Fox shutting down Atomic label

President Debbie Liebling expected to stay at the company

Fox is shutting down its Fox Atomic label, which was created in 2007 to cater to the youth market for comedy and genre films.

Debbie Liebling, who served as the unit's president, will return to Fox proper as executive vp production under co-presidents of production Emma Watts and Alex Young.

She will see through postproduction Atomic's remaining releases: the high school comedy "I Love You, Beth Cooper," directed by Chris Columbus and starring Hayden Panettiere, and the horror tale "Jennifer's Body," directed by Karyn Kusama and starring Megan Fox, both of which Fox will release; and "Post Grad," directed by Vicky Jenson and starring Alexis Bledel, which will go out through Fox Searchlight.

Liebling came to Fox from Comedy Central in 2002 and shepherded films such as "Borat" and "Dodgeball." She then moved to Atomic in 2007.

"Debbie is the premier comedy executive in our business," Young and Watts said. "So we are thrilled to welcome her back and look forward to her immense contributions to the company."

About six employees on Atomic's feature production staff will receive pink slips.

Peter Rice, as then-head of specialty division Fox Searchlight, originally oversaw Atomic with John Hegeman, who served as COO. The goal was to reach the teen audience for movies and digital products, but Atomic failed to hit it big, and its status within Fox has been in question for months.

Adding to the questions about Atomic was the fact that its two co-founders have moved on to other roles. Rice was named chairman of Fox Entertainment last month as part of a reorganization of parent company News Corp.'s Los Angeles-based entertainment units. Hegeman moved to New Regency Prods. in early 2008 after Fox absorbed Atomic's marketing operations into Fox and Fox Searchlight.

During its brief history, Atomic had modest success with pictures such as "28 Weeks Later," which grossed $45 million domestically, and "The Hills Have Eyes 2." But it fell short with such recent films as "The Rocker," "Miss March" and "12 Rounds."

The six employees that comprise Fox Atomic Digital will become part of Big Fox's digital department, where they will report to Peter Levinsohn, president of new media and digital distribution. The newly merged Fox Atomic group will also work on marketing projects with Jeffrey Godsick, executive vp marketing and digital content for Fox.