THB #246 : The Return of Sue Kroll Is AMAZON-ING!
The last time we saw our hero, Sue Kroll, she was leaving Burbank in 2018, after 24 years in service to Warner Bros. Everyone in charge at that time, including her successor, has also been shown the gate by now.
Get ready for some really long marketing meetings, Amazon-ers.
Kroll knows how to do this job. She comes from Planet O.G., which seems a surprising choice for Amazon, though in most cases, the hipster marketing group had failed and failed badly in Hollywood.
Looking over Sue’s time at Warners (not counting 2008 films and cutting off “her” movies at May 11, 2018), it’s an 183 movie run with 55 of those titles getting to $100 million and better at the domestic box office. She “only” had seven $100m+ openings, 4 DC, 2 Potters, and the Stephen King adaptation, It.
There are a few outstanding things from the decade+ run. First, consistency. Kroll took marketing over in 2008, but that first period shouldn’t be counted for or against the incoming chief. But in 2009, she had her best year, with $2.2 billion domestic from 25 titles, led by Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince, The Hangover, The Blind Side, and Sherlock Holmes. Only Potter was a sure bet going in and Hangover and Blind Side were both performed way better than expected. (Todd Phillips gave me no end of crap for projecting Hangover much lower than it landed and I was one of the few who thought Blind Side was a smash they should have seen coming.)
Kroll never had another $2 billion year. But her low was $1.52 billion (24 films) in 2015 when she has no Potter, DC movie or Hobbit and managed American Sniper to $350 million domestic. Her non-2009 high was $1.95 billion in 2017, hitting on Wonder Woman, It, and Justice League.
Another interesting angle is the number of movies Kroll’s marketing department was managing. In 2009, Warners released 25 films. Then in 2010, 20 films… 2011/19… 2012/17… 2013/16… a jump up in 2014 to 21, then 24 in 2015, then back down to 17 in 2016 and 16 in 2017.
This year, Warner Bros released 6 movies. Six. One more than 5.
There are 12 WB films on the schedule for 2023.
But enough looking back… let’s look forward. Amazon has Sue Kroll… what the hell are they going to do with her? What are the hell are they going to become?
Kroll was at Warners through the Hobbits. She consulted Amazon through their release of their Rings. Makes sense enough. But she isn’t a TV person. She is a movie person.
Is Amazon, which pushed away from theatrical this last 18 months or so, heading back in that direction?
They have two comedies in the hopper for 2023 that might be theatricals… Red One with Dwayne Johnson and Chris Evans and Red White & Royal Blue, which seems to be more concept than star-driven. They have a Affleck/Damon movie on the spawning of Nike.
But they also “have” MGM/UA/Orion. How much power is Amazon going to assert on those now-divisions? And how much of a budget with those segments of the company have for theatrical moving forward?
MGM has 8 films scheduled for theatrical in 2023 with a couple more from UA and Orion and a few more in post that could well be moved onto the schedule. Will all this be transitioning to Kroll’s marketing control in the weeks and months to come?
But again, more than the detail work… what does Amazon want to be when it grows up as a movie business? They are making very strong plays in television/streaming. Having invested in the live programming of the NFL, they are more aggressively experimenting with live programming than any other streamer, aside from those playing with crossover from their broadcast networks.
Does the Sue Kroll hire mean they are powering up… or treading water with a really well established professional who becomes the most experienced film voice in/left in the company?
As has been the odd reality of Amazon, we just don’t know. Can’t be 100% sure that they know.
The rich are different