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“The Orphanage” might be a big gamble, but over the years distribution guru Bob Berney has found a hit where no one else thought to look. Here are some of his bigger successes — and occasional misfires.
||Memento (Newmarket, 2001)
Domestic b.o.: $26 million
The movie that started it all (or, given its structure, the movie that ended it all). Most saw the Nolan brothers film as too esoteric and star-starved to work; Berney saw a genre movie the art house crowd would watch.
||Y Tu Mama Tambien (IFC, 2002)
Domestic b.o.: $14 million
A racy story about the sexual adventures of postadolescent boys in contemporary Spain milked more dollars than anyone had in years from a European-flavored film, while launching the career of Gael Garcia Bernal to boot.
||My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC, 2002)
Domestic b.o.: $241 million
A canny and carefully paced rollout helped turn this intergenerational immigrant comedy into one of the most successful specialty films of all time. The telling stat: It’s the highest-grossing film never to top the weekly boxoffice.
||Whale Rider (Newmarket, 2003)
Domestic b.o.: $21 million
This unassuming coming-of-age tale of a Maori girl fighting a battle against tribal ritual rode a Toronto Film Festival opening to a hard-earned $21m; it’s the project the exec has said has stayed with him more than any other film he’s released.
||The Passion of the Christ (Newmarket, 2004)
Domestic b.o.: $371 million
The unlikely (and unintentional) alliance of Mel Gibson, millions of evangelicals and Frank Rich made this movie — in which Berney and Newmarket worked out what essentially was a creative rent-a-system deal with Gibson — a smash, and changed the way Hollywood views religious audiences.
||The Woodsman (Newmarket, 2004)
Domestic b.o.: $1.6 million
Maybe marketing doesn’t solve everything. The Kevin Bacon pedophilia tale earned critics raves but ran aground at the boxoffice and closed quickly.
||A Prairie Home Companion (Picturehouse, 2006)
Domestic b.o.: $21 million
As one of the first Picturehouse releases, Berney’s first real go of it as a distributor with big corporate backing. The Toronto acquisition performed well, if not superbly, playing to the art house crowd and legions of NPR fans.
||El Cantante (Picturehouse, 2007)
Domestic b.o.: $8 million
A rare misstep. After spending nearly $5 million on the film at Toronto in 2006, Berney couldn’t get audiences to connect with the Jennifer Lopez-Marc Anthony salsa pic.
||Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse, 2007)
Domestic b.o.: $37 million
A foreign-language film aimed at the Comic-Con crowd? An R-rated movie that captures what it’s like to be a young girl? The Guillermo del Toro creation had plenty of skeptics, but Berney found a way to hit fanboys, film buffs and even families to make this the highest Spanish-language grosser of all time.
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