Dis' Rice a new chief in UA tribe

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Dennis Rice has been named United Artists' new president of worldwide marketing and publicity, CEO Paula Wagner said Wednesday.

Rice has served two stints at Walt Disney Studios, most recently as head of publicity at Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. His move caught several of his colleagues by surprise and was viewed as a signal that Wagner and her business partner Tom Cruise are serious about turning UA into a competitive boutique studio.

Rice, who will report to Wagner, will oversee all aspects of UA's marketing and publicity efforts for its theatrical releases, home video and other ancillary markets worldwide. He also will work closely with MGM, which will be distributing UA's films, where he will be reteaming with MGM COO Rick Sands and domestic theatrical marketing president Perry Stahman — Rice, Sands and Stahman are all alumni of Miramax Films.

Rice's appointment comes as UA, which is now co-owned by Cruise, Wagner and MGM, is ramping up operations. Last week, Wagner named Elliott Kleinberg COO.

"In addition to his distinctive sensibility and strong strategic skills, Dennis Rice brings to the table unparalleled experience in both publicity and marketing at independent companies as well as big studios — a unique combination that makes him the perfect man for this critical job," Wagner said.

Said Rice: "I'm a bundle of mixed emotions. I'm crazy about the Walt Disney Studios and the great people here. But I am literally thrilled beyond imagination to work with Tom and Paula and to be reunited with Rick Sands and Perry Stahman and the rest of the MGM crowd. It's an amazing opportunity that I couldn't say no to."

Rice said he "spent a lot of time talking to them to understand what their vision is for United Artists and what it is for the films they want to make" and that the new UA's plans clicked with his own passion for films.

It has not yet been decided when Rice will exit his Disney post.

Disney execs had no official comment but said an announcement of a new head of publicity will be forthcoming.

Rice began his entertainment career at Disney in 1992 as head of marketing for the Buena Vista Home Entertainment Division. In 1998, he moved to feature films as president of marketing and publicity at October Films, then a specialty division of Universal Pictures.

From 1999-2000, he was president of marketing at Miramax, overseeing the marketing campaigns for more than 120 films, ranging from such Oscar contenders as "The Cider House Rules," "Chocolat" and "In the Bedroom" to the boxoffice hits "Scream 3" and "Scary Movie."

In 2003, Rice returned to Disney to take up his most recent post as publicity head at Buena Vista Marketing. He oversaw the studio's publicity campaigns as well as its Internet and synergy departments.

At Disney, Rice oversaw publicity efforts for such films as "The Incredibles," "National Treasure," "Cars," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" as well as the current "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Wild Hogs."
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