Berlin Film Fest: Universal Reclaims International Production for UPI

by Anne Thompson
February 12, 2010 12:22 AM
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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.

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More: festivals, Studios, Universal/Focus Features

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