EXCLUSIVE: There’s yet another shake-up inside a major Hollywood studio. I’ve learned that Thursday will be the last day for Chief Marketing Officer Oren Aviv at Twentieth Century Fox even though his contract had another 18 months to go. But movie studio chairman Jim Gianopulos and Aviv agreed Wednesday afternoon that things were not working out. Unlike other studios, 20th separated its Chief Marketing Officer from Chief Creative Officer, the job long held by Tony Sella and a gig Aviv used to have at Disney films. “It’s a funky structure and there’s a reason no other studio is set up that way,” a source tells me tonight. “This isn’t a dramatic exit. Over time it’s been easy to see Oren’s frustration not to be able to make the best possible campaigns.” Aviv was hired in January 2011 as Chief Marketing Officer and also held the title of President of Theatrical Marketing along with 21-year Fox veteran Sella, who took on the additional role of Chief Creative Officer at the same time. Sella is by no means an easy exec to get along with, and at the same time Aviv came into the job with his own baggage. He’d been unemployed for a year and had served as Walt Disney Studios’ solo president of marketing at Disney from 2000 to 2006, then moved up to become president of production until early 2010 when he was fired by the new Rich Ross regime. The teaming of Aviv with Sella at Fox was predicted as difficult from Day One, and the hope was that Aviv could inject more innovation, or at the very least “do things better” inside an ossified department, after what had been several years of more box office misses than hits. Now there’ll be days of debate within the nasty inbred movie marketing community: Who was the real problem: Aviv or Sella? Empty suit vs Played-out vet?
Among the more successful marketing campaigns Aviv claimed credit outside Fox were Rio, Ice Age 4, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Croods, and The Life Of Pi which Aviv once said was “hardest movie I’ve ever had to market” but won four Oscars last season, the most of any motion picture including Best Director for Ang Lee. This is now the 4th Hollywood movie studio to roil in its top executive ranks starting this summer: Warner Bros Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Sony Pictures. (Parent company News Corp already exited 20th’s film studio co-Chairman Tom Rothman a year ago.) Aviv is now the 3rd top movie marketing executive to be exited since August (after Sony’s Marc Weinstock and Relativity’s Terry Curtin). This year domestic box office has disappointed many major studios despite what the stats show. So once Summer 2013 whimpered to a close for so many underperforming originals, many Hollywood moguls and their bosses were not happy with results. Someone always gets the blame and marketing is easier to blame than themselves. “It’s a reflex. But an expected reflex,” as one exec told me about the finger-pointing. “But then this is the business we’ve chosen.” (Nikki Finke is currently on vacation.)