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  • Colin de Korsak

Luc Besson: from cinema to entrepreneurship


The famous French director, known for his hit films such as The Big Blue and Lucy, turned to entrepreneurship to ensure his independence. From his first short films to his production companies, discover how Luc Besson has transformed the landscape of entrepreneurship in the world of cinema.


Luc Besson was born in Paris in 1959, but grew up in France, Greece and Croatia, where his father worked as a holiday village leader. He developed a passion for cinema at an early age. So when he was 17, he left school and started looking for a job in the film industry. The young man took advantage of the opportunity to make several short films and set up the production company Les Films du loup, with a capital of 300 euros, a sum he had saved by working during the summer.


With this company he made his first big success, "Le Dernier Combat" (1982), which was made on a limited budget and without dialogue. It made a lasting impression with its originality and aesthetics, and was even nominated for a César. He then went on to make a second film, Subway, which, according to Capital, sold almost 3 million tickets. The film ranked seventh at the box office in France that year. This crime film starring Isabelle Adjani and Christophe Lambert was awarded three Césars.


However, it was in 1988 that Luc Besson won over the general public with "Le Grand Bleu", a film about the life of freedivers. The film, starring Jean-Marc Barr, Jean Reno and Rosanna Arquette, was a commercial success, selling 9 million tickets and reaching number one at the box office.


Two years later, in 1990, Luc Besson directed Nikita, the first French film to gross $5 million in the United States. He made a name for himself in the film industry, reaching a wide audience. These successes were achieved by Les Films du loup in partnership with Gaumont, which provided its small production company with substantial resources. Luc Besson also renamed Les Films du loup Les Films du dauphin, a nod to his love of the sea.


Luc Besson launches EuropaCorp


Known for his talents as a director, Luc Besson became a true entrepreneur in 1990 with the creation of Europacorp, his own production company. With this structure, he became independent and demonstrated his desire to control the production of his films. EuropaCorp quickly became a major player in French cinema, producing Luc Besson's films as well as films such as "Taxi" (1998), "Yamakasi" (2001) and "Danny the Dog" (2005).


The businessman has diversified his activities by producing some films that he does not direct, such as Lune Froide and L'Enfant Lion. However, Luc Besson does not see himself as a businessman, and claims to be an entrepreneur in order to maintain his independence. He even set up another production company, Leeloo, in 1992, named after the character in The Fifth Element.


Over the years, Luc Besson has also contributed to the international popularity of French cinema. Films such as The Fifth Element, Taken 2 and Lucy (53 million admissions) are among France's biggest international successes. In 1998 he was awarded the César for Best Director, and in 2000 he was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.


Through EuropaCorp, he has extended his activities to the distribution and international sale of films. In 2010, Europacorp recorded sales of €181 million. In addition to his production company, Besson holds key roles in companies such as Sea Side Production Co, Front Line SAS, and Apipoulai Prod SARL, covering various aspects of film and entertainment. These companies manage several activities, ranging from film production to media rights management.


Besson has also forged strategic partnerships with other industries, as illustrated by his collaboration with Peugeot on the film "Taxi". Besson also spearheaded the construction of the Cité du Cinéma in Saint-Denis, to provide French cinema with major studios. Often named as France's highest-paid director, in 2017 he earned €4.4 million, according to a study by specialist website Cinefinance.info.


The fall of Luc Besson


Nevertheless, the director has been on a downward spiral in recent years. Since 2020, Luc Besson has no longer been CEO of Europacorp. His company was bought by the New York investment fund Vine. Since then, the entrepreneur has been artistic director of his company and has seen his salary halved, according to Le Parisien. In addition, EuropaCorp has been weakened by a number of failures, the most significant being the flop of the film Valérian et la cité des milles planètes, which cost 170 million euros. The company's share price was divided by three in the months that followed, as Sylvain Bersinger states in his book Les Entrepreneurs de Légende Français. These difficulties led Europacorp to file for bankruptcy protection in 2019. Luc Besson was also personally affected by a complaint of rape from actress Sand Van Roy, before these accusations were dismissed by the Court of Cassation.


In October 2023, Luc Besson returned to the big screen with his new film Dogman. It was a flop, with only 140,000 admissions in its first week, a film considered to be the biggest failure of his career.


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