Peggy Siegal vs. Andrew Saffir: Who Throws the Best New York Parties?
This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On the night of April 2, a competition played out between two of New York’s top buzzmakers: Peggy Siegal of The Peggy Siegal Co. and Andrew Saffir, founder of marketing company The Cinema Society -- a rival pair of movie premiere strategists who provide a vital link between NYC’s chattering classes and studio execs who need their Manhattan rollouts teeming with boldface names.
At the post premiere party for Fox Searchlight’s Trance, director Danny Boyle huddled under a heat lamp on the deck of a Tribeca penthouse while his ex, Rosario Dawson, and Girls star Zosia Mamet ate pizza downstairs. Uptown at the Time Warner Center, at the launch of HBO’s docuseries Vice, the cable network’s CEO, Richard Plepler, navigated a phalanx of media elite including 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft.
For nearly a decade, Saffir (who put on the Trance premiere) and Siegal (who did Vice) have squared off for their share of dollars spent to promote films in New York. Both consultants wrangle guest lists of coveted tastemakers for highly targeted early-buzz screenings and premieres (and both have been hired for THR events). Each brings a different crowd: The brash, spiky-haired Siegal, a 30-year vet, is known for her media connections -- picture the lunchtime crowd at Michael’s -- and relationships with Academy voters. By contrast, the preppy, genial Saffir, a former Ralph Lauren vp who started his business nine years ago, can be counted on to draw a more flashy and hip young mix of celebrities, artists and fashion types sprinkled with heavy hitters. “If you have an Andrew event, you are in every gossip page, web coverage, Entertainment Tonight,” says Sony Pictures Classics co-head Tom Bernard. “He delivers the people the media wants to photograph that week.”
The pair’s allure to movie studios is their ability to reach a cross-section of influencers quite different from the swarm of agents and producers at L.A. premieres. Because New York isn’t a one-industry town, according to Bernard, “it’s hard to fill a room with the right mix of people. That’s what Peggy and Andrew do so well.” Landing a media bigwig who rarely attends screenings also can reel in press way beyond party coverage, as when Brian Williams’ attendance at a Siegal event led to an NBC Nightly News segment on Good Night, and Good Luck.
Both frequently throw special screenings for which they bring in sponsors, significantly reducing studio costs. One film marketer says Saffir is especially good at this, with his fee sometimes paid by brands: “Filmmakers always want a premiere, and often the studios don’t want to spend the money. With Andrew, it’s a turn-key event. It doesn’t cost you any money.” Sponsorships rarely give more than $100,000 and special screenings are rarely lavish, often $25,000 afterparty affairs with a light nosh and open bar. The consultants’ fees usually run from about $15,000 to $25,000 an event.
Academy events largely ban sponsors, giving an awards-season edge to Siegal. And with about 700 of the 5,800 Academy members living in the city, New York has become an increasingly important stage for campaigns. During the most recent Oscar run-up, Siegal put together events for Argo and Les Miserables, including an intimate bash at financier Jay Sugarman’s Central Park West penthouse at which Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway belted out show tunes and Christmas carols. “If you hire Peggy for a movie, she will make sure the Academy sees it,” says Bernard.
HBO also eschews sponsors and typically opts for Siegal. “All these tastemaker screenings that are now de rigueur across our industry began in Peggy’s imagination 20 years ago,” says Plepler. “She was first and she’s still the best.” It’s an ill-kept secret that, after years of fighting for the same events, there’s little love lost between Saffir and Siegal; they purportedly never speak. Still, no marketer of any weight has come along to challenge them, and with studios having scaled back on East Coast publicity departments in recent years, the industry’s reliance on them is likely to continue. Says Bernard, “You go to a premiere at the Ziegfeld and you see a thousand people there, and you wonder, ‘How the hell did those people get here?’ ”
Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com, Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27