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Rogue marketing moves to Universal

Schamus also announces new hires

Focus Features is shifting marketing and distribution of all titles from its genre arm Rogue Pictures to Universal beginning in 2008.

Along with that announcement on Monday, Focus chief exec James Schamus also unveiled new hires in the production ranks and a stepped-up level of collaboration with U’s overseas production team.

The central aim of the realignment is to expand the scope and scale of its production and distribution slate, or a “focus on Focus,” as Schamus put it. This fall and holiday season is a harbinger of the Focus of the future, with “Lust, Caution,” “Eastern Promises,” “Reservation Road” and “Atonement” all taking up substantial real estate in terms of production, marketing and kudos potential.

Capacity issues have also meant Focus has not acquired a pic at a film festival in two years, a situation that has been frustrating to Schamus and others in the company.

The moves, which had been brewing for a couple of months, give U a fully functioning genre arm comparable to Screen Gems at Sony.

The first Rogue titles that will go out through U in 2008 are suspenser “The Strangers,” starring Liv Tyler; action thriller “Doomsday,” starring Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins and Malcolm McDowell; and action drama “Fighting,” starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard.

“We saw this as the smartest and most efficient way to grow both our businesses,” Schamus said. “With the ever-increasing mainstream appeal of the Rogue slate, we feel that Rogue can really take off with the backing of the Universal team. Now that the Rogue movies are going to be handled in a major-studio capacity, the Focus marketing and distribution staffs will be able to nurture the increased number of Focus releases we have in our pipeline.”

Rogue co-prexies Andrew Karpen and Andrew Rona will continue to run the division and coordinate the Rogue slate for domestic release with Universal. Karpen will also continue as president of Focus Features.

Since its creation in March 2004, Rogue has had a fairly successful run, with hits such as “Balls of Fury,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Seed of Chucky.” But so far it’s not had the horsepower to challenge Dimension or Lionsgate for the top of the specialty genre heap.

Cary Fukunaga’s Spanish-language thriller “Sin Nombre,” produced by Amy Kaufman through her Primary Prods. and executive-produced by Pablo Cruz of Canana Films, will be distributed by Focus domestically and by U overseas. It was put forward as an example of the kinds of titles the new arrangement will foster.

Joining the Focus production team are director of development Samantha Taylor Pickett and creative executive Michael Pruss, both of whom will be based in the company’s West Coast offices and report to Focus senior VP of production Kahli Small.

Pickett and Pruss both are joining Focus from development and acquisitions posts at Paramount Vantage. Pickett previously worked for filmmaker Michael Mann and at CAA; Pruss worked at DreamWorks.

The new game plan “recognizes the successes of both Focus and Rogue,” Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger and co-chairman David Linde said. “It preserves Focus’ commitment to its core filmmaking ambitions and principles, and looks to achieve the maximum potential of Rogue’s established production team on a larger playing field.”

(Pamela McClintock contributed to this report.)

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