(February 26, 2001 - Burbank, CA) - Feature film producer Simona Benzakein has been named to the newly created position of Vice President, European Production, Warner Bros. Pictures, further solidifying Warner Bros.’ commitment to the production, acquisition and distribution of “local-language” films in their country of origin, it was announced today by Richard Fox, Executive Vice President, International, Warner Bros. and Lorenzo di Bonaventura, President, Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures. Benzakein, who will work out of the Warner Bros. Pictures’ Paris office, will coordinate and facilitate the production efforts of the Warner Bros. Pictures European offices currently operational in two major countries: France, under the leadership of Francis Boespflug, and Germany headed by Willi Geike. In France, the recent French feature film “La Verité si je mens!2” is already positioning itself as one of the most successful French films ever. With Warner Bros.’ future expansion plans successfully underway in the other European territories, the need for a European production executive has become the logical next step in implementing the overall plan. Benzakein will function as the liaison not only with her colleagues in the international and domestic areas of Warner Bros. Pictures, but with the newly established executive oversight committee at the Studio in Burbank as well. She will maintain an overview of all European activities and also help to identify potential opportunities in projects that may be pan-European in nature. The Managing Directors of each of the local offices will continue to be responsible for identifying properties, sourcing new projects and developing talent relationships. “Simona’s knowledge, experience, taste, reputation and relationships with well known international industry figures make her uniquely qualified for this key role in our international strategy,” said di Bonaventura. “We want to be proactive as the European market explodes and audiences increasingly demand more local content in their feature films and television programs. Our plan is to create a template that we intend to roll out not only in other countries in Europe, but also in Japan and China and other key creative centers throughout the world. Our mantra is ‘think global, be local,’” said Fox. “In-country,” local-language feature film production for both “local only” and worldwide distribution is not a new concept for Warner Bros. However, to date, the activities have been limited and have not drawn upon the full resources of the Studio nor have they been part of an overall clearly defined long-term strategic initiative. The Warner Bros. Pictures International offices have for the past several years entered into partnerships in Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and certain areas in Asia to co-produce and/or acquire selected indigenous theatrical films from independent international partners and filmmakers for distribution in the country of origin. Also, as a precursor to the European enterprise, Warner Bros. entered into a joint production venture with Nippon Television (Japan’s leading broadcaster) and Toshiba Corporation to produce and distribute one or two films annually for the Japanese and world markets. The first film from the newly created Towani, Sakuya, a live-action mythical tale, premiered in Tokyo in August to very favorable and encouraging results and is projected to be among the top 15 films of the year in Japan. “The international marketplace is changing both in terms of taste and technology, and we want to be at the forefront of those changes,” added Fox. “With some very successful individual achievements under our belt, we felt now was the opportune time to create a more formal structure and commit more fully dedicated resources to better support and execute our long-term feature film strategy.” “Having hands-on involvement with local-language films gives us the unique opportunity to work with and establish relationships with some of the finest talent in-front-of and behind the camera in these countries,” continued di Bonaventura. “This will not only benefit future local-language productions, but also potentially our domestic English-language productions.” In giving the initiative form and structure, the Studio has created an oversight management committee, responsible for the general strategic, business and creative aspects. “In country” Managing Directors will continue to manage the day-to-day operations as well as work with the home office and draw upon the full resources of the Studio. The management committee, headed by Alan Horn, President & Chief Operating Officer, Warner Bros., will consist of Fox, di Bonaventura and Steve Spira, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Business Affairs, Warner Bros. Pictures. The committee will have final say on all aspects of the film from budgets to production to distribution. The reasoning behind the strategy is to stay competitive in the market, especially with the rise in appetite for locally produced product and the emergence of major local entertainment corporate players in the film production and distribution arena. The long-term plan will be rolled out prudently, focusing co-productions and acquisitions of approximately 4-6 films per year for each country, with Warner Bros. investing from $2-$10 million per film including distribution costs. The objective is to keep the risk low and, most importantly, preserve and increase Warner Bros.’ presence in the local marketplace. A significant added value is the discovery and nurturing of local talent with global potential, both in front of and behind the camera.
# # #