PRESIDENT OF PRODUCTION, WALT DISNEY PICTURES
DISNEY'S 'PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN' AND 'CARS'
Proven commodity got plenty of promotion from 'Pirates' partners, while 'Cars' had the indefatigable John Lasseter pushing the right buttons.
"When a movie does $600 million-plus worldwide, awareness is not a problem," says Oren Aviv, 45, who oversaw the release of last summer's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" as president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. "The question became: What could we possibly show people that would make them want to see the movie more than they already did?"
To remind fans of the Johnny Depp swashbuckler, Mr. Aviv relied on 15-second TV spots that launched two weeks before the sequel's debut rather than the usual four-week kickoff. The message: "That 'Pirates' was coming back with an amazing new adventure that was even bigger," Mr. Aviv says. Additionally, MySpace was used to launch the movie's trailer, and promotional partners including Volvo Car Corp., Kellogg Co., Coca-Cola Co., MSN, McDonald's Corp., Verizon Wireless and Eastman Kodak Co. tied in to the film with their own marketing efforts, which got additional buzz going.
"My approach was to get out of the way of the movie and not make anyone get tired of us and not show much, because people's imaginations are going to provide them with all the impetus needed to see chapter two," Mr. Aviv says. "That was a calculated gamble."
It worked. The sequel raked in $132 million its opening weekend. The second earned $423 million in the U.S. and another $642 million around the rest of the world, becoming Disney's biggest live-action hit ever.
But "Pirates" wasn't the only megahit for Disney last summer. Pixar Animation Studios' "Cars," which Disney marketed and distributed, towed in another $462 million worldwide, its seventh straight hit and the second-biggest 2006 earner at the box office behind "Pirates."
Lasseter drives viewers
For "Cars," Mr. Aviv focused on Pixar's pedigree of films such as "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo," and used the film's dazzling animation and wise-cracking car characters to promote the movie as family friendly and not just for car-loving boys. A promotional tour led by Pixar chief John Lasseter, a lifelong auto fanatic, got young men psyched for the film and got Mr. Lasseter on magazine covers from Fortune to AutoWeek.
"It was about positioning the movie as a comedy event of the summer," Mr. Aviv says.
Mr. Aviv won't oversee the marketing of Disney's upcoming summer releases. His success got him promoted last year to president of production of Walt Disney Pictures. Jim Gallagher now serves as studio marketing chief.