Paramount Pictures took the plunge into the specialty film business Friday, saying it is starting a new division to be headed by former Fine Line Features President Ruth Vitale and former Fox Searchlight executive David Dinerstein.
Paramount is the latest--and one of the last--of the major Hollywood studios to get into the business, whose films, until just a few years ago, were relegated to “art house” theaters and generated little in the way of box-office revenue.
In the last five years, specialty films such as “The Crying Game,” “The Full Monty,” “Shine” and “Pulp Fiction” not only drew critical raves, but generated substantial ticket sales.
Walt Disney started the trend of studios getting into the specialty business in 1993 when it bought Miramax Films. Universal Studios bought control of October Films, 20th Century Fox started its Fox Searchlight unit, Sony Pictures Entertainment has its Sony Classics division, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has its Goldwyn Films. Although Warner Bros. does not have a specialty film unit, its sister company, New Line Cinema, has Fine Line.
Vitale was president of Fine Line from 1995 until January, releasing such films as “Shine,” “Don Juan DeMarco” and “The Sweet Hereafter.” Before that, she was executive vice president of acquisitions.
Dinerstein was senior vice president of marketing for Fox Searchlight from 1995 until earlier this month, overseeing the marketing of such films as “The Full Monty,” “The Brothers McMullen” and “The Ice Storm.”
In an interview, Vitale and Dinerstein, who will serve as co-presidents, said the unit--as yet unnamed--will handle its own marketing and distribution.
Vitale plans to specialize more on acquisitions and getting films made, while Dinerstein will deal with marketing and distribution. Vitale said the division won’t be involved in development but instead will acquire finished movies or produce films from promising screenplays.
She said the division will begin by releasing a relatively small number of films--four to six a year--and may release foreign-language films, which some specialty film units shun.
In a statement, Paramount Motion Picture Group Chairwoman Sherry Lansing said she is a “huge fan” of specialty films and that having a division devoted to them has long been a goal for both Paramount and its parent company, Viacom.