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Down Under outpost

Franks to launch Lionsgate's Australian operations

Simon Franks, who sold his U.K. indie Redbus Film Distribution to Lionsgate a year ago, has moved Down Under to launch an Australian distribution arm for Lionsgate.

The 35-year-old Londoner flew out from Blighty two weeks ago and will spend all of 2007 in Oz setting up Lionsgate’s operation there.

He launched Redbus in 1998 with his partner Zygi Kamasa and built it into a significant U.K. player with pics including “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Open Water” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

They sold the company to Lionsgate for $35 million in October 2005. Kamasa stayed on to run the newly renamed Lionsgate U.K. full time, with Franks moving into a part-time role under a three-year deal.

At the time of the takeover, Lionsgate said that it expected to tap Franks’ entrepreneurial talents to help it seek out further opportunities for international expansion.

Lionsgate CEO John Feltheimer revealed the Australian move in a conference call with analysts earlier this month to announce the company’s second-quarter results, but the news was not widely reported.

Lionsgate U.K. has enjoyed a strong year under its new ownership, with “Saw III” grossing $16.3 million. Pic took $4.8 million via Hoyts in Australia.

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