Bob Berney, the marketing and distribution guru behind IFC Films’ “Y tu mama tambien” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” has ankled to become president and partner of Newmarket Capital Group’s still-to-be-named U.S. distribution banner.
The new shingle will be based in Gotham and plans to release eight to 10 titles a year.
Jonathan Sehring, who worked closely with Berney while overseeing parent company Cablevision’s IFC Entertainment, said Berney’s departure is completely amicable.
“We regrettably accepted Bob’s resignation as senior VP distribution and marketing, IFC Films,” said Sehring in a statement. “He was a highly regarded member of our team and, over the past two years, has contributed much to the overall success of our IFC Films distribution efforts.”
Sehring told Daily Variety, “This is a business that we feel very good about. We will continue to acquire films. It’s not one person who does everything.”
He added that the company would begin a search to replace Berney, who will officially exit following the release of Jesse Peretz’s “The Chateau” on Aug. 23.
Given Berney’s success at IFC, the move took the specialty community by surprise. However, Berney has built a career in independent film almost entirely on maverick enterprises.
After graduating with a film degree from the University of Texas in Austin, he managed the Greenway Theater, a major Houston arthouse. With a partner, he went on to buy a Dallas arthouse, the Inwood Theater, before moving into distribution. At FilmDallas, he released titles like “Spike of Bensonhurst” and “Da.”
When that company disbanded, Berney moved to Los Angeles, where he worked with Jonathan Dana at Triton Pictures and later at Orion Classics. He also launched the distribution arm of Banner Entertainment before becoming a consultant for Good Machine (“Happiness”) and Paul Allen’s Clear Blue Sky, among others.
That led him to work with Newmarket on “Memento,” a project that left buyers disinterested but that Berney believed had the makings of a hit. The film earned $26 million in its domestic release as well as two Oscar nominations.
Indeed, Berney hoped that the success of “Memento” would lead Newmarket to immediately launch a full-fledged distribution division, but its cautious founders, Will Tyrer and Chris Ball, preferred to hold back before making a commitment.
Berney then moved on to IFC, which has found success with so-called “difficult” titles like the explicit Spanish-lingo pic “Y tu mama tambien,” which has earned $13.5 million, and the sleeper “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which has grossed over $30 million to date.
“It was good to take some time off after ‘Memento,’ ” Tyrer told Daily Variety from Gotham, where he was looking for office space for his new division. “It was nice to sit back and see what happened and get a better feel for the market. Bob’s the right man for the job.”
Tyrer added in a statement, “Intelligent independent films, including our release ‘Memento,’ clearly have a demand in today’s marketplace.”
Founded in 1994, Newmarket financed or co-financed “The Mexican,” directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, “Cruel Intentions,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Topsy-Turvy” and “The Importance of Being Ernest.” Among the more than 75 films the company has been involved with are “Skulls” and “Stark Raving Mad.”
Newmarket is also involved with vid distribution and third-party financing.
For a struggling indie marketplace, the launch of another distribution company is undeniably good news.
“They are true entrepreneurs,” said producer’s rep Jeff Dowd. “This match is another part of the future of independent film and of what audiences want to see.”
Upcoming IFC Films releases include “XX/XY,” directed by Austin Chick, “The Safety of Objects,” from helmer Rose Troche and “Manic,” helmed by Jorean Melamed.