Marc Weinstock arrived at Paramount to oversee global marketing and distribution in 2019 from Megan Ellison’s Annapurna, preceded by a standout stint at 20th Century Fox and Sony, where he shepherded the campaigns for such hits as dead pool, The Kingsman: The Secret Service, Hidden Figures and The Revenant (I have previously worked at Sony). Paramount had a tough time during the pandemic, but the studio has been on an enviable winning streak in recent months with such box office hits as scream, Lost City and sonic the hedgehog 2. Each film succeeded in luring wary demos back to the multiplex. Up next is the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverickwhich opens over Memorial Day.
Weinstock recently caught up with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about some of his team’s tactics and the ongoing challenges facing the business.
What is the biggest hurdle coming out of the pandemic?
It was important for us to realize, “OK, how do we really make noise in a world where it’s even more cluttered than ever?” During the last four to six weeks of the campaign — I call it the funnel — I want audiences thinking about our movies every day. And I think post-pandemic, it’s even more important. There’s just too much content out there.
Top Gun: Maverickwhich finally hits theaters May 27, was set to open in summer 2020. What was it like starting and stopping the campaign so many times?
It’s been difficult to navigate. We had to hold off and hold off. Now that we feel comfortable, the beats [of the campaign] are starting to come out. It just shows that if people want to see a movie, they’ll wait. I was 16 when I saw top gun and immediately went out and got my pilot’s license.
What is the marketing budget for a film like Top Gun: Maverick or sonic the hedgehog 2?
I’m never going to give budgets, but I will say that every movie is different.
scream stuck with its Jan. 14 date even as other films fled due to omicron. The movie was a hit, grossing $140 million globally. What was the thought there?
In early December, when the variant was going out of control, we were like, “Oh my God, not again.” We had great tracking and great early awareness, so we stuck with the date.
Any notable digital campaigns?
the scream voice was the first alternate voice [of Ghostface; a user-customizable narration option] offered on TikTok, and it was huge. We got 5 billion views of videos containing the voice, which is massive. Separately, we did a deal with Airbnb where you could rent the Stu Macher house and spend a night in the house.
Lost City, an action-comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum, succeeded in convincing older moviegoers to return to theaters. What was your strategy?
The buzz started with the world premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where Sandy lives. The early reviews were great. Critics said it was the kind of movie they’ve been waiting for years, since this is a genre that hasn’t been doing so well theatrically. We had the perfect cast. And we did a lot of paid sneaks [a strategy used to build world-of-mouth before a movie’s opening]. The more the audiences saw the movie, the more they told their friends, “Hey, go see the movie.” And it made people comfortable, especially the older females. Sandy, Channing and the cast also did a lot of digital spots.
Sonic 2 opened to more than $70 million in early April, a record for a pandemic-era family film. Your bag of tricks?
We did a great thing at the Super Bowl, riffing off the coin toss, since one of the main characters is Tails. We trended off of that alone. Also, every sign along the way was that people were ready to come back to theaters.
How do you sell Top Gun: Maverick to younger audiences?
the [May 4] US premiere was the largest YouTube streaming event that they’ve had for a movie. And there was a digital billboard in New York’s Times Square that livestreamed the US premiere.
Top Gun: Maverick is playing at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18. Will we see Tom Cruise ejecting into the waters off the Croisette? Just kidding.
Cannes is great because of the global audience that it serves. And we have special tricks up our sleeve, which I think will travel around the world. The premiere in London that follows Cannes will also be fantastic. Everything we’re doing is in service of the movie because the movie is our best marketing tool. — PM
Interview edited for length and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.