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Marketing films isn’t for the faint of heart at Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media.
On Aug. 19, the young studio named its fourth marketing president in less than four years after Terry Curtin was shown the door following the dismal $3.5 million opening of Paranoia, a Liam Hemsworth–Harrison Ford corporate thriller that failed to lure audiences despite its star power (Gary Oldman also stars). Russell Schwartz, who has been working as a consultant for Relativity, was quickly named the new chief of theatrical marketing.
Sources close to Relativity are being unusually vocal about the reason for Curtin’s departure, saying the materials she created for Paranoia “failed to have an identity,” including billboards that didn’t show the high-profile cast. At the same time, Paranoia received dismal reviews, a major hurdle considering it needed to attract adults. Curtin, who reported to Relativity president Tucker Tooley, isn’t commenting.
Curtain lasted the longest of her three predecessors, replacing Peter Adee, who served from August 2010 to April 2011. He succeeded Geoffrey Ammer, whose term only ran six months. Relativity also has relied on a handful of marketing consultants, including Jim Gallagher, formerly head of marketing at Disney, leading some in Hollywood to wonder whether Relativity simply is the latest in a long line of studios to blame marketing executives for deeper problems.
Relativity has cycled through other top executives as well. Earlier this month, Yale Chasin exited his job as vice president of international sales and distribution after a year to become an agent at UTA. The list of former alum also includes Steve Bertram, who served for a year as COO/CFO before leaving at the end of 2011; exiting around the same time was Joe Matukewicz, who headed up acquisitions before jumping to Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions at the end of 2011. And in mid-2011, Steve Hutensky, head of business affairs, departed. Michael Rosen joined Relativity in January 2012 as general counsel but left later that year.
The studio has a mixed box office record in North America, although it minimizes its financial risk through its foreign distribution deals. Of the four movies it has released so far this year, only Safe Haven worked, grossing $71.3 million domestically. Movie 43 ($8.8 million) and 21 and Over ($25.7 million) both stumbled, followed by Paranoia, which Relativity committed to spending $27 million to market (the $35 million thriller was fully financed by IM Global and Demarest Films).
Relativity has several high-profile films coming up, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s directorial debut Don Jon (Sept. 27) and Scott Cooper’s awards hopeful Out of the Furnace, headlining Christian Bale (Dec. 6). Its next release is action comedy The Family, starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones and Diana Agron (Sept. 13).
Relativity isn’t alone in making a change in the top marketing job. Earlier this month, Anne Globe exited her marketing post at DreamWorks Animation after the soft performance of summer animated tentpole Turbo. She is being replaced by former Warner Bros. marketing chief Dawn Taubin, who fell out of favor with former top executive Jeff Robinov after Superman Returns failed to relaunch the superhero franchise.
Curtin’s contract was actually renewed in the past three or four months, according to a source. Relativity declined comment.
Schwartz, who did a long stint at New Line, will be joined by former Marvel exec Dana Precious, who will serve as president of creative advertising and research, a newly created position. Schwartz was called “extremely talented” and “respected” by Tooley in announcing the hire. Of course, similar praise was heaped upon Ammer, Adee and Curtin — all well known for their studio experience — at the beginning of their aborted tenures. “Remarkable expertise,” “wealth of experience” and “vision” were in the press releases for those three.
Relativity insiders insist that Adee, formerly with Overture Films, never intended to stay for long. Sources, however, dispute that version of events. Adee arrived at Relativity after Kavanaugh’s company acquired Overture.
Now Schwartz is tasked with a job that has vexed his predecessors.
“The studio identified an issue and took appropriate, decisive action,” a source close to Relativity said in reference to Curtin’s exit. “Relativity has long-term contracts with Russell and Dana and they’re the right leadership team to run global marketing.”
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