Screen Gems Chief Clint Culpepper Steps Down

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Clint Culpepper

Steve Bersch, the head of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition, has been tipped as the person to take over, sources say.

Clint Culpepper, the longtime head of Sony’s Screen Gems division, is stepping down.

The move comes after the disappointing opening of Screen Gems’ latest low-budget offering, Proud Mary, and caps a string of losses for the arm, which specializes in lower-budgeted thrillers, comedies and urban dramas. The division was also behind the wildly successful Resident Evil and Underworld franchises.  

Steve Bersch, head of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition, will take over the division, sources say. Sony had no comment.

Culpepper had a 28-year run at Screen Gems, an astounding number in modern executive tenures. He will now segue to a producer role in a deal with the studio.

Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman made the announcement Friday and praised Culpepper’s impact. 

“Clint has had an extraordinary career at SPE. Under his leadership, Screen Gems is one of the most prolific and diverse genre labels in the industry," said Rothman. "Clint and his excellent team drove box office hits including the Resident Evil and the Underworld franchises, ​and groundbreaking successes like Easy A, Friends With BenefitsThe Vow, ​Dear John, The Exorcism of Emily RoseWhen a Stranger CallsThink Like a Man and many others.”

For a time, especially in the late 2000s, Screen Gems was producing hit after hit. But in more recent years, its record had been spotty, and the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises are long in the tooth.

In fact, one of its biggest releases in the past few years, 2016’s surprise hit Don’t Breathe, from directed Fede Alvarez, came from another Sony arm, Stage 6 Films. The movie was made for under $10 million and took in almost $90 million domestically.

Stage 6 falls under the purview of SPWA's Bersch, who was also instrumental in the studio’s low-budget hit horror franchise Insidious. (The movies from the Insidious franchise are distributed domestically by Universal.)

Bersch, who also oversees the faith-based Affirm Films, has in a sense been mirroring Screen Gems’ model with his work in terms of budgets, emerging filmmakers and genres.

Sony insiders say that Bersch’s ascension represents a strategic change in the organization of the divisions as they overlapped more and more.

Variety first reported the news of Bersch’s promotion.