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Sony drapes Gems upon Van Galder

Ex-Fox exec to head marketing team at Screen Gems arm

After a lengthy executive search, Sony Pictures has tapped Fox Searchlight senior VP Valerie Van Galder to head up marketing for its Screen Gems releasing arm.

In the newly created post of Screen Gems exec VP of marketing, Van Galder will oversee marketing for all of the nascent midrange label’s feature releases. She will report to Bob Levin, Sony Pictures Entertainment prexy of worldwide marketing.

In the midst of wrapping up her duties at Searchlight, Van Galder is expected to begin work at Screen Gems sometime next month.

Over the past few months, Levin has discussed the post with a number of high-profile candidates. The position is seen as pivotal for the marketing-driven releasing arm, whose small to midsized pics are expected to fall between Columbia Pictures’ mainstream releases and Sony Pictures Classics lower-budgeted specialized fare.

Van Galder is the first key Screen Gems exec to be hired from outside Sony Pictures.

She joins the Screen Gems team of Peter Schlessel and Clint Culpepper, both SPE senior veeps, who are charged with identifying, acquiring and financing pictures; Jeff Blake, prexy of worldwide distribution; and Levin.

Screen Gems’ first release, the John Sayles-helmed “Limbo,” makes its limited debut on June 4. The division’s second pic, the Jeff Bridges/Tim Robbins starrer “Arlington Road,” bows July 9.

The fledgling label has announced plans to release up to six pics annually.

At Searchlight, Van Galder has served as senior vice president of marketing and publicity since February of last year. During that period, she oversaw all phases of marketing for the company’s film releases, including “Waking Ned Devine,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Slums of Beverly Hills.”

She previously served two years as VP of publicity at the Fox specialized division, managing national and regional publicity and promotional campaigns.

Before joining Searchlight, Van Galder worked as a unit publicist on 20th Century Fox’s “The Truth About Cats and Dogs” and New Line Cinema’s “The Mask.”

Previously, she served as exec editor of Mouth2Mouth, a Time Warner startup publication, and as VP of marketing/publicity for Hard Rock America, where she worked for four years.

She also spent five years in the motion picture department of entertainment PR firm Rogers & Cowan.