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Warner Selects Pula to Head Its Marketing Department

December 05, 1996|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Warner Bros. said Wednesday that it hired New Line Cinema executive Chris Pula, one of Hollywood's most colorful mavericks, to head up the studio's marketing department.

Pula replaces Robert G. Friedman, a longtime Warner veteran who is leaving to join Paramount Pictures next month to oversee both marketing and distribution.

In tandem with Pula's announcement, New Line announced a restructuring to put both its marketing and distribution under veteran executive Mitch Goldman. He formerly headed both areas until Pula was made president of marketing in 1993.

Pula's hiring in effect is a shifting of the executive between sister companies, given that New Line for the time being is in the same corporate family as Warner Bros.

New Line was one of the assets Time Warner bought when it acquired Turner Broadcasting System, although Time Warner is exploring selling all or part of the company to reduce debt.

Pula was known to be unhappy with some developments at New Line, including reported clashes with Goldman over the handling of certain films such as the disappointing live-action version of "Pinocchio."

New Line's restructuring announcement raised questions of whether Pula was forced out, rather than being hired away by Warner Bros.

New Line president Michael Lynne suggested in an interview that New Line took the initiative and restructured because it was difficult to get Goldman's and Pula's departments to work in tandem.

"We made a decision not to continue this way. It was a corporate strategy issue. For us, it was not an effective way to operate," Lynne said.

But people close to Pula disputed that, saying he was recruited by Warner before the restructuring was considered. One Time Warner executive called the New Line announcement of the restructuring "somewhat tacky" because it appeared to be aimed at undercutting Pula.

In any event, Pula is known for such marketing campaigns as the one for the Jim Carrey film "Dumb and Dumber," which featured whimsical ads parodying traditional Hollywood campaigns trumpeting Oscar potential and box-office performance. He's also is given high marks for marketing such hits as "Seven."

Warner Bros. co-Chairman Robert Daly in an interview said Pula was highly recommended as he and co-Chairman Terry Semel searched for Friedman's replacement.

"Chris' name kept coming up. He was recommended by a lot of filmmakers, but we didn't want to touch him because he was under contract to New Line," Daly said.

As they narrowed the field of candidates, Daly said, they decided to ask New Line for permission to talk to Pula.

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