Peter Schlessel has begun re-staffing FilmDistrict’s distribution operation, hiring Christine Birch to be president of marketing. He has pledged to have a distribution head in place by the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. All this to replace Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney, who departed right after Oscar season. Schlessel placed several of FilmDistrict properties with Open Road in the interim, but he clearly wants to put the label back as a distributor. Among his early releases were Drive and Insidious. Here’s the release on Schlessel’s first major hire:

Los Angeles, March 23, 2012…Christine Birch has joined FilmDistrict as the mini-major’s president of marketing as announced by Peter Schlessel, FilmDistrict’s CEO. Birch will oversee and orchestrate all aspects of FilmDistrict’s domestic feature film marketing activities including creative advertising, media, publicity, promotion, digital marketing and administration. She will report directly to Schlessel.

“We’re excited to have Christine join the FilmDistrict team,” said Schlessel. “She’s long been known as one of the industry’s most versatile marketing executives. With a varied background in marketing, creative advertising and market research, she is a multi-faceted player who can think strategically, and execute creatively for our slate.”

“I look forward to working with Peter, Adrian Alperovich, Lia Buman and everyone at FilmDistrict to build a marketing team that’s as aggressive and agile as today’s media landscape demands,” said Birch. “We live in a world where the ability to communicate ideas and reach people with our message requires constant conversation and creativity. I want to create an environment that makes those efforts a top priority.” Birch has received a number of advertising honors including multiple Key Art awards. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

Prior to joining FilmDistrict, Birch was head of marketing for DreamWorks Studios, where she led the marketing campaign for last year’s smash hit “The Help,” which grossed $134M domestically, and garnered four Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture. Birch also supervised the marketing campaigns on DreamWorks’ “Real Steel” and the Steven Spielberg film “War Horse” and worked with the Paramount marketing team on the sleeper hit “disturbia,” trail-blazing comedy “Tropic Thunder,” and the launch of the “Transformers” franchise.

Before DreamWorks, Birch spent over a decade at Sony Pictures Entertainment, where she held a variety of marketing positions, including senior vice president of market research and executive vice president of creative advertising. She crafted memorable campaigns for films for a diverse slate of films, including the surprise hit “The Grudge,” “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Hitch.”

FilmDistrict’s upcoming releases include “Lockout,” (through Open Road), April 13, 2012, “Safety Not Guaranteed,” June 8, 2012, “Looper,” in conjunction with Endgame Entertainment and Sony Pictures, September 28, 2012, “Red Dawn,” (through Open Road), November 2, 2012, “Playing the Field,” December 25, 2012, and “Parker,” January 25, 2013. The company is also reimagining the horror classic “Evil Dead,” in conjunction with Ghost House Pictures and Sony Pictures, with production slated for 2012, and has announced a sequel to “Insidious,” which has been called the most profitable movie of 2011.