B.O. slump rumored to be reason for Cohen departure

Arthur Cohen, president of worldwide marketing for Paramount’s motion picture group since October 1989, abruptly exited his post Tuesday.

As yet, Paramount has not replaced Cohen, with the worldwide marketing group reporting directly to vice chairman and chief operating officer Rob Friedman while the company searches for a replacement. Friedman, a former marketing exec, is expected to participate directly in the studio’s film campaigns until a replacement for Cohen is found.

Cohen is remaining as a consultant, but the studio refused to discuss his role.

Said Cohen: “I started wanting to do this right after I paid my income taxes this year. I hold the world record for holding this job one month shy of 14 years, and there comes a point in your life where you want to travel another road.”

Widely known in ad circles, Cohen was a former exec VP of advertising for Revlon and a topper at one of the divisions of J. Walter Thompson.

Said Friedman: “He asked to step down from the day-to-day rigors of running the marketing department, which he has done so successfully for the past 14 years, and we have agreed to honor his request.”

Cohen’s departure from the underperforming studio has long been rumored.

Fallout from pix

Many industry insiders interpret Cohen’s departure as a likely fallout from the studio’s string of box office disappointments this year.

Those include “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,” which grossed $64.6 million domestically — less than half of the 2001 original. “The Core” and”Marci X” also underwhelmed, though a remake of “The Italian Job” has rung up more than $103 million since its May 30 bow.

Collectively, the summer releases grossed $209 million, giving Par a sixth-place market share of 5.5%. Distrib, which has long emphasized profitability over market share, also sits sixth on the year to date with $450 million, or 7% of the market.

Studio’s other notable misfires over the past year include “Star Trek: Nemesis.” The 10th installment in the studio’s lucrative franchise, “Nemesis” grossed a disappointing $43 million in its December-January domestic run.

And just last weekend, “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” opened limply, though it finished No. 1 over a lackluster industry frame.

Though it is unclear who may replace Cohen, there are a finite number of obvious candidates who could step into the post.

Less marketing at Par

Par’s considered a special-case marketing post, as most of its pics go out with a bit fewer engagements than the 3,000-plus run that’s become the norm for many major’s. So its marketing budgets are also often a bit less extravagant.

At the same time, the studio does have a number of event pics each year for which a “saturation-level” run is required and also a major marketing campaign. Not many execs have lots of experience handling both types of releases.

Ex-MGM marketing prexy Gerry Rich would appear to be one potential candidate for the Par post, though he’s expected to help out Miramax again this year on distrib’s always-intensive Academy campaign. Rich came close to signing on full time at Miramax last year, finally nixing the idea in part due to a hesitancy to move to Gotham.

Some say Friedman may reach out to a former colleague at Warner Bros. And yet another scenario sees Par promoting from within to fill the top marketing post.

During his 14-year tenure, Cohen guided the campaigns for such Oscar-winning pics as “Forrest Gump,” “Braveheart” and “Titanic.” Other hits released during his years include “Ghost,” the four Tom Clancy movies “The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger” and “The Sum of All Fears,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Mission: Impossible 2,” and “What Women Want.”

(Carl DiOrio contributed to this report.)

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