Murdoch’s Fox goes local; eyes India, Russia, Japan & Germany

MUMBAI: Capitalizing on the company’s leading international distribution network and parent News Corporation’s vast global presence, Fox Filmed Entertainment is launching Fox International Productions (FIP) to produce and acquire local language films for key global territories.

Fox International Productions will oversee production activities already in progress in Japan, Germany, Russia and India, and will expand Fox’s local productions in these and other markets in the future.

Sanford Panitch, a veteran studio executive at New Regency and Fox, has been tapped to run the entity, which will serve to organize all of Fox’s existing and future indigenous productions under one banner.

FIP will work closely with Fox’s other production divisions and partners and also will tap into its News Corp sister companies, including Star, SKY and MySpace, among others.

The endeavor also will coordinate efforts with Fox International, run by co-presidents Tomas Jegeus and Paul Hanneman. Fox International will handle all marketing and distribution for FIP.

Panitch, who most recently served as President of Filmed Entertainment for New Regency (a partnership with News Corporation and Twentieth Century Fox), will become president of the Los Angeles-based FIP. He will report to Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairmen and CEOs, Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, who made the announcement today.

"We have the infrastructure provided by the world’s most global media company along with Fox’s unmatched marketing and distribution operations, and in Sanford, we have a seasoned, successful executive with whom to entrust this important enterprise," said Gianopulos. "All of these factors – as well as our existing relationships and collective experience around the world – position us for great success."

Commented Rothman: "Sanford is a uniquely gifted and well rounded film executive. In the last years, he has spent much of his efforts focusing on international talent, and will bring his inimitable energy, perseverance, and can do attitude to expand our efforts around the globe."

Fox International Productions will focus its efforts in several key territories to produce, co-finance, acquire and distribute local language films. FIP will complement Fox’s worldwide releases with local language films in key markets, where it will develop partnerships with local producers and filmmakers and make strategic production agreements. Fox is in active discussions with several investment funds interested in providing equity financing for its international productions.

"This is a natural next step for me and a great opportunity," said Panitch. "And to be able to do it in an environment with such an incredibly broad global presence is ideal. Our slate will include films targeted for the markets in which they are made and some pictures for a broader international audience."

Commented Jegeus and Hanneman: "Our team has done considerable work over the past few years in identifying co-production opportunities around the world and we are excited to work with Sanford to see those plans come to fruition."

FIP will be staffed in Los Angeles with business affairs, development and production executives and will draw on the expertise of creative individuals on staff in those key territories. It also will rely on the continuing efforts of Tony Safford, Fox’s executive vice president of worldwide acquisitions.

Panitch has served as president of filmed entertainment for New Regency for the past seven years, moving from Twentieth Century Fox where he last served as executive vice president of production. During his career, he has supervised such films as Mr And Mrs Smith, The Fugitive, Seven and Titanic.

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