Lesher at center of Par shuffle


Paramount Pictures is about to undergo something of an executive face lift as John Lesher, who already has refurbished the studio's specialty film division, takes on a new role at the main studio.

Exact titles, responsibilities and reporting lines aren't expected to be unveiled until early in the new year, but insiders are anticipating that studio head Brad Grey will be handing out a round of promotions. In addition to Lesher, who currently holds the title of president of Paramount Vantage, Rob Moore, who is president of worldwide marketing, distribution and operations, will be elevated along with Brad Weston, the studio's current president of production.

The expectation is that Nick Meyer, the former president of Lionsgate International who joined Lesher at Paramount Vantage as the division's co-president in the fall, would take the reins at Vantage.

Lesher himself moved from the agency world — at Endeavor, he repped such tony clients as Martin Scorsese, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Walter Salles, David O. Russell and Paul Thomas Anderson — to Paramount just two years ago. Taking over Paramount Classics, then an also-ran among studio specialty film divisions, he quickly rechristened it Paramount Vantage. (Vantage now uses the Paramount Classics label when it releases documentaries and foreign films.)

Lesher pulled in old clients to direct such films as Inarritu's "Babel" — originally set up at Paramount but eventually released through Vantage — and Anderson's upcoming "There Will Be Blood," a Paramount Vantage/ Miramax co-production.

Fielding such titles as "Blood," "A Mighty Heart," "Into the Wild" and "The Kite Runner," a DreamWorks/Participant/SKE production, Vantage already has begun to position itself for an aggressive awards-season push.

As for Weston, he has become the lead survivor of Grey's first attempt to assemble an executive hierarchy at the studio's main film unit, Paramount Pictures. Gail Berman, the former Fox TV exec, originally was recruited by Grey to run film production but stepped down in January after less than a year on the job, which proved to be an uncomfortable fit.

Along with Berman, Allison Shearmur, who shared responsibilities as co-president of production with Weston, also departed. Since then, Weston has put his own stamp on the studio's upcoming slate, which includes new installments of such venerable Paramount franchises as "Indiana Jones" and "Star Trek."

Since January, the studio's structure has seen Weston, as president of production at Paramount Pictures, Vantage's Lesher and Scott Aversano, president of MTV Films/Nickelodeon Movies, all reporting to Grey.

The sometimes fractious Paramount family also includes DreamWorks, headed by Stacey Snider, which operates as a semi-autonomous unit, dealing directly with Grey.

Paramount declined comment on the pending promotions.