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Matoian firmed at Fox family unit

After months of speculation, 20th Century Fox on Monday confirmed that former CBS senior executive John Matoian will head its new feature family film division.

Matoian left his post as CBSsenior veepee of movies and miniseries several weeks ago, but Fox did not announce his move until Monday, when his official contract at the web ended.

“Jeff Sagansky (CBS Entertainment prexy) is a very good friend and we felt it was important that John’s (Matoian) move was handled properly,” said Fox chairman Peter Chernin.

How this new unit will affect Fox’s production deal with Nickelodeon remains unclear. Last May, Nickelodeon signed a two-year first-look deal with Fox to produce family film fare.

Recently, Sumner Redstone, shortly after acquiring Paramount, said he would be looking at his Viacom-owned Nickelodeon to do feature films.

Chernin, in response, said there are 18 months left on Nickelodeon’s contract and that he expects to get film product from that deal.

Matoian, who starts work on the Fox lot today, will head the film unit with its own production execs. The division eventually will be responsible for putting out six films a year.

Matoian said Monday his greatest successes have been with films in the family genre, such as CBS’ “Sarah, Plain and Tall,””The Walton’s Thanksgiving Reunion, “”To Dance With the White Dog” and “The Yearling.”

Starting up another film unit is part of an overall plan to increase Fox’s output, according to Chernin.

“We’re looking to significantly increase production, up to 25 movies a year (from an average of 13-14 films),” Chernin said. “And we’re now committing the resources to do that. It’s hard to have just one film production division do that many films.”