In Netflix Live-Action Series Adaptation

Since shortly before the pandemic, Lucky Red, which hasn’t been afraid to ruffle the occasional feather, has also increased its activity in TV and exhibition.

We sat down company founder Occhipinti and his longtime lieutenants Stefano Massenzi (Head Of Acquisitions & Business Affairs), Mattia Guerra (MD, Cinema & Production) and Gabriele D’Andrea (Director Of Marketing & Theatrical Distribution) to talk about their Venice Film Festival slate, Lucky Red’s future and the state of the Italian market.

DEADLINE: You’ve just had three movies at the Venice Film Festival. Perhaps the highest profile was Woody Allen’s new movie. What attracted you to the film?

OCCHIPINTI: We have worked with Woody Allen on his last two films, so we are loyal and he is loyal. We got on with him after working on Wonder Wheel. Coup de Chance is one of his best films in recent years.

DEADLINE: How does Woody Allen play in Italy?

GABRIELE D’ANDREA: Italy is one of the best countries in the world for Woody Allen movies; we’re the first or second best performer in Europe. He’s very popular here, perhaps only second to France. We tend to do better than Spain and Germany. We are a Woody Allen country.

DEADLINE: You also have Luc Besson’s new film Dogman

OCCHIPINTI: Yes, we picked up Besson’s film based on the standing of his movies and we knew Caleb Landry Jones from Nitram. His role in Dogman was an amazing role on paper but to tell you the truth we didn’t expect it to come out as strongly as it has. It’s amazing. It really gives you goosebumps when you see it.

MASSENZI: Besson does something great with his characters. You think of Leon, Lucy and Nikita: he’s back at what he does best. The way he builds a character, a hero, an outsider.

DEADLINE: Both of these directors come with some baggage. Did you have any hesitation about picking up a Woody Allen or Luc Beeson film?

OCCHIPINTI: Everything has been cleared legally so there’s no issue for us.

DEADLINE: It’s always interesting to observe the different responses to certain directors in different countries. There were directors playing in Venice who wouldn’t be programmed in the U.S., for example…

MASSENZI: I think the question needs to be switched around, because the censorship is somewhere else. That’s the unfair part of all this. It’s a non-debate because things have been cleared and that should be the end of it.

OCCHIPINTI: Each case is different. In the cases of Allen and Besson, neither men have been found guilty of anything so there’s no issue for us.

MASSENZI: Woody Allen has been invited everywhere. Every institution in Italy would like to host his movie or to a do a retrospective of his movies.

DEADLINE: There has been some talk this could be his last movie. Though it’s rarely someone’s last movie…

OCCHIPINTI: You never know. We have Ken Loach’s film. That is also meant to be his last movie. And we have the new Miyazaki, which will likely be his last film.

DEADLINE: When do you release Miyazaki’s film [called The Boy And The Heron]?

D’ANDREA: January 1…anime tends to do well in Italy.

DEADLINE: Your 2023 slate seems bigger than those of recent years, would that be right?

OCCHIPINTI: Yes, it’s definitely bigger.

DEADLINE: What would you say characterizes your 2023 slate? With movies coming up like Den Of Thieves, Better Man and Sting are you looking to grow the number of bigger, English-language projects on the slate?

OCCHIPINTI: We have never stopped doing those, actually. We’re best know as an arthouse distribution company but for at least 10 yeas we’ve been doing more commercial films too. There was a slowdown during the pandemic. We actually had seven films in the Cannes lineup. But some of the movies you mentioned above were supposed to be ready earlier.

In terms of what characterizes our lineup, I’d say it’s still big, renowned, auteur filmmakers. Filmmakers such as Besson, Allen, Wim Wenders, Aki Kaurismaki, and many others.

MASSENZI: Past Lives is another one on our upcoming slate which is due to open early next year and it’s another one we hope will have crossover potential.

DEADLINE: What was your most recent release in Italy?

D’ANDREA: We’re doing a rerun of Ghibli movies and we recently re-released The Wind Rises. We also have Italian film The Beautiful Summer with Deva Cassel, which was at Locarno and is based on the Cesare Pavese novel. Two weeks ago we released Passages for Mubi with Ben Whishaw.

Since the pandemic it has been very tough to release Italian films. Unless you have a big name director such as Bellocchio, Amelio or Nanni Moretti and Paolo Sorrentino. The average local product is hard, but let’s see if that improves.

DEADLINE: Let’s discuss your partnerships as a company…

OCCHIPINTI: Well, we’ve released Studio Ghibli movies in the market since 2004. We have all of their library in the territory and, as noted, we re-release older movies from time to time. Netflix has SVOD rights and we do theatrical and home video and other rights.

