Imax unveils marketing arm

Six-person team targets global audience

Imax has committed to increasing film production, and now the large-format filmhouse is getting serious about distribution. The company has created a new marketing team, bringing on board six people, three of whom are experienced mainstream film marketing executives.

Starting with “T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous” (produced by L-Squared Entertainment), Imax’s new marketing structure will focus on supplementing local theater efforts with corresponding worldwide marketing campaigns that reflect those of the mainstream marketplace. The restructuring is timely because over the next two years, the majority of giant-screen theaters will shift from being institutionally based (i.e., museums) to being commercial venues.

Michelle Hagen has been tapped head of worldwide film marketing and John McCabe has been named head of worldwide creative advertising. They will spearhead the effort from their base in Los Angeles. Both Hagen and McCabe will report to consultant David Forbes, whose role is to develop marketing and distribution structures and programs.

Rounding out the marketing department are Patty Givens, North American publicity and promotions coordinator; Zachary Eller, international publicity and promotions coordinator; and Brian Yamamura, worldwide creative advertising coordinator.

The Imax team plans to open “T-Rex” in 25 to 30 cities, comparable to the number of cities in which MacGillivray Freeman opened “Everest.” “We are using the tools of the trade, such as national publicity and national promotions,” said Hagen, “but the national activities will be converted to a local timetable to accommodate varying release dates. Our goal is to move from a market-by-market strategy to one that is more consolidated.”

To reach the point where it can distribute films in a way similar to the conventional film industry, Imax must overcome a different dynamic. Large-format advertising and marketing is regional and still run by the theaters who put up the costs. Also, film rental fees are much lower than in the 35mm world.

“What we’re trying to do is to control or help the theaters market more effectively in a local market,” said Imax co-CEO Brad Wechsler. That is Imax’s present concern, but eventually they would like “a firmer control over the distribution and marketing,” said Wechsler.

Imax would “legislate a play date to the theaters and in turn would have to charge a higher film rental and cover the marketing costs and move in the direction of the studio model,” Wechsler said. “And I think these are things that we will experiment with as the theater base continues to grow.”

Attempting to promote “T-Rex” beyond the traditional Imax movie-going audience, the Imax team has cut a 35mm trailer (in addition to 2D and 3D large-format versions) for its conventional theater network affiliates Edwards, Cinemark, Muvico, Regal and Sony.To further promote “T-Rex,” Imax also has arranged multimillion dollar deals with Showtime, Imaginarium toy stores and GTE Phone Card.

Before joining Imax, Hagen was VP of national promotions and field operations at Orion Pictures, where she worked on such indie releases as “Ulee’s Gold.” Hagen has also held positions at Fox Searchlight as director of national field operations, and MGM/UA.

Before he joined Imax, McCabe was VP of creative advertising at Orion Pictures, where he also worked on “Ulee’s Gold.” Prior to that, McCabe held positions at Gramercy Pictures, working on the creative campaigns for “Fargo,” “The Usual Suspects” and “Dead Man Walking.”Forbes’ previously held positions include president of marketing and distribution at Orion and MGM/UA.

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