×

Fox folding Atomic label

Label head Liebling to return as Fox exec

Twentieth Century Fox is set to close down Fox Atomic, the production label started by Peter Rice in 2007 to generate comedy and genre films. The division had been seen as vulnerable since its marketing arm was absorbed back into Fox and Fox Searchlight in January 2008.

Label head Debbie Liebling will return as an executive at 20th Century Fox, where she’ll continue to develop comedies and genre pics for co-presidents Alex Young and Emma Watts. The fate of the other executives will be decided next week.

Fox would not confirm the move, and speculation is that the division is being eliminated because it didn’t produce enough hits — and because its chief benefactor, Rice, was elevated to run Fox Broadcasting for Rupert Murdoch.

Fox Atomic was formed in January 2007 around former chief operating officer John Hegeman, now at New Regency, and Liebling, who as a Fox exec showed a flair for comedy on such Fox hits as “Borat” and “Dodgeball.” Before that, she served as a producer on the “South Park” series and the 1999 feature film.

The label has had its name on such genre efforts as “28 Weeks Later,” “The Hills Have Eyes II” and “Turistas” and on comedies such as “The Rocker,” “The Comebacks,” “Miss March” and “12 Rounds.” Only a few were bona fide successes.

Atomic was hoping to make its biggest mark later this year with two potentially commercial films: the July 10 opener “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” directed by Chris Columbus and starring Hayden Panettiere, and “Jennifer’s Body,” the Diablo Cody-scripted, Karyn Kusama-directed horror film that stars Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. That film will be released Sept. 18.

Liebling has several other high-profile projects percolating, movies that presumably will move over the 20th. They include “28 Months Later,” a continuation of the zombie franchise launched by director Danny Boyle, and “Accidentes,” which Liebling bought as a pitch for a potential star vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen to play an ambulance-chasing lawyer who becomes a working-class folk hero. Peter Baynham, who shared an Oscar nomination for scripting “Borat” with Baron Cohen, will write the screenplay, and Baron Cohen is overseeing the comedy as producer.

The studio could not be reached for comment.

More Film

  • Bong Joon Ho 'Parasite' Director

    Listen: Who Will Take Home the Oscars for Best Director and Picture?

    The Oscars are just two weeks away, so it’s time to start making final predictions about who is going to win. On this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, I invited the magazine’s deputy awards and features editor (and my “Pick of the Week” co-host) Jenelle Riley onto the show [...]

  • Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

    'Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets': Film Review

    “Smile for the camera, motherf—ers,” warns the graffiti outside the Roaring Twenties, a Las Vegas dive bar where spirits are high because the end is nigh. The boozers who’ve braved this dim red cave, in Bill and Turner Ross’ bitterly funny docufiction film “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets,” have signed on to play themselves in an [...]

  • Mucho Mucho Amor

    'Mucho Mucho Amor': Film Review

    What a fraud, you might have thought glimpsing astrologist Walter Mercado on TV in the ’90s. But you wouldn’t forget his face. The bejeweled and blonded psychic hotline pitchman looked like a sorcerer from outer space. Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch’s giddily glittery documentary “Mucho Mucho Amor” traces the half-century that Mercado was a global [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Number of Black Oscar Nominees Hits 3-Year Low in 2020

    The Oscars’ failure to nominate any female directors has ignited a fierce backlash, as has the lack of diversity among top acting nominees. A deeper dive into the categories reveals that the number of black nominees hit a three-year low. Only five black people were nominated for Oscars in 2020. That’s down from 15 in [...]

  • Herself

    'Herself': Film Review

    In 2008, opera director Phyllida Lloyd’s pop-cornball big-screen debut, “Mamma Mia!,” more than earned its exclamation point, grossing more than $600 million worldwide. Three years later, her more serious-minded follow-up, “The Iron Lady,” earned Meryl Streep an Oscar. Most people would agree that was a not-too-shabby start for a helmer of any gender. But instead [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content