The winds of change are blowing through Burbank, with Disney’s theatrical distribution arm the most recent Mouse division to be buffeted.
After 25 years with Disney, distrib exec Chuck Viane on Monday announced plans to retire from his post as prexy of global distribution. Stepping into his place will be Dave Hollis, who comes from Disney’s home entertainment division with a background in international distribution.
Viane said the decision was an amicable one motivated by his desire to watch “my grandkids grow,” but the move also points to a shift in how studios are structuring their distribution teams going forward, placing a higher emphasis on international box office and alternate distribution platforms.
The shift from old guard to new also loosens long-standing studio ties to theater circuits — Viane came from an exhibition background.
Disney has been pushing the distribution envelope. Last year, the studio ruffled exhibs when it announced plans to release “Alice in Wonderland” on DVD only 12 weeks after the film’s theatrical bow, shortening the traditional 16-week window.
Studio ultimately compromised on a 13-week gap, but the decision left an opening for other studios to follow suit, as well as to consider earlier VOD windows at premium prices.
“The education of windows is invaluable in helping understand the economic lifeline of films today,” said Disney topper Rich Ross. “And when looking at the options, I certainly recognized in Dave a mastery of the international marketplace that was vitally important to understanding our global opportunity.”
“It’s a passing of the torch,” Ross added.
Disney’s distribution shuffle will take place July 1 — nearly two months after the studio’s fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment hits theaters — giving Viane time to help Hollis transition into his new role. Viane will maintain a consultant position through mid-2012.
Hollis previously served as senior VP of distribution for Disney’s international branch, shepherding projects released through the Mouse House’s banners including Disneynature, Marvel and Touchstone Pictures. He also served as senior VP of worldwide business development and new technologies.
In his new role, Hollis will take the title exec VP of theatrical exhibition sales and distribution, reporting directly to Disney’s prexy of distribution Bob Chapek.
“I’ve had the pleasure of watching Dave’s career thrive here at Disney, and I know I am leaving the team in very capable hands,” Viane said in a statement.
Regardless of the Mouse House’s future trajectory, Viane leaves the studio on a high note.
Last year, Disney became the only studio to have two $1 billion worldwide earners in 2010’s top two highest-grossing domestic releases, “Toy Story 3” and “Alice in Wonderland.” In addition, he saw the Mouse House reach the $1 billion domestic benchmark 13 times during his tenure.
“Being on the front lines at Disney over such an exciting period in the film industry has been an extraordinary experience,” Viane said. “I’ve worked with the best people, and I’m proud of the things we’ve accomplished together.”