In the afterglow of the box office success of “Cliffhanger,” TriStar Pictures announced Friday that Paul Smith has been promoted from veepee of operations to senior veepee of operations and business affairs.

A studio veteran since 1985, Smith reports directly to TriStar vice chairman Kenny Lemberger, who announced the promotion.

During the last five years, Smith has been the studio’s point person with Carolco Pictures, which has delivered such product as “Total Recall,””Terminator Judgment Day” and “Cliffhanger” to TriStar’s distribution pipeline. As such, Smith was centrally involved in negotiating TriStar’s decision to pony up more than $ 28 million in exchange for most worldwide rights to “Cliffhanger” last spring.

As one of TriStar’s chief dealmakers, Smith works closely with studio executive veepee of business affairs Robert Geary on talent deals, while teaming with Lemberger on off-balance sheet financing and acquisitions.

Smith started in the biz in 1985 as a financial analyst with Columbia Pictures Intl. Distribution before accepting the post of manager of participation accounting for Columbia Pictures Entertainment.

Key deals that Smith has recently been involved in include TriStar’s acquisition of producer Victor Drai’s “Weekend at Bernie’s 2″ and the four-year production and distribution pact with Daniel Melnick’s IndieProd Co.

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