Universal gives exec a high five

Shmuger to continue o'seeing marketing, int'l distrib'n

In its ongoing efforts to shore up the management team behind Universal Pictures’ recent turnaround, the studio has reupped U Pictures vice chair Mark Shmuger for five years.

Announcement comes months after the studio signed five-year contract renewals with U Studios prexy Ron Meyer, U Pictures chair Stacy Snider and U Pictures prexy Rick Finkelstein.

As vice chair, a title he assumed in December 2000, Shmuger runs worldwide marketing, international distribution and all Internet activities for U Pictures. With Finkelstein, he oversees U Pictures’ business development and strategy, and the franchise development group, which includes consumer products and direct-to-video production. He’s also responsible for maximizing U’s assets among all divisions of Vivendi U.

Since joining Universal Pictures as prexy of marketing in 1998, Shmuger has put a singular stamp on the studio’s release slate. His branding campaigns and programming strategies for such pics as “Notting Hill,” “The Mummy,” “American Pie 2,” “Jurassic Park 3” and “The Fast and the Furious” helped them defy expectations and catch fire around the globe.

“Marc’s distinctive combination of business acumen and uncanny instincts makes him unique in his ability to cut through all the clutter and see exactly what needs to be done, even if it has never been done before,” Snider said.

Meyer called Shmuger “a broad global strategist. He excels in creating worldwide launch plans, maximizing our films across all of our businesses and creating new business models.”

The studio has hit several box office benchmarks during Shmuger’s tenure. In 2000, its first billion-dollar year at the domestic box office, U became the only studio in history to open five No. 1 films in a row. In summer 2001, U opened four straight pics at No. 1, each to more than $40 million; each of those pics later grossed more than $200 worldwide, led by “The Mummy Returns” with its $429.4 million worldwide BO.

“I’ve been part of a remarkable period in our company’s history,” Shmuger said. “Universal has been a great home for me, and there’s no place else I’d rather be. I’m privileged to work with such a terrific team of production, marketing and distribution professionals, and I look forward to our scaling new heights.”

Shmuger, who was honored by Advertising Age in both 1999 and 2000 as entertainment marketer of the year, came to U after a long stint at Sony Pictures. In 1996, he formed Art of War, a Sony-based production company, which he ran until he joined Universal.

He also wrote and produced the 1987 MGM feature film “Dead of Winter.”