20th Century Fox Marketing-Distribution Chiefs on 'Gone Girl's' Success, Stacey Snider and Industry Firings
Paul Hanneman and Tomas Jegeus, co-presidents of worldwide marketing and distribution, open up about the soaring costs of marketing and the time they helped Leonardo DiCaprio duck a mob in Japan
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
You won't meet many top Hollywood executives whose careers began in Panama and Sweden. Nearly 25 years ago, Paul Hanneman started at 20th Century Fox's South American outpost, and Tomas Jegeus began climbing the ladder at a film company in his Nordic home country. A year ago, the duo was elevated by Fox chief Jim Gianopulos to run worldwide marketing and distribution, overseeing 706 employees in 32 countries. Yet few in Hollywood know much about the two because they spent most of their careers overseas, specifically in Asia, before being tasked in 2005 with running international operations out of L.A. Credited for shrewd marketing acumen, they consistently delivered big results even as Fox lagged behind rivals in North America. But now their skills are being felt on the domestic front, too (they hired ousted Sony exec Marc Weinstock to guide domestic theatrical marketing).
Total 2014 revenue has crossed $4.5 billion, thanks to X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault in Our Stars and current hit Gone Girl. Fox is No. 1 in North American market share for the first time in more than 15 years and has a shot at setting an industry record by crossing $5.2 billion in global ticket sales this year. Hanneman, 54, is a married father of two teenage boys; his wife, Audrey, is heavily involved in the biannual charity art show Fresh Start. Jegeus, 52, lives in the downtown arts district with his wife, Amanda, and has three children from a previous marriage. The two sat down with THR on the Fox lot to discuss the soaring costs of marketing, the pending arrival of Stacey Snider and the time they helped Leo duck a mob in Japan.
Fox, Sony and Paramount have made big executive changes in marketing lately. Why so much upheaval?
Hanneman: In a business where you have rising marketing and production costs, you have to constantly reevaluate your business model, and every one of those companies is doing that.
Jegeus: Sometimes the way to change is to get new blood.
An Alien statue, which was one of Jegeus' favorite films growing up
It is widely assumed that Stacey Snider soon will arrive at Fox. Will you report to her, instead of only to Gianopulos?
Hanneman: No comment.
Jegeus: We did the international release of Lincoln, which did phenomenally [$93.1 million]. And we had the best relationship with her, so come on Stacey.
When did you two first meet?
Hanneman: It was on a bus during a Fox international conference in Los Angeles. I was living in Japan, and Tomas was in London. Later, I was in Hong Kong running our new Asia Pacific operation, and we were looking for a head of marketing. Jim and I were talking, and he said, "What about Tomas?"
Jegeus: I came to Hong Kong during the release of Titanic. It just kept going up and up and up.
Hanneman: We brought over Leo [DiCaprio] for a special screening and it was like being at a Beatles concert in the '60s. There were girls and young women lined up for blocks behind barricades. You couldn't hear anything, they were so loud.
Jegeus and Hanneman are fond of this Korean poster for Avatar.
The cost of a global campaign can be $175 million or more. Fox has spent less than others. Has that changed under your watch?
Jegeus: The increasing cost is a massive challenge. Yet it's not how much you spend, it's the message. If we don't have the message right, nothing else matters.
Hanneman: When you change the paradigm with a movie like Avatar, the messaging can be especially difficult. We worked for more than two years on that campaign, and still, the tracking wasn't great as the movie's release date approached.
What is the biggest surprise about overseeing a domestic campaign?
Jegeus: There is more scrutiny. There are a lot of people involved, from the talent to the filmmaker to everyone at the studio. In a perfect world, you should be able to do what you feel is right. But you have a lot of people you have to make happy and make feel involved in the campaign. It's a challenge.
Tom Cruise gave Jegeus a framed copy of L. Ron Hubbard's Code of Honor after they worked on Knight and Day.
Given the subject matter, was Gone Girl a tough campaign to craft?
Jegeus: Yes. We couldn't allude to the twist, so we couldn't tell half the story. We focused the whole campaign on Ben Affleck's character. Once the movie opened, we decided we could say more.
Is it faring as well overseas, where the book is not as popular?
Hanneman: We thought it would be more of a European sell, but it's doing huge business in Latin America and even Asian markets where it has begun to open.
Jegeus: In Hong Kong, it opened right amid the demonstrations, but man, people still found their way to the movie theater.
Hanneman's office contains artwork by young artists, including this painting.
What was the trick in selling Fault in Our Stars, which has grossed $303.3 million globally?
Jegeus: It was a textbook example of how to use social media. Our digital campaign ignited [author] John Green's fan base everywhere.
Hanneman: When you have passionate advocates, as in the case of Fault in Our Stars, it can certainly mobilize an audience. It's more easily targetable than television, although television still reaches the widest audience.
Earlier this year, Paramount had to proclaim that Noah wasn't a literal adaptation of the Bible. Do you face the same challenge with Moses tale Exodus: Gods and Kings (out Dec. 12)?
Jegeus: It's probably more faithful to the original writing, and it does not have rock monsters crawling around.
Fox's Budapest office imposed their bosses' heads on Ben Stiller's body in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Fox has been showing footage of Exodus to religious leaders. How aggressive will the faith-based campaign be?
Hanneman: We will target those audiences, but we are primarily selling this as a big, epic blockbuster like Ridley [Scott]'s Gladiator.
Jegeus: It's called Exodus and people know it has Moses in it. You don't need that much more. The trick is to find the balance between the secular and the faith-based audience.
Steven Spielberg thanked the duo after Lincoln performed well overseas.
Theater owners are outraged that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will debut on Netflix and in Imax theaters. Are they being too stubborn about preserving windows?
Hanneman: Windows should shrink to some degree. They are still highly profitable for the industry, but 90 percent of the money comes in the first month. We always talk about that dark zone, that time between when the movie comes off the screen and when it becomes legitimately available digitally or physically. All that is going to piracy. The public isn't aware of windows. And if the window drops by six days, they won't be saying, "Oh my gosh, I'm not going to see this in the movie theater. I'm going to wait." It just doesn't work that way.
Jegeus: With the year we are having, why would we do anything to erode the box office? At the same time, you have to be led by the consumer in the end. They will decide with their dollars where they want to spend the money or not. What do you do? Not change?