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Gill to Head Warner Bros. Specialty Unit

Marketing veteran will focus on prestigious, award-worthy films for adults at new division.

August 08, 2003|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. studio named movie marketing veteran Mark Gill president of Warner Independent Pictures, a newly formed "specialty film" division.

With its launch, Warner becomes the last of Hollywood's major studios to start a division devoted to the growing market for sophisticated, lower-budget films aimed at adult audiences.

Warner managers have long wanted to supplement their mainstream film operation with a specialty unit, which can help a studio compete for awards and find an occasional breakout hit.

"Clearly there's an appetite for these movies. And we want to be a full-service studio involved in every component of entertainment," Warner Bros. President Alan Horn said.

Gill, who will report directly to Warner production President Jeff Robinov, will have a small staff of marketing, distribution and business affairs executives.

Horn retains the ultimate authority to greenlight movies but said Robinov and Gill would be empowered to pick films and tap the studio's marketing and distribution resources.

"If Jeff and Mark want to make a movie, it will get made," Horn said. "I want them to have broad latitude."

Warner Independent Pictures is expected to produce or acquire as many as 10 pictures a year with a budget cap of $20 million each. Typically, independent films are initially released on a few screens and launched with advertising budgets of less than $5 million.

Gill said the company would focus more heavily on producing movies than acquiring them and probably wouldn't release its first film before next spring or summer.

"The idea is to make prestigious films for critical acclaim and with any luck for awards considerations," Gill said. "All the films will be driven by directors with strong points of view and an original voice."

Gill joins Warner after spending less than a year at Stratus Film Co., a partnership between financier Bob Yari and producer Mark Gordon. Gill previously worked at Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax Films, where he was involved with such acclaimed movies as "Frida," "In the Bedroom," "Amelie" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

Before Miramax, Gill spent six years as a marketing executive at Sony Corp.'s Columbia and TriStar pictures and earlier worked at publicity agency Rogers & Cowan. He began his career as a freelance reporter for Newsweek magazine and the Los Angeles Times.

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