Just 19 months after naming Hollywood outsider MT Carney its president of marketing, the Walt Disney Studios is on the hunt for a new marketing chief, TheWrap has learned.
The moves come despite a precious box office win for the marketing chief, with the opening of “The Muppets” last weekend, taking in $41.5 million. On Wednesday, the company increased its annual cash dividend to shareholders 50 percent after a record fiscal year.
But in recent months, Disney has reached out to recruit a replacement, according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation.
Disney aggressively courted Sony’s chief of marketing Marc Weinstock for the position, who turned the studio down two months ago.
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The studio also sounded out Josh Greenstein, a senior marketing executive at Paramount. Greenstein too was not interested, according to a knowledgeable insider. He recently re-upped with Paramount and was named chief marketing officer.
A Disney executive said that Carney was not expected to leave the studio. She is under a four-year contract, according to another executive. The studio declined to comment for this story.
Carney did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Carney, a likeable media executive of Scottish origin, has faced a decidedly rocky path since leaving her New York City-based media planning and strategy firm Naked Communications, and joining Disney in April 2010.
Studio chief Rich Ross chose Carney, who at the time he praised as a “unique type of marketing executive,” because she brought a perspective from outside the industry.
But Carney has struggled as an outsider with no movie marketing experience in Hollywood’s clubby community.
The weak opening of movies like “Secretariat,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Prince of Persia” did not help her find supporters in 2010. Nor did flops like “Mars Needs Moms,” which took in a disastrous $21 million, and “Prom,” with only $10 million at the box office.
Meanwhile, Disney has surrounded Carney with veteran marketing executives as “consultants” who supported the opening of movies like Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Pixar has its own marketing team and DreamWorks' Stacey Snider hand-picked the executives overseeing her movies.
One bright spot has been the success of “The Muppets” last weekend, which some said could grant Carney a reprieve. Many credited the opening with a sharp marketing campaign including humorous spoofs on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and Muppets sprinkled throughout the ABC-Disney empire.
But Disney’s apparent inability to woo a replacement strikes some as a comment on thestudio’s status in the conglomerate’s empire.
One marketing executive described the Disney opportunity as “the greatest job in the world,” since the studio has access to unique properties like Marvel characters, media including ESPN, ABC and ABC Family, plus the theme parks.
Both Paramount and Sony are known to have strong marketing departments. Weinstock has been at Sony for nearly a decade and despite repeated attempts to lure him to Disney, decided to stay.
Greenstein is similarly satisfied at Paramount, and chose to re-up there.
Any Hollywood marketing executive knows that a major challenge awaits in in 2012 with the opening of “John Carter,” a costly, sci-fi epic that has reportedly gone way over budget and required reshoots.