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Duo tapped to run U inhouse niche unit

Gray, Hardart named veeps

Joining the ranks of Disney, Sony, Fox, MGM and Paramount, Universal Pictures is establishing an inhouse specialty film division.

To help run that division, Universal co-chairmen Brian Mulligan and Stacey Snider have tapped Claudia Gray and Paul Hardart.

Mulligan told Daily Variety, “We get a lot of product from our international companies, such as Working Title 2, Revolution Films and DNA Films. That product exists, and we are looking for ways of maximizing it here in the U.S. We also wanted to establish a group that focused on getting the best value out of our classics library.”

Snider added, “Claudia has a successful track record at Gramercy Pictures, where she did an outstanding job marketing a number of films, including, most recently, Working Title’s Academy Award-nominated ‘Elizabeth.’ Her marketing expertise is a strong complement to Paul’s strategic vision and business skills, and we expect that their partnership will result in a fresh and effective approach to building this arm of our business.”

Gray described the move as an excellent opportunity to get involved in independent film. “It will enable us to handle films from different genres by being intimately involved in every aspect of marketing them,” he said.

Marketing maven

Gray has been appointed exec VP, and will oversee all marketing services, including creative advertising, media, publicity, promotion and research. Hardart will serve as senior VP, overseeing all business, financial and operational functions.

Together, Gray and Hardart will supervise the domestic distribution of the division’s film product — initially, a group of titles to be distributed under the USA Films banner, which is 45% owned by Universal.

The new division will focus on the marketing of niche-oriented productions and acquisitions made by Universal Pictures Intl.; product from Universal Pictures’ domestic and international suppliers, including U.K.-based Working Title; and releases of Universal Pictures classic films.

Upcoming titles to be released by the new division through USA Films include “Pitch Black” from Ted Field’s Interscope and Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil” from Good Machine.

Propaganda titles

The new division will release three pics from the Propaganda Films label: “Being John Malkovich,” which won the grand prize-independent American cinema and the international critics prize at the Deauville Film Festival; “Nurse Betty,” starring Renee Zellweger and Morgan Freeman; and “The Match.”

Other upcoming releases include Ridley Scott’s “Where the Money Is,” starring Paul Newman; “Mad About Mambo,” from Phoenix Films; “Waking the Dead,” from Jodie Foster’s Egg Films; Working Title’s “Plunkett and Macleane” and “Dancer”; and Alfred Hitchcock’s restored “Rear Window.”

Credits

Gray joins Universal from Gramercy Pictures, where she most recently served as exec VP, publicity. She came to Gramercy in 1993 as senior veep, publicity, and during her tenure oversaw the campaigns for such Oscar-winners as “Elizabeth,” “Fargo,” “Dead Man Walking” and “The Usual Suspects”

Prior to that, Gray was senior VP, publicity, at MGM. There, she handled the campaigns for “A Fish Called Wanda,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Moonstruck,” among other films.

Gray has also held positions in advertising and publicity at the Walt Disney Co., 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures.

Hardart has served since 1997 as VP of strategic planning at Universal Pictures. He played a seminal role in developing and implementing Universal’s plan for Polygram Filmed Entertainment. In addition, Hardart was responsible for Universal’s classics library strategy, including such re-issues as “Rear Window.”

Prior to joining Universal, Hardart served as director of planning and strategy for the corporate brands division of Warner Bros. And prior to that, he was director of strategic planning for the Turner Entertainment Group.