The longtime president of distribution is to step down at the end of 2014 after 18 years in the role.

Rocco bears the distinction of being the first woman to hold the role of president of a major studio’s theatrical distribution operations. 

Following her retirement she will become a consultant to Universal. Studio top brass are considering Rocco’s successor and it is understood they are likely to promote from within.

Rocco began her career at the studio in 1967 as a 17-year-old high school senior and has served 47 years with the company. 

After completing a paid training programme during her senior year in high school, she joined Universal’s New York office and upon graduation was hired as a full-time assistant in the sales department. 

In 1981 Rocco relocated to Los Angeles in an administrative assistant role to Universal’s general sales manager. She was promoted to vice-president of distribution in 1984 and rose again in 1990 to the newly created position of svp of distribution/marketing liaison. 

In 1995 Rocco was promoted to evp of Universal Pictures distribution and appointed president of Universal Pictures distribution in 1996.

“Nikki Rocco is one of the hardest working, most loyal people I’ve ever known, and I’ve cherished every moment we have worked together at this company,” said NBCUniversal vice-chairman Ron Meyer.

“She has an impeccable reputation as one of the smartest, most dedicated people in film, and in her 47 years with the studio she’s truly become part of Universal’s DNA. While it’s hard to imagine Universal without Nikki, I’m looking forward to seeing her get some well-deserved time to herself and her family. Nikki has and will continue to make a tremendous impact on Universal and all the people with whom we do business.” 

Under Rocco’s leadership in 2013 the studio celebrated its best year at the North American box office with $1.42bn and crossed the $1bn threshold in a company record time.

“Nikki Rocco is an industry icon, and in the short time I’ve been with the company it’s been clear why she is held in such high regard,” said chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Jeff Shell. “After 47 years, her retirement is well-deserved, but in the meantime we’ll be requesting every last ounce of time and effort that she is graciously willing to give us.”

“Universal has been my home longer than any other home I’ve had, so it’s hard to imagine not coming to the Lot every day and not crunching numbers with my team every weekend,” said Rocco.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the industry’s best and most talented executives, filmmakers and exhibitors, and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished together. While this was a hard decision for me, I am excited to spend time with family and friends and travel…but I’ll likely still be up at 4am checking box-office numbers.”

Rocco has been honoured with the Women In Film Crystal Award, among other awards.

  • Universal’s comedy The Nest starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will open on December 18, 2015. The longtime collaborators star as estranged sisters summoned to clear out their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the house. When the women arrive they decide to stage a wild party for old time’s sake. Fey produces the comedy alongside Jay Roach while Poehler serves asexecutive producer. Paula Pell wrote the screenplay.