Movie Marketing Chiefs Talk ‘Barbenheimer’ Effect, Handling Reboots and the Primacy of Trailers at Variety’s Entertainment Marketing Summit

The movie business has had to contend with everything from COVID shutdowns to strike-induced box office delays to stiff competition from a tidal wave of high-priced streaming content over the past seven years.

The contraction in theatrical releases and the post-pandemic slowdown at the box office has raised the stakes for every film release, from blockbusters to artistic performances – said a group of top theatrical marketing executives who spoke at a roundtable panel on April 24. Talked during. DiversityAnnual Entertainment Marketing Summit presented by Deloitte.

“If you’re not an event movie for anyone, you’re not a movie for anyone,” said Josh Goldstein, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures Group, during the daylong SRO event at the Beverly Hilton.

Goldstein said the “additional $100 billion of streaming content entering the market” since 2017 has increased demand for theatrical films. Dwight Keynes, president of domestic marketing for Universal Pictures, agreed: “Our movies should unquestionably be an event – ​​big-screen, immersive experiences that get you off the couch.”

Mark Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Paramount Pictures, did the same. “You have to be so undeniable that the occasional moviegoer will say, ‘Yeah, I wasn’t thinking about that, I heard it’s really good.’ The reviews seem great. It’s everywhere in the culture. ”

Netflix’s Lee offered the perspective of a subscription-based platform.

“For us, every night is movie night,” she said. But the challenge is no different from studios packing multiplexes. “We have to engage in that conversation. We have to be part of the zeitgeist. And then we know that at least when you come to see a movie, or a show that’s trending at the moment, we think you’ll stay because you’ll be served something else. We know you well enough to personalize the content we deliver to you. But the challenge remains the same. You’re competing for attention.”

Moderated by moderator Brent Lang, DiversityThe executive editors of, five marketing experts touched on the balancing act of reboot and revival, weaving social media into marketing plans; working with filmmakers as “midwives” in birthing films; TikTok’s impact on promotion; the elusiveness of the occasional moviegoer; and the continued primacy of the trailer as a marketing medium that sets the tone for the upcoming film.

“The thing that’s incredibly important about a trailer is that you’re catching people exactly where they’re going to come and see your movie,” said Rebecca Carey, Searchlight’s executive vice president and head of international marketing and business operations. Have been.” Pictures. “There’s no replacement for it in terms of killing people in a house where you want to see them.”

Paramount’s Mark Weinstock, Searchlight’s Rebecca Carey, Warner Bros.’ Josh Goldstein, Netflix’s Marion Lee and Universal Pictures’ Dwight Caines DiversityEntertainment Marketing Summit
Diversity via Getty Images

A major change in the world of trailers is the end of the decades-old tradition of having completely separate reels for international markets outside the US. “A completely different international trailer and the twain never meet” was the common refrain. Carrie said. “Now, every puzzle piece is very interconnected. The world is a very small place.”

It didn’t take long for the conversation to reach “”.barbenheimer” The phenomenon that took over last summer’s box office. To the teams behind Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer,” it was even more impactful and impactful because this moment came entirely from the grassroots of TikTok and other social media.

Goldstein saw the fan-inspired “Barbenheimer” memes and videos as a rare happy experience of national unity.

“It really hits such a cultural nerve, and it just so happened that these two movies of yours opened on the same day [July 21],” Goldstein said. “The most compelling and positive thing about it was that – the Internet is a tool of division – you’re this team or that team… there was that moment where this idea came that people could be both.”

Goldstein noted that Warner Bros. was “too busy dealing with ‘Barbie’ and the way it was entering the culture in the most unexpected ways” so they began a secret campaign to promote the “Barbenheimer” concept.

Keynes acknowledged that Christopher Nolan’s father, J.J. Universal’s options were limited due to the serious subject matter of Robert Oppenheimer’s biography. But that didn’t mean the studio didn’t recognize the importance of the “Barbenheimer” moment.

Keynes said, “Our position was that this was the most important man in the world who, with a team of scientists, invented the thing that most significantly changed the world.” “So we didn’t engage in all the ‘Barbenheimer’ fun. But what we wanted to do was say, ‘Wow, something is happening in the culture.’ The audience has decided that these two films are the two films we want. And they felt ownership over them in a way that you get to see once in your career if you’re lucky, and that’s what happened.’

Lang asked the five marketing experts about the balance of relaunching favorite franchises, such as Netflix’s upcoming revival of Eddie Murphy’s “Beverly Hills Cop” action-drama film series. “Nostalgia is huge,” Lee said. “You have to introduce like a brand new audience that didn’t even know who Axel Foley was, and then hopefully you’re starting a re-watching campaign. And then they’re going back to look at everything. And that in itself is an event before the movie comes out.”

Weinstock acknowledged Paramount Pictures’ success with the film debut of the beloved Sonic the Hedgehog video game character in 2019. When launching reboots and revivals, “it’s always easier to get core fans excited first and broadcast outwards. If you don’t get them first – like we had a little unfortunate incident with Sonic. But we fixed it.”

The level of two-way communication Paramount has done on its plans for a successful 2024 “Sonic the Hedgehog” release reflects the harsh reality of the turbulent environment for movies, Goldstein said.

“One thing we are all realizing is that we can no longer buy movie openings. We live in a world where it’s a combination of earned media and paid media and how these two things work together,” he said. “Advertising in the digital space is something that is very easy to avoid. We have to create engaging content that people want to watch. And we have to launch it in ways that are incredibly inspiring.”

(Top photo: Brent Lang, Josh Goldstein, Rebecca Carey, Marion Lee, Dwight Keynes and Mark Weinstock)