Mini-majors feel pressure of P&A

Changes to include bolder campaigns

At a time when films live or die by their opening weekend-B.O., studio marketing campaigns tend to have as much staying power as Bridget Jones’ latest diet.

That’s put enormous pressure on companies such as Miramax and New Line to create high-impact campaigns — while using less money than deep-pocketed studios.

Witness the past two weeks’ exec shuffle: both companies announced significant changes to their respective marketing departments.

Appearing to take the fall for a slew of underperforming pictures, including “Little Nicky” and “Town and Country,” New Line’s Joe Nimziki was replaced with USA prexy Russell Schwartz. (Nimziki ankled to write and direct features.)

When Miramax marketing topper Dennis Rice, who oversaw both the Dimension and Miramax labels, ankled earlier this spring, the company went through a major restructuring. It named Josh Greenstein head of marketing for Dimension Films and Mark Gill and David Brooks twin marketing heads on the Miramax side, with Matthew Cohen rejoining the company as senior veep of marketing and creative advertising.

Expect the changes at each mini-major to include bolder campaigns and a greater sense of company identity. “You have to find a way to scream louder than everyone else,” says a former marketing maven.

That’s often a thankless job. As Revolution partner Tom Sherak puts it, “You have one shot in the marketplace. If you miss that, you’re a failure.”

Rolf Mittweg, New Line’s prexy and chief operating officer of worldwide distribution, stresses the importance of supporting product and enlisting actors to do publicity — something NL failed to do with “Town and Country.”

The changes at both NL and Miramax come at significant moments in each company’s history. New Line is seven months away from releasing its largest and most challenging pic to date — “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first installment of the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, due in theaters on Dec. 19.

Hiring the well-liked Schwartz signals that the studio is taking no chances: the exec brings experience — he comes over hot on the heels of USA’s Oscar-winning “Traffic” — and, while head of Gramercy Pictures, he worked with such pics as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Fargo.”

“This is an extremely important year for New Line,” says Schwartz, who began his new gig last week. “The pressure is not just on spending more money, but on how to do it more innovatively … I look forward to getting into as much trouble as I can.”

Miramax’s year has been stellar thus far, with Dimension’s “Spy Kids” and Miramax/Universal’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (produced by Working Title Films) at one point jostling for the top box office slot. But Miramax is intent on getting back in the Oscar game after watching its rivals take home the lion’s share of those coveted statuettes this year.

As Miramax reconnects to its niche and foreign-language pic roots, the restructuring reflects an effort to ensure that every film, regardless of whether it is a platform or wide release, receives the requisite care.

“Our philosophy is two-fold,” says Brooks. “It’s about opening a movie and getting the most people into the theater. But we always also freshen our campaigns, trying to keep a picture in the marketplace for as long as possible.”

While Greenstein will spearhead campaigns for such forthcoming Dimension releases as “Scary Movie 2” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” Miramax’s new structure divides execs into teams working under Gill and Brooks.

Oscar strategy

Brooks’ group will handle some 15 Miramax titles per year and the company’s Oscar campaigns.

Brooks’ team includes Cohen, who will have responsibility for trailers, TV and radio spots as well as print creative advertising.Gill will continue to be involved in co-productions and acquisitions, overseeing the company’s L.A. office as well as release schedule planning, along with worldwide distribution chairman Rick Sands and domestic distribution senior exec veep Mike Rudnitsky.

On co-productions to which Miramax has international rights, Brooks and Gill will jointly serve as liaisons with the company’s domestic releasing partners.

“This organizational structure is an outgrowth of a small-group system we tried informally this spring with titles like ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ — with tremendous results,” says Gill. “Having proven just how well it can work, we’re moving quickly to implement the structure across the entire marketing department.”

But these changes don’t disguise one fact of life at NL and Miramax. At a time when studios are losing their identities, these companies reflect the personalities of Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, and the Weinstein brothers, respectively. And given the imperatives of the marketplace, they demand quick results.

“No other product in the world is dependent on such a quick turnaround,” says DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press. “Even fish in a grocery store have a longer turnaround.”

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