FilmDistrict Undergoing Major Reorganization

Bob Berney
Bob Berney
 Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Upstart distribution company FilmDistrict is reorganizing and consolidating its operation, with Bob Berney, its theatrical distribution president, and Jeanne R. Berney, its exec vp of marketing, leaving the company.

The duo will stay on until March 1, 2012, to help oversee the December 23 opening of the Angelina Jolie-directed In the Land of Blood and Honey.

FilmDistrict, which distributes movies for GK Films (the company is an investor in FilmDistrict) as well as films it acquires, is moving its operations to Los Angeles, shuttering operations in New York.

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FilmDistrict was launched just over a year ago under the aegis of Peter Schlessel, who was previously at Sony. The company had a hit right out of the gate with the surprisingly strong showing of horror movie Insidious, followed by the inspirational surfer movie Soul Surfer.

FilmDistrict picked up Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror movie, for distribution after the closing of Disney’s label Miramax put that movie in limbo, as well as the critically acclaimed arty thriller Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. Audiences didn't show up for Afraid of the Dark, which has grossed only $24 million domestically,  while the company's most recent release, The Rum Diary, opened to a dismal $5.1 million last weekend. The tally of the FilmDistrict movies adds up to more than $150 million domestically.

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Sources say that friction may have led to the parting of way between the two parties. Insiders say the big marketing spends for Drive and Afraid of the Dark didn’t pay off at the box office while others say personality clashes eventually undid working relationships.

“While I believe in the strategy of FilmDistrict, I remain committed to my roots and family in New York where there is a vibrant film community,” said Bob Berney in a statement. “The team Jeanne and I assembled in New York and Chicago are second to none and we all are proud of the work we’ve done and the great successes we’ve had. I wish my colleagues at FilmDistrict good luck in the years to come.”
 
Said Schlessel: “This consolidation was necessary due to the inherent difficulties of having our production, acquisition and business divisions in Los Angeles with our distribution and marketing team in New York.  We are very excited about next year’s slate of films.”

Bob Berney is considered a guru in terms of marketing and distributing art house fare and helping those films cross over. His list of hits include Christopher Nolan’s early film Memento, Nia VardalosMy Big Fat Greek Wedding, del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien.

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