SYDNEY — As 20th Century Fox gears up to release a slew of big-ticket pictures overseas, the studio is completing a restructuring at its home office, aimed at more closely melding international theatrical and home entertainment operations.
The changes have prompted some execs at other studios to question their timing, not long before the launch of “Ice Age,” followed by “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones,” “Minority Report,” “The Road to Perdition” and, capping the year, the latest James Bond adventure.
And some critics say the Feb. 15 ousting of Mitch Yankowitz, exec VP of marketing at Fox Intl., following the transfer earlier this month of distrib vet Julian Levin, has robbed Fox Intl. of valuable experience in film sales and marketing.
Stephen Moore, the Fox Intl. president who oversees the international theatrical and home entertainment divisions, rejects those criticisms — and argues detractors don’t understand the restructure he’s undertaken has added marketing personnel and beefed up resources.
“We have made a number of executive changes at our home office in Los Angeles, and it’s understandable that there is a degree of uncertainty whenever changes are made,” Moore tells Variety.
“However, we have actually strengthened our team, adding resources in a number of areas including promotions, Internet marketing and research.”
Moore has added three product directors — John Zaffarano, Britta Gampper and Melanie Bartlett — to his team, and says all have extensive experience in international film marketing.
That trio is focusing on product from Fox Film, partners (including MGM and acquisitions) and Fox Searchlight, respectively.
Yankowitz’s duties have been handed over to Fox Intl. theatrical prez Scott Neeson, who spearheaded marketing until he was promoted in October 2000.
Earlier last month, distrib vet Julian Levin segued from international theatrical sales and distribution to the newly created role of exec VP of digital exhibition.
His post was partly filled by Paul Hanneman, who was recalled to the head office from Hong Kong, where he was senior VP of Asia/Pacific, to become senior VP of sales and strategic planning. Exec VP Mary McLaren, who formerly focused on the video side, now oversees finance, operations and tech support for both groups.
“They have lost their depth,” says one outsider who deals with the studio. “Mitch (Yankowitz) has been there for seven years and he was very media savvy. Scott (Neeson) can step back into the breach, but he has a lot of other responsibilities,” noting the regional managers, who used to report to Levin, now answer to Neeson.
Moore rejects that view, asserting, “Our seven key executives have combined experience of over 80 years working within the international division at Fox. We have the most talented, experienced, stable and highly regarded territory management teams anywhere in the industry.
“Ultimately, I’m happy to be judged on our results. The innovation and creativity that has been demonstrated in the recent releases of ‘Legally Blonde,’ ‘From Hell’ and ‘Shallow Hal’ is testament to the talent and commitment of the whole team. We are privileged to have an unprecedented lineup over the next 12 months, and I have total confidence that our team around the world will deliver record-breaking results.”
Moore, who took the helm at Fox Intl. last September, is spending the majority of his time in the theatrical division.
His “one-company” concept has has been adopted quite literally in Scandinavia, where Jan Stigwall, who was theatrical manager, has been given oversight of video as well, and in Korea, where Jesse Lee now runs both units.