Paramount Vantage has undergone a further sea change this week with the announcement yesterday that Amy Israel is leaving the company and Guy Stodel has been appointed in her stead as executive vice president of production and acquisitions.

The move appears to confirm speculation that Vantage is moving away from the prestige films on which it was founded in 2005 and further towards a genre label like Sony's Screen Gems or Universal's Rogue Pictures.

Stodel, who was formerly senior vice president of acquisitions and co-production at New Line Cinema, is a seasoned acquisitions executive with arthouse experience but he achieved his greatest success at New Line bringing in horror pictures such as the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its prequel.

Israel, on the other hand, is well-known as an executive with a background in film-maker-driven specialised movies. She spent eight years as co-head of acquisitions and co-production in the heyday of Miramax Films on such films as The Others, Il Postino, Farewell My Concubine, Kids, Swingers, Flirting With Disaster, Sling Blade, Clerks and Trainspotting. At Vantage, she oversaw production on Oscar winners There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men and acquired An Inconvenient Truth, American Teen and the upcoming Keira Knightley costume drama The Duchess.

The move comes just six weeks after Vantage announced that it was folding its marketing, distribution and physical production departments into its studio parent's infastructure. Co-head of marketing Guy Endore-Kaiser was one of the casualties.

And although Vantage has a trio of hot awards contenders this year in The Duchess, Ed Zwick's World War II drama Defiance and Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road, its 2009 schedule is looking more broadly commercial with films including comedy The Goods: The Don Ready Story starring Jeremy Piven and high school comedy The Marc Pease Experience with Ben Stiller. Other films in the pipeline include a new thriller from Open Water director Chris Kentis and horror movie Carriers starring teen heartthrob Chris Pine.

Vantage was founded in 2005 as an aggressive push into the prestige area by the studio under new chief Brad Grey. Endeavor power agent John Lesher was brought in to head the division and he in turn hired Israel in late 2005. Lesher certainly assembled a high-profile start-up slate, paying top dollar for films from Noah Baumbach, Michael Winterbottom, Mike White and Sean Penn and teaming up with Miramax to co-finance No Country from the Coen brothers and There Will Be Blood from Paul Thomas Anderson.

Nick Meyer was brought in as co-president in late 2006 after a long tenure at Lionsgate International where he became one of the world's top sales agents specializing in genre pictures such as the Saw franchise, Crank and Open Water as well as occasional prestige titles like Amores Perros and Hotel Rwanda.

Meyer and Stodel had worked together at Lionsgate where Stodel was vice president of acquisitions until 2001.

One of Meyer's first tasks at Vantage was to set up a sales arm to handle occasional Vantage titles, third party pictures from outside suppliers and Paramount Pictures tentpoles like Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island which it sold in select territories.

Meyer assumed sole control of the whole division when Lesher was promoted to president of Paramount Film Group earlier this year.

The shifting direction of Vantage comes as no surprise in a beleagured environment for specialized pictures. Even though No Country and There Will Be Blood were showered with Oscars, they were both pricey films which cost many millions to distribute. Flops like A Mighty Heart and Son Of Rambow, for which Lesher paid some $7.5m at Sundance 2006, cost Vantage dear.

The closure of Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures in May this year and the erratic fortunes of Bob and Harvey Weinstein in their post-studio venture confirm that the financial sense of producing costly awards movies - a trend made fashionable by the Weinsteins in the last decade - is fast diminishing.

Stodel arrives to head a team which includes senior vice president of production and acquisitions Matt Brodlie and senior vice president of production and development Geoff Stier.

Brodlie recently expanded his remit by taking over the larger studio's international production and acquisitions activities, previously handled by Ellen Pittleman who left Paramount earlier this year. He handled similar international duties at Weinstein-era Miramax Films for several years.

'Guy's creative instincts and success at spotting unique and dynamic material makes him a fantastic addition to our team,' said Meyer in a statement about Stodel. 'His leadership and experience will be a valuable asset as we continue to streamline our specialty unit to position it for future growth opportunities in the US and abroad.'

'Amy has done a wonderful job jumpstarting the department and positioning us for the future,' added Lesher. ' She is a talented executive and producer; her taste and expertise has contributed to many of the successes that Vantage has achieved in our short history. We look forward to working with her on projects in the future.'

Israel said: 'It's been a great honor to help build Paramount Vantage from the ground up over the past couple of years, overseeing our tremendous production slate from No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood to Defiance and acquiring a range of movies from An Inconvenient Truth and American Teen and The Duchess. I am grateful to have been able to work with filmmakers I deeply admire and colleagues I adore. As I move into the next chapter of my career, I wish Vantage the best.'

'I'm excited about the opportunity offered by John and Nick to be part of Paramount and the growth of Paramount Vantage,' added Stodel. 'I look forward to maximizing opportunities to help take the division to the next level.'