Paramount Unveils New Specialty Division; Co-Presidents Vitale and Dinerstein Discuss Plans
by Eugene Hernandez
Paramount Pictures, a part of Viacom Inc., announced the creation of a new
specialty film division Friday and named Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein
the Co-Presidents of the unit. In making the long anticipated announcement,
Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group Chair Sherry Lansing said, "I have
always been a huge fan of specialty films, it's been a long-term vision at
Viacom and Paramount to establish a division devoted to these very special
motion pictures, but we wanted to do it right."
In a joint interview with indieWIRE Friday afternoon (the transcript is
also available), Vitale and Dinerstein discussed a number of
issues related to the new company and offered insight into their plans and
goals for the as yet unnamed outfit.
Ruth Vitale comes to Paramount having exited Fine Line as its president,
and David Dinerstein joins the company following a recent departure from
Fox Searchlight where he served as the unit's senior vice president of
marketing. While each will focus on the aspects of the new company that
mirror their expertise -- Vitale will oversee acquisitions and productions,
while Dinerstein will handle marketing and distributing -- the two will
share overall responsibility for the division.
With Friday's announcement, Paramount joins the other five Hollywood
studios (and larger media conglomerates) that own specialty film divisions
for in-house productions and the acquisition of independently produced
films. The Paramount venture is part of a universe that includes' Disney's
Miramax, FOX's Searchlight division, Sony's Classics unit, Universal's
October Films, and Warner Bros.' New Line & Fine Line. Naturally, Vitale
and Dinerstein spoke highly of their new corporate parents, yet voiced
guarantees that their unit will remain completely autonomous.
For Ruth Vitale, the new job brings a renewed sense of stability, as well
as new pressures. "It was a tough year for me," she told indieWIRE,
commenting on last year's continual rumors of her departure from Fine Line.
While she confirmed that the resolution at Fine Line was "amicable," she
added that upon leaving she decided to spend some time evaluating, "I had
to make some personal decisions about what it is that I wanted to do. Given
the opportunity to do this, I thought the people at Paramount are terrific,
they're just real professionals."
Vitale spent three years as president of Fine Line Features (January 1995
to January 1998), and served as the executive vice president of
acquisitions for New Line and Fine Line for three years. From 1988 to 1991
she served as the president of UBU Productions' film division. She also
worked at United Artists, Vestron and The Movie Channel. Vitale received an
undergrad from Tufts and a masters in journalism from Boston University.
Also a Boston alum, Dinerstein served in his Fox Searchlight post since
1995. In 1988, he joined Miramax where he began as director of advertising,
before becoming the head of marketing.
While the pair are currently working in a small temporary office at
Paramount's Hollywood studio lot, they confirmed that they are looking for
suitable office space elsewhere in the Los Angeles area. When asked why the
venture would be headquartered on the West Coast, Vitale explained,
"Because the movie business is here, but that's not to say that we won't
have offices in New York and London which are very important markets for
us." Echoing his new partners comments, Dinerstein offered, "Ruth and I are
from The City, and we know it very well, and we know everyone there very
well, so it doesn't put us at any disadvantage, in fact it puts us at an
advantage in being here...we really know all the players there, and we're
talking to them every single day." Vitale added that a completely separate
staff will be hired to support all company operations.
As the infrastructure for the division will be built this Spring and
Summer, Dinerstein stated that the earliest date the company's first film
would be release is this Fall. He told indieWIRE that two films could be
released this year, and that 4 - 6 films may be released next year. He
added that ultimately the company's releases would be a mixture of
acquisitions and productions. Vitale said that no films have been acquired
yet, and added that the company is prepared to make an offer when the right
movie comes along, "when we find one and we're passionate about it, if its
tomorrow we'll buy it , if its not for another month or two, we'll buy it."
Discussing Paramount's long-term commitment to them and the venture,
Dinerstein concluded, "You have to be patient, these sorts of things don't
happen overnight. You can't build a company on your first film, it's gonna
take a little while and I think ultimately if you're patient you can see
the benefits of these sorts of films."
Over the course of the past year, as industry rumors and speculation
surrounded Paramount's establishment of this new division, many had assumed
the might be dubbed "Paramount Classics," yet Ruth Vitale and David
Dinerstein confirmed Friday that it will not, "It's not going to be called
that," Dinerstein explained, "We're still looking for a name and we may
actually put together a little promotion..."
"We're gonna run ads in all the papers," Vitale chimed in, "Pick the name,
you get a free..."
Dinerstein quickly finished her sentence, "...option to make your first film!"
[A transcript of indieWIRE's lengthy discussion with Ruth Vitale and David
Dinerstein is also accessible.]