Paramount relaunches Aussie distributor

Commits to local production investment

SYDNEY -- Paramount Pictures officially relaunched a distribution company in Australia Wednesday with a commitment to invest in locally produced films, Paramount Pictures Australia managing director Mike Selwyn said.

The entry into Australian production was in line with the studio's "aggressive" strategy to build its footprint in international markets, Selwyn said in an interview. "We've said we want to be part of local industry development where there is a strong local industry," he noted.  The move comes with the unwinding of the Paramount and Universal 24-year-old global distribution partnership in United International Pictures.

In Australia, Paramount Pictures Australia will release product from Paramount, DreamWorks, DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Vantage, MTV and Nickelodeon and it will continue to distribute Universal Pictures films until June 30.

The newly-minted PPA is also eyeing a closer working relationship with other Viacom divisions, particularly MTV Networks Australia and Nickelodeon.

Selwyn said the recent link-up between MTV Films and Paramount in Europe could provide a template to be repeated in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Investments in locally produced features, Selwyn said, would be in a budget range of AUS$15 million-AUS$30 million ($11.5 million-$23 million), aiming to bridge the gap between local independent features, which are made for under AUS$10 million ($7.7 million) and the big-budget studio productions that use Australia as a shooting destination.

Paramount would look to do co-productions, provide some equity and/or pre-sales and distribution guarantees, Selwyn said. "We are not looking to be a tax-based investor but a genuine producer. Hopefully the Paramount brand coupled with Australian talent can unlock some of the funding problems in Australian films," he added.

Selwyn will head up a team of local and studio-based Paramount execs that will be put in place in the next two to three months, and which will assess projects that he said will need to have "strong Australian and overseas potential."
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