The New Yorker

The Cobra Inside a movie marketer’s playbook.

Tim Palen wants his core audience to feel that a film is theirs, one marketer says: “He gives them content that feels bloggy and street.”   Illustration by John Ritter

Tim Palen wants his core audience to feel that a film is theirs, one marketer says: “He gives them content that feels bloggy and street.”

Illustration by John Ritter

One night in mid-October, as the movie executive Tim Palen looked on with panoramic vigilance, a roar from jostling photographers seemed to freeze Josh Brolin’s grin in place. Brolin plays George W. Bush in Oliver Stone’s “W.,” a Lionsgate film that was having its première, and he was making such halting progress down the red carpet outside Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theatre that he seemed to be still in character. Palen, who is Lionsgate’s co-president of theatrical marketing—the studio’s resident promotional genius—had been working for months to make people care about “W.,” a film that didn’t have an obvious audience; indeed, the film’s subject, in the intense focus on the Presidential election and the economic crash, had all but disappeared. This evening would be a kind of sardonic resurrection: a few yards away on the red carpet, James Cromwell (who plays George H. W. Bush) was slyly telling an interviewer, “I play Dennis Kucinich,” and Richard Dreyfuss (Dick Cheney) was posing in a green velvet jacket that made clear he was no Republican.

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Tim Palen