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Veteran Film Exec Joins Ovitz Group

January 25, 2002|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Columbia Pictures Chairman Mark Canton was hired Thursday to run talent manager Michael Ovitz's film production unit.

Canton will become a partner, chairman and chief executive of Artists Production Group and will manage a joint film venture the firm has with Vivendi Universal's StudioCanal that has been slow to develop. All of the film unit's employees will report to him, including President Cathy Schulman.

The 3-year-old Artists Production Group has been amassing development projects but has yet to boast a major film release or box-office hit. The company's future slate includes some potential major releases in Michael Crichton's "Timeline" as well as Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six" and "Without Remorse."

Canton's most visible job in Hollywood was a five-year stint as head of Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures unit, which later included overseeing the company's TriStar unit.

But Canton was fired in 1996 after a series of flops such as "Multiplicity" and "I'll Do Anything." Within months of his departure, the studio released a string of hits developed during Canton's regime, among them "Jerry Maguire," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Men in Black."

Canton then worked as a producer at Warner Bros., but the films he produced there failed to catch fire at the box office, including "Red Planet," "Angel Eyes" "Jack Frost" and "Get Carter."

Canton said he recently wound up a joint venture with Germany's Senator Entertainment and had been exploring other opportunities when Ovitz and partner Rick Yorn approached him.

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