Franco-Tunisian film and TV entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar is expanding the scope of his Italian operations by buying local unscripted production outfit Blu Yazmine, while also entering talks to build a large studio complex in Rome.
Though Ben Ammar’s ambition to build sprawling new filming facilities in the Italian capital are in advanced talks but not fully concrete, the purchase of a majority stake in Blu Yazmine via his Rome-based Eagle Pictures has been closed.
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Eagle Pictures, which is headed by former Mediaset exec Andrea Goretti, is Italy’s top indie film distributor thanks to its deals with Paramount and Sony Pictures, whose titles they release exclusively in Italian cinemas. The Rome-based company is also becoming increasingly active in the TV sphere.
The deal that Eagle has with Sony also involves a partnership to co-produce six pictures, one of which is the upcoming Denzel Washington-starrer “The Equalizer 3,” which was shot entirely in Italy.
Blu Yazmine was formed in 2020 by veteran Italian TV executives Ilaria Dallatana and Francesca Canetta who, after starting out at Mediaset, founded Magnolia TV in 2001, which became a local leader in the creation and adaptation of television entertainment formats. Magnolia was sold in 2008 to what is now Banijay Italia. Subsequently, Dallatana and Canetta headed Italian state broadcaster RAI’s RAI 2 station as network chief and deputy chief, respectively, between 2016 and 2017.
The Blu Yazmine management team – which will now remain unvaried – also comprises former RAI 1 chief Andrea Fabiano, who serves as the company’s chief content officer. Their current formats comprise the Italian version of NBC’s “Game of Games,” ZDF’s antique auction show “Cash or Trash” and U.K. format “Supernanny,” as well as several local formats.
“I am born a producer, essentially,” Ben Ammar told Variety. “When I bought Eagle, in 2007, I bought it for the library, essentially, and for the distribution business that I wanted to learn. But I always wanted to go back to my basics and take Eagle back into production.”
A year ago, Eagle announced it was beefing up its production side with the purchase of film and TV startup 302 Original Content, headed by emerging producer Giuseppe Saccà. That outfit has just been rebranded Eagle Original Content and has several unspecified scripted projects for the international market in the pipeline, according to Ben Ammar.
“We needed to be in the unscripted business,” he said, noting that Dallatana and Canetta “have a wonderful track record.”
As for Ben Ammar’s studio ambitions, he said he is advanced talks to invest roughly $50 million to build a new studio complex in Rome, where the revamped Cinecittà Studios are booming. He is currently looking to close a deal for a plot of land and has “identified a few places,” he said. Ben Ammar added that he plans to make an announcement about sealing a deal on the Rome land no later than the end of October and specified that the plan envisions “at least 12 sound stages” to be built by October 2024. Last year, Ben Ammar finalized his acquisition of Studios of Paris, the vast facility located on the city’s outskirts that is the home of Netflix’s “Emily in Paris,” among other shoots.
Summing up his Italian expansion strategy, Ben Ammar said he is “enlarging and diversifying in Italy, including in the studio space, so that the company has a foot in all these different businesses that can all benefit from each other.”
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