Co-presidents sign deal for another four years

Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are heading to the Cannes Film Festival with a deal to remain at Sony Pictures Entertainment for another four years.

During the pair’s 18-year tenure at SPE, Barker and Bernard have shepherded the release of more than 300 films that have won 20-plus Oscars and garnered more than 70 Oscar nominations.

“Michael and Tom have brought to audiences worldwide some of the most memorable and significant films in recent history,” said SPE chair-CEO Michael Lynton, who announced the reup with co-chair Amy Pascal. “The diversity of our film slate is an important factor in our success and stability over the years.”

While most studio-operated specialty divisions have shuttered or sputtered in recent years, Barker and Bernard have survived in part because they keep their costs down — they have roughly the same number of employees, about two dozen, as when they founded SPC in 1992 — and rarely get caught up in high-stakes bidding wars.

They operate from their New York base where they enjoy a great deal of freedom from the parent studio, and they frequently do a lot of repeat business with filmmakers. Last year, they released the Jonathan Demme-directed “Rachel Getting Married,” which drew Anne Hathaway an Oscar nom; SPC released Demme’s previous film, the docu “Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains.” This fall, SPC will distribute “Broken Embraces,” the latest film by Pedro Almodovar, which marks Barker and Bernard’s ninth collaboration with the director.

Barker and Bernard are also known for spotting budding talent, including first-time helmer Courtney Hunt, whose “Frozen River” landed Melissa Leo an Oscar nom. The specialty division also boasted two best foreign-language Oscar nominees this year in “The Class” and “Waltz With Bashir.”

“Sony is family, Sony is home,” Barker and Bernard said in a statement. “We are proud of the library of films and amazing filmmakers we have nurtured over the years.”

SPC’s current slate includes the recent Tribeca Film Festival opener “Whatever Works,” directed by Woody Allen and starring Larry David; “Tyson,” the James Toback documentary on the turbulent life of former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson; and the Duncan Jones sci-fi film “Moon.”

Next up is the Davis Guggenheim-directed docu “It Might Get Loud,” with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, U2’s the Edge and Jack White; the Lone Scherfig-directed adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel “An Education”; and “Coco Before Chanel,” which stars Audrey Tautou.

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