Castle Rock Entertainment, staking its claim to independence in the newly formed Turner Broadcasting film conglomerate, Thursday named former Penta topper Massimo Graziosi as its first in-house chief of international distribution.

As president of Castle Rock Intl., Graziosi will supervise all sales, marketing and distribution for the powerhouse indie outside the U.S. and Canada. Based in London, he will report to Castle Rock Pictures prexy Martin Shafer.

The move indicates Castle Rock Entertainment’s desire to establish an identity for itself under Turner as a mini-studio with global outreach.

Turner already has a sizable international TV distribution operation in place but what’s been missing is an arm to sell features to foreign exhibitors. Speculation has persisted that Turner would name an international theatrical distribution chief to handle all the overseas biz for the grouped indies, but that post has yet to be filled.

Formerly chairman and CEO of Penta Intl., Graziosi was lured to Castle Rock because of his close ties to Shafer and Castle Rock’s CEO and chairman Alan Horn. Graziosi worked with both execs in the early ’80s at Embassy Communications. He also headed Nelson Entertainment, which held the original overseas distribution rights to Castle Rock pix.

Those rights reverted to Credit Lyonnais Bank when Nelson went under and later were awarded to New Line Intl. Shafer said the deal with New Line runs out this year.

“Massimo has been involved in the distribution of all of our films internationally through his positions with Nelson and most recently with Penta, and I look forward to the continuity he will bring to this position,” Shafer said in a statement.

Horn said the Graziosi addition is designed to keep Castle Rock’s name independent as afilmmaker.

“We’re all now working together with Ted … to see how to best approach the international marketplace,” Horn said. “It’s important to Castle Rock to maintain our own imprimatur and maintain our own presence in the marketplace. Massimo will be representing Castle Rock in that regard.”

Graziosi’s new job comes on the heels of Liz Glotzer’s promotion as the indie’s first prexy of production. Both hires seem designed to help elevate Castle Rock to major-player status, producing as many as 12-15 titles a year.

Looking ahead

“We have a clear vision for the company,” Horn said. “That vision is to take Castle Rock from its boutique status, which we’ve enjoyed for the last six or seven years, and now enter into a studio status.”

Columbia Pictures will handle Castle Rock’s domestic distribution until the end of 1997. Shafer said the company eagerly awaits the time when it can create and distribute its own titles throughout the world.

“After six years of having other people have our rights, we’re getting closer and closer to having our own rights and exploiting them in all markets,” Shafer said.

He added that ColPix, with its own vast international distrib network, might take on some of Castle Rock’s distribution needs in some overseas markets, but in conjunction with Graziosi.

In addition to posts at Penta and Nelson, Graziosi also has served as chairman and managing director for Disney in London, handling distrib and marketing for all Disney pix in Europe and the Middle East.