Studio taps exec for foreign expansion

Disney has tapped longtime studio executive Jason Reed to head up the Mouse House’s expansion into making more movies that target specific foreign audiences.

As executive VP and general manager of Walt Disney Studios Intl. Prods., Reed will essentially get greenlight authority on a slate of pics he will develop with local teams in foreign territories. Reed will oversee all creative and business-related aspects of the films, talent selection, dealmaking and budget considerations, Disney said.

It’s a role similar to that of Universal Pictures Intl. president Christian Grass, who was tapped in late 2007 to head an overseas production arm based in London.

The Mouse House’s move had been expected for some time.

Studios have increasingly eyed local productions as ways to drum up more coin from pics that appeal to audiences that would prefer to see homegrown films rather than Hollywood fare.

Disney’s produced half a dozen local-language titles, including Argentinian, Brazilian and Mexican versions of “High School Musical”; “Roadside Romeo” in India; “Secret of the Magic Gourd” in China; and “Book of Masters” in Russia, which has been the most successful of Disney’s local productions with $11.5 million at the Russian B.O.

Disney chief Robert Iger has been stressing over the past several years that he would like to see the studio take more advantage of a strong distribution pipeline it has set up around the world. But as the studio cut back on the number of films it produces it needed more pics to push through the pipe, hence recent deals with producers like DreamWorks, the launch of a documentary label and now more local-language titles.

Reed most recently served as executive VP of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures production. He had been considered by many in Hollywood to be the studio’s next president of production. That job ultimately wound up going to producer Sean Bailey last month, raising the question of whether Reed would stay at the company.

“One of our important and long-term strategic priorities is to grow international local productions and Jason’s skill set is perfectly suited to help us accomplish that goal,” said Alan Bergman, president of the Walt Disney Studios. Reed has spent the past 15 years at the studio. He started there as a creative associate at Hollywood Pictures.

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