It’s exactly 1592.3 miles from McAllen, Texas to the heart of Los Angeles. But for Carlos Salcines, it might as well have been a different planet. Working in entertainment seemed about as likely as becoming a superhero, but the future vice president (VP) of multicultural marketing at Warner Brothers Pictures would still manage to make it big in Hollywood.
Salcines’s success over nearly twenty years in Tinseltown doesn’t seem to have diminished the early fandom that pushed him into the space in the first place. The VP’s excitement for Blue Beetle, a DC Comics superhero film slated to make its indigo introduction in August of 2023 (a few months after this interview), is relayed with the same passion from his early high school memories of watching The Matrix for the first time or the countless hours watching Friends reruns.
“I would get really attached to movies and shows,” Salcines laughs. “I think you could call it an obsession, at times.”
As he’s risen through roles, first at 20th Television, Telepictures, then MundoFox, and now Warner Bros. Pictures, Salcines has continued to find new ways to create breakthrough marketing campaigns that speak to diverse audiences. The VP can serve as a cultural consultant who champions inclusivity and representation, all-the-while advocating for the movies and television shows that he knows can impact lives for the better.
“A multicultural audience approach is baked into everything we do as a marketing department,” the VP explains. “It’s very front-and-center with how we approach marketing because diverse audiences are incredibly important to moviegoing and, ultimately, our bottom line. These are audiences that cannot be, and should not be, ignored.”
Especially when it comes to one of Salcines’ favorite genres: Horror. “I love scary movies and Hispanic audiences over index significantly on the genre,” he says. “I’ve gotten to work on The Conjuring films, The Nun, The Curse of La Llorona which have all had huge success and give us the chance to super serve Latino audiences with bespoke creative and cultural activations that resonate.”
He continues, “most recently for Evil Dead Rise, a franchise that has traditionally underperformed with Latino moviegoers, we created a campaign revolving around the possessed mother who goes after her children. It’s a great theme but for Latino audiences we took it one step further and took something that Moms use to comfort their children and made it into something sinister. The rhyme ‘sana sana, colita de rana’ became “sana, sangra, colita de rana, si no mueres hoy, morirás mañana.’”
The campaign was a hit with audiences and Latinos represented 35 percent of the opening weekend box office for the film, which was a huge win.
Salcines has seen the kind of impact one movie can make firsthand. In 2018, Warner Bros. released a romantic comedy shot on a relatively modest $30 million budget. You might have heard of it. Crazy Rich Asians grossed $238.5 million and brought worldwide attention to the reality that a movie shot and starring a majority Asian and Asian American cast could be a Hollywood hit.
“That movie has literally changed the culture,” Salcines says. “The weekend that movie hit, a bunch of movies starring, written, and directed by the AAPI community were greenlit,” the VP says. “That’s how Hollywood works. It was such a fun and inspiring project to be part of.”
Salcines has even gotten the opportunity to revisit his McAllen roots through his team’s marketing efforts. In collaboration with the Shazam! Fury of the Gods release, the Warner Bros. team contacted mariachi bands all over the country to record a version of “El Relampago” or “The Lightning” (Shazam’s patented lightning bolts are one of his devastating offensive attacks).
Mariachi bands from USC, UCLA, the University of El Paso, and even a high school group from McAllen, Texas posted their own take on the song.
“I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to see families, school newspapers, local media, and even school administrators posting these videos,” Salcines says. “You get to see the impact of giving kids a chance and how that can morph into a real moment of pride for a community and culture.”
And that impact is felt in the community and in the industry partnerships the executive fosters. “Carlos Salcines consistently exemplifies an exceptional leadership style that allows culturally relevant ideas and points of view to connect seamlessly with multicultural audiences, says Marcos Barron, president and partner at The MRKT. “It has been a pleasure to work alongside him as he has flourished throughout his career, including his current role at Warner Bros.”
The VP says reaching outside of Hollywood is also incredibly important for helping bring more diverse voices to the industry. They don’t have to be future actors or writers or directors. Whatever the job, there is probably an entertainment industry equivalent that would greatly benefit from diverse representation. Salcines says this is why he’s so proud to work with the Youth Cinema Project, a group under the umbrella of the Latino Film Institute.
“It’s about showing kids that there is a real chance and opportunity to make a life in this world,” Salcines says.
The production and success of HBO’s TV remake of Father of the Bride starring Andy Garcia and Gloria Estefan is a prime example of the kind of product that can come from a united mission. Salcines says while working on the marketing for the project, he understood that everyone from the actors to the crew understood what the success of the show could mean for the future of Latinos in entertainment. Every success story breeds more Latino-forward projects in a Hollywood pipeline that has historically been risk-adverse to taking chances on “unproven” markets or ideas.
But with the release of Blue Beetle later on this summer, Salcines also hopes that the wider public might be ready to accept a superhero-on-superhero terms alone. The VP says that while the largely Latino filmmakers and cast is a great moment for the culture, he believes it should stand up on its own simply as a DC movie.
“Blue Beetle is a big superhero movie and Latinidad is in its DNA,” the executive says. “But for us, it’s about normalizing representation. Of course, there should be Latino superheroes. That should be where we are right now as a culture. I’m so excited to see what this movie can do, and I think it will speak for itself as a great superhero movie for all audiences.”