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Berlin Film Fest: Universal Reclaims International Production for UPI

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood February 12, 2010 at 12:22AM

A year after Universal merged its international production group and Focus Films International, the studio is moving Christian Grass's division back under Universal and naming Grass UPI's president of international production and acquisitions, reporting to new UPI president and president of international for Universal Pictures David Kosse and Universal co-chairman Donna Langley.
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Thompson on Hollywood

A year after Universal merged its international production group and Focus Films International, the studio is moving Christian Grass's division back under Universal and naming Grass UPI's president of international production and acquisitions, reporting to new UPI president and president of international for Universal Pictures David Kosse and Universal co-chairman Donna Langley.

Basically, last January ex-Universal co-chairman David Linde, who once ran Focus with James Schamus, had sold Focus's Rogue genre label to Relativity Media, and was helping to buttress Focus's numbers. But in the past year, Grass's robust push into local production---including an eight-picture deal with Germany's UFA Cinema, the $20-million hit Black Lightning (a co-production with Timur Bekmambetov's Bazelevs Productions in Russia), and the Dutch hit The Storm--has boosted the UPI side of the the ledger, not Focus International sales and distribution, which continues to post strong global numbers on its own with such films as Coraline, Shane Acker's 9 and the Coens' A Serious Man.

The two titles Focus produced in conjunction with Grass's group, Thirst and Sin Nombre, pre-dated the merger, points out Schamus, who is going to the Berlin fest with the world premiere of Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller, as well as Focus' prize Sundance accquisition, Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right. Upcoming Focus productions include Joe Wright's international intrigue thriller Hanna, starring Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan as a teen assassin, marking the division's largest budget to date (some $30 million), as well as Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, starring Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender and (if deals go through) Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins and Imogen Poots. Focus Features is selling the Charlotte Bronte adaptation, a co-production BBC Films, in the Berlin market.

Upcoming releases from Grass's international production group include True Legend, a Bill Kong production directed by Yuen Woo Ping, which is premiering at Berlin; Teufelskicker, from UFA, set to open in Germany March 11; L’Arnacoeur, a French co-production with Quad starring Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis, to open in France March 17; Mandate's Kick-Ass, which UPI will release in select territories, Una Canzone per Te, from Cattleya, to open in Italy on May 28; and Guillem Morales' Los Ojos de Julia, produced by Guillermo del Toro, to open in Spain in October 2010.

This article is related to: Festivals, Studios, Universal/Focus Features


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.