ACE Entertainment is getting into the production game. The Paris-based distributor’s strategy is to reach global audiences through original live-action adventure movies made for TV and streaming services that appeal to the whole family.
ACE’s co-founders and managing partners Jérôme Reygner-Kalfon and Sébastien Semon plan to carve out a space for themselves by making action flicks for a co-viewing audience. With a budget of US$2 million to US$2.5 million per movie, the burgeoning prodco didn’t want to release its films in theaters and compete with US blockbusters, says Reygner-Kalfon in an exclusive interview with Kidscreen. There’s also a smaller chance of getting hit by a big loss if a film doesn’t do well on TV or digital because the cost of releasing and marketing it is cheaper, he adds.
ACE is also focusing on TV and digital distribution because those are the markets the co-founders understand best thanks to their experience as distributors. Due to the rise in streamers and digital platforms, Semon says ACE is producing its own content in an effort to ensure sustainability through owned IPs that will always have a place in the market.
“Three years ago as distributors we were looking for these types of movies but couldn’t find them for our French clients,” says Semon. “We identified the niche and that’s how we first started thinking about producing.”
To stand out at their budget and to begin building a brand for the studio, ACE’s co-founders decided its films would focus on one animated character alongside a live-action cast. The studio first began seeking finance partners and working on developing content three years ago. Since then, ACE opened its production hub in Oklahoma and has been working on developing content and getting projects into production before unveiling itself as a full-fledged producer.
ACE has already seen some demand for what it has to offer. The studio presold its first feature The Adventures of Jurassic Pet to Lionsgate-owned Grindstone Entertainment Group, France Television and London-based Kew Media. The mixed-media film tells the story of an adventurous teenager who has to help his pet dinosaur escape from a mad scientist. ACE plans to create a sequel to the film to start building the dinosaur brand into a franchise.
Grindstone, Kew and France Television also picked up A.R.I (pictured, above), which is expected to be completed Q4 2019, and The Adventures of Rufus The Fantastic Pet (pictured, below), scheduled for delivery in Q1 2020. Both in post-production, A.R.I. sees a friendly robot get captured by a company looking to turn him into a weapon, while The Adventures of Rufus follows two teens who discover a mysterious creature and team up with a Wizard to save it from evil.
Grindstone also picked up ACE’s in-development projects Joey & Ella, about the friendship between a teenage girl and a talking kangaroo, as well as CIApe (formerly CIA Chimp), which follows the first chimp to join the CIA. The team plans to start production on these projects in January and February,shooting them back-to-back for delivery in September or October 2020.
The new productions and ACE’s in-development slate will be featured at the American Film Market in Santa Monica from November 6 to 13. ACE hired Marielle Zuccarelli to the newly created position of president, global sales in an effort to hit the ground (and the trade floor) running. Zuccarelli will be at the market event seeking co-production and broadcast partners for ACE’s content. Prior to joining the company, she was the COO and head of global television and distribution for California-based GRB Studios.
ACE retains licensing and merchandising rights as well as secondary rights for all of its original IP. Moving forward the company plans to put three new adventure films into development to start filming next year. Eventually, ACE plans to start producing four movies per year. The co-founders also plan to look at other genres and formats they can expand into, including mysteries, thrillers and miniseries—if they see a demand for it.
“We’ll see what IPs do well and then maybe expand them out into TV series, sequels and toys,” says Reygner-Kalfon. “We’re really looking to the future as far as possible while being focused on making sure everything is done on time and in the right way.”