Coming on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival, Bob Berney’s sudden exit from Apparition was a stark reminder of the tough times facing indie distributors.
On Tuesday, Berney and his wife, Jeanne — who was an exec VP of marketing at Apparition — were traveling to the Croisette on their own, although it remains unclear what their specific goals will be there.
Bill Pohlad, Berney’s partner and CEO of Apparition, told staffers in an email that Berney’s resignation came as a complete surprise.
“It certainly did to me. So I can’t claim that we have a plan in place yet in the wake of this announcement. I can, however, assure you that we will be working in the days ahead to explore our options regarding hisreplacement.”
Apparition made its unofficial debut only a year ago at Cannes, where Berney and Pohlad announced they had acquired Jane Campion’s festival title “Bright Star.”
There were few details available about the possible reasons for Berney’s abrupt exit.
Some insiders say Apparition didn’t turn out to be what Berney expected. They say that under the terms of their deal, Pohlad provided Berney with overhead. However, Berney was reportedly required to raise production financing, as well as marketing coin, which became increasingly difficult. It wasn’t clear whether this was in every instance, or just on certain films.
The affable Berney is well-respected by his colleagues. He burst onto the scene when stepping in and distributing “The Passion of the Christ.” Later, he was named head of indie distrib Picturehouse, which was shuttered by Warner Bros. two years ago.
Pohlad said Valerie Bruce, senior VP of business affairs, will serve as interim chief operating officer.
After “Bright Star,” which did modest biz, Apparition’s releases to date include “Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day,” “The Young Victoria” and, more recently, “The Runaways.”
Upcoming releases include Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” and Sundance pickup “Welcome to the Rileys.”