HIGH POINTS: Nine Oscar nominations for “Howards End,” best foreign-language film Academy Award for “Indochine” and a cumulative box office gross of $ 23 million in its first year.
Tom Bernard, who left Orion Classics along with Michael Barker and Marcie Bloom to start Sony Pictures Classics, said, “I don’t think many can point to that much at the box office in their first year as a start-up. To leave Orion, walk across the street, put out a shingle and release 13 movies in a year is something we’re very proud of. We also proved that you can have specialized distribution and do (studio-level business) with ‘Howards End.’ ”
LOW POINTS: Critics were mixed on “Orlando,” a surprise for Sony Classics. “We thought it would get great reviews,” said Bernard, adding that critics were favorable in New York and Los Angeles but cold and clammy in the middle of the country. “We’re proud of the $ 5 million but if the reviews were better, we felt we could have done even more.”
LOOKING FORWARD: SPC has high hopes for “Belle Epoque” and “Germinal,” which opened Dec. 13 with positive reviews during a Los Angeles Oscar qualification run. The two foreign language pictures could score as two of the top-grossing international productions of the year. Another pic, “Pure Formality,” will test the star power of Gerard Depardieu and Roman Polanski (as an actor).
COMPETITIVE APPROACH: In an era when prices for specialized films continue to escalate, SPC plans to toe the line and rely on filmmaker relationships and marketing and distribution strategies to fill the pipeline.
“We’re not going to change acquisitions style or distribution style to compete with someone for the sake of competition,” said Bernard, a 13-year veteran of the specialized film business. “There have been many companies that have come and gone, and we’ve always stayed on course.”