Pathé Steps Into Upscale Drama With Napoleon, Black Musketeer Series (EXCLUSIVE)

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Pathé, France’s leading film studio and owner of the country’s largest theatrical circuit, is set to leap into television with a dedicated division and an ambitious drama slate from well-known filmmakers.

The new division will be headed by Aude Albano, a former senior executive at Capa Drama, whose track record includes the French-produced international hit period drama “Versailles.” Albano said she was looking forward to “take part in the launch of Pathé’s new series production branch with a focus on developing and producing upscale drama series in France and abroad.”

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The roster of series in development at Pathé includes “mostly large-scale period drama revolving around iconic French figures, in line with Pathé’s DNA,” Pathé CEO Ardavan Safaee to Variety.

Among the series developed by the company is a show about Napoléon that Jean-François Richet (“Mesrine”) is creating, along with a series about a Black musketeer created by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patelliere, who are also behind Pathé’ $73 million two-part adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel “The Three Musketeers.”

The untitled Napoléon series is being written by Richet, who is passionate about the historical French figure, and Cyril Gély, whose screenwriting credits include the Omar Sy starrer “Chocolat” and Volker Schlöndorff’s “Diplomacy.” The pair has already delivered a bible and the script of the first episode. They are being advised by Thierry Lentz, who heads the Napoleon Foundation in Paris and has written several books about Napoleon.

A spinoff of “The Three Musketeers,” the untitled show will be inspired by the epic true story of the first Black Musketeer in French history, Louis Aniaba. The show will follow the adventures of this lesser-known, yet truly heroic character who will be also be portrayed in the two-part film adaptation that Pathé is doing with a cast including Vincent Cassel and Eva Green. Dimitri Rassam’s Chapter 2 is producing both the movies and the series with Pathé.

Besides this spinoff, the the executive said Pathé was also exploring other projects that will be based on the studio’s hit movies or franchises. “We have a lot of ideas… Maybe one day we’ll have a series adapted from ‘La Belle Epoque,'” said Safaee, referring to Nicolas Bedos’ high-concept comedy, which premiered at Cannes. The executive said he’s hoping to have several series in production within the next two years.

“The idea is not to have a large volume of series but have a limited number of projects that are in line with the Pathé brand,” said Safaee. “We want to create a quality label of upscale series, applying what we’ve done with films to television.”

Pathé will aim to develop the series with creators and talent before attaching TV channels or platforms, said Safaee. “Times are changing, the competition in the TV landscape is very high, so it’s crucial to really invest in the development phase of series, work with top-notch auteurs on scripts to reach that level of excellence we’re aiming for at Pathé,” said the executive.

Safaee said the company will also look to own IP and rights to the series it finances, develops and produces, but could possibly partner with a platform which will soon start splitting rights with local producers on independent audiovisual projects, as part of a new decree stemming from the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Ultimately, streaming services will be able to find room in the European eco-system, along with French, German, Italian, Spanish and U.K. broadcasters.

Safaee added that Pathé did work with platforms on a handful of films, notably Apple, which scooped global rights to Sundance-winning film “Coda,” and Netflix on a comedy directed by Dany Boon (“Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”).

Pathé will be collaborating with filmmakers who previously directed movies for the studio and have them write, direct and/or produce shows. The company recently signed an exclusive deal with Alexandre de la Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte on their upcoming projects.

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