Harper Back In Saddle At Fox Marketing

Robert Harper was named president of marketing for 20th Century Fox Dec. 21, seguing from indie producer to the same studio job he held five years ago.

Harper will start his job the first week in January, filling the post that has been vacant for three months since the exit of Andrea Jaffe.

Harper inked a multiyear deal with the studio, ending Fox’s nationwide search to replace Jaffe, who had spent 31 months as executive VP of Fox and president of Fox domestic marketing.

The studio’s publicity and promotions, media and advertising departments will come under Harper’s purview. It is not yet clear if he will make changes in personnel. Harper will report to Fox chairman Peter Chernin and studio prexy Bill Mechanic.

“Bob offers us the best of all possible worlds,” Chernin said. “He has had real experience in doing this job and an added level of experience as a producer. He has a special insight into the needs of filmmakers.”

As president of marketing in 1987-88 during the regimes of Fox Inc. chairman and CEO Barry Diller, and then chairman Joe Roth, Harper worked on such films as “Home Alone,” “Die Hard 2,” “The War of the Roses” and “Edward Scissorhands.”

Harper worked under Tom Sherak, who is now the studio’s senior exec VP.

This past summer, the studio saw success with box office blockbusters

-“Speed” and “True Lies,” but has since had misses with recent releases “The Scout,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Pagemaster” and “Trapped in Paradise.” In an effort to lure people into theaters, the studio went so far as to offer a money-back guarantee over the Thanksgiving weekend to moviegoers who weren’t “delighted” by “Miracle.”

“This is a situation that obviously has to be looked at with fresh eyes to see how we can improve it. At the core, there’s a good group of people over there,” Harper said of his new department. “The machine needs to be re-evaluated to run smoother, more effectively and efficiently.

“I don’t think it’s a completely broken machine just because it’s had a rough time on four or five pictures,” he continued. “My immediate concerns are the spring pictures and then we’ll start to work on the early stuff for next summer. If you look at the pictures for next summer, I think you’ll see we can have a really big summer.”

Harper has been affiliated with Fox for nine years, most recently as an indeed producer. In addition to his job as marketing prexy, Harper will continue to head his Fox-based Featherstone Prods., whose “Rookie of the Year” grossed $53 million domestically.

Featherstone, which has four projects in development, will be run by Joan Aguado. Earlier this year, the production entity reupped with the studio for an exclusive two-year pact.

Harper joined Fox in 1985 as a manager of trailers, and subsequently held jobs as director of creative advertising and VP of advertising before moving into the production arena as a veepee in 1988. A year later, Harper was tapped president of marketing, a job he held for about 18 months before returning to the production ranks under a three-year, first-look deal at the studio.

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