Apparition owner Bill Pohlad went to the distribution company’s Los Angeles offices to meet with staffers today, his first face-to-face meeting since Bob Berney’s stunning and abrupt resignation. Though he had already communicated to some of the staff through teleconference, I understand Pohlad’s purpose was to look them in the eye, tell them their jobs were safe, and assure them he has not wavered on his commitment to the distribution venture. Apparition is currently being steered by business affairs senior veep Valerie Bruce, who’s interim COO. Right now it has The Square in limited release, and its Welcome to the Rileys, which Berney acquired after its Sundance premiere, is slated to screen during the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Pohlad isn’t expected to rush into replacing Berney, and likely won’t make the hire until well after the May 20th Fair Game premiere at Cannes. I hear that Pohlad has already met with or scheduled meetings with prospective candidates to take Berney’s reins. Names on that list include Tom Ortenberg and Gerry Rich, but all the “usual suspects” will take meetings. Pohlad will have his pick: the cratering of studio-owned specialty film distribution companies in the past few years has left a wealth of capable executives looking for this plum position. After all, Pohlad has money and a production arm making prestige pics.
Neither Pohlad nor Berney are talking publicly yet about what happened. I’ve done two posts about it (More Insight Into Why Bob Berney Exited Apparition and Berney Exit Blindsides Apparition.) Since then I’ve heard that Berney was about to come to Cannes lacking the authority to be an aggressive buyer at the festival, and bristled at that prospect. I can knock down that Fair Game, which Pohlad’s River Road financed along with Participant Media but is being distributed by Summit, didn’t create the schism. From what I’m told, there was no big disagreement over that film. But I have heard there was significant disagreement between Pohlad and Berney over how to release The Runaways. Berney wanted to go wide on 1200 screens. Instead, the film was platformed and supported with a viral campaign.