Cecchi-mate: Alatan to buy pix for Medusa

Will serve as exclusive consultant to Berlusconi-owned cos.

ROME — Further pumping its buying muscle as Italy’s most voracious consumer of top independent product, leading Italian distributor Medusa and its sister company, television rights division Mediatrade, have appointed Faruk Alatan as senior acquisitions advisor, ending the veteran buyer’s 16-year relationship with the Cecchi Gori Group.

While no official announcement has yet been made, the move was confirmed by Medusa/Mediatrade and Alatan, indicating that his first market appearance in the new position will be at the Mip-TV tradeshow in Cannes this week.

Exclusive consultant

Alatan will serve as an exclusive external consultant to the Silvio Berlusconi-owned companies, the same role he held with Cecchi Gori. He will report directly to Medusa president Carlo Bernasconi and Mediatrade president Roberto Pace. Medusa acquisitions exec Clare McArdle will stay on as part of the team headed by Alatan.

The Fininvest film division has risen rapidly in the past two years to become the local industry’s No. 1 distrib. Current market share of 23.6% places Medusa significantly in front of nearest rival UIP. Alatan’s arrival stands to further consolidate Medusa’s leadership in Italy and coincides with the conclusion of a number of plum acquisition deals for some of the choicest indie titles on the market.

Medusa recently closed with Capitol for all Italian rights to Robert Altman’s 1930s-set “Gosford Park,” starring Jeremy Northam, Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.

Consolidating its relationship with Icon and Mel Gibson after propelling current-season smash “What Women Want” to $13 million at the Italian box office, Medusa also has acquired the company’s Vietnam action-drama “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” directed by Randall Wallace and starring Gibson and Madeleine Stowe.

Also new to Medusa’s slate is Intermedia’s “The Quiet American,” director Phillip Noyce’s film of the classic Graham Greene novel toplining Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.

Other key Medusa pickups from recent months include New Line’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy; Beacon Pictures’ Tony Scott thriller “Spy Game,” starring Brad Pitt and Robert Redford; Mandalay Pictures’ “The Score,” directed by Frank Oz, with Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando and Angela Bassett; and the Coen brothers’ “The Barber Movie” from Good Machine.

Alatan’s departure from CGG represents the latest blow to the former industry titan, which has scaled back film production and largely suspended acquisitions activity while struggling with cash-flow problems.

Waiting on sale

Industry insiders expect Cecchi Gori to resume acquisitions and refocus on the film division as its core operation once the group’s problem-plagued sale of its beleaguered TMC television networks to Telecom Italia’s multimedia unit Seat Pagine Gialle is finalized.

CGG acquisitions now will be coordinated out of Los Angeles by Cecchi Gori Pictures president Gianni Nunnari.

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