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Ubisoft Motion Pictures aims to bring game franchises to Hollywood

May 5, 2011 |  2:57 pm

What's Ubisoft Entertainment up to?

An article in the French magazine, Le Film Francais, stirred up a flurry of speculation this week in Variety, Wired and elsewhere about the game company's film ambitions. 

Jean Julien Baronnet It turns out that some of the details got lost in translation. Contrary to the headlines swirling in the blogosphere, Ubisoft is not launching a movie studio. But it does want in the movie business and has hired Jean-Julien Baronnet, left, the former chief executive of EuropaCorp., a movie studio co-founded by French director Luc Besson, to oversee their efforts.

Baronnet is CEO of newly created Ubisoft Motion Pictures, a boutique division within the French game company whose charter is to seek Hollywood studio partners to bring its popular game franchises to the big screen, Baronnet said in an interview with The Times. Among Ubisoft's properties are Assassin's Creed, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Rayman Raving Rabbids.

ACB_Ezio_render "We have started some discussions with studios, but this is in the very early stages," Baronnet said. "We're still contemplating different options."

Those options, however, don't include launching a studio to create movies, he said. Nor does it include handing over licenses to Ubisoft franchises to any studio that comes calling with a checkbook.

"I want to take my time and make good decisions for Ubisoft," Baronnet said. "We have three requirements. The first is creative control, so we can be involved in the scriptwriting and production. The second is a royalty structure that ensures the financial security of our investments. And the third is a level of comfort that the production is of the highest quality."

Few film adaptations of game franchises have succeeded, either critically or at the box office. The list of box office bombs based on games includes "Doom," "BloodRayne," "Silent Hill" and "Mortal Kombat."

Baronnet stressed that his division consists of just four executives, including himself. Two others are veterans of the French film and television scene. Didier Lupfer, a French movie producer, has been named head of production. Jean de Rivieres, former head of distribution at Walt Disney Co.'s motion picture business in France, is head of sales and marketing.

Executives at Ubisoft, which operates 23 development studios worldwide, have long hinted at their film ambitions, saying that the skills involved in making video games are similar to those required for movies, particularly on the digital side.

-- Alex Pham

Top Photo: Jean-Julien Baronnet, the former chief executive of EuropaCorp, who is spearheading Ubisoft's cautious move into motion pictures. Bottom image: Ezio, a character from Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise. Credit: Ubisoft.

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