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by Nigel M Smith
September 27, 2010 11:44 AM
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GK Films Branches Out with Bob Berney to Form FilmDistrict

Oscar-winning producer Graham King ("The Departed") and Tim Headington of GK Films, have partnered together with Peter Schlessel, President of GK Films, to launch FilmDistrict, an acquisition, distribution, production and financing company. Marketing and distribution titan Bob Berney is on board with the new company, as their President of Theatrical Distribution.

"It has always been a goal of mine to be involved in all aspects of filmmaking and distribution," said King in a statement. "I've known and worked with Peter for a long time and there is no one else I would rather take this step with. Bob Berney has a fantastic ability to connect with filmmakers and he orchestrates very creative marketing campaigns. We're thrilled to be working with Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, Jeff Blake and everyone at Sony Pictures in this new venture."

It's a big move that will see the company theatrically distribute between four and eight wide release commercial pictures per year, some of which will go through Sony Pictures Entertainment's TriStar and Triumph labels. Sony Pictures also will have other distribution rights (including home entertainment and television) to the films. This deal does not affect GK Films' existing output arrangement with the studio.

Berney comes to the freshly formed company shortly after controversially severing ties with Apparition Films just days before this year's Cannes Film Festival was set to kick off.

Joining this exciting company is a real opportunity to participate in a powerful new global entity," said Berney in a statement. "To market films through our direct distribution system and to work on other pictures with Sony offers us great potential. I'm thrilled to be joining Graham and Peter as we take this next step forward."

Berney founded and operated independent film distribution and marketing companies Picturehouse, Newmarket Films, IFC Films, and aforementioned Apparition. He was responsible for releasing films including "Memento," "La Vie En Rose," "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Young Victoria," "The Passion of the Christ," "Monster" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

Meanwhile, Peter Schlessel will also provide consulting services to Sony Pictures' well-established worldwide theatrical and ancillary acquisition business run by Steve Bersch, President of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, and his senior team.

"Peter Schlessel has one of the best eyes in the business for quality films, as evidenced by his role in bringing District 9 to us," said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, in a statement. "We will miss having Peter here at the studio, but we're thrilled to be working with him in his new role at FilmDistrict."

"This is a great opportunity for GK Films and FilmDistrict to work with our friends at Sony Pictures in distribution and acquisitions to help keep Sony's pipeline filled with commercial product. It is a real honor to be asked by Michael, Amy, Jeff and Steve to continue my relationship with the studio and particularly its acquisition group," said Schlessel in a statement.

GK Films has some upcoming films that are already locked with a distributor, including Florian Henckel's "The Tourist," which is being released by Columbia Pictures. The company does however have a couple of films, such as Bruce Robinson's anticipated "The Rum Diary," starring Johnny Depp, and William Monahan's Keira Knightley starrer "London Boulevard," that have yet to secure a distributor. King told The Hollywood Reporter that no decision has been made about them yet, but that they could very well be among the first group of films to be released through FilmDistrict.

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