He will be replaced by Steve Bersch, the head of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, according to insiders. Culpepper helped rekindle the Screen Gems label in 1998 and was responsible for several hits such as “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” “Think Like a Man,” and the “Resident Evil” franchise. However, Screen Gems has struggled to field as many success stories in recent years. Its most recent release, the action film “Proud Mary,” bowed to an underwhelming $9.9 million when it opened this month. Culpepper was recently informed that his contract, which was due up, would not be renewed. He will remain a part of Sony’s film family in some capacity through a production deal with the studio.
A spokesman for Sony declined to comment on Bersch’s promotion. In a note to staff, Sony Pictures chief Tom Rothman did not mention Bersch’s new role, but praised Culpepper’s 28-year run at Sony.
“Clint has had an extraordinary career at [Sony],” Rothman wrote. “Under his leadership, Screen Gems is one of the most prolific and diverse genre labels in the industry.”
“He has an indelible legacy, and I want to thank him for his years of extraordinary commitment to [Sony],” he added. “Luckily for us, he will still be a large part of our family, continuing to produce hit movies for Sony.”
Bersch will add Screen Gems to his portfolio of projects while continuing to run Sony’s global acquisitions business, sources say. The thought is that the two businesses often overlap and complement one another. Bersch, for instance, picked up “Don’t Breathe,” a critically acclaimed horror smash that was distributed under the Screen Gems banner. As head of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, Bersch also oversees Stage 6 Films and Affirm Films, the studio’s faith-based label. Bersch has impressed Sony brass with his knack for picking hits. He partnered with Paramount on the best picture nominee “Arrival” and acquired the original “Insidious” at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. At Affirm, he scored with the likes of “War Room” and “Miracles From Heaven.”
Under Culpepper, Screen Gems established itself as a home for horror films, comedies, and movies that targeted African-American audiences. Its history is longer than that, however. First incorporated in 1948, Screen Gems was originally the studio’s television subsidiary. Over the years it moved into broadcasting, recording, merchandising, and music publishing before being rebranded Columbia Pictures Television.