20 Years of Specialty Cinema

Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Courtesy of Everett Collection

In two decades, Bernard and Barker re-invented the art house.

1992: Sony Pictures Classics opens its doors and releases James Ivory's Howards End, which remains in theaters for more than a year and becomes the studio's first of four best picture Oscar nominees.

1993: Sally Potter's Orlando opens against Jurassic Park and becomes SPC's first summer counterprogramming hit. | Wim Wenders gets Lou Reed to perform at the New York premiere of Faraway, So Close!

1994: Oscar winner Belle Epoque is SPC's first film with Penelope Cruz. SPC introduces the 19-year-old actress to Hollywood when they invite her to the Academy Awards.

1995: Controversial artist Robert Crumb is spotted incognito, wearing a fake beard, while checking out the audience in the lobby of San Francisco's Castro Theatre at a showing of the documentary Crumb. | Jean-Jacques Annaud's Wings of Courage, the first fiction film made for Imax 3D, opens at the Lincoln Square Theatre in New York.

1996: Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse wins the grand jury prize at Sundance and opens opposite Mission: Impossible. | The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, directed by Vittorio De Sica and produced by Arthur Cohn, is reissued in theaters.

1997: Barker and Bernard decide to buy Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men at Sundance when people are observed crossing the street to avoid Aaron Eckhart, who played the heinous lead character. | Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman is released with Castle Rock and remains, according to Bernard and Barker, the funniest movie in SPC history.

1998: SPC scores back-to-back spring indie hits with The Opposite of Sex and The Spanish Prisoner (the first of three David Mamet films released by SPC).

1999: Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run is SPC's first foreign-language film to become a hit with the younger audience.

2000: Pedro Almodovar wins his first Oscar for All About My Mother. | Ang Lee tells Bernard and Barker that his plan is for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be a high-grossing art pic in America and a commercial blockbuster in Asia. The result is the opposite: Crouching Tiger's domestic box office nearly doubled its foreign take.

2001: Marcia Gay Harden wins an Oscar for the Ed Harris movie Pollock. | Guillermo del Toro introduces The Devil's Backbone days after 9/11 in the Hamptons, and it freaks out the audience.

2002: Talk to Her closes the New York Film Festival, and Almodovar goes on to earn Oscar noms for director and original screenplay. He becomes the first writer in 38 years to win a screenplay Oscar for a foreign-language movie.

2003: The documentary Winged Migration is Oscar-nominated and a huge success thanks to birdwatchers everywhere. Bernard and Barker convince producer-director Jacques Perrin of their passion when they send yellow canaries to his seller's suite in Cannes.

2004: The Triplets of Belleville begins the studio's successful foray into feature film animation. | Ossie Davis, Gordon Parks and Melvin Van Peebles present a premiere screening of Mario Van Peebles' Baadasssss! | Errol Morris finally receives a best documentary Oscar for The Fog of War.

2005: Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle kicks ass with the genre audience, subtitles and all. | Daniel Craig is an indie star before Bond with Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake.

2006: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada marks the directorial debut by Tommy Lee Jones. The film succeeds despite the fact that Jones and Bernard played for rival high school football teams in Dallas.

2007: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others, a movie very few wanted (turned down by the Berlin, Cannes, Venice and New York film festivals), wins a foreign-language Oscar and becomes a worldwide box office hit. | Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi's black-and-white film Persepolis is a box office success and receives an Oscar nomination.

2008: Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir becomes the only film in Academy history to qualify for best picture, documentary, animated feature and foreign-language film. | Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married plays for 29 weeks and earns Anne Hathaway an Oscar nom.

2009: For Davis Guggenheim's It Might Get Loud, Jimmy Page shows up for the Los Angeles premiere, the Edge at Toronto and Jack White at Sundance. | The White Ribbon wins the Palme d'Or and A Prophet wins the grand jury prize in Cannes. After winning these top honors, they go on to earn Oscar nominations.

2010: Charles Ferguson's Inside Job explains the unexplainable and becomes the most talked about film in Cannes and around the world. | Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver, in Animal Kingdom, is the scariest grandmother in SPC history.

2011: SPC rounds out 20 years with new movies from Almodovar, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, Gus Van Sant and Whit Stillman. On Sept. 11, Barker and Bernard will host an exclusive reception in Toronto to celebrate their first two decades in the business.

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