It's Official: Focus Features International Will Close Doors Dec. 31

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Alison Thompson

UPDATED: The closure of the London office follows a major shake-up at the Universal specialty division that put Peter Schlessel in charge.

The London-based Focus Features International will close its doors on Dec. 31, marking the final step in a dramatic overhaul of the Universal-owned specialty division.

Official word of the closure comes just as foreign buyers and sellers -- including Focus International -- gather in Santa Monica for the American Film Market, which gets underway today. The end of Focus International, a leading sales company that has long been a major presence at AFM and other film markets, is sure to rock AFM and marks a bittersweet start to the weeklong event.

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The Hollywood Reporter reported earlier this month that the closure of Focus International was inevitable as Peter Schlessel takes over as CEO of Focus Features, replacing CEO James Schamus, who helped found Focus a decade ago.

Headed by Alison Thompson, Focus International will continue to sell international territories on existing titles at AFM, insiders say Wednesday. Going forward, Focus will leverage Universal's international distribution network to distribute certain titles. Other movies will be handled by third-party sales agents. There were a total of 16 employees in London.

Universal and Schlessel already announced that Focus' New York office will close as Focus consolidates its operations in Los Angeles.

Thompson's title is co-president of Focus International. She ran the division with outgoing Focus Features co-CEO and Focus International president Andrew Karpen, who was based in New York with Schamus. Schlessel asked Karpen to stay on, but Karpen declined, saying he did not want to relocate his family to Los Angeles.