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United Pix Intl. to launch Latin, Korean outlets

QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA — Determined to become a truly global distributor, Universal Pictures Intl. is plotting to establish outposts in Latin America and South Korea.

The business plan, which awaits approval from Universal’s management, envisions UPI launching direct distribution in those markets by the end of the year 2000, UPI president Stewart Till told Daily Variety Tuesday.

Sister distrib

In the interim, UPI’s films are being released in Latin territories by United Intl. Pictures (co-owned by U) and UIP is set to start handling UPI product in South Korea following the expiration of UPI’s pact there with 20th Century Fox Intl.

“It’s good corporate behavior to go through a sister company (UIP) in Latin American and Korea,” said Till, who is attending the Australian movie convention on the Gold Coast at the Romal Pines Resort, which runs through Saturday.

Running a division that is releasing 12-15 titles theatrically per year, Till ruled out the idea of dealing via indie distribs in Latin America — “The indies are struggling” — and Korea, where local distribs have secretly cut back on acquisitions.

Currently, UPI has branches in 12 territories, covering most of Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Till said he does not think gaining the greenlight from studio brass for his expansion program will be dependent on Universal’s decision on whether or not to renew the UIP co-venture with Paramount, due to expire in October 2001.

Latin branches

His plan will entail creating UPI branches in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, which rep about 70% of the total Latino B.O.

That would leave Japan as the last major territory where UPI does not have direct distribution.

Till said he does intend to enter Japan, but noted “there is no big rush,” as that territory boasts a number of players, such as Gaga Pictures, that are prepared to pay sizable minimum guarantees, backed by hefty marketing spends. Gaga is releasing Universal’s “Notting Hill” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.” Till will introduce a screening of the latter at the convention Thursday.

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