Exec vet would help launch distrib

Distribution vet Bob Berney is in talks with prolific producer-financier Graham King to help launch a theatrical distribution operation, according to an informed source.

Move comes a month after Berney’s sudden exit from Apparition on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival. King’s GK Films had no comment Monday about the possible hiring of Berney. King’s distribution operation would be aimed at taking advantage of major studios moving away from handling smaller pics in recent years. It would also reflect his continued ambitious expansion in Hollywood following a long record of securing independent financing through his Initial Entertainment Group for big-budget, star-driven dramas such as “The Departed,” “The Aviator,” “Ali,” “Traffic” and “Gangs of New York.”

King moved into TV late last year, recruiting Lionsgate TV exec Craig Cegielski to head the new GK-TV division. Company’s focus is on programming with strong international appeal in an effort to capitalize on the growing appetite at U.S. nets for international co-production and co-financing deals.

King’s partner in GK Films is Texas oil billionaire and entrepreneur Tim Headington.

Should Berney sign with King, he’d be another major hire following longtime Sony exec Peter Schlessel’s hire last week as president of GK Films. Schlessel has been Sony’s president of worldwide affairs and was instrumental in sealing a distribution pact between Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group and GK Films last year.

Since GK Films three-year pact with Sony Worldwide will cover a number of King’s upcoming productions, it’s likely that Berney would be in the market to acquire specialty fare to fill the new distribution outfit’s pipeline.

Berney’s best known for overseeing the distribution of “The Passion of the Christ,” “Memento” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” He later headed specialty distrib Picturehouse, which was shuttered by Warner Bros. two years ago.

Three-year-old GK Films has produced “The Young Victoria” — which Apparition distributed domestically — and “Edge of Darkness.” It produced “The Town” for Warner Bros., “Rum Diary,” with Johnny Depp, “The Tourist,” starring Angelina Jolie and Depp, and animated adventure “Rango.”

GK Films is in pre-production on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” with Martin Scorsese attached to direct. It is also developing a feature rendition of the vampire soap “Dark Shadows,” which ran on ABC from 1966-71, for Warners.

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