Management/production company Banner Entertainment has established a domestic theatrical distribution arm headed by former Orion Pictures marketing veep, Bob Berney.In its expanded role, Banner will handle limited releases for its own productions as well as for pictures it acquires. The company plans to release eight to 10 films in the coming year. Banner’s first release will be “Telling Lies in America,” starring Kevin Bacon and Brad Renfro, skedded to open on Oct. 15. Banner has two more films now in production: “Under Heaven,” with Joely Richardson and Aden Young; and “Delivered,” starring Ron Eldard and David Strickland. Berney brings experience in marketing, distribution and exhibition to the newly created position of senior VP of marketing and distribution. Before his three-year stint at Orion, Berney served similar roles at Triton Pictures and FilmDallas, where he was also involved in film sales. He began his film career in the mid-’80s as owner of the influential Inwood Theater arthouse in Dallas. “Bob’s well respected, has worked hard on every film he has been involved with and we’re very happy to have him,” said company co-founder Mickey Liddell. Berney and Liddell will oversee acquisitions for the company, attending key film festivals beginning with the upcoming Toronto fest. “We’re going in with our eyes open,” said Berney. “We know it’s going to be very competitive. Acquisitions are always tough, but I think this is a good time. It also gives me great comfort knowing we’re making movies, too.” Like most independent distributors, Banner may supplement its product and cash flow by acting as a distributor-for-hire to producers or video distributors. “We would definitely consider service deals if it makes sense both financially and artistically,” said Berney. “Telling Lies in America” was directed by Guy Ferland from an original, semi-autobiographical screenplay by Joe Eszterhas. It concerns the relationship between a teenage Hungarian immigrant and a local Cleveland DJ. It was produced by Fran Kuzui and Ben Myron, and co-financed by Kuzui Enterprises and Banner. It’s slated to screen at the Toronto, Boston and New York Film Festivals. “Banner getting into distribution is great news for independents,” said Kuzui. “We’ve been waiting to see who was going to step up to the plate.” Banner was founded in 1994 by Brian Swardstrom and Liddell as a management company. Clients include Bill Paxton, Edward Norton, Parker Posey, Ron Eldard and helmers Ferland and Stacy Title. The company broke into the production arena with the recent October Films release “Traveler,” starring and produced by Paxton.
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