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Lion beefs up to prep for Fox changeover

In switch from UIP Sutherland tags along

SYDNEY — MGM is beefing up its international marketing and distribution efforts, hiring former United Intl. Pictures exec Ian Sutherland as the studio prepares to shift the theatrical release of its films overseas from UIP to 20th Century Fox.

Sutherland is expected to be confirmed this week as senior VP for international marketing and distribution, based at MGM’s Santa Monica headquarters. He will report to Larry Gleason, president of worldwide distribution and Gerry Rich, prexy of marketing.

Concurrently, the Lion is due to announce the promotion of Gina Stroud, London-based exec VP of international marketing, to a new role in which she will focus on the studio’s numerous co-productions with foreign partners.

November switch

Fox will succeed UIP as MGM’s foreign theatrical distrib on Nov. 1; pegged as the probable first release under the new regime is “Original Sin” (formerly “Dancing in the Dark”), the Antonio Banderas/Angelina Jolie starrer helmed by Michael Cristofer.

Sutherland, who quit UIP late last year, will work closely with the Fox Intl. marketing and distribution team headed by Julian Levin and Scott Neeson in preparing ad-pub campaigns for MGM’s films, setting release dates and evaluating the competitive environment in foreign markets.

Sutherland spent 10 years with UIP, transferring from its Sydney branch to the London headquarters four years ago as senior VP for international marketing.

Since June he has worked as a consultant at Fox’s Sydney office, partly filling in until the distrib hired a marketing director and also getting to know Fox’s distribution system. He’s expected to move to L.A. in October.

Stroud will be designated to work on productions initiated by MGM’s London-based United Artists, which is shuttering its distribution and sales ops. These duties will entail liaising with the studio’s co-prod partners such as Germany’s Helkon Media, the U.K.’s Winchester and Japan’s Toho-Towa.

Split decisions

MGM has engaged in a slew of split-rights deals on films including John McTiernan’s “Rollerball” and is rumored to be shopping for foreign partners on John Woo’s ‘”Windtalkers.”

It’s understood that this strategy prompted Fox execs to complain recently about the paucity of MGM films that will flow through its pipeline after November.

But it’s believed MGM quickly assured Fox that the recent flurry of rights-splitting is a short-term measure to boost the Lion’s balance sheet and that Fox will get a regular flow of films for international.

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