Bob Berney, the Oklahoma City-born film marketing and distribution executive whose successes include “Pan's Labyrinth,” “Drive,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “Memento,” announced Tuesday that he is relaunching Picturehouse, the film distribution company he operated from 2005 to 2008.
“Last summer, I had talked to Warner Bros. about buying it (the name) back from them and working out an arrangement,” Berney said in a phone call from Park City, Utah. “They weren't actively using it, so they were very, very nice to enable me to do it. I think because it was so associated with me originally, they were really glad to do it.”
Warner Bros., Picturehouse's original parent company, also agreed to a first-look deal with the new Picturehouse on films that Berney's company acquires for worldwide distribution.
Before Picturehouse, Berney found success distributing through companies such as IFC Films and Newmarket. After Warner closed Picturehouse in 2008, Berney launched Apparition with film producer Bill Pohlad, whose projects include “Brokeback Mountain,” “Into the Wild” and “The Tree of Life.” Berney left Apparition in 2010 to work at FilmDistrict, which distributed “Drive” and “Looper.”
Picturehouse's first release will be “Metallica Through the Never,” a combination narrative and concert film showing the band through the eyes of a young crew member. Berney said the company will focus on platform releases, distributing its films to major markets before bringing each release to midsize and smaller cities. “Metallica