Veteran movie marketer and publicist Dennis Rice is leaving Walt Disney Co. to join United Artists, the historic film label being revived by actor Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, his longtime producing partner.
As president of worldwide marketing and publicity, Rice will oversee UA's theatrical, home video and other promotional campaigns and will report to Wagner, who is chief executive of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. unit.
Rice said Wednesday that working for Disney was "a Hollywood dream job." But he said he couldn't pass up the chance to work with Wagner and Cruise as they reinvent Century City-based United Artists, which was founded in 1919 by silent film icons Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford and director D.W. Griffith.
"What Tom and Paula are doing at UA is nothing less than pioneering a new approach to moviemaking that will build on a 90-year tradition," he said.
The company is majority-owned by MGM, which will distribute its films. But it will operate with a substantial degree of autonomy and is expected to soon line up about $500 million in Wall Street financing.
The new UA plans to release its first feature in November, the political drama "Lions for Lambs," which stars Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep and is being made for a relatively modest $35 million.
Rice began his entertainment career at Disney in 1992. He then worked for Universal Pictures' specialty division October Films and for Miramax Film Corp. before returning to Disney's Buena Vista Pictures unit four years ago.
Over the years Rice has headed marketing pushes for such films as "The Apostle" and "Scary Movie," awards campaigns for "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolat," and publicity efforts for "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."