Production co. to feed into Vantage, Pictures

Paramount Pictures is thinking globally, acting locally.

The studio has created the Paramount Worldwide Acquisitions Group, a centralized acquisitions and local productions arm that will feed pics into the pipelines of Paramount Pictures Intl. and Par Vantage. Sony Pictures, Fox and Universal have taken similar steps to expand the scope of their international production and acquisition operations in recent years.

Matt Brodlie, Vantage’s senior VP of production and acquisitions, will lead the group and work closely with exec VP of production and acquisition Guy Stodel, PPI prexy Andrew Cripps and Vantage prexy Nick Meyer.

The group will be responsible for acquiring films as well as seeking out co-production opportunities and local production projects in territories where PPI already has direct distribution networks. That would include the U.K., France, Spain, Australia, Japan and Latin America.

In recent years, the majors have begun to pour more resources into local production divisions. Sony Pictures Entertainment, which created an international film production department in April 2007, became the first major studio to maintain stand-alone, local-language production units throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America. In May, Fox Filmed Entertainment launched Fox Intl. Prods. to produce and acquire local-language films for key global territories.

Cripps and Meyer said Par’s effort was aimed at providing the studio with “the opportunity to leverage a solid existing infrastructure to service the studio’s acquisition needs on a global level.” Move, which had been in the works since before May’s Cannes Film Festival, comes on the heels of an executive ranks shakeup at Vantage, which was recently folded into Paramount, with the studio assuming the label’s marketing and distribution functions. New group also signals Par’s commitment to beefing up its international presence, a strategy that chairman Brad Grey has emphasized since he took over the studio in 2005.

PPI has been ramping up its international activities since the January 2007 breakup of UIP, its partnership with Universal Pictures.

Paramount joins 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures/Focus Features, which have similar umbrella divisions covering acquisitions and local productions.

Par will release the forthcoming Simon Pegg starrer “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The acquisitions team invested coin in the film at development stage to help the project, based on Toby Young’s bestselling account of his disastrous stint working at Vanity Fair.

In Japan, Par is in negotiations to co-finance and distribute a remake of “Ghost” with producer Taka Ichise.

In Australia, Paramount has formed a specialized distribution joint venture, Transmission, run by Andrew Mackie and Richard Payten, which will release eight to 10 features a year. The company recently released “The Painted Veil” and has Viggo Mortensen starrer “Good,” among other projects, in the pipeline.

Par has also acquired “The Bank Job” for its forthcoming Australian release with producer Omnilab and has inked a deal with MTV Australia to develop projects for Paramount Australia.

Paramount has prebought Latin American rights to “Backyard,” by helmer Carlos Carrera, whose previous pic “El crimen del padre Amaro” is the highest-grossing Mexican film of all time.

In Brazil, Par financed and will distribute Bruno Barreto’s “Last Stop 174″ this year and is also putting up coin and distribbing “Supreme Happiness,” by Brazilian helmer Arnaldo Jabor, and Rogerio Gomes’ “Aparecida.”

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