Paramount Pictures going it alone in Japan

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LONDON -- Paramount Pictures International, the overseas film releasing arm for Paramount Pictures, said Wednesday that it will launch its own distribution operation in Japan beginning in 2008, taking another step in the phasing out of Paramount and Universal's jointly owned United International Pictures.

PPI Japan will replace UIP Japan. The company will combine Paramount's theatrical activities in Japan with its existing home entertainment arm, Paramount Home Entertainment Japan, PPI said in a statement.

"This is a truly important development for Paramount," PPI president Andrew Cripps said. "The Japanese market is challenging and exciting with real potential for growth, and this move represents Paramount's next step in our international program of expansion."

Paramount's takeover of UIP Japan had been anticipated since May when Universal entered into an agreement with Japanese film distributor Toho-Towa to distribute Universal's films in the Japanese market starting in the summer, a move that allowed Universal to exit UIP Japan.

Earlier, Universal took over the UIP office in South Korea and renamed it Universal Pictures International Korea. At the same time, Paramount closed a deal with CJ Entertainment, a leading Korean entertainment company and a founding investor in DreamWorks (now a part of Paramount), to serve as its exclusive distributor in the market.

When Paramount and Universal decided to reorganize UIP last year and assume sole ownership and operation of their distribution operations in certain countries, Japan was one of the countries where the restructured UIP was to have continued to distribute the films of both companies.

However, it was expected that somewhere down the lineeventually Paramount and Universal would establish separate operations in Japan, one of the world leading importers of U.S. films. That decision apparently came after complex government business and labor regulations were cleared.

Hy Hollinger in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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