... while new film unit targets foreign projects

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Fox Filmed Entertainment has expanded its international film arm by forming Fox International Prods., which will produce, co-finance, distribute and acquire local-language films in the key territories of Japan, Germany, India and Russia.

Heading the new branch will be veteran studio executive Sanford Panitch, who is moving over from his seven-year stint as president of filmed entertainment at New Regency, which has a partnership deal with Fox. Before that, Panitch was executive vp production at Fox for five years.

In his 12 years with Fox and Regency, Panitch has been responsible for overseeing production on some of the studio's most successful titles, including "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," "The Fugitive," "Seven" and "Titanic."

Although there are various divisions of News Corp. in the international film and TV market, the studio has never organized its global projects under one roof until now.

"We have the infrastructure provided by the world's most global media company along with Fox's unmatched marketing and distribution operations, and in Sanford, we have a seasoned, successful executive with whom to entrust this important enterprise," Fox chair and CEO Jim Gianopulos said.

Based in Los Angeles, FIP's initiative includes complementing Fox's worldwide releases by partnering with local producers and filmmakers in producing local-language films. The studio is actively discussing equity financing with several investment funds interested in the international productions.

"Our slate will include films targeted for the markets in which they are made and some pictures for a broader international audience," Panitch said.

FIP also will be involved in TV projects and partner with other News Corp. companies, including Star, Sky and MySpace.

Handling all marketing and distribution for FIP will be the existing Fox International, run by co-presidents Tomas Jegeus and Paul Hanneman. It also will rely on the work of Tony Safford, executive vp worldwide acquisitions at Fox.

"Our team has done considerable work over the past few years in identifying co-production opportunities around the world," Jegeus and Hanneman said. (partialdiff)
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