After the box office failure that was Valerian last summer, which was the most expensive movie in French history, Luc Besson's French production company EuropaCorp is looking to slash its staff by 28%. The company has entered into negotiations with its employees to begin a consultation procedure that could result in 22 employees being laid off, bringing the company's entire staff down to 57 employees. The company issued a brief statement that revealed these actions, "correspond to the needs of the company in France to carry out its strategy of refocusing on its core activities."
EuropaCorp posted a whopping $83 million net loss in September, and a $136 million loss for the fiscal year. This covered the period where not only Valerian, their mind-bending adaptation of the iconic French graphic novels, was released, but also EuropaCorp's underperforming The Circle and Their Finest was released. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets only earned $41.1 million domestic and $184.6 million international for a worldwide tally of $225.8 million. While the production budget is listed as $177.2 million, the report from April which revealed Valerian was the most expensive French movie of all time put the budget at $209 million.
Valerian received mixed reviews with the movie currently sitting at a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the movie opening on the same weekend as Warner Bros.' highly-anticipated Dunkirk certainly didn't help matters much for this sci-fi adaptation. Valerian opened in fifth place with $17 million, debuting in 3,553 theaters for a middling $4,787 per-screen average. Dunkirk, on the other hand, opened to stellar reviews (92% on RT) and pulled in $50.5 million in its opening frame, en route to $188.3 million domestic and $525.5 million worldwide, from a $100 million budget. The failure of Valerian lead to realign their structure to focus on making two to three English-language features per year, plus two French-language features per year, while they also sold their TV division for $13 million in November.
Despite the chilly box office and critical reception for the first movie, director Luc Besson revealed in September that a follow-up is still possible, since there is a "huge, huge fan base" for the movie, and that he gets messages every day about when Valerian 2 may come out. Luc Besson also revealed in July, just before the release of the first movie, that he already has a sequel script written and that there is a Valerian trilogy being planned. Given this vast restructuring within the company, those plans may have been scrapped, although that remains to be seen.
Luc Besson's next movie is entitled Anna, an action-thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Luke Evans and Sasha Luss. The filmmaker also took over as interim CEO of EuropaCorp, following the departure of former CEO Marc Shmuger and Deputy CEO Edouard de Vesinne. Luc Besson also revealed in October that he has a script written for Lucy 2, a follow-up to the director's 2014 blockbuster Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson, which earned $126.6 million domestic and $463.3 million worldwide from a $40 million budget. Deadline broke the news on EuropaCorp's layoffs today.