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Polygram bows Aussie distrib’n

Polgram Filmed Entertainment unfurls its Australian theatrical distrib banner Sept. 25 and is signaling its commitment to produce Aussie films.

Concurrently, REP Film Distributors named U.S. indie producer and former marketing exec Jane Alsobrook as its new president, succeeding Richard Sheffield-MacClure, who has been tapped as PFE Australia’s managing director.

PFE’s first release early next year will be Jodie Foster’s “Home From the Holidays”; its 1996 slate includes “Sleepers,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “Kazaam” and Nadia Tass’ just-wrapped Aussie drama “My Entire Life.”

REP, Polygram’s long-time Aussie distrib, still has to release a handful of Polygram titles including “Carrington,” “Jack and Sarah” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”

Sheffield-MacClure said, “We are totally committed to local filmmaking and look forward to meeting with producers and writers to ensure this commitment results in successful films produced for the local and world market.”

The new PFE division expands Polygram current music and video businesses, headed by Polygram Australia CEO Tim Read. Polygram, which has had a sell-through video business here for 10 years, will launch a rental operation next year, Read said.

Alsobrook, who signs on at REP early next month, says the distrib will acquire and release up to 20 international and local films annually. Having visited Down Under several times, she says, “I will be on a steep learning curve. In some respects the Australian market mimics the U.S., but I know there are differences. It’s going to be an adventure.”

Rap’s sister company PRO Films develops and produces two to three films a year. Richard Becker, managing director of parent company the Becker group, says John Politzer, former head of buying and programming at the Greater Union circuit, will act as a consultant to Alsobrook.

Alsobrook has served variously as president of distribution and marketing at Island Pictures, senior VP of creative advertising and marketing at Columbia Pictures, and head of acquisitions and marketing at 20th Century Fox’s Classics division.

Becker says REP will continue as one of the leading distribs after such B.O. successes as “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Nell,” “Circle of Friends” and “French Kiss.”

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