New ‘Rings’ master

New Line taps USA prez as marketing head

USA Films president Russell Schwartz will ankle the company to join New Line Cinema as president of domestic theatrical marketing. He replaces current prexy Joe Nimziki, who will leave New Line to write and direct features.

Schwartz, who takes his new post June 1, will report to Rolf Mittweg, New Line’s president and chief operating officer of worldwide distribution. New Line’s marketing department will remain intact under Schwartz.

News of Schwartz’s move circulated during the recent Cannes Intl. Film Festival, where New Line was the talk of the Croisette with its promotional juggernaut for “Lord of the Rings.” Nimziki, however, was absent from the Gallic proceedings.

Schwartz will be faced with the gargantuan task of overseeing the campaign for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, with the first installment, “The Fellowship of the Ring,” unspooling Dec. 19.

He also will oversee the marketing of a slate that includes this summer’s “Rush Hour 2,” “John Q” starring Denzel Washington, “Simone” starring Al Pacino, “Life as a House” starring Kevin Kline; an untitled film starring Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer, “About Schmidt” starring Jack Nicholson and “Blade 2.”

USA shuffle

Schwartz’s move opens to question the future of USA Films, which will likely undergo a restructuring following his departure. Schwartz had run the company in conjunction with Gotham-based chairman Scott Greenstein. Company’s releases include this year’s multiple Academy Award-winning “Traffic” and last year’s “Nurse Betty” and “Being John Malkovich.”

“Russell has been a great friend and colleague, and he has played a major role in helping to launch and shape USA Films,” said Greenstein. “On behalf of myself and the company, we wish him the best as he pursues this new opportunity.”

Schwartz also served as prexy of Gramercy Pictures from its inception in 1992 through its absorption into USA Films in 1999, where he launched such pics as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Fargo.” He also served as exec veep at Miramax Films, where he was responsible for the marketing of such releases as “My Left Foot” and “Cinema Paradiso.”

“Russell comes from the guerrilla marketing trenches and has established himself as an industry innovator and leader who is equally savvy juggling mainstream blockbusters and sophisticated arthouse projects,” said Mittweg. “Moving forward, New Line has one of the most prestigious slates in its history and the studio’s marketing department could not be in better or more capable hands. Russell is a consummate executive respected throughout the community for his collaborative approach with filmmakers and talent, and we know he will redefine the studio’s reputation as a marketing leader.”

Added Schwartz, “Rolf, Bob (Shaye) and Michael (Lynne) have afforded me a tremendous opportunity to continue to challenge myself with a company that has set so many production and marketing benchmarks over the years.

“The idea of working at a bigger company was very appealing to me,” Schwartz told Daily Variety. “It was the logical next step.”

On his departure from USA Films, Schwartz said, “Though I leave USA with somewhat of a heavy heart, I know the company will remain strong because its staff is strong.”

Schwartz is the third marketing topper at New Line since the exit of Chris Pula in January 1997. Nimziki replaced Cheryl Boone Issacs, who spent two years in the job following Pula’s exit.

New Line ties

Nimziki, who helmed a 1995 episode of the Showtime series “The Outer Limits,” leaves with a project set up at New Line, “Just Like a Woman,” penned by Victoria Strouse and rewritten by Nimziki. His New Line contract contained a clause that allowed him to take time off to write and direct.

During Nimziki’s two-year tenure at New Line, Nimziki handled the campaigns for films such as “Rush Hour 2,” “The Cell,” “Blow,” “Final Destination” and “Next Friday.”

Said Mittweg, “From the beginning, we knew that Joe’s true passion was to establish himself as a filmmaker, and we support him and wish him nothing but success as he moves on towards that goal.”

Nimziki, who also served as executive VP of worldwide advertising at MGM/UA, also left that studio in 1996 to become a feature director. His debut picture was to be UA’s “Supernova.” That pic was eventually helmed for the studio in 2000 by Walter Hill, under the name Thomas Lee.

“I truly love everyone I worked with at New Line,” said Nimziki. “I’m glad New Line is not only allowing but supporting me in my next professional chapter.”