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Sony CEO Michael Lynton: Facebook and Twitter Can ‘Help Kill A Movie…Or Extend Its Life’

Between praising Netflix and discussing the DVD market, Michael Lynton discussed how social media has changed the way studios market movies

Movie studios can no longer use marketing to turn bad movies into financial successes, Sony CEO Michael Lynton said on Tuesday, explaining that social media has robbed them of that tool.

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Speaking at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media Conference, Lynton described the ways social media now influences a movie’s box office performance and what that means for companies like Sony.

“The biggest issue for movie studios has always been that some films are good and others aren’t so good,” Lynton, left in file photo, told the crowd at the tech site's Laguna Beach conference. “Originally, marketing was supposed to smooth that out. But we can’t do that anymore. With social media, you can no longer hide the goods.”

Lynton’s own studio is coming off a banner year in 2012, as Sony’s films grossed more than $4 billion at the worldwide box office. “Skyfall” led the charge, but several other films, from “The Amazing Spider-Man” to “21 Jump Street” and “Think Like a Man” helped the studio lead Hollywood in terms of box office market share. 

Sony been one of the most aggressive studios at using social media to market its movies and build awareness in advance of a film's theatrical debut. Lynton said the key to future success was making the kinds of movies that surprise people. While a “Spider-Man” reboot might not fit into that category, he cited the controversial but critically beloved “Zero Dark Thirty.” He also cited “Skyfall,” which differs from previous films in the Bond series.

As for other ways in which technology is altering the film business, Lynton touched on the stablizing DVD market, Netflix and the consumer’s increased willingness to watch movies at home or on tablets and mobile devices.

While Lynton insisted some movies will still appear in theaters first rather than being immediately available at home, he floated the idea  of releasing additional content between the theatrical release and the window for DVDs.

“I like that idea a lot,” Lynton said. “But there are a lot of people at all levels of the industry that are concerned about that.”