Alan Sutton, who has been Universal Pictures VP of national publicity for the past five years, has been named senior vice president of distribution and marketing for the studio.

The appointment is a first for U, because its combines duties incorporating marketing, distribution and promotion.

Sutton will supervise U’s exhibitor relations operations, such as the distribution of trailers and in-theater marketing materials. Steve Ellman heads the area as VP of exhibitor relations.

Sutton will continue to work with the publicity and promotion departments in planning the campaigns for all Universal Pictures releases. He also will oversee interactive marketing.

He reports to Nikki Rocco, president of Universal Pictures Distribution, and Buffy Shutt and Kathy Jones, president and exec VP, respectively, of marketing for Universal Pictures.

In a statement, Rocco noted Sutton’s work on in-theater promotions, “the kind of showmanship Hollywood is known for.” Specifically, U’s trailer for “The Lost World” featured in-theater strobe lights. More such promotions are in the works.

Sutton joined the U publicity department in 1985 as a staff writer. He had been international editor of the Hollywood Reporter.

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