November 13, 2020
Back in the heyday of packaged media, when DVDs were selling like crazy and people still made phone calls, many a weekday morning began promptly at 9 a.m. with a call from veteran Warner Bros. Home Entertainment publicity executive Melissa Hufjay.
To be sure, I received many phone calls from studio publicists as well as account executives with agencies such as what is now Bender Helper Impact, but the earliest pitches invariably came from Melissa. At the time, Warner was so big in DVD that there were three divisions: new releases, theatrical catalog and TV/franchise. Melissa handled PR for the latter category, and with TV DVD booming and the made-for market on fire, there was always something to write about. Melissa was one of those publicists who made our job easier: She saw things through our eyes, and her pitches were spot-on and almost always successful.
And who could resist a call from someone as personable, as likeable, as “Hufjay,” as we all called her.
Sadly, Melissa’s tenure at Warner Bros. has come to an end, after nearly 18 years, and once again I mourn the loss of another veteran home entertainment executive who excelled at her job — and whose passion for what she did spilled over and made us journalists in the trade press want to write about whatever she wanted us to.
At the time, I was not only editor of Home Media Magazine, but also a regular contributor to USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter. I wrote as many as half a dozen stories on home entertainment each week, and I welcomed those calls from Hufjay because I knew she would always have something to say that would result in a pretty damn good story.
Her departure underscores one of the sad realities in the home entertainment business as the shift away from transactional and toward streaming intensifies: Restructurings are engineered around numbers, not skill sets or talent, and quite often it’s the brightest and the best who go.
“They’re letting all the chiefs go because that’s where the cash is, but you end up losing some of your best leaders and a lot of institutional knowledge,” says one observer. “And that’s a scary prospect.”
It’s always sad when the good ones go. In Hufjay’s case, it’s personal.