The stars in Hollywood aren't the only ones who get face-lifts. Paramount Classics is having so much work done, you probably won't recognize it after today. The art-house division of Paramount Pictures, founded by the studio in 1998 to compete in the booming indie-film market, had a big shake-up last fall that resulted in different leadership. Now John Lesher, the company's new president, is announcing his decision to break up the division and rename it Paramount Vantage. The old label is not going away completely, though. Paramount Classics will exist within Paramount Vantage mostly for the acquisition and distribution of foreign films and documentaries. The new company will be handling the rest of the art-house category including low-budget comedies and horror films. Its first release will be Babel, which is premiering at Cannes this month and comes out in theaters this October.
As much as the changes sound confusing and unnecessary, Lesher's plans are pretty smart. The name Paramount Classics -- it always seemed to imply its films are old -- was a bad idea on the part of Paramount, which built the division from scratch while most studios were buying existing indie-film distributors. Also, as a major player in the art-house market, the company has never seen the level of success that its competitors have, and starting fresh with a new name could distance Paramount Vantage from its weak past. Already on deck for distribution are new films from Noah Baumbach, the Coen brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson and the directorial debut of Mike White.