Sue Kroll sits in a sweet spot. As president of worldwide marketing and intl. distribution for Warner Bros. Pictures, she’s overseen launches that have not only achieved box office success but garnered critical acclaim. In 2014 the studio’s slate was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including a best picture nom for “American Sniper” — which happened to gross $545 million worldwide. Other films for which Kroll and her team designed global marketing campaigns: Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” ($674 million), Guillermo del Toro’s “Godzilla” ($527 million), “The Lego Movie” ($468 million) and Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” ($955 million). This year’s releases include “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “San Andreas” and “Entourage.” Kroll shared with Variety her thoughts on receiving Taormina’s prestigious Tao Arte Award.
Variety: Over the years the Taormina Film Festival has invited and honored such Hollywood heavyweights as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jim Gianopulos, Tom Cruise, Stanley Kramer and Elizabeth Taylor. What does being in such company mean to you?
Kroll: The artists and executives honored by the festival over the years all have moved the art and business of this industry forward in so many ways. Anyone who loves film would be honored to join such a rarefied lineup, and I’m grateful to the festival for selecting me for this privilege.
Variety: As the U.S. domestic box office slows down and overseas b.o. receipts rise, the balance for Hollywood is tipping. How do international film festivals figure in Warner Bros.’ marketing and distribution strategy?
Kroll: Throughout my career, I’ve always seen festivals like Taormina as a vital component in an overseas campaign, but in the contemporary environment, movies are a global business and festivals have become a cornerstone for a successful worldwide initiative. Word-of-mouth from a festival screening alone can often set the tone for a campaign, which is why the international voice is so vital in defining the appeal of a film across the global spectrum.
Variety: What kind of films benefit the most from international festivals?
Kroll: Each film is unique. The most important factor in considering any film for a festival is the confidence of the artistic voice and quality of the work, regardless of genre, style or subject matter. International festivals can benefit a film enormously when the film itself is one of the campaign’s best assets.