Continuing our look at Nice’s famed Victorine Studios, from the 1970s to the present day. New owners, the influence of Hollywood, and new hope?
Sadly, the glory days of the Victorine came to an end in the late 1970s and early 1980s, during the period when Jacques Médecin became mayor of Nice. From 1975 to 1983, Médecin, who would later be imprisoned for fraud, was a regular visitor to the studio’s commissary, and during his reign as mayor, he managed to have the studio employ some of his corrupt friends who pocketed the profits made from production companies using the studios.
With no money being invested, conditions started to deteriorate at the studios with sabotage and neglect becoming a problem on the sets. Eventually things became so bad that when director Irvin Kershner was filming “Never Say Never Again” with actor Sean Connery as Bond in 1982, he threated to stop production and walk out if the filthy projection room, complete with yellowing nicotine stained screens, was not immediately cleaned.
In the mid-1980s a new owner stepped in to take charge of the Victorine and to boost its sagging profile in the film industry, one Michael Douglas, American actor and star of films such as “Wall Street”, “Romancing the Stone” and “Basic Instinct”. With his brother Joel, who became Studio Head, he took over the day to day running of the studios and in 1985 filmed “The Jewel of the Nile”, the sequel to “Romancing the Stone”, at the Victorine, spending 6 months at the studios and employing more than 400 local people.
The Douglas brothers had grandiose plans to shoot big budget Hollywood films at the Victorine, but the plans came to nothing, and in the late 1980s they left Nice and headed back to Hollywood, much like Rex Ingram had done 60 years earlier. The Victorine’s future looked uncertain again for the next few years and few major films were made there until 1996, when Belgian action star Jean-Claude Van Damme came to town to shoot the films “Maximum Risk” and “Double Team”.
Three years later, in 1999, the Victorine was taken over yet again by a Parisian television and film company Euro Media France. They immediately began to promote the studios and shooting started again on set, with American films such as “Ronin” starring Robert De Niro, and “Sword Fish” starring John Travolta and Halle Berry being made at the Victorine, as well as the hugely successful French comedy film “Brice de Nice”, starring Oscar winner Jean Dujardin.
From the 1990s onwards, the Victorine also branched out into the world of television and TV commercials under the guidance of Euro Media, and this bought some much needed capital to the studios, with the 2003 TF1 series “Nice People” and France 3’s “Plus Belle La Vie” both using the Victorine studios to film scenes for their productions.
Since Euro Media took over in 1999, 24 films have been shot or partially shot in the studios and currently more than 50 TV adverts are filmed there each year, including ads for big-name brands such as Toyota and McDonald’s, but that’s not to say that the future of the Victorine is assured. These days with the cost of film-making rising and the money invested in TV and adverts dwindling, plus fierce competition from other European studios, the Victorine has to fight harder and harder to entice potential clients to the French Riviera.
Euro Media have made huge investments since taking over and a couple of years ago they opened a state of the art recording centre on-site. In 2009 they also hired an international marketing agent – an American who has also worked as the director of a French film commission. She is the first marketing agent in the history of the Victorine and she is responsible for raising the studio’s profile in the film industry worldwide.
The most recent blockbuster to be filmed at the Victorine was the 2007 Rowan Atkinson family comedy “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” and since then the studios have been steadily producing TV shows and commercials whilst trying to attract the Hollywood big-shots back to the Côte d’Azur.
Today, the future of Nice’s most famous film studio remains uncertain. Euro Media’s contract at the Victorine runs out in 2018 and recently rumours have been heard around town that the Ville de Nice wants to develop the land on which the Victorine stands to create a housing complex. The project has so far been denied by Mayor Christian Estrosi, but with the price of land and housing in Nice at a premium, it could very well become a reality unless the Victorine can reinvent itself once again and recreate some of its former glory.
With its rich and varied past and its well-deserved place in the history of cinema, it would be a terrible shame for Nice to lose this important piece of the city’s history, so both locals and film fans alike are hoping that the Victorine will find a way to stay open, and to carry on producing films for many years to come.
Victorine Studios (Riviera Studios)
16, ave. Édouard Grinda
Telephone: 04 97 25 81 81
Lead image © RIVIERA BUZZ