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Berney's departure from Apparition: Unfair Games?

Cannes competition title Fair Game appears to be the chief reason behind Bob Berney’s abrupt departure from Apparition, the company he co-founded with Bill Pohlad and unveiled this time last year.

Doug Liman’s Valerie Plame drama starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn was never necessarily going to be an Apparition release and Pohlad’s production company River Road Entertainment said that it planned to secure a hefty MG and wide release commitment from any prospective buyers.

But when Summit Entertainment bought the film last month in a deal closed by CAA for River Road and co-financiers Participant Media/Imagenation Abu Dhabi, the terms of the deal were not as rich as expected. Summit wasn’t required to come up with a huge MG and will probably release Fair Game on a platform basis – Berney’s specialty.

Berney is thought to have been surprised by the Summit/Fair Game deal which was presented to him as a fait accompli.

River Road, which is run by Mitch Horwits for Pohlad, has a close relationship with Summit which handled international sales on Fair Game, and was known to be disappointed by Apparition’s release of its production The Runaways, the rock and roll biopic which has grossed just $3.5m after two months on release in the US. “It got good enough reviews but it didn’t cross over,” Berney told Screen last month. “It plays like an art film.”

Nor was it easy for Berney and his staff to operate on a reduced budget after Pohlad and CAA were unable to raise additional funding to finance the P&A funds of the new company. The company had been restructured with a lower risk profile in light of the disappointment of Apparition’s first release Bright Star and the failure to raise additional funding.

Berney is attending Cannes this week, while plans for the future of Apparition are as yet unclear.

“I have no comment at this time and wish Bill Pohlad much success,” said Berney when reached yesterday.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Given the poor box office of the Apparition releases-The Runaways, Bright Star, Young Victoria, I expect the company is dead.
    Would not be surprised if Universal unloads Focus features and Sony sells its Classics divion by the end of the year.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I disagree---Sony has noooo plans to unload its classic division.

    If Focus doesn't hit some films into award season, then yes -- U will possibly unload.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Anonynous=maybe you're right. Sony Classics usually has annual revenue of about $25 million which comes to about the Friday opening of a Sony blockbuster like Spiderman.
    not much profit there when you deduct p&a.
    U's new owners Comcast are sure to take a hard look at Focus art films which will probably flop.

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