Amazon MGM Studios’ Sue Kroll on Selling ‘Saltburn’ as a ‘Guilty Pleasure,’ Going With Gut Instinct and Listening to Fans

Sue Kroll, head of global marketing for Amazon MGM Studios, has worked on the launch of every kind of movie under the sun, from blockbusters such as “Harry Potter” and “The Matrix” franchises to streaming originals such as the recent reboot of “Road House” and the buzzy new rom-com “The Idea of You.”

The discipline of marketing has changed dramatically in recent years, with more digital tools and metrics at her disposal. But one crucial element that hasn’t changed, as Kroll discussed during her keynote conversation at Variety‘s Entertainment Marketing Summit presented by Deloitte, is the need to go with your gut instinct at times on what’s right for a given property.

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“You can feel when something feels right,” Kroll said during her April 24 session at the daylong conference held at the Beverly Hilton. At the same time, there’s a feedback loop happening 24/7 around movies and TV shows that can’t be ignored. “The good thing about the environment today in marketing on digital and social — your audience talks back very fast. You can be so nimble. You cannot be so attached to your marketing ideas that you don’t try something new….We listen and we learn.”

Kroll and Amazon MGM Studios is coming off a hot streak of strong launches for the Prime Video series “Fallout” and movie titles that also include Peter Farrelly’s “Ricky Stanicky.” Kroll pointed to last year’s sleeper hit “Saltburn,” a sexy meditation on class and privilege from writer-director Emerald Fennell, as a title that on the surface was challenging to sell to moviegoers. But the movie’s quirky POV and word of mouth did a lot of the heavy lifting.

“There’s not a playbook for a movie like this,” Kroll said in her Q&A with Cynthia Littleton, Variety’s co-editor in chief. “You want to lean into the provocative nature and the subversivness of it, but also try to get people to lean in and feel that it’s OK. It’s a guilty pleasure in the most extreme sense.” Kroll added that the movie proved to be a multigenerational hit when it landed on Prime Video late last year. “Grandparents have seeen it,” she noted.

Kroll also reflected on the range of experience she’s had, having spent more than 20 years as a top marketing maven at Warner Bros. “My background, having come from Warner Bros., it’s always been my practice to create a very bespoke campaign for anything that we do,” Kroll said. “There are so many considerations, so many offerings, so many opportunities for people to be entertained right now. And you really have to break through the culture with whatever you have.”

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