Bob Berney's New Gig - Picturehouse - Launched in Cannes; Slate and Staff Unveiled
by Brian Brooks
Announcing a slate of nine films including Gus Van Sant's Cannes competition
entry "Last Days," as well as key staff and a philosophical outlook, the
principles of the previously unnamed HBO/New Line venture headed by former
Newmarket chief Bob Berney gathered early Friday morning for a briefing. At
the Majestic Hotel in Cannes, Berney revealed initial plans for the newest
Taking the reins at the press conference was Picturehouse President Bob
Berney, joined by New Line Co-Chair & Co-CEO Michael Lynne, Chairman and CEO
of HBO Chris Albrecht, and HBO Films president Colin Calendar. Berney touted
the company's lineup with Van Sant's "Last Days" as the company's first
release under the Picturehouse banner and Steven Shainberg's ("Secretary")
"Fur," starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr., its first production.
The first two acquisitions are Raymond De Felitta's ("Two Family House")
feature, "The Thing About My Folks" with Peter Falk and Paul Reiser and
Giddi Dar's ultra-Orthodox Jewish drama, "Ushpizin."
"What we're hopeful of is that Bob can continue his long record of
finding films with value that others haven't been able to," said Michael
Lynne, outlining some of the strategy the company will take in its approach
to distribution. "We're here to give a platform to [Berney's] abilities,"
said Albrecht, echoing that sentiment. The group clearly hoped to convey to
those assembled this morning that the company, although a product of HBO
Films and New Line, will pursue its own identity and expects to be an
outlet that will bring independent films to a "commercial audience" -- it is
not a vanity project they reinforced.
During the press briefing, Berney introduced senior members of his staff,
which will initially total 33 with the majority in the New York headquarters
and eight in Los Angeles. Longtime Berney collaborator Robert Schwartz will
serve as COO of the company, while Marian Koltai-Levine from Fine Line and
Dennis O'Connnor from HBO Films were named executive vice presidents of
marketing. Koltai-Levine will work in the New York office and O'Connor will
remain in L.A. with former United Artists executive Sara Rose who
will serve as Picturehouse's senior vice president of acquisitions. Rose
previously worked with Berney at Orion Pictures. All four execs will report
Also on the senior team are veteran distribution execs from Newmarket Films,
Bill Thompson and John Lange, who will serve as senior vice presidents and
co-general sales managers. Thompson and Lange will report to Schwartz.
"This group of real professionals and veterans deliver us a premiere,
full-service marketing and distribution company," said Berney in a statement
distsributed to journalists prior to the press conference. "I am proud to
work with each of them at Picturehouse."
The Picturehouse release slate includes Don Argott's "Rock School" in June
and Ari Posin's "The Chumscrubber" in August branded as Newmarket releases.
Also on tap is Michael Winterbottom's "A Cock and Bull Story" in October and
Mary Harron's "The Notorious Bettie Page" from Killer Films next March, as
well as "As You Like It" by Kenneth Branagh next year.
After the briefing, Berney told indieWIRE that he will release "Rock School"
in June and "Last Days" in July fairly aggressively, starting in 10-12
markets and expanding from there. Van Sant's Cannes competition entry has a
built in audience in the Northwest, Berney noted, adding that he hopes to
draw Nirvana fans and grunge music aficionados. In the case of "The Thing
About My Folks," Berney told indieWIRE that he sees an opportunity to model
the success he had with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." The successful fest film
will open in September and he expects it to deliver as a popular
word-of-mouth title, starting in just eight cities but growing from there.
"It's more mainstream -- it's a family movie but it's not sappy," Berney
Berney said the company has no plans to go on an acquisitions spending spree
now that Picturehouse's operations are officially underway. "We have a good
slate, but I feel no pressure to walk down the street and start buying
everything," said Berney. The group indicated that no specific parameters
have been set in terms of its development budget, but they said
it will evolve over time.
"[We] won't be making $150 million movies," quipped Michael Lynne, smiling.
Asked during the press conference if the company will have its parent
company logo next to its monogram, Lynne said that that was still to be
determined. "[It hasn't been] decided if Picturehouse will say, 'A Time
Warner Company' or if HBO [and] New Line labels will be on the screen with
"I want to emphasize that this is a full service marketing and distribution
company [and] not just a label," said Berney.
Still, the group lauded its Time Warner roots as a company spawned by HBO
and New Line, both longtime entities of the media giant which is the
world's largest. They also dismissed any potential conflict with sister Time
Warner label Warner Independent Pictures, which also releases specialty
content. "Warner Independent and Picturehouse don't have an impact on one
another," said Lynne with Albrecht adding, "[there's] no reason these
[companies] can't exist side by side for the benefit of the parent company."
[ For more information, please visit http://www.picturehousefilms.com. ]
[Eugene Hernandez contributed to this report.]