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Mixed-up mandates

Studios rethink marketing structures

Paramount has just hired Rob Moore as its prexy of worldwide marketing, distribution and operations. Walt Disney Studios is getting ready to anoint Oren Aviv its chief creative officer.

If you think coming up with these job titles was hard, just try figuring out what they mean.

The stresses and strains on the studio marketing apparatus are becoming so great that they are willing to attempt radical solutions.

Par is turning to an exec whose background is in finance to run its marketing and distribution operations. The Mouse is doing just the opposite, elevating its marketing expert and giving him purview over the entire studio’s creative output.

As the business of selling movies has become more complex and the stakes ever higher, so have studio management org charts and their reporting lines.

The latest redrawing of the map came last week.

Exiting Paramount was vice chair and chief operating officer Rob Friedman, who had in his eight years on the lot amassed a vast portfolio covering marketing, distribution, homevideo, publicity and the specialty Paramount Classics unit.

Keeping true to his unorthodox form in staffing his studio, Par chief Brad Grey tapped Moore to fill the vacancy, but in a very different role.

Moore’s job title is different, and he represents a very different kind of exec. While Moore has been a partner at Revolution since 2000, he made his name in the biz in finance and deal-making.

One Par source describes Moore’s new role as part of Friedman’s old job and part that of former studio co-head Jonathan Dolgen.

Unlike Friedman, however, Moore won’t be overseeing the homevid unit, as prexy Tom Lesinski will now report directly to Grey, along with studio president Gail Berman and CFO Mark Badagliacca.

But Par’s hiring of Moore demonstrates there’s been plenty of re-invention in studio executive suites beyond the marketing-distrib combos, such as Sony vice chair Jeff Blake or Universal vice chair Marc Shmuger.

Aviv’s job at Disney — which Daily Variety first reported back in April, but which he hasn’t assumed implemented yet — will blend the exec’s marketing expertise into more of the studio’s creative enedeavors.

As contemplated by studio chief Dick Cook, Aviv will be involved in a wide range of Disney projects, including film and TV but also theme parks and live theatrical productions. His main job will be as keeper of the brand.

Convoluted reporting structures and titles have become a hallmark of the film industry in recent years as the business of releasing a film across various platforms and windows has become a chaotic ballet.

Need for coordination between various units has given rise to vice chairmen like Friedman, who combine marketing and distribution responsibilities.

“It’s really a way of dealing with bureaucracy in big places,” says Revolution partner Tom Sherak, who was a marketing-distrib prexy 20th Century Fox.

“The reason for combining them is that you have a better line of communication between the two areas that are going to put the movies out. You don’t want to have to wait for the marketing guy to call the distribution guy to say, ‘Hey, do you need a trailer for that picture?'”

Having a point person for several divisions, also, ideally, bridges the gap between potentially quarrelsome divisions. It’s a way of alleviating communication problems that have plagued studios for years, as when domestic and foreign distrib operations which have no idea what the other is doing.

It is also a way to aid the studio chairs. Vice chairs, says one studio exec, “are like a cushion so that you don’t have so many people reporting to the chairman.”

Just as the push for wider releases made marketing more crucial for studios and foreign theatrical emerged as a vital revenue source, the prominence of DVDs has made the question of who oversees homevid a more pressing question.

And now with studios ever more aware of the potential of hurting their theatrical biz by tightening their video windows, some see a need for consolidating homevid and theatrical distribution.

At Sony, homevid does report to Blake. But Universal operates more akin to the new Par structure, with the home entertainment division reporting to prexy and COO Rick Finkelstein.

Just how much should traditional studio divisions be integrated? It depends who you ask.

When Blake added worldwide marketing responsibilities at Sony to his distrib title in late 2000, existing marketing topper Robert Levin found himself reporting to Blake instead of then-chair John Calley. It came as no surprise when Levin subsequently ankled the studio.

And while management theory plays a role in drawing these corporate power maps, so does personality.

Having an uber-exec, says a studio exec, “is only going to work if the personalities work.”

These working vice chairs are empowered with positions that are meant to oversee, not meddle. In companies where there is already a working relationship between the execs, there may not be as pressing a need to put in place a high-level exec in between the chair and the department heads.

For instance, at Warner Bros. the heads of production, distribution, marketing, foreign and homevid all report to studio chief Alan Horn.

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