Uni int'l unit taps Grass

Former Fox exec will lead prod'n arm

Universal Pictures has named 20th Century Fox International executive Christian Grass president of the studio's new production arm at Universal Pictures International (HR 5/18). The move, which takes effect in October, punctuates Universal's efforts to beef up its overseas presence.

The studio also has inked a deal with Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov and his Moscow-based production and visual effects company, Bazelevs Prods., to produce and direct Russian- and English-language films for the local and global marketplace. Bekmambetov most recently directed the fantasy action series and Russian boxoffice smashes "Night Watch" and "Day Watch."

The deal marks Universal's second local production pact following its agreement with Fernando Meirelles and his 02 Filmes to develop and produce local Brazilian and Latin American films.

Universal and Bekmambetov also have created a Moscow-based theatrical marketing and releasing label, Bekmambetov Pictures, to handle the Russian marketing of the films covered by the deal.