Stephane Celerier, a veteran French film executive whose former banner Mars Films co-produced “La Famille Belier,” is joining forces with PGS Entertainment to create a new production company.
Celerier is launching Gemma Pictures with Philippe and Guillaume Souter, the founders of PGS Entertainment, a thriving family-owned business specialized in financing and licensing worldwide youth entertainment.
The new Paris-based company will look to produce French and English-language films, TV series and TV movies and is already developing a slate of 10 projects with well-known French and international talent. A resourceful and deep-pocketed company, PGS Entertainment will fully finance the development of Gemma Pictures’ roster over the next three years and will handle the back office, while giving Celerier the full reins of the company.
One of France’s most respected and passionate industry figures, Celerier acquired and distributed locally a flurry of critically-acclaimed U.K. and U.S. movies, including “Billy Elliot,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” as well as Oscar-winning “12 Years a Slave” and “Moonlight.” These films often performed higher in France than elsewhere in Europe, with the exception of the U.K.
When Celerier branched out into production with “La Famille Belier,” he experienced similar success. The film, which he co-produced with Factory Jerico and Vendôme Production, became the second highest-grossing local film in France in 2014 with over 7 million tickets sold. It went on to travel around the world and was remade in the U.S. by Sian Heder as the Oscar-nominated film “CODA.” Celerier is an associate producer on the film.
Following “La Famille Belier,” Celerier went on to produce three other French hits: “Two is a Family,” Hugo Gelin’s comedy-drama headlined by Omar Sy (“Lupin”), “Love at Second Sight,” and “Le Jeu,” a local remake of the Italian film “Perfect Strangers,” starring Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”).
Mars Films recently finalized its restructuring plan with minority shareholder Vivendi Content, a branch of Universal Music Group and Canal Plus Group’s parent company. Since Celerier’s exit from the business of theatrical distribution, no other independent distributor in France has stepped up to handle prestige U.S. indies.
Celerier pointed out these films are now made for streaming services or are acquired early on which means they’ve become out of reach for the indie sector. He said Gemma Pictures will look forward to working a wide range of partners, from theatrical distributors, to streamers and TV companies. Celerier will also be able to leverage the relationships he has forged with creatives, actors, agents and other industry players in France, the U.S. and the U.S. over the last two decades. The name of his new company alludes to Gemma, an Italian Trattoria located in New York where he has fond memories with loved ones.
“After distributing so many wonderful films, I started having this strong desire to dedicate myself to producing movies that I love watching and we seldom make in France; films that are filled with emotions, feel-good and fresh, inspirational fairy tales about ordinary people like the Working Title movies I handled, ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary,’ ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Billy Elliot,’” Celerier said. “I saw with the four movies that I produced that there is a large audience for these types of movies even if they are made outside of the U.S.,” added Celerier, point out that his four pics sold over 13 million tickets in France.
Celerier said getting together with Philippe and Guillaume Soutter, whom he’s known for over 10 years, made sense because they share his “vision and are dedicated to the same goals.”
The Soutter brothers, meanwhile, said “Stephane is a visionary producer with an unparalleled track record amongst his peers and audience.”
“We are complementary because we have a different expertise, and at the same time we share the same independent spirit and international ambition,” said Philippe and Guillaume Soutter.
PGS Entertainment has indeed been handling as a distributor the biggest children’s IP’s of the last decade, notably “Alvinnn!!! and the Chipmunks”; “Miraculous Ladybug,” an original brand which scored $1 billion in global retail sales in 2021;” “The Jungle Bunch;” and “The Little Prince” animated series which is based on hugely popular novel penned by Antoine de Saint−Exupery.
With offices in Paris, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva, PGS Entertainment has also been handling “Moominvalley,” the big-budgeted animated series; and “Gus The Itsy Bitsy Knight,” the new preschool hit series. Mattel will be releasing the first toys by fall 2022 and a second season is now in production.
Pictured (L-R): Stephane Celerier, Guillaume Soutter, Philippe Soutter.