Producer/director Tom Shadyac is one very unhappy Hollywood player over the marketing plan for his upcoming summer movie Evan Almighty, so much so that he had an explosive meltdown at the most recent Universal meeting about it. “He made a fool of himself. He was completely out of control,” one insider told me. Said another source: “He was abusive, aggressive and obnoxious. People were really shaken by his huge blow-up. He acted like an asshole and was hurting himself and hurting his movie.” Shadyac also fired his long-time marketing consultants Buffy Shutt and Kathy Jones.
Tom Shadyac shouldn’t be completely pissed. Maybe in Beverly Hills it seems like his movie isn’t advertised. But in poor and suburban neighborhoods around/outside L.A., the Evan Almighty advertising is unavoidable. Universal has posters and billboards on almost every block and bus. In terms of ad space, it looks like Evan has taken all the urban spots. And, next week, that pulpit promoting Grace Hill Media is holding exclusive screenings of Evan Almighty in 50 cities to build buzz among religious America.
But Shadyac’s main complaint is that, because Evan Almighty is over budget, the studio is skimping on marketing it. Specifically, he pitched the fit because he thought Universal wasn’t buying enough TV time. “I’m not seeing any ads, and I don’t know why. I’m not getting answers. People are giving me information that isn’t true,” I’m told he said to the assembled group of about 30. “I’m only hearing about all the other summer movies, and nothing about mine.”
He calmed down later and apologized. Those who’ve worked with him before say Shadyac, known for a sweetish and spiritual nature, always gets nervous before his movies open (“It’s not the first time he’s acted that way”). But this pitched fit was unusually maniacal, I’m told. No doubt because he’s got a lot riding on this $180 million (some even say $200+ mil) summer pic, and so does the studio. So let’s look at whether Shadyac’s gripe has merit.
True, Universal hasn’t been airing ads in bulk for Evan Almighty — yet. I myself haven’t seen a single commercial for it until today, yet people tell me they’ve been around since last November. But his pic doesn’t open until June 22nd — and a lot of movies opening earlier are currently crowding the airwaves with ads. For instance, anyone watching the NBA playoffs has seen tons of promos for Fox’s Live Free or Die Hard and Fantastic Four, and DreamWorks’ Transformers. Warner’s Harry Potter has commercials on air though it doesn’t open until July 13th. But not Evan Almighty. Though TV ads will appear later, it’s also well-known that the studio is also marketing the pic in non-traditional ways through church groups because of its religious content. Also, movies like Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 which were opening day and date around the world earmarked humongous global marketing budgets, whereas Evan Almighty earmarked only the usual $40M-$50M for a domestic only release. “The problem is Tom wants people seeing TV ads for Evan Almighty on the equivalent of the Superbowl every five minutes. But we’re not just going to throw money away because Tom wants to become part of the big summer blockbuster culture,” an insider explained. Still, the studio didn’t show Evan Almighty teasers on sister network NBC’s show finales last month. (Fox’s Fantastic Four did on NBC’s Heroes cuz of the superpower synergy.) “It’s no secret that GE is looking for ways to cut costs and one of the places those people look first is movie marketing,” another source says. ” ‘Why do we have to buy so much network time? And why so early? And why can’t we buy it just a week before?’ ”
Complicating matters is that there’s a long history of bad blood going back to Patch Adams between Shadyac and Marc Shmuger who was Uni’s marketing czar before becoming Uni Pictures poobah with David Linde. Back in 1998, Uni bounced then marketing execs Buffy and Kathy out of their positions and hired Shmuger to replace them. But Shadyac asked Uni to let Buffy and Kathy plan the marketing for Patch Adams — a slap in the face to Shmuger. (Ironically, Shmuger and Shutt/Jones had worked together at Sony four years earlier.) Kathy’s and Buffy’s relationship with Shadyac dated back to their collaborations on the marketing of the director’s Liar, Liar and The Nutty Professor for Universal and Imagine. After Patch Adams, Shadyac used Kathy and Buffy as his marketing henchwomen over the years which is why his firing them came as such a shock. I also hear that Tom also prefers to deal primarily with mogul Ron Meyer on studio matters. But Meyer, as president/COO of Universal Studios, doesn’t go to marketing conferences so didn’t witness the meeting mayhem.