Chorot exits as Gaumont, Sony split

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PARIS -- Gaumont CEO Franck Chorot is exiting his post as of Feb. 1 in order to devote himself full time to the production of feature films and projects both in France and internationally, the French major said Thursday.

Chorot, who won't be replaced immediately, will report to Nicolas Seydoux, president of the company's surveillance council, and deputy managing director Sidonie Dumas, the soon-to-be divided Gaumont Columbia TriStar announced Thursday.

With the move, Gaumont hopes to maintain "a high volume of production" once its high-profile divorce from Columbia TriStar is finalized July 1, the company said in a statement.

This is the second time that Gaumont has severed ties with an American major for the joint distribution of films in France. Prior to connecting with Sony's Columbia TriStar in July 2004, Gaumont had a longtime relationship with the Walt Disney Co.'s foreign arm, Buena Vista International.

In Los Angeles, Mark Zucker, distribution president of Sony Pictures Releasing International, said the separation will be a simple procedure with minimal impact on personnel and general procedures. "We're going back to the original structure and will be virtually fully staffed by July 1," he said.

Eric Brune, Sony's longtime chief distribution executive in France, will retain his status, this time as general manager of SPRI France.

Zucker said that, because of the large volume of product, the interest of all the films involved were not fully served, resulting in the mutual decision "to go separately." Each company, he added, will now have full control of their own slates.

Gaumont said it plans to release 12 films in the next year -- under the Gaumont Columbia TriStar label through June and then under it own banner.

Upcoming titles include Bob Goldthwait's "Sleeping Dogs Lie," Stephane Allagnon's "Vent Mauvais," Michel Boujenah's "Amis" and Julien Leclercq's "Chrysalis."

Hy Hollinger in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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