IFC channels films

Berney tops cabler's theatrical distrib'n arm

HOLLYWOOD — The Independent Film Channel has launched Gotham-based domestic distribution arm IFC Films, to be headed by senior VP of marketing and distribution Bob Berney.

Among the division’s first releases will likely be the IFC-produced “Happy Accidents,” from director Brad Anderson (“Next Stop Wonderland”). Pic premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Beginning in first quarter 2001, the distrib plans to release a slate of 10-12 films a year in a combination of acquisitions and selected IFC productions.

In addition to his work with IFC, Berney will serve as a consultant for the launch of Newmarket Films, which will be handling Christopher Nolan’s “Memento,” slated for release March 9. A 20-year film industry veteran, Berney will be working from IFC Films’ offices in Culver City.

IFC Prods. titles that could vie for release through the inhouse distrib include Jim McKay’s “Our Song.” The subsid will also maintain IFC’s relationships with Next Wave, the production and completion financing arm headed by Peter Broderick, as well as digital production arm InDigEnt.

“Inhouse productions will not automatically go through IFC Films,” said Berney. “Productions will still be made and financed through different partners.”

Berney said that IFC Films will be targeting lower-budget acquisitions, including foreign-language product, that command aggressive marketing and release campaigns. It also will focus on developing strong director relationships for future productions.

The cable channel will be a major component of IFC Films’ acquisitions plays, but Berney said IFC is not above cutting creative deals to acquire a film. Ironically, Paramount Classics hit this speed bump earlier this year when the company was interested in acquiring “Happy Accidents” but couldn’t close the deal due to Par’s own cable commitments.

“A big part of this (distribution company) will be long-term content for the company,” said Berney. “That’s very important for them. But that’s not to say it would stop a deal.”

Bravo Networks/IFC president Kathleen Dore added, “Launching a distribution company was the next logical step for IFC, (which) is devoted to expanding the independent film experience on every level…. The formation of IFC Films poises the company to provide access to ensure that these films find a significant audience.”

IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring said, “There has been an alarming exodus of the major independent distributors releasing smaller independent films. Most of the studios’ classics divisions seem intent on emulating Miramax, focusing on bigger-budgeted productions with high-profile casts. The smaller independent distributors operating out there simply cannot afford to provide the necessary support required to ensure the success of the numerous well-made, smaller films seeking distribution.”

Berney joins IFC from Inwood Films, which he launched in 1999 to handle distribution of several films, including “The Woman Chaser,” “Return With Honor” and “Animal Factory.” He also served as an independent producer’s representative and marketing consultant on films such as “The Opportunists” and “Kitchen Privileges.”

Before forming Inwood, Berney released Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” under the Good Machine Releasing banner. He also was a marketing and distribution executive for several independent companies, including Banner Entertainment, Orion Pictures, Triton Pictures and FilmDallas. Titles with which he was involved include “A Brief History of Time,” “I Shot Andy Warhol,” “Hearts of Darkness,” “Jeffrey” and “Ulee’s Gold.”

Berney got his start in the business in the exhibition arena, working first for AMC and then as an independent exhib. He owned and operated the Dallas arthouse Inwood Theater.

Previous IFC Prods. titles include Steven Soderbergh’s “Gray’s Anatomy,” John Sayles’ “Men With Guns,” Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” and Errol Morris’ “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.”

This fall, Screen Gems will release IFC’s “Girlfight” and Trimark Pictures will handle its “Songcatcher.”

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