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David Poland

By David Poland

The Math Of Marc Weinstock


(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Marc socially… a little. I like Marc and his wife quite a lot.)

Yes, the blame at all studios starts with the marketing department, no matter how good or bad the films being marketed. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a look.

Marketing executives, like movie stars, live and die on opening weekend. There is not word of mouth… just marketing and media… and media is (usually) somewhat meaningless.

Columbia Pictures has released 21 movies in the last two years under Marc Weinstock. Cloudy 2 and Captain Phillips are locked into their release slots and those campaigns will be credited – or discredited – to Weinstock.

In these last two years, only three films have opened to $50 million or better. Only the often-under-fire Fox has released as few in that period.

Overall, if the standard for a decent opening is $20 million, Columbia has split with 12 over $20m and 8 under (all wide releases).

But if you push it up to $30 million as your standard, it’s not a pretty picture. Only 6 films of 21 managed that. And they were Bond, Spider-Man, Men in Black, a Sandler sequel, and two unexpected hits, Hotel Transylvania and 21 Jump Street. All but those last two were expected… franchises.

The biggest opening of 2013 has been Grown-Ups 2 with $42.5 million… a $1m improvement on Grown-Ups, which in an increasingly front-loaded marketplace, led to $30m less at the domestic box office.

White House Down opened to $24.9 million… the worst Roland Emmerich wide opening since The Patriot, 13 years ago.

Amazing Spider-Man was dogged by the media for its soft domestic opening despite ending up with $750m worldwide.

Here Comes The Boom was, by far, the worst opening for Kevin James in his movie career.

The Meryl Streep romantic comedy for adults streak of four $20 million openings went back to 2006… until last summer’s Hope Springs. And that late summer grown-woman slot was held by Sony in 2011 by Sony with Eat Pray Love, which opened to $23 million.

Smurfs 2 opened to half the first film’s launch.

These are the things that eat away at a department. Give Marc the two horrible aging Sandler movies (That’s My Boy and Jack & Jill). give him dumps like Premium Rush and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Even give him Ghost Rider 2, which opened to half the number of the first film, but was so genred up that it was a rough mainstream sell.

There are also 6 Tri-Star movies, which are under that job. Elysium opened $7m behind the surprise District 9, which had no movie stars. One Direction opened okay… not great. Looper is the one real success story in the last couple of years.

But you have to find a way to open a Will Smith movie – After Earth – with a big budget in the high 30s… and if you don’t, it better feel like the marketing tried too hard, not too little.

You have to protect the studio better on Total Recall.

On need to get a number that surprises in a positive way, not a relief way, on Amazing Spidey.

But most of all, with a lot of mediocre numbers, you need to have a couple of big positive surprises. And really, the closest to that was Bond. And I don’t know that anyone really believes that Bond marketing is a lot more than getting out of the way of the franchise (not unlike Batman, with due respect to Team Kroll). Like I wrote… Looper was a nice, solid surprise… near perfect execution. 21 Jump Street… nice win… well done. But then you have films like Hotel Transylvania, which had a strong opening for Sony Animation – a nice positive step up – but was 6th best in animation last year…. not a knock out.

Marc is strong and young and very smart and could well end up out of marketing to become a very successful producer or something else in or out of the business. He will do well wherever he lands. But while Sony may not have had the weakest marketing of the last couple of years… it was certainly in the bottom half. And it would have been easier to have Harry Potter and Avengers. But is this a shocking act of corporate blaming the easiest department to blame? Not so much. The door was opened. And the shoved him right out of it.

Will Sony marketing be the better for his exit? No one can know that until someone new comes in and is either a savant or a fuck up… or more likely, something boring in between. The more things change…

And given that the new corporate style seems to be pulling the rug out from under people, who knows what might happen at Sony next?

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12 Responses to “The Math Of Marc Weinstock”

  1. Etguild2 says:

    The scheduling on so many of these films was awful. Who in their right mind releases 2 films in 15 weeks and 13 films in the next 15 weeks? Who releases a tween concert movie on go-back-to-school weekend? Who releases an adaptation of the most popular YA since HUNGER GAMES the week before that? Yes, let’s release what we think are the studio’s top worldwide June-October releases, one week apart (Elysium and Smurfs 2). It just looks worse and worse…and awful test screenings for MEATBALLS 2 don’t help either. That was always a bad proposition…the film is well liked among tots and cinephiles, hated among parents and tweens. Oops?

  2. Polo says:

    Wow way to swallow studio spin there. Weinstock has been there for 5 years and had home runs and saved asses there more than once. How quickly they forget!

  3. David Poland says:

    Polo – Haven’t had a bit of studio spin. And I quite like Marc. But aside from The Karate Kid, what home runs are you talking about?

    And it is the job to “save their asses.” I am not saying he should have been dumped. I haven’t said the studio will be better off. I’m just saying that it’s been soft there – openings and total grosses – for a few years now. Do you really think I’m wrong?

