Sunday, May 19, 2024

Bob Berney Throws a Cherry Bomb at Apparition


Big news all over the place in the middle of the night: Apparition Films’ Bob Berney has left the building. He and his staff were on their way to Cannes when Berney issued his sudden resignation to Apparition’s financial backer, William Pohlad.

Apparition looked good at the beginning, when Berney bought Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” at Cannes last year. Next came “The Young Victoria,” which actually picked up an Oscar last March. This was some kind of record, I think, for a new studio.

But I do think Berney–an upstanding guy who is most respected–was wary of going to Cannes again if he wasn’t completely secure about Apparition’s future. Their big movie, “The Runaways,” was blown–not by Berney, but by a decided lack of marketing money.  Using the title of the real Runaways’ biggest hit, he threw a “cherry bomb” and exited the company.  Knowing Berney, he had a good reason.

Berney was very smart to pick up “The Runaways”–with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. He also got it out quickly, hoping to cash in on Stewart’s “Twilight” fame.  “The Runaways” peetered out fast, but it should have been a nice sized cult hit for kids. It’s a good movie.

Not only that: Berney also bought “We Are the Rileys” from Sundance, with terrific performances by Stewart, James Gandolfini, and Melissa Leo. With limited resources, Berney was building an alternate Stewart universe to ride the “Twilight” coattails.

But it takes money to accompany that vision. Berney obviously felt he wasn’t getting the support he needed. What a shame: we need every little distributor right now. These projects take time, and the kind of people like Bob Berney. His credits include making “Memento” a smash hit, as well as (sadly) “The Passion of the Christ.”

What next for Apparition? And Pohlad has his “Fair Game” coming to Cannes not for Apparition but for Summit, the “Twilight” distributor. Stay tuned. The waves along the Croisette are going to be roiling…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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