Sony Pictures Classics Co-Presidents Tom Bernard and Michael Barker are back at the Cannes Film Festival this year, making a deal on Nadine Labaki’s Competition title Capernaum early in the proceedings. As with many films the duo acquires here and at other fests, it could be put forward during awards season.
SPC has won 15 Foreign Language Oscars, including this year for Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, and also had nominee Loveless this year which they acquired during Cannes 2017. On that film and 2018’s first pick-up, they moved fast. Bernard explains his and Barker’s experience goes a long way towards swiftly identifying potential and being able to move quickly.
In the video above, he says, “Michael and I have been doing this together since 1979… If you looked inside our head as we’re watching a film here, I think it’s very different now, especially now, than a lot of the other people that watch them because I don’t think anyone else has the kind of experience that Michael and I have in terms of marketing and distribution which we still are heavily involved in… and we have to keep up with what’s going on in the culture and the moment. So when we see something, we are clear in our minds how we think it will succeed, what we think it’s worth, how we think it will be received critically, who the audiences are in the States, what time of year to open the movie and what the ad campaign looks like. It all happens just as second nature.”
He adds, “If we see that movie, why would we wait? Somebody else has to go and tell the boss who has to tell the guy with the money who’s then going to have a screening for all the people, and the decider committee happens and maybe they’ve met with the filmmaker, but they’ve got to get the marketing guy in to talk to them… We explain what we’re going to do clearly, immediately, and we make an offer and they can decide if they want us… We don’t need to have a movie; we never lost money on a movie we didn’t buy.”
Bernard also expresses his views on the sanctity of theatrical cinema. “There’s a rule here in France where you’re not in this festival unless you put your movie in the theaters and that’s an important part of cinema. Destroying cinema to me is taking it out of the theaters, taking it out of that theatrical experience that is unique. It means a lot and I think it makes a movie something that lasts for the ages.”
He adds, “I have a message for Cinemark, Regal and AMC. You need to catch up with the times. You need to start reaching out to your customers online just like they do in the concert business. You need to let people know in each theater in the demographic area around that theater that the movie is going to be there because it’s so crazy out there that a lot of people who want to see films find out it’s already gone in your theater… They need to step that up and I think everything will be fine.”