Sony Pictures Classics

Almodovar, Altman flex major arthouse muscle

It’s business as usual for Sony Pictures Classics, perhaps the most consistent of the major indie players in terms of its auteur-driven taste and marketing strategies.

And, along with Paramount Classics, SPC is now one of the few acquisitions-based companies among the bigger players, with a well-established brand and a steadily maintained profile within the upscale arthouse niche.

Company’s enduring relationship with Pedro Almodovar secured one of the prestige hits of 2002, “Talk to Her,” now inching toward the $10 million mark, and an Oscar winner (for screenplay) despite being shut out by Spain from the foreign-lingo race.

That gross looks to be equaled this summer by birdlife docu “Winged Migration,” fruit of a slow rollout and typically tailored positioning for a company known for its kid-glove handling of each release.

Co-prexy Michael Barker expects French animated pickup “The Triplets of Belleville” to be this year’s “Spirited Away.” Label will mount various kudo campaigns for other pickups.

While remaining acquisitions-driven, SPC is becoming increasingly active as a producer or co-production partner on pics like Errol Morris’ “The Fog of War,” Robert Altman’s “The Company,” Istvan Szabo’s “Being Julia” and Hector Babenco’s “Carandiru.”

Exec ranks: Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, Marcie Bloom, co-presidents; Dylan Leiner, senior VP, acquisitions

First looks: None

Recent pickups: Norman Jewison’s “The Statement” (summer 2002, co-prod); Robert Altman’s “The Company” (summer 2002, co-prod); Roger Michell’s “The Mother” (summer 2002, pre-buy); Larry Charles’ “Masked and Anonymous” (winter 2002); Isabel Coixet’s “My Life Without Me” (Jan.); Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” (Jan., pre-buy); Nir Bergman’s “Broken Wings” (Berlin); Ingmar Bergman’s “Saraband” (AFM pre-buy); Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Bon Voyage” (April); Francois Dupeyron’s “Monsieur Ibrahim” (April); Sylvain Chomet’s “The Triplets of Belleville” (Cannes); Wolfgang Becker’s “Goodbye Lenin” (Cannes); Istvan Szabo’s “Being Julia” (Cannes, co-prod deal)

Year at B.O.: Top grosser: “Talk to Her” ($10 million); lowest grosser: “Quitting” ($18,531)

Kudo watch: Errol Morris docu “The Fog of War” and animated pic “The Triplets of Belleville,” which drew high praise at Cannes, will be put forward for noms in their respective categories. SPC will campaign for “The Statement” helmer Norman Jewison and thesp Michael Caine for actor. A supporting actor push is planned for Omar Sharif in “Monsieur Ibrahim,” which bows at Venice. And on “My Life Without Me,” SPC will be pushing Sarah Polley for actress.