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Universal marketing put under one roof

Studio pools video, theatrical operations

Universal Pictures has consolidated its domestic theatrical and homevid marketing — a tacit acknowledgement of how closely intertwined the two functions have become.

Reorg, signaled in last fall’s NBC U 2.0 initiative, was unveiled in an internal memo Friday. Move is the first of its kind by a major studio.

Restructuring calls for marketing prexy Adam Fogelson and co-prexy Eddie Egan to oversee marketing for all Universal theatrical and home entertainment new releases. Homevid topper Craig Kornblau, meanwhile, will continue to oversee home entertainment marketing for everything else: catalog titles across all labels, new releases for Focus Features and Rogue Pictures, TV titles and DVD made-fors, as well as high-definition releases and digital downloads.

Kornblau’s chief marketing lieutenant, Ken Graffeo, will focus on HD DVD, a big priority for the studio.

Move is the first of its kind by a major studio. (Last summer, Warner Bros. created a DVD Premieres department reporting to production prexy Jeff Robinov and home entertainment prexy Kevin Tsujihara, but this hybrid arrangement is limited to straight-to-disc fare.)

According to the memo, sent by Universal chair Marc Shmuger and co-chair David Linde, the realignment is “intended to provide strategic continuity across windows as we market our new releases.”

Although the company also expects to cut costs through economies of scale, no major reduction in staffers is planned. Vivian Mayer, homevid senior VP of publicity, is the most notable departure; the exec, who came to U after a stint in theatrical PR for DreamWorks, is exiting the company rather than remain in a more narrow role.

Exec VP of publicity Michael Moses will lead praiser efforts for both theatrical and homevid new releases.

The integration is an acknowledgement that homevideo is no longer an “ancillary.” Perhaps more important, it is a clear indication of the continuity between the theatrical and homevid windows. U also expects to save coin on ad buys.

Universal execs were quick to cast the move as a natural evolution, noting the two teams have been collaborating for years.

“We’ve been working closely with homevideo group because their timeline is right on top of ours and in some cases ahead of it,” Fogelson said.

Homevid divisions rely heavily on sales from major retailers, who map their strategies many months in advance. At the same time, the window between theatrical and homevideo debuts has been shrinking, down from six months to four months or under in some cases — hence the need to closely coordinate activities, Fogelson said.

“There is a large but finite number of resources available to promote a film in both theatrical and homevideo,” Fogelson said. “You could make the decisions separately, but it’s even better to collaborate.”

Even before the integration, the studio’s homevid arm was known for taking a theatrical approach to marketing its releases. Mayer threw big launch parties for the DVD bows of awards contenders, and Kornblau has been especially bullish about promoting the studio’s lucrative straight-to-disc franchises.

Mayer said she was prepared for the reorg but declined to comment on the changes. Instead she tipped her hat to her former colleagues in a statement.

“It has been my great pleasure to work with the talented team at NBC Universal for the past five years,” she said.

While she said she appreciated the U job offer, “I felt that this was not the right position for me at this time.”

She said she had no set plans. Under the realignment, senior VP of brand marketing Hillary Hoffman and senior VP of creative services Pam Blum will report to Fogelson and Egan on all new U releases and to Kornblau on home entertainment matters.

Studio also expanded Universal Pictures creative operations to provide services on a worldwide basis. Dan Wolfe has been upped to exec VP, worldwide creative services, and will now report to U vice chair Rick Finkelstein. His team will support Universal Pictures, homevid, Focus Features, Rogue Pictures and Focus’ international arm.

Latest moves follow a streamlining of the studio’s acquisitions teams late last month and a series of sweeping changes at NBC U.

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