BREAKING: One of my questions for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival has been answered: when the heck are Bob and Jeanne Berney getting back into the indie distribution mix? Well, they’re back. They’ve restarted Picturehouse, the shingle Berney ran before it was shut down by Warner Bros. After that, the Berneys started Apparition with Bill Pohlad, and left to start FilmDistrict with Peter Schlessel. After they left, they’ve been quietly been percolating the next move.
At a relaunched Picturehouse, the Berneys get underway distributing a new film: Metallica Through The Never. It stars the guys in the band (who were so memorable in the 2004 documentary Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster), and Dane DeHaan, the Chronicle star who plays a band crew member. Here’s the announcement, and it will be interesting to see if they will be active players in what is shaping up to be a promising acquisitions marketplace that will kick into gear this weekend in Park City:
Picturehouse, the full-service independent film marketing and distribution company started in 2005, is reopening its doors with founder Bob Berney at the helm. Berney will serve as CEO and Jeanne Berney will serve as President of the relaunched company, which will continue to be based in New York.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be back in business under the Picturehouse banner,” said Mr. Berney, who recently acquired the trademark and logo from Warner Bros. “We worked very hard to build it into a brand known for acquiring exciting, challenging and entertaining films from the U.S. and around the world, and helping them find their audiences.”
Picturehouse’s first new release will be Metallica Through The Never a feature film starring members of the iconic rock band and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). DeHaan plays a young band crew member who is sent out on an urgent mission while the band is playing a rousing live set in front of a sold-out crowd and unexpectedly finds his world turned completely upside down. The film, written and directed by Nimród Antal (Kontroll, Predators), is due in theaters August 9. One of the bestselling rock acts of all time, Metallica has sold over 105 million albums worldwide.
“Nim and the band have made a film that really captures the spirit of Metallica and their millions of loyal fans,” said Mr. Berney. “It’s an entertaining genre film with a concert inside it, a fun ride featuring an exciting young actor, Dane DeHaan. It’s a very cool project to reboot Picturehouse with.”
Added Metallica drummer and founding member Lars Ulrich: “Metallica’s way of doing things is to jump into unexplored creative endeavors with no safety net whatsoever. Putting this movie together for the last couple of years has been a pretty wild ride, and we’ve definitely done our share of flying without a net! Bringing Bob and Jeanne and the new Picturehouse team in at this point provides us with a much needed level of security for the distribution of the film. Their spirit of independence and desire to work outside the box is something we can relate to in every way, and this makes them both a welcome addition and a natural fit in the Metallica family.”
Picturehouse will acquire, market and theatrically distribute independent films from the U.S. and around the world. The company expects to release two or three films this year, increasing its output to four or five in 2014 and six or seven in subsequent years.
The company recently signed an exclusive, multi-year output deal with Netflix, the world’s leading Internet television network. Picturehouse films will come to Netflix exclusively in the United States shortly after theatrical release.
“Bob and Jeanne are legendary tastemakers and innovators who were early partners with Netflix in bringing amazing movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and La Vie en Rose to our service,” said Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “Netflix members love independent films and the Berneys have indisputably great taste.”
In addition, Picturehouse has secured a first look relationship with Warner Bros. Pictures International for films to which it has international distribution rights.
Mr. Berney headed the company when it was originally formed in April 2005 as a joint venture between HBO and New Line Cinema. Under his leadership, Picturehouse acquired and released such acclaimed features as Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (winner of three Academy Awards®); Olivier Dahan’s La Vie en Rose (winner of two Academy Awards, including best actress for Marion Cotillard); Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol; Patricia Rozema’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl; Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion; and Seth Gordon’s documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. When Time Warner folded the operations of New Line and Picturehouse into the Warner Bros. family, the brand continued to live on through the home entertainment and television releases of the films.
Mr. Berney, who has founded and operated some of the most successful independent film distribution and marketing companies of the last decade, has overseen the U.S. theatrical releases of blockbusters such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Passion of the Christ as well as critically hailed films including Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mamá También and Niki Caro’s Whale Rider.
Most recently, Mr. Berney co-founded and served as President, Theatrical Distribution of FilmDistrict, a multi-faceted acquisition, distribution, production and financing company, whose initial releases, Insidious, Soul Surfer, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and Drive, grossed over $150 million in domestic box office. Previously, as CEO of Apparition, Berney presided over the release of Bright Star, Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day, The Young Victoria and The Runaways.
Mr. Berney also served as President and Partner at Newmarket Films, releasing numerous features including Mel Gibson’s $370 million-grossing The Passion of the Christ; Monster, for which Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Academy Award; and Whale Rider, a breakthrough family film that also received a Best Actress nomination. Newmarket sold its distribution operation to Time Warner as part of the formation of Picturehouse. Before that, Berney ran IFC Films, where he acquired and oversaw the release of films including the $240-million surprise hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Y Tu Mamá También
Entertainment marketing veteran Jeanne Berney most recently served as Executive Vice President of Marketing at FilmDistrict. Before that, she was Executive Vice President of Marketing and Administration for Apparition.
Ms. Berney also served as Director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, where she was responsible for the campaigns for all of the Society’s year-round programs. Previously, Ms. Berney ran the Film and Digital Entertainment Group at Rogers & Cowan and held publicity and promotion positions at Rysher Entertainment, Savoy Pictures and Miramax Films.
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