As they all made their way to Cannes, Deadline‘s Mike Fleming dropped quite the bomb on the U.S. film industry Monday evening: Apparently, Bob Berney had resigned from his position at the top post of Apparition, and had handed the company over to its owner, River Road’s Bill Pohlad. Fleming said that “Pohlad was blindsided by the move, especially since Berney and his staff were about to get on planes to travel to Cannes and look for pictures to acquire.” He alleged that Pohlad had quickly cancelled all plans for the company to the attend the festivities, since no one else is apparently authorized to negotiate deals at this point.
Considerable in the report was the fact that Fleming had included an e-mail that Pohland sent to “Apparition colleagues and staff”:
To our Apparition colleagues and staff:
As some of you may know, Bob Berney has submitted his resignation to me. I suspect that this news comes as a surprise to many of you. It certainly did to me. So I can’t claim that we have a plan in place yet in the wake of this announcement. I can, however, assure you that we will be working in the days ahead to explore our options regarding his replacement. In the meantime, Valerie Bruce, our Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, will serve as interim COO.
I apologize for whatever confusion and uncertainty this news may cause, but know that we are proud and grateful for all the work that you have put into the company and appreciate your continued support.
Since the report, The Wrap ran their own story, further suggesting its truth.
Less than two weeks ago, Anthony Kaufman interviewed Berney for a story on Cannes, which ran in Variety: “After just a year in business with Apparition, veteran exec Bob Berney concurs, sounding a lot more cautious than he did 12 months ago when he pre-bought Jane Campion’s ‘Bright Star’ on the eve of Cannes.”
“I’d be very leery of doing that this year,” Berney told Variety. “There’s enough completed films for reasonable prices, which makes pre-buys look too risky.”
Bob Berney is the former head of Picturehouse, a now-defunct joint venture of Time Warner subsidiaries New Line Cinema and HBO, to release specialty films. Since that company shuttered, he spent nearly a year raising money to form Apparition. Berney ended up aligning with Pohlad as the sole financier for the venture, which was first announced last August.
Apparition has released just over half a dozen films since its launch, including “Bright Star,” “The Runaways,” and “The Young Victoria.” It has two films on tap for the remainder of 2010: Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” which had at one point been expected to premiere at Cannes, and “Welcome to the Rileys,” a Sundance pick-up starring James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart.
The Wrap‘s suggested that at this point, “the fate of the studio, its slate and its staff seemed entirely uncertain.”
Check back with indieWIRE for further developments.