In a move highlighting the studio’s expanded emphasis on feature acquisitions, Paramount has upped former acquisitions VP John Ferraro to senior VP worldwide acquisitions and co-productions for its Motion Picture Group.

Ferraro, who reports to group vice chairman Rob Friedman, continues to be responsible for Paramount’s negative pickups, which have included the recent Kurt Russell thriller “Breakdown.”

“My mandate is to bring in co-productions — as we’ve been doing — but on broader scale,” Ferraro told Daily Variety by phone from the London screenings.

In addition to buying domestic rights, Friedman said Paramount is more actively pursuing deals to acquire all international rights or even individual foreign territories.

For instance, the distributor recently picked up rights in South Africa and the U.K. to Village Road Show’s film “The Castle.”

But Friedman noted that unlike Buena Vista Intl., which recently announced a foray into foreign sales, Paramount will itself handle distribution — through its UIP joint venture — on any films it acquires.

Plethora of partners

Paramount has for the past several years co-financed the majority of its pictures through equity or split-rights deals with indies and other studios.

For instance, its two most recent hits, “In & Out” and “Kiss the Girls,” were co-financed by Spelling and Rysher Ent., respectively.

In addition, Buena Vista took foreign distribution rights on “Face-Off” as well as the upcoming Nicolas Cage-starrer “Snake Eyes,” and Paramount and DreamWorks will split distribution rights on “Saving Pvt. Ryan” and “Deep Impact.”

But while Paramount has taken heat in the past for selling off valuable foreign rights to hit films, Friedman noted that the company has been, and continues to be, a buyer as well.

Busy buyers

“We’ve been out there quietly and aggressively buying rights,” Friedman said. “We’re just going to do more of it.”

Ferraro oversaw the acquisition and production of the $50 million grosser “Breakdown,” a joint effort with Dino De Laurentiis and Spelling Films.

“John has done a great job for us,” said Friedman. “His promotion reflects Paramount’s high regard for his accomplishments and the great importance of acquisitions and co-productions in our mix of feature film releases.”

Before joining the Motion Picture Group as director of acquisitions in 1988, Ferraro was the director of development for Par’s network television division, where he worked on “Star Trek: Next Generation” and the highly rated telefilm “A Very Brady Christmas.”

Previously, he was a program executive overseeing the series “MacGyver.”

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