Bob Berney out at Apparition


CANNES -- A key U.S. player on the Croisette was en route to Cannes on Tuesday evening -- though not as head of the production and distribution company that he launched last August with River Road's Bill Pohlad. Instead, in a move that could be described as a coup de theatre, Apparition's Bob Berney has suddenly vanished.

Just a few weeks ago, the indie world was speculating whether Apparition would unveil Terrence Malick's upcoming "Tree of Life" at Cannes; ultimately, the word came down that the film, produced by River Road and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and scheduled for release by Apparition later this year, would not be ready in time.

But in the unexpected turn of events, Apparation's very future appears in question following an e-mail Pohlad sent to the company's staff late Monday announcing that Berney was exiting.

No reasons were given.

"I suspect that this news comes as a surprise to many of you. It certainly did to me," Pohlad wrote. "So I can't claim that we have a plan in place yet in the wake of this announcement."

Berney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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Having turned "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "The Passion of the Christ" into record-breaking grossers, Berney founded Apparition after Warners shut down its indie label Picturehouse, which he had headed.

Buoyed by an output deal with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group, which handles its ancillaries, Apparition didn't log any breakthroughs during its first year of operation.

Its two costume pictures, "Bright Star" and "Young Victoria," saw U.S. domestic grosses of $4.4 million and $11 million, respectively. The exploitation parody "Black Dynamite," which SPWAG picked up at the 2009 Sundance, took in just $242,000, while SPWAG's "The Boondock Saints II" scored $10.3 million before becoming a hit on home video.

This year, Apparation released "The Runaways," the Joan Jett biopic starring Kristin Stewart, but it failed to do cross-over business, grossing just $3.5 million Stateside. Its most recent release, the thriller "The Square," has collected only $218,000 to date.

The two partners were believed to be looking to bring in a new investor, although none has materialized.

In the wake of Berney's departure, Pohlad said that senior vp of business affairs Valerie Bruce would serve as interim COO.