Paramount Marketing Chief Defends ‘Mother!’ Wide Release: ‘We Wanted It to Go Off Like a Bomb’

TheGrill 2017: Megan Colligan says Darren Aronofsky’s art film was “punk rock”

The top distribution and marketing executive at Paramount Pictures said the studio’s rollout of Darren Aronofsky’s “mother! ” achieved its desired effect: to position the art film as a sensory attack and get the country talking.

“[‘mother!’] is still the punk rock movie it was when we put it out, and the conversation reflects that,” Paramount Worldwide Distribution and Marketing President Megan Colligan said at the TheGrill 2017 on Tuesday.

“We wanted it to go off like a bomb and let everyone see it, and feel it and debate it — to kind of have at it,” she said.

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After playing at several fall film festivals, “mother!” opened in mid-September on nearly 2,400 screens. Some criticized the decision, as TheWrap reported, saying a smaller release would have helped word of mouth and box office performance.

“Typically speaking with art movies, it’s the big city sophisticates that get it. As markets get quote-unquote ‘less sophisticated,’ the movies become more of a challenge,” Colligan told TheWrap Managing Editor Thom Geier. “That’s not the case with ‘mother!’ There are people all over the country who love it, and there are people in the sophisticated markets who love it less.”

There was a real danger, she said, that a platform release would have allowed vehement critics to isolate controversial scenes and redefine the movie negatively for potential moviegoers. “You can reduce the movie to its most provocative elements and define it by that, but we didn’t want that to happen,” Colligan said.

The panel that also featured Thai Randolph, SVP of marketing and monetization for Kevin Heart’s content engine and OTT service Laugh Out Loud, who addressed the encroaching presence of Netflix as both a distribution platform and a competitor in content creation.

“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Randolph said of the complicated relationship. “You’re often competing with your enablers in many ways. Whether it’s an algorithm that’s changed so your content can’t get through, ad dollars get a bit harder … you have to settle in and say, ‘This is going to be a ride’ and maintain your partnerships.”

Colligan agreed. “In nearly every business when a disrupter or competitor comes into the business, the worst thing you can do is look at that and become envious or … bend to them,” she said. “It’s really imperative we look at ourselves and say, ‘Are we the best version of what we can be?'”

Get our complete coverage of TheGrill 2017 here.