EXCLUSIVE: As Universal solidifies the transition of Universal Pictures International’s headquarters to Los Angeles, the studio has now made some final executive shifts. Niels Swinkels, EVP International Distribution, has been promoted to EVP and MD for UPI. At the same time, a new EMEA hub has been established to lead the UK-based team and the European theatrical organization with Paul Higginson joining as Executive Vice President, EMEA for UPI, reporting to Swinkels.
Swinkels, who will report to President of International Distribution Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, will oversee all day-to-day operations of the UPI business in his expanded role. He will further deliver strategic direction for the studio’s international theatrical distribution efforts, and lead business development to include regional partnerships, productions and market expansion.
Swinkels began his tenure with Universal in 2004 as a Marketing Director. He was then appointed Vice President of Sales & Distribution for the EMEA region in 2006 before being promoted to Senior Vice President of the same region in 2009. He then spent four years as Managing Director of the UK and Ireland before being named EVP International Distribution in 2014.
Higginson will serve as a senior figurehead for UPI in London, cultivating relationships with filmmakers, partners and industry leaders. He will work closely with the UPI HQ in Los Angeles and provide strategy and direction for local teams in the region across marketing, distribution and finance.
The exec most recently worked in a consultancy capacity across the film industry. Previously, he served as Executive Vice President of EMEA at Fox, overseeing local productions and acquisitions, theatrical distribution, marketing and operations. Titles he has worked on included DreamWork’s The Boss Baby and The Croods, the X-Men franchise, Planet Of The Apes, Bohemian Rhapsody, the Deadpool series and Avatar.
This last shift in Universal’s overseas management follows changes to the leadership teams for Italy, Germany/Austria and the Netherlands late last year.