Par bows art arm

Vitale, Dinerstein tapped to top unit

In a long-awaited announcement, Paramount Pictures has confirmed the creation of a specialty film division to be headed by Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein.

The new venture, which will operate as an autonomous division, plans eventually to distribute between four and six pictures per year.

Vitale and Dinerstein will serve as co-presidents, sharing overall responsibility for running the as-yet-unnamed division. Vitale’s day-to-day focus, however, will be on acquisitions and production, while Dinerstein will oversee marketing and distribution.

“I’m a huge fan of these kinds of movies and I hoped for a long time Paramount could be in this business,” said Par chair Sherry Lansing. “We really wanted to wait until we found the right people. We think we struck gold with Ruth and David.”

The unit, which currently consists of just the two execs and an assistant, is based in temporary offices on the Par lot pending the location a permanent address.

The company will acquire and produce films but will not be in the business of developing material, according to Vitale. Contrary to published reports, there are currently no projects on the division’s release slate.

Vitale said the unit plans to add distribution, marketing and production execs, who will report to her and Dinerstein, but would remain “lean and mean.”

The specialty division will handle domestic theatrical releases while Par’s homevideo division will handle cassette and DVD distribution. It has not yet been established how television and overseas rights will be handled, according to Vitale, who did not rule out the possibility of setting up a foreign sales operation.

The pair said they were under no mandate in terms of genre or budget ranges, and are open to “whatever makes financial and creative sense.”

The division will be a way for Paramount to find and develop new talent and will be an alternative path for scripts that don’t fit the studio mold, according to studio sources.

“We’re going to be making specialized films that will require specialized handling,” Dinerstein says. “Filmmakers are losing the attention of the indie studios, we’ll be able to focus on in a way no other studio can. We don’t have a mandate to put out 10, 12 or 15 films every year.”

Vitale comes to Paramount after serving for three years as president of Fine Line Features. Films released during her tenure included “Shine,” “The Sweet Hereafter,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” “Twelfth Night” and “Don Juan DeMarco.”

Prior to being named president, Vitale was executive VP of acquisitions, heading up acquisitions and co-productions for both Fine Line and New Line.

From 1988-91 she was president of UBU Prods.’ feature film division. Previous positions included senior VP of production for United Artists, president of production at Vestron Pictures and head of acquisitions for the Movie Channel.

Dinerstein was most recently at Fox Searchlight where he served as senior VP of marketing at since 1995. During that time he oversaw the campaigns for such films as “The Full Monty,” “The Ice Storm,” “Stealing Beauty” and “The Brothers McMullen.”

Prior to Searchlight, Dinerstein was head of marketing for Miramax Films. He joined Miramax in 1988 as director of advertising.

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