We’ve also had a deal with Sky for many years. They’ve been a partner in almost all our theatrical releases. We’ve also released some movies for Focus and Universal. For example, we released Card Counter, Watcher, Marcel The Shell With Shows On and others for Focus. For Universal, we recently released Strays.

DEADLINE: How does the Sky deal work?

OCCHIPINTI: Sky is a partner for SVOD and pay windows. We also do production with them. But we don’t distribute for them and it’s a non-exclusive deal.

DEADLINE: And of course there is Netflix. What’s the status of that partnership?

OCCHIPINTI: We are Netflix’s partner on the movies they choose to release theatrically in Italy. We do up to six films a year. The last one was Pinocchio by Guillermo Del Toro.

DEADLINE: Will you do Netflix’s Venice movies Maestro, The Killer and El Conde?

MASSENZI: We don’t know yet.

DEADLINE: Some years ago Lucky Red got into some hot water with exhibitors for collapsing the theatrical window on some Netflix films. It led to you leaving your job, Andrea, as President of Italy’s Distributors’ Association. How are those relations today?

OCCHIPINTI: Many things have changed since then. We’re living in a new world. The pandemic was traumatic for everyone and the relationship is very good today. There is much more openness today from the exhibition world than there was before. The only windowing roadblock you encounter now is on Italian films. There is a rule that Italian films must respect around a 100-day window. The rule was introduced after we released Sulla Mia Pelle on Netflix.

DEADLINE: I recall that experience being quite harrowing for you…

OCCHIPINTI: It was but looking back I think it was the right thing to do.

DEADLINE: Italy strikes me as a relatively conservative distribution market and that Lucky Red has acted as something of an enfant terrible or rebel…

OCCHIPINTI: Yes, we’re not a child anymore but we’ve been “naughty” from time to time. We’ve done what we thought was right even if it was a little disruptive. We’ve never been conservative in that sense. We’ve made choices that we thought were the right ones for the market and for the audience because we’ve always thought of the audience. Often the battles between exhibitors and distributors over windows forget the needs of the audience.

DEADLINE: We assume many distributors would be glad to have your deal with Netflix…

OCCHIPINTI: I assume so. It’s a title by title arrangement. On the Italian theatrical movies, there’s a 105-day window. On the U.S. movies there is basically no window by law.

DEADLINE: What about Sorrentino’s Hand Of God?

OCCHIPINTI: That was not financed with public support, thus had no windowing restrictions. It was a huge success.

MASSENZI: To be clear, it’s not strictly forbidden to do anything. But if you do break a certain window, then you lose certain benefits. You lose certain state subsidies.

OCCHIPINTI: We do around 90 to 105 days on all our movies with Sky. Most people stick to that general rule. In the case of movie like Maestro, Netflix would decide how long the theatrical window would be.

DEADLINE: How is Lucky Red capitalized?

OCCHIPINTI: We self-finance at the moment. We don’t have investors. I’m the owner of the company.

DEADLINE: So you’re a true indie. Not many of those around now. There has been a fair amount of consolidation in Italy. Did you have talks with the Vuelta Group, for example?

OCCHIPINTI: No, we didn’t.

DEADLINE: Over the years there must have been interest in the company?

OCCHIPINTI: There has been, yes.

DEADLINE: Anything recent?


DEADLINE: Is a sale on the cards? Would it make sense to be part of a larger group now?

OCCHIPINTI: We’re aware that size is an issue, but at the same time there are also advantages to being independent. We can be quick in our decision-making. That’s important when the market changes so rapidly.

DEADLINE: How profitable is Lucky Red?

OCCHIPINTI: It’s very profitable, according to our accountants. We’ve been helped by working on big U.S. TV projects like White Lotus and Succession in Italy. With Panorama Films, we did the Italian accountancy side of things: the paperwork, the tax credit etc.

MASSENZI: To come back to your question about consolidation, there has been a little reduction of budgets in the market. We try to be measured in our approach to spending and budgets. Sometimes when you become part of a larger group budgets can get out of hand. We’re profitable because we’re measured.

DEADLINE: Tell us about your production operations…

MATTIA GUERRA: We’ve done a lot for Amazon. We made four movies in one year and two series. We hope to start the second season of comedy Sono Lillo soon. The show we have in post for Amazon at the moment is called Last Gigolo, a remake of the Nicolas Bedos series Alphonse. But we also work with plenty of other TV partners such as Sky, Rai and Mediaset.

We started producing series just before the pandemic. TV has become very important in our mix, especially with the theatrical box office diminishing during Covid.

DEADLINE: Who is in your TV team?

GUERRA: I head it up and we have colleagues who have joined from Cattleya, Luxe Vide, and others.

We have a strong editorial staff and we do it all in-house. We’ve grown a lot in the last two years and we’re doing a lot so we may need more head count in future.

DEADLINE: What’s the next big thing you’re working on?

GUERRA: We’re working on a big series with Rai called Belcanto about the birth of the opera in Italy. We’re looking at a budget of around 15M euros with Vittoria Puccini set to star and Carmine Elia directing. We have two young actresses to cast for that and that process is going on now.

OCCHIPINTI: We’re also working on an animated movie called I’m Still Alive. Gomorrah author Roberto Saviano will direct the adaptation of his graphic novel exploring life as an anti-mob activist living with police protection. The film will feature illustrations by Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka (Waltz with Bashir), who also illustrated the graphic novel. The film has Israeli and Belgian co-production partners and we’re soon adding France. It will be a four-way co-production. We’re making it with Naples-based producer Mad Entertainment, which won an EFA a few years ago for animation The Art Of Happiness.

DEADLINE: Was Roberto Saviano in Venice this year?

OCCHIPINTI: No. Not that we know of. It’s difficult to know where Roberto will be because of his security situation. He has a busy schedule but we Zoom with him. It’s more difficult to meet in person.

DEADLINE: Italy’s entertainment sector was hard hit by the pandemic. What’s the status of its recovery, in your mind?

D’ANDREA: This has been the strongest summer box office ever for us in Italy. Barbenheimer has been big here. Italy accounted for Oppenheimer’s second best opening in Europe [the film made $19M in only two weekends after being released in late August]. But despite the great summer, year to date we are 20 percent down on 2019.

OCCHIPINTI: The sector that still needs to see a lot of recovery is arthouse and the more mature audiences. That’s our next goal as Lucky Red and as a market. There were institutional campaigns by the government and associations to promote the summer and the results were fantastic. Now we need to go after that older audience. In terms of showing arthouse and independent films, Italy isn’t France, but we’re also not the UK. We’re somewhere in the middle, but more towards France.

DEADLINE: But you are picking up fewer Italian movies?

OCCHIPINTI: Yes. We’re doing some first-timers. We still look for new talent and the future directors but yes, it’s more difficult to have good box office, and to finance our comedies, for instance. The previous landscape of big broad comedies in Italy has very much changed.

D’ANDREA: What you have seen in the last year, for example, is films like Strangeness with Toni Servillo, and Last Night Of Love with Pierfrancesco Favino did pretty well. What we are seeing is a change in production and in the taste of the audiences. They want unusual movies, high-concept movies. They want something different. This is the challenge for the industry in terms of production. I think the Venice lineup for Italian movies is fairly different movies from in the past.

DEADLINE: Italy’s production scene feels pretty vibrant, from The White Lotus filming in the country to Roland Emmerich’s big budget TV series Those About To Die and the streamers growing their footprints….

MASSENZI: Yes. There are plenty of talented people here, which helps. Inflation is an issue. But crew, infrastructure, the natural landscape, the tax credit, are all attractive.

DEADLINE: Are you much impacted by the Hollywood strikes?

OCCHIPINTI: So far, not much, but obviously if it’s going to last a long time it can have a really big impact on releases, scheduling, and the lack of product.

DEADLINE: Is Den Of Thieves 2: Pantera delayed by the strike?

MASSENZI: Not that we’re aware of. They finished filming before the strikes began. It was always a 2024 release date. The major impact will be on U.S. schedules. The impact on our side of things will be felt a bit further down the line.

DEADLINE: What are your expectations for AFM?

MASSENZI: Everyone pre-buying movies will ask the same question: when is the movie going to be delivered? There will be a backlog of movies that haven’t gone into production yet. So far, on titles we have acquired we don’t have this problem.

OCCHIPINTI: We may encounter that problem on Greenland 2, which is the only bigger movie that hasn’t been shot that we have in the pipeline. That one is in a holding pattern. The initial plan was to shoot this year.

But as we noted earlier, we’re in a good position because we have a number of different strings to our bow. We operate in different sectors. We are also the majority shareholder in Circuito Cinema, which is a chain of Italian art-house cinemas. We just made a deal for a new theater in Bologna, actually.

We program more than 120 screens in Italy, so it’s big. We own some theaters in Rome and run cinemas in Rome and Florence. We have partners in Bologna, Naples, and Turin, and we program across the rest of Italy. We own seven cinemas ourselves: four in Rome, two in Florence, and now one in Bologna where we are also in partnership on three others.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Must Read Stories

Italy’s Lucky Red On New Woody Allen & Luc Besson Pics, Netflix Collab & More

Surprise Guest At ‘Boy And The Heron’; Opening-Night Reviews; Photo Gallery

Francois-Henri Pinault Artémis Buys TPG’s Majority Stake; Bryan Lourd To Be CEO

Sentenced To Decades In Prison; Leah Remini Rips Scientology

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article