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Imagine names new prod’n prexy

Whitaker currently exec producing 'Lights,' 'Cinderella Man'

Jim Whitaker has been promoted to prexy of production for Universal-based Imagine Films. Promotion was confirmed Thursday by Karen Kehela Sherwood, co-chair of Imagine Entertainment.

Whitaker is an 11-year vet of Imagine, having started out there as a summer intern in 1993, and having cut his teeth working craft services on John Waters classic “Hairspray.”

More than a decade later, Whitaker is serving as executive producer of numerous U/Imagine pics, including gridiron drama “Friday Night Lights,” starring Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Peter Berg, and boxing biopic “Cinderella Man” starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger and directed by Imagine principal Ron Howard, which is currently filming and is skedded for a March 2005 release.

“Jim’s growth at Imagine over the last 11 years has been exciting and gratifying to witness,” Howard said. “He’s truly committed to making a wide variety of films that he and the rest of us at Imagine can be proud of for a long time.”

Other current pics under Whitaker’s watch include the animated feature “Curious George,” starring Will Ferrell and directed by Jun Falkenstein; “Tru Blu,” a Denzel Washington starrer helmed by his “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua; and the thriller “Flight Plan,” a Jodie Foster actioner directed by Robert Schwentke and set up at the Walt Disney Studios.

Whitaker was most recently exec VP of production at Imagine, a title he’d held since 2001.