Sony Pictures has just announced that Clint Culpepper is out at Screen Gems, and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions chief Steve Bersch will now head both divisions and become head of the genre arm. Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Rothman announced it internally (see the email below).
The exit comes after underwhelming results on the Taraji P. Henson-action film Proud Mary, but it had been in the works for a while as Culpepper’s contract was expiring. It signals a change in the genre film company, which at times was one of the most consistently profitable arms of Sony Pictures, especially under Amy Pascal. The most recent hit was Don’t Breathe, the Fede Alvarez-directed genre smash, but that film was brought in by Bersch, and our sister publication Variety was first up with the succession plan.
Bersch’s division (which also encompasses Stage 6 Films and AFFIRM Films) had a decade of profitability, including pictures like Arrival and the Insidious franchise. There was overlap with Screen Gems and now Bersch will steer both. The genre game at the major studio is now defined by Blumhouse at Universal, and sources said there was a night-and-day difference in the free hand Jason Blum gives filmmakers, compared to Screen Gems. As long as Blum’s filmmakers keep their budgets under $5 million (sometimes the number is higher), they pretty much have final cut. Culpepper was a far more hands-on manager of the Screen Gems slate. With Blumhouse’s Jordan Peele-directed Get Out establishing itself as a bona fide Oscar threat as well as a blockbuster, it seems reasonable to expect that the division under Bersch will be a closer cousin to Blumhouse than was the old Screen Gems. In the case of Don’t Breathe, Alvarez not only had free reign because his deal was with SPWA, he was essentially a profit participant in the film and the inevitable sequel.
Culpepper will move off to produce films at Sony, per his exit deal.
Here is Rothman’s internal email.
I want to let you all know of an important change taking place in the motion picture group. After 28 years with SPE, Clint Culpepper has decided to step down as President of Screen Gems to embark on a production deal with the studio.
Clint has had an extraordinary career at SPE. Under his leadership, Screen Gems is one of the most prolific and diverse genre labels in the industry. Clint and his excellent team drove box office hits including the Resident Evil and the Underworld franchises, and groundbreaking successes like Easy A, Friends with Benefits, The Vow, Dear John, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, When A Stranger Calls, Think Like a Man and many others.
Clint’s dedication and passion for film – not to mention his larger-than-life presence and sense of humor! – are unmatched in the industry. He has an indelible legacy, and I want to thank him for his years of extraordinary commitment to SPE. Luckily for us, he will still be a large part of our family, continuing to produce hit movies for Sony.
Screen Gems is a vital part of the company and will continue to be so.
Please join me in wishing Clint all the best in his new role.