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Sony unveils Asian pic unit

Arm to focus on native films

Sony Pictures Entertainment has launched its fourth local-language production venture, Hong Kong-based Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, SPE president John Calley announced Monday.

The move, which was expected (Daily Variety, March 1), follows from Sony’s establishment of its Deutsche Columbia Film Production GmbH unit at Berlin’s Babelsberg Studios in February.

Col Asia will focus on producing pics for Asian audiences. It will be headed by former Encore Intl. exec Barbara Robinson, who has notched up 10 years working in the region.

Robinson, who becomes managing director of Col Asia, will be responsible for the development, production and acquisition of all its pics.

Market share growth

Sony believes that the market share of national films in most foreign territories will continue to grow. The studio, whose other local pic units are in the U.K. and Brazil, is committed to building a global network of such companies.

However, it is establishing its outpost in Asia at a time when the region is on a rocky financial footing in general, and its entertainment biz is in full recession.

“The decision to create this new division at this time underscores our belief in the long-term vitality of this region,” Calley said.

For creative matters, Robinson will report to Columbia Motion Picture Group vice chairman Gareth Wigan. For administrative matters, she will report to Col Motion Pic Group president Ken Lemberger.

Edko Columbia TriStar Films, Col’s joint venture theatrical distribbery in Hong Kong, will operate separately from the Col Asia production unit. Edko Columbia TriStar comes under the aegis of Col TriStar Film Distributors Intl., which is headed by prexy Duncan Clark.

Robinson’s resume

Robinson started out in Beijing in 1984 as a teacher at Qinghua U. She worked at Asian sales and production outfit Era Intl. for seven years, and was associated with pics such as Hou Hsiao Hsien’s “A City of Sadness” and Zhang Yimou’s “Raise the Red Lantern.”

Recently, she was vice president of programming for Colorado-based Encore, and was responsible for the pay net’s international channels and programming ventures, including its relationship with China Central Television.

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