United Artists suddenly deserves a closer look. That’s because Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner have convinced Dennis Rice, senior vice president of publicity, to come over as czar of marketing. Granted, this is a nice gig. But someone of Rice’s caliber and closeness to studio boss Dick Cook wouldn’t be jumping if he didn’t think the new UA was going to be lot more than just a PR stunt to slap a studio name onto a housekeeping deal and grab positive headlines for Tom. Does this mean I’ll never be able to piss on the actor? I sure hope not. Then again, Rice is one of my favorite people. Poor Disney, this announcement comes just seven weeks before the release of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. The new deal has Dennis reporting to Paula as president of worldwide marketing and publicity. Rice began his entertainment career at Disney in 1992 as the head of marketing for the Buena Vista Home Entertainment Division. In 1998, he became president of marketing and publicity of Universal’s October Films. He was then recruited by the Weinsteins to serve as president of marketing at Miramax films from 1999 to 2002. Among his major accomplishments was releasing the two highest opening weekend box office films in that company history, Scream 3 and Scary Movie. In addition, Rice led the studio’s marketing campaigns (among them, The Cider Rules, Chocolat and Spy Kids) and helped generate over 60 Academy Award nominations. Since December 2003, Dennis has served as the Head of Publicity for the Walt Disney Studios. Under his leadership, the department has been restructured, resulting in the planning and execution of more strategically based marketing campaigns. He’s had a big hand in the enormous successes of The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the National Treasure franchise, and recent Pixar movies. In 2005, Rice’s name came up as one of the players being considered to reinvent the Miramax label in the post-Weinstein era.
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