Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sony Pictures Entertainment: Expanding into different channels

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Jeffrey Godsick on the company’s future plans for themed entertainment

In April, 2021 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) announced two major projects – the Columbia Pictures Aquaverse theme and waterpark in Thailand and the opening of a Hotel Transylvania attraction and themed area at Moscow’s Dream Island theme park. These two projects are part of a renewed long-term strategy to expand SPE’s brand into various themed entertainment channels. To learn more about the studio’s strategy, InPark News Editor Joe Kleiman spoke with Jeffrey Godsick, SPE’s Executive Vice President of Global Partnerships and Brand Management.

Godsick is a long-term Hollywood executive with experience at a number of major studios, coming to Sony Pictures Entertainment from 20th Century Fox, where he was President of Fox Consumer Products. With the additional title of Head of Location Based Entertainment, Godsick oversees all LBE and attraction initiatives for the studio.  

First of all, congratulations on the opening of the Hotel Transylvania area at Dream Island. I understand it was three years in the making.

It was a long time coming. I was there just before the pandemic stopped things. We say it was three years, because the deal was made three years ago, but it was actually more like two. Dream Island was closed as a park for close to a year and they couldn’t work on it during that period.

Currently, the majority of Sony IP-based attractions are in international markets. Is there a reason for this?

We’ve been licensing our IP for some time. Other studios are now doing the same. Disney had been into licensing before, but then they bought IP such as Marvel. Universal had been select in licensing because there used to be fewer opportunities. Now that more opportunities are opening up, we’re looking for the best and most unique. We look at location, operator, theme, and other factors. So far, that has worked best in international territories, but we are in discussions for several projects in the U.S.

We’re expanding into different channels of location based entertainment and have a number of different deals for traveling exhibitions, an indoor entertainment center, and an Immersive theater experience.

Most people choose to go to these Sony-branded attractions out of love for the IP itself. If Ghostbusters is the attraction, it’ll be due to Ghostbusters. Same for Jumanji or Men in Black. What Sony does is give these product instant recognition and confidence. People see the Columbia Pictures logo and know that it stands for big creative Hollywood content.

Do you attend any of the licensing expos to seek out potential partners?

We do go in person to the licensing expos, along with IAAPA, and other key shows, but you need to extract the last fourteen months out of the mix, when all the live conventions were cancelled. To be honest, we don’t wait around for any particular expo. We are talking with people around the world on a regular basis.

Studios these days are using large, interactive pop-up exhibits to promote their IP. Do these fall under your portfolio?

It’s very likely that a pop-up might be done by one of the marketing groups. I oversee global partnerships. Partnerships executes pop-ups for marketing purposes that last usually no more than a few weeks. For example, we had the Venom lab in New York, which was only a four-day experience.

I’m involved in exhibits that are much more long term. We currently have one signed, two others will be signed in the next few weeks. One is based on a TV property, one a movie, and the third is a studio experience. All will premiere in the United States and then make their way around the world.

Will these exhibits be geared towards museums or commercial venues?

Some make perfect sense in a museum environment. One, based on a Sony TV production that has to do with science, is perfect for museums. Others might be attached to a different kind of facility, like a mall. There is such an evolution in malls becoming entertainment cities.  We want to go where there’s traffic. These exhibitions are 25-30,000 square feet and would fit perfectly in an anchor space, like a former department store.

Are there any plans to expand the Sony Pictures Studio Tour?

We have a wonderful studio tour. Not to take away from the others in our market, ours is more intimate. It’s a function of both tour design and space. We don’t have a backlot. We’re not planning on building anything at the studios or any new studios, but we are looking at a number of other possibilities.

With Aquaverse being a first step, will we see more complete theme parks based on Sony IP?

Predominantly, our direction is for the whole park, but we will still be doing individual attractions at other venues. Our focus is on marketing our brand in the industry and to consumers.

Do you have a team that oversees attraction licensing and brand integrity for attractions?

We do have an LBE group, and I also oversee brand strategy. I work closely with creative resources throughout  the company, especially Sony Pictures Animation – I’m working on a number of things with them. In fact, Animation designed the Columbia Pictures Aquaverse logo. We’re something of an informal group, with experts from around the studio in trademarks, legal, and other important areas involved in different elements of our deals.

We have a really wonderful group of resources and synergy that no other content creator has. I’m in a unique position in that I can turn to our people in Tokyo and talk about things in a way where they will put a team on it to see if it can happen. I have access to the entire technology side – including AR, VR, robotics, and others. And I’m working directly with various business development teams in Tokyo who are incredibly talented. They realize we can be an incubator to test these technologies with audiences.

At Sony, we understand that as there are more digital relationships between us and our guests, both inside and outside the park, we will use new means to communicate. In addition to having the technology side of the company, complimenting the IP side, we are the only company with all types of entertainment – TV, movies, PlayStation, and Sony Music. This gives us a unique perspective in what we can create for consumers.

IMAGES: Sony Pictures Entertainment

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