Araceli Cole ’90
With the popularity of video-streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon fueling a decline in movie theater attendance, Araceli Cole faces a daunting task at Paramount Pictures: anticipating what this shift might mean for a major film studio.
“Media and entertainment are going through disruptions in their business models, and we need to adjust to stay viable and move forward,” says Cole, Paramount’s senior vice president of human resources. “To meet our future business needs, it’s critical to evaluate our talent needs, identify our stars and foster their growth and development, and implement practices that effectively attract and retain the best talent.”
As studios plot course corrections to maintain profitability, Cole and her team work closely with Paramount’s home media distribution, business affairs, and TV licensing groups. In managing the company’s talent acquisition and retention, she anticipates how the studio should navigate an ever-shifting media landscape—and how it should staff an evolving organization.
“Theatrical releases are still a viable, vital part of our business. DVDs used to represent a major component of our overall profitability; however, consumers aren’t buying them the way they did 10 years ago, and DVD sales continue to shrink,” says Cole. “That presents a distribution challenge not just for Paramount, but for all studios.”
Cole has had a long tenure at Paramount and a front-row seat from which to observe the changes—some subtle, some seismic. She joined the studio in 1999, after eight years in private practice as an employment lawyer. Cole then moved to the corporate side of legal, where she worked with Paramount’s general counsel on corporate legal and compliance matters, before shifting to human resources.
Tackling a variety of roles, she says, has given her “a valuable understanding of the business and its many challenges.” From her perspective, the real change for the studios and moviegoers alike might be a return to the theater.
“Nothing at the moment really matches a theater-going experience,” she says. “We went from watching films in theaters, then DVDs, to streaming, and recently to 3D. For those movies that strike a chord with audiences, the buzz is that theaters will move to a model where you enter a theater and will feel as if you just walked into the movie itself. I still think people want that comprehensive experience.”
Cole is doing her part to help Paramount provide it, one hire at a time.