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Fox Atomic goes up in mushroom cloud after two-year money-losing run

April 19, 2009 |  8:12 pm

Peter Rice may have been a genius when it came to making Fox Searchlight the most successful specialty film distributor in Hollywood with such breakout hits as "Slumdog Millionaire," "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine."

But when it came to hitting it big with a division dedicated to comedies and thrillers aimed at teens, he bombed.


After a two-year, money-losing run of too many box-office misses, including the recent R-rated comedy "Miss March" and last year's comedy "The Rocker," starring Rainn Wilson, 20th Century Fox is shuttering its Fox Atomic "genre" label.

Six production executives will lose their jobs and another half-dozen who worked for Fox Atomic Digital will transition over to Fox Filmed Entertainment to work on digital projects.

Fox Atomic President Debbie Liebling is expected to return to the main movie studio, 20th Century Fox, headed by Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos, where she worked previously.

The big Fox studio will release the films that Atomic has in the hopper including "I Love You, Beth Cooper," directed by Chris Columbus, due out July 10, and "Jennifer's Body," a comedy horror film written by "Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody, scheduled for release Sept. 18. "The Post Grad Survival Guide," a comedy slated for Aug. 14, will be released through Fox Searchlight.

Fox Atomic was launched in January 2007 as a way to give Searchlight's then-chief Rice expanded duties. Rice had hoped the unit could cash in on a lucrative market for low-cost, so-called genre films driven by young moviegoers, just as Dimension Films and Lions Gate have had been doing.

But most of Atomic's films incinerated at the box office. In January 2008, the label's marketing operation was folded into main Fox and nearly two dozen employees were laid off.

Last month, Rice, who oversaw Fox Atomic, was promoted to chairman of Fox Broadcasting.

-- Claudia Eller

Photos: 20th Century Fox