  4. LexG says:


    It’s like Poland likes LOSING MONEY

  5. Geoff says:

    How was Skyfall not a home run??? You could say that the franchise sells itself but still… made almost DOUBLE what the previous film made worldwide and the previous Bond film was not well liked at all…and there had been a four year layoff from the last movie too….how often does that kind of thing happen?

  6. David Poland says:

    So Geoff… you think marketing is what blew up the Bond franchise? Do you feel the same about Fast & Furious?

  7. Donella says:

    After Earth was actually a decent movie. Not great, average to good. Certainly not deserving of the bandwagon bullying and criticism that steam-rolled over two of Sony’s most successful brands–Jaden and Will Smith while Weinstock laid down and watched it happen.

    Marketing for After Earth was POOR from the start. For some odd reason, Sony used the most bizarre clips from the film to market the film to the public.

    For instance, I caught Zoe Kravitz on a talk show. They used the clip of her holding up the Moby Dick novel and Will Smith grunting at her in response. No context. No dialogue that made sense or indicated what the movie was about. Collective silence and uncertain applause from the audience. Far better to have used the clip of her on the raft with Jaden when she tries to wake him up.

    Using the clip of Jaden looking scared of cgi animals and throwing rocks them was a serious mistake. He lost viewer sympathy in an instant. No one wants to see a kid throw rocks at animals without a clear reason why. This has been corrected and the marketing team is now using one of the better scenes [Jaden sharing screentime with Will and being shown how to retrieve the beacon] that includes actual context from the movie to reintroduce After Earth to the dvd and blu-ray.

    An early trailer also gave away a key reveal when Jaden cliff jumps. Bad marketing.

    Not responding to the Scientology smears or accusations of nepotism by changing the storyline. Poor public relations. Someone was asleep at the wheel. Weinstock?

    White House Down suffered from poor scheduling after Olympus Has Fallen. Scheduling the U.S. release a week or two after the overseas opening might have helped After Earth which tried to dodge Man of Steel but still suffered from poor marketing, passivity, and bad management of a successful brand.

    The Smiths have seven movies in Sony’s list of top 25 earners going back to 1995.

    Men in Black, Men in Black 2, Men in Black 3, Hitch, Hancock, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Pursuit of Happyness, The Karate Kid.

    Neither of the Smiths have ever caused Sony to lose money… until the marketing team dumps a movie on the public and turns away leaving the Smiths to do heavy-lifting overseas.

    Who’s head did you think was going to roll when Will Smith has brought SONY billions and Jaden has brought millions?

  8. cadavra says:

    It also didn’t help that the AFTER/EARTH trailer made it look exactly like OBLIVION. I saw the trailers back-to-back a couple of times and it almost seemed like Cruise and Smith had made a movie together.

  9. storymark says:

    “you think marketing is what blew up the Bond franchise? ”

    Coming after a long hiatus, and following up one of the least-liked films in the series – it probably contributed. F&F wasn’t dealing with either of those hurdles when it “blew up.”

  10. David Poland says:

    Least liked… but $13m away from being the highest grossing Bond ever.

    I would attribute the leap to Casino Royale and uniformly positive critical and civilian word of mouth.

    The movie looked great and that did show in the ads… but when you have a franchise, the movie being shown – for better or worse – in the ads is a given.

    I don’t blame marketing for the last Bourne having a steep fall-off either.

    And whether you liked Tokyo Drift or not, it was the low ebb of that franchise, in terms of box office. The return of Vin Diesel in #4 got it back to what were pretty much the numbers for #1 and #2. And the massive pop for Fast Five came mostly from international and some big international box office muscle called The Rock.

    Skyfall is The Dark Knight of Bond movies, more than doubling international and almost doubling best ever domestic. (Batman went the other way).

    We can play the “well, they put Heath Ledger in the ads alot” game… but WB did a very good job of making good ads and trailers and getting out of the way. Batman Begins legitimatized the franchise – as F&F 4 did – and then with a movie that looked terrific, the audience came back in bigger numbers than ever. I don’t say that marketing had nothing to do with it… but with an established franchise, there is only so much marketing can do.

    Generally, I think marketing is the key component in opening any movie. But in franchises, for better or for worse, there is a pre-sell by the franchise itself than can’t really be overcome.

  11. chris says:

    Maybe also says something about the value of a villain who’s worthy of (and more charismatic than) the hero? (Maybe that will pay off a bit in “Machete 2,” where Demian Bichir acts the hell out of his dual-personality villain role.)

  12. Fitzerald says:

    This summer, both After Earth and RIPD were okay /decent movies that had really indifferent campaigns, and whose dispirited release really rolled out the red carpet for haters. As Donella said, I was surprised at how passive Sony was to the pre-release negativity and bad buzz. Certainly smelled of giving up or, maybe worse, having no idea what to do to counter it.

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