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Industry shocker: Bob Berney burns bridges with Apparition

By Hollywood News Staff

Hollywoodnews.com: A shocking turn moments before the start of the Cannes Film Festival, indie cinema iconoclast Bob Berney has left Apparition, the distribution label he founded with financier Bill Pohlad almost a year ago.

The move sideswiped Pohlad who was counting on Berney to attend the festival to acquire films. indieWIRE summarized the news broken by Deadline and The Wrap. Pohlad took full reins of the company.

An email was sent out to Appartion staff by Pohlad:

To our Apparition colleagues and staff:

As some of you may know, Bob Berney has submitted his resignation to me. I suspect that this news comes as a surprise to many of you. 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 his replacement. In the meantime, Valerie Bruce, our Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, will serve as interim COO.

I apologize for whatever confusion and uncertainty this news may cause, but know that we are proud and grateful for all the work that you have put into the company and appreciate your continued support.

According to Variety, apparently, Berney expressed concern about the pre-buy market. Berney had snapped up Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” on the eve of Cannes.

“I’d be very leery of doing that this year,” Berney told Variety. “There’s enough completed films for reasonable prices, which makes pre-buys look too risky.”

Berney’s claim to fame has been taking offbeat films and propelling them into either mass-audience pleasers (i.e. IFC’s “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and Newmarket’s “Passion of the Christ” when Berney was at those respective labels) or award season contenders (i.e. “La Vie en Rose” when he resided at Picturehouse). When Warner Bros. closed Picturehouse, Berney joined with Pohlad and launched Apparition.

Since its launch last fall, Apparition has released over a half a dozen films including “Bright Star,” “The Runaways,” and “The Young Victoria.” It has two films on tap for the remainder of 2010: Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” which was due to bow at Cannes and “Welcome to the Rileys,” a Sundance acquisition headlining James Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart.

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