THE MARKETING 100;MGM/UA GERRY RICH

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Only a year ago, the buzz on MGM/UA Distribution Co. was all doom and gloom.

The new regime led by Frank Mancuso had yet to begin delivering its first product, but optimism in Hollywood wasn't exactly running high. But with a string of hits ("Species," "Get Shorty" and "Leaving Las Vegas") and certifiable blockbusters "GoldenEye" and "The Birdcage," the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion is roaring again, partly due to the the marketing programs of Gerry Rich, president of worldwide marketing.

"We had to be a bit more aggressive, to be more tenacious in our marketing, to show that MGM was indeed back. And with our first film, `Species,' we came out with a vengeance," he says.

"Species," a sexy-scary sci-fi thriller, went against summertime juggernauts "Apollo 13," "Batman Forever," and "Pocahontas" and pulled down a surprising $17.2 million in its opening weekend. It went on to gross $60 million.

Mr. Rich, 33, and his team created an arresting trailer for the film and got it into theaters months in advance to generate buzz.

Probably Mr. Rich's most important single marketing assignment was relaunching the James Bond franchise. His challenge was to sell a new Bond-actor Pierce Brosnan-and a genre of film that seemed somewhat anachronistic.

With Mr. Brosnan asking audiences, "You were expecting someone else?" the trailer ran a montage of action scenes that appealed to a young crowd weaned on "Die Hard" movies. An innovative cross-promotional effort with upscale BMW (above) and Perrier helped gain exposure for the filmmaker.

For "Shorty" and "Birdcage," Mr. Rich's ad and promotional strategy focused on their most marketable quality: they were hilariously funny. "Shorty" grossed $69.5 million; "Birdcage" has, to date, grossed $119 million.

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