Van Galder to revive Sony division

TriStar’s famous winged horse will fly again soon.

This time, the division will be piloted by Screen Gems exec VP Valerie Van Galder. She is expected to be named prexy of Sony’s until-recently dormant label as early as Monday.

Formerly the distribution banner for some of Sony’s biggest hits, including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Jerry Maguire,” the label had become all but defunct in recent years, reserved for limited and homevid releases like “Godzilla 2000.”

But after six years at Screen Gems handling all aspects of marketing, Van Galder has been tapped prexy of TriStar Pictures, with the mandate to revive the longstanding label as a genre marketing and acquisitions unit. In her new role, Van Galder will be involved in marketing Screen Gems productions and targeted Col productions, and she will also oversee acquisitions of pics to be released under the TriStar banner.

Van Galder is headed to Cannes this weekend to have a look around the Croisette for potential acquisitions. She confirmed that Roman Polanski’s “Oliver Twist” will definitely be a TriStar release in 2005. Pic heads into production in Prague this July.

Van Galder will report to Jeff Blake, vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Revival of the TriStar label brings yet another division under the Sony banner, alongside arthouse label Sony Pictures Classics and specialized production division Screen Gems. Move is expected to provide further refinement of Sony’s distribution strategy among the labels.

“This gives Columbia another marketing alternative on some of their more targeted films — especially those targeted (audience) films where mainstream marketing would have been too expensive,” said Van Galder, reached in Gotham on her way to Cannes.

Screen Gems has established its identity as a lower-budget genre label that recently found hits with vampire/werewolf-themed “Underworld,” urban film “You Got Served” and vidgame-derived pic “Resident Evil”; Sony Pictures Classics has made its name as a high-class specialty distributor of foreign and arthouse pics such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“To utilize this respected label as a way to bring more films to the market in an efficient manner is smart business,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive officer of SPE.

Van Galder is bringing fellow Screen Gem marketers to TriStar, including Marc Weinstock, senior VP of marketing; Danielle Rosenfeld, VP of publicity; Aurora Belchic, director of field publicity and promotion; and Amy Mastriona, marketing manager. However, Van Galder cautioned that she will still be closely involved with many Screen Gems releases, calling the promotion an expansion of her duties at the specialized division.

At Screen Gems, Van Galder was responsible for campaigns on pics including Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch.” She worked with Columbia marketing teams on the creative campaigns for Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” and Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.”

Col chair Amy Pascal said the decision to promote Van Galder was based on her “ability to connect with both filmmakers and moviegoers.”

Before joining Screen Gems in 1999, Van Galder spent four years at Fox Searchlight, first as VP of publicity and then as senior VP of marketing, working on pics including “The Brothers McMullen,” “The Ice Storm,” “The Full Monty” and “Waking Ned Devine.”

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