Local int'l production, acquistions flourished under exec's lead

Christian Grass, prexy of international productions and acquisitions at Universal Pictures Intl., has ankled after three years to pursue other opportunities. Details of exactly when he will exit have yet to be finalized, but the exec is expected to leave soon.

Grass pioneered local production and local acquisitions for the studio.

Under Grass, Universal and Focus Features Intl. forged relationships with a raft of high-profile international filmmakers, including Russia’s Timur Bekmambetov and his Bazelevs Prods., which produced the helmer’s “Wanted,” toplining James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie.

Grass spearheaded the group’s relationships with Mexico’s Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron through their Cha Cha Cha Films.

He also forged close partnerships with Germany’s UFA Cinema and Italy’s Cattleya.

His departure comes after a series of employees have ankled following the Comcast takeover. In March, NBCUniversal Intl. prexy Peter Smith ankled after three years in the role and 22 years with the studio.

In an internal memo to staff, Universal prexy of international David Kosse said: “I wanted to let you know that, sadly, Christian Grass has decided to leave the company as president, Universal Pictures Intl. production and acquisitions to pursue other exciting opportunities.”

“We wish Christian every success for the future and are grateful for his tremendous contribution in building our international production and acquisitions division since 2007. He and the team have had notable successes such as ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Gainsbourg,’ both among the highest-grossing French films of 2010, Matthew Vaughn’s breakout hit ‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Inglourious Basterds’ from Quentin Tarantino and Timur Bekmambetov’s ‘Black Lightning.’?” Before UPI, Grass worked at 20th Century Fox Intl. where he was instrumental in Fox Searchlight’s pickup of Bekmambetov’s debut “Night Watch” and its deal to co-produce the sequel, “Day Watch.”

Kosse said Universal was “committed to continued investment in local international production as an important part of our business,” with the team including Clare Wise, exec VP of international production, and Alex Jooss, senior VP of business and legal.

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