Noto ankles Colpix

PR exec leaves one day after Lemberger

Marking the second high-profile exec departure in as many days, Blaise Noto has ankled Columbia Pictures as executive VP of publicity, promotion and field operations.

Noto’s exit comes on the heels of that of Kenneth Lemberger, co-president of Sony Pictures Entertainment and president of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group (Daily Variety, March 26).

“This is so much less about Blaise and much more about a restructuring of the department,” said Geoff Ammer, president of marketing of the studio, adding of Noto, “I completely respect him.”

Noto joined Sony in April 2000, after 10 years in a similar post at Paramount Pictures. At Par, he formulated and executed campaigns for numerous high-profile pics, including “Mission: Impossible” and its sequel, “The Truman Show,” “Face/Off,” “Braveheart” and “Forrest Gump.”

But when Ammer arrived at Col late last summer, it was with a mandate to reorganize the entire marketing department, which he quickly did: Inheriting three Col senior veepees of PR — Ileen Reich, Andre Caraco and Michelle Abbrecht — Ammer subsequently hired three more: Wendy Lightbourn, Gigi Semone and Steve Elzer.

Lightbourn, a longtime Fox exec, was brought in to help oversee field publicity and promotions; Semone was hired from Buena Vista Motion Picture Group to oversee theatrical PR for the East Coast; and Elzer, the former New Line Cinema PR chief, was hired to handle media relations in January.

Ammer also reshaped the department, with senior veepee Jamie Hawtoff Geller ankling the company to land at MGM.

Given all the senior-level additions, Ammer says there “are no plans to replace (Noto) at this time.”

A 26-year PR vet, Noto previously was VP marketing for Vestron Pictures in the late 1980s, and before that, as a veepee of publicity and promotion for the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. He also worked in PR at Orion Pictures, Warner Bros. and United Artists.

Reached at his home, Noto called the departure both “amicable” and “gentlemanly,” added that with a year and a half left on his contract, he’s left with plenty of time to mull his options.

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