Par takes new Vantage point

Lesher indie unit renamed

Paramount Vantage it is.

That’s the new name of Par’s specialty division, headed by John Lesher.

However, Paramount Classics won’t disappear entirely; it will remain a label within Par Vantage.

Lesher is set to announce the new moniker tonight at the Cannes Film Festival during a cocktail bash he’s co-hosting with Paramount topper Brad Grey.

Lesher, who ankled Endeavor last fall to head up the unit, has said all along he wanted to rename Par Classics as a way of signaling a new era for the studio specialty arm.

He’s already proved much more aggressive than the previous regime in terms of inhouse production, drawing on his extensive relationships with filmmakers.

“Investing in a specialty division so that we can become competitive in this area has been a part of Brad Grey’s overall vision for turning around the studio,” Lesher said in a statement.

“Vantage will define itself by the quality of the films it releases and the kind of filmmakers who create our slate,” he continued.

Par Vantage is set to release a diverse slate of eight to 10 films a year, including “sophisticated films with a strong arthouse sensibility, as well as smaller-budgeted comedy and horror films,” the specialty arm said.

Par Classics releases aren’t included in the eight to 10 figure. Label is set to release an existing slate of movies, including Davis Guggenheim’s docu “An Inconvenient Truth,” featuring Al Gore, and writer-director Craig Brewer’s feature “Black Snake Moan.”

Otherwise, Par Classics will focus on smaller, review-driven films, including foreign-language acquisitions and documentaries.

Grey and Lesher are part of a large Par contingent attending the Cannes Film Festival.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film “Babel,” preeming at Cannes, will be the first title released by Par Vantage. Pic is skedded to bow in theaters May 23.

Par Vantage’s 2007 slate is likely to include the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” an untitled Noah Baumbach project and Mike White’s “Year of the Dog.”

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