Connecting with cinemas: Studio in-theatre marketing execs benefit from Canada’s love of movies


As part of our ShowCanada salute, Film Journal International introduces our readers to the women who guide Canada’s in-theatre marketing campaigns at Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures.

Yassamine Wahab
Assistant Manager, In-Theatre Marketing
Paramount Pictures

Yassamine Wahab oversees Paramount's in-cinema strategy for the Canadian marketplace and is responsible for securing placement of a broad range of in-theatre materials and driving movie promotions for the theatrical properties released under Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films and Nickelodeon Films. Areas encompass the programming of trailers, customized film promotions, onscreen custom movie content, circuit-specific movie contests, digital movie assets for exhibitor social media and online film initiatives, movie fan giveaway programs and concession tie-ins that include movie-themed, co-branded and onscreen promotions in Canada.

Prior to joining the in-theatre marketing team in 2010, Wahab was a financial analysis executive for two years in Paramount's Non-Theatrical Division, Motion Picture Group, overseeing a broad range of projects that exposed her to the global reach of the studio's theatrical properties. Wahab grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Economics.

Tell us about some of your most successful theatre marketing projects.
One of our most successful theatre marketing initiatives was for G.I. Joe: Retaliation. We worked with Cineplex to incorporate G.I. Joe: Retaliation at every promotional touch-point possible, such as their preshow, e-giftcards,, mobile and social-media channels to promote this film. All of these marketing efforts helped attribute to G.I. Joe: Retaliation's over-the-top success in Canada.

Is there a particular movie campaign that brings a smile to your face?
Our upcoming movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings a smile to my face because I grew up being a huge fan. The early marketing material for this movie blew me away and I am excited to be working hand-in-hand with my exhibitor counterparts to deliver fun, creative promotions.

In your opinion, what makes the Canadian moviegoing audience special?
In my opinion, Canadian moviegoing audiences are special because they have a big appetite for movie entertainment. For a studio like ours, where the summer slate includes Transformers: Age of Extinction, Hercules and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this is fantastic news. Not only are all of these films in 3D, they provide the immersive experience that the Canadian audiences love. Canadian moviegoers are also open-minded consumers, very entertainment-savvy and drawn to new marketing initiatives.

Sharon Irwin
Administrative/Distribution Manager & In-Theatre Marketing
Universal Films Canada

My interest in the film industry was influenced by my father, who worked in distribution for Disney films for 25 years. After graduating in Film and TV Production, I worked as an audiovisual assistant for an independent company. My first full-time job in the industry was with 20th Century Fox, working in the advertising department and then in sales. After 13 years with Fox, I was hired by Universal to manage bookings for PolyGram (at that time), as well as print distribution and exhibitor relations for Universal.

Tell us about some of your most successful theatre marketing projects.
It was working on a national contest for Red Dragon with theatre managers and the contest for the premiere screening. It was one of our bigger promotions that encompassed all elements of in-theatre marketing and materials—trailers, standees, 30-foot sheets, one-sheets, etc. We had some great promotions coming from the theatre level, as well as a dedicated contest for moviegoers with former exhibitor Famous Players’ “Letterbox” subscribers to attend the premiere screening. Now marketing projects have grown and expanded to include social media contact with Facebook contests, Twitter, etc.

Is there a particular movie campaign that brings a smile to your face?

There isn’t one particular movie campaign that stands out, as each film has its own unique distinctiveness. There have been times when I’ve only been able to give an exhibitor a small quantity of promo items and then I’m amazed to hear back from the theatre how creatively they built up a great promotion of our film with just a t-shirt and hat.

In your opinion, what makes the Canadian moviegoing audience special?
Given our wide range of nationalities throughout Canada, it’s great to see small foreign films and even Canadian-made titles emerging [among] the Hollywood films. I’m sure in any country there are people who will watch all genres of films, and it’s great to have the Toronto International Film Festival as a venue for our moviegoing audiences too.

Are there any challenges specific to the Canadian market?

Provincial trailer ratings can be a challenge in that it’s tough when you have a trailer rated higher than your feature’s rating or a competitor’s film to cross-plug. You have to try and find an alternative trailer compatible for that particular province that would work for the target audience.

Dana Gudelis
Senior Manager, Marketing
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada

No stranger to the business of entertainment, Dana Gudelis started her career in the music industry with EMI Records. After 14 years with the label, she transitioned to consumer packaged goods, working her way through hair care, skin care, food and pharmaceutical categories, with roles in key account sales, trade marketing and brand management.

Twelve progressive years led a call back to entertainment, this time to lead Canadian marketing efforts for MGM Home Entertainment. While the tenure there was short, Kirk Kerkorian sold the company yet again and offices were closed, a maternity-leave contract brought her to Disney, where she has made her home for the past eight years, recently moving from home entertainment to motion pictures.

Toronto-born and bred, Dana did live out west while attending the University of British Columbia. Her eldest son was born there and he and his family now make Victoria their home.

Tell us about some of your most successful theatre marketing projects.

It would have to be Frozen. In addition to a fabulous life-size motion "Dancing Olaf" standee and a photo-op standee, we ran a fully integrated in-theatre campaign. This included preshow, lobby show and concessions clips, all of which included customized tool-kit characters.

Is there a particular movie campaign that brings a smile to your face?

Million Dollar Arm. It’s such an endearing movie about cultural acceptance hidden in what appears on the surface to be a baseball movie. It’s especially poignant here in Canada, given our diverse ethnic profile.

In your opinion, what makes the Canadian moviegoing audience special?
First of all, fandom is huge here. When I look at our Marvel films, the fans are amazing. Truly dedicated and loyal. There is also a good interest in smaller films, particularly foreign films.
Are there any challenges specific to the Canadian market?

I think the biggest challenge can be the marketing materials. With the differences between the French and English markets, you can never assume that creative will automatically work. Fortunately, we are able to look at materials from around the world, providing us with the option of doing something unique for each market.

Tami Toyman
Exhibitor Services
Warner Bros. Pictures

After spending more than a third of my life in the movie business, I still pinch myself at how I got here. I started working at the Famous Players SilverCity North York while I was in high school and then at the home office when I was in university. After graduating, I stayed on with Famous Players/Cineplex in their operations department, where I made it a mission to learn anything about everything in exhibition. An opportunity then arose to work on the film team under Michael Kennedy, which I jumped at. A year later, I moved on to Warner Bros., as they were filling a position for a Canadian exhibitor services representative. Three years on and I’m still loving the business, even at those times when the pressure is on and everything needs your attention.
Is there a particular movie campaign that brings a smile to your face?

When I look back on the campaigns that I’ve worked on, The LEGO Movie is the one that puts the biggest smile on my face. The trailers that were cut were funny and appealed to both adults who remembered playing with their LEGOs and children who were just starting off with their collections. We had also developed standees that were interactive, colorful and fun. Going to theatres and seeing the lineups to take pictures with our photo-op standee is something I won’t forget. Even the most successful campaign requires the buy-in from our exhibition partners. I remember the excitement from theatres who were looking forward to this movie and all the amazing in-theatre contests/promotions they were running and it got me even more excited for this movie. Entire towns got involved to make this movie a success in their theatres, and it’s enthusiasm like this that helped make the movie the event that it was. Everything was awesome!

In your opinion, what makes the Canadian moviegoing audience special?

The two things that stand out are how knowledgeable about movies the audience is and their support for homegrown Canadian films. The knowledge comes from the various publicly accessible film festivals across the country, the largest and most famous being the Toronto International Film Festival. The more audiences have access to such a wide array of films, in different genres, from across the globe, they become savvy and discerning of what they watch.

When a country supports its arts scene, talent flourishes. It pushes filmmakers to the forefront of their craft to create unforgettable movies such as Incendies, Away from Her and A History of Violence. Here at Warner Bros., we had the pleasure to work with Denis Villeneuve on Prisoners, his first English-language and major studio film.

Are there any challenges specific to the Canadian market?
Last-minute changes to artwork, release dates and trailer cuts are always a challenge to any campaign, especially when materials are already out in the public. Being a country with two official languages and a large market that speaks French, we have to ensure our materials are produced in both French and English, and changes delay availability. English pieces almost always arrive with seconds to spare, but it’s always a push to get French materials ready in time for specific placements. Translations, dubbing and approval processes all take a bit of time and it takes a team effort to get it all onscreen and in theatres.