Valerie Van Galder Had String of Successful Openings for TriStar

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Sony Corp. has wasted little time in naming a replacement for Geoffrey Ammer, the film marketing head who resigned last week amid a box office slump at the studio.
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The studio named Valerie Van Galder, president of Sony’s boutique label TriStar Pictures, as expected, to take over as president-domestic marketing for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group.

2006 film slate
Ms. Van Galder will start working on a list of high-profile films for ‘06, including “The Da Vinci Code” with Tom Hanks, “RV” with Robin Williams, “Click” starring Adam Sandler, and “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith. Other upcoming projects she’ll shepherd include the studio’s first computer-generated animated feature, “Open Season,” the first Daniel-Craig-as-James-Bond film, “Casino Royale,” and the next installment of one of Sony's most powerful franchises, “Spider-Man 3.”

Ms. Van Galder will also continue working on several TriStar films already in the pipeline.

Mr. Ammer, who had been at the studio for four years, left recently after a string of disappointing openings including “Rent,” “Zathura” and “The Legend of Zorro,” and outright bombs like “Stealth,” “Bewitched” and “XXX: State of the Union.”

Ammer's unconventional approach
Mr. Ammer had tried a number of unconventional marketing approaches lately, buying every commercial break on an episode of the popular FX show “Nip/Tuck” to promote Sony’s fourth-quarter films and appearing on NBC’s “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump to hype “Zathura.” Even so, the slate has failed to perform up to expectations.

Jeff Blake, chairman of marketing and distribution for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, called Ms. Van Galder “one of the savviest and most creative marketers in the business,” noting that ”she is a great talent who consistently delivers extraordinary and innovative campaigns on a wide variety of films.”

At TriStar Pictures, Ms. Van Galder launched several movies at No. 1, such as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” which reached out to churches and religious leaders as part of the campaign, “Underworld,” “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” “Boogeyman” and “You Got Served.” She and her team worked on marketing campaigns for award-contenders like “Closer,” “Adaptation” and “Big Fish.”

In a statement released by Sony, Mike Nichols, director of “Closer,” said Ms. Van Galder’s heart is in her job. She ”is a true lover of movies and can sell them with imagination, humor and passion,” he said. “It's exciting to watch what she does.”

Art-house veteran
Ms. Van Galder is a veteran of art-house movies and specialty labels at the major Hollywood studios. Before heading up TriStar Pictures, which she helped revitalize, Ms. Van Galder was exec VP-marketing at Screen Gems, working on films such as “Snatch,” “The Mothman Prophecies” and “The Brothers.” At New Corp.’s Fox Searchlight before that, she marketed “The Full Monty,” “The Ice Storm” and “The Brothers McMullen.”

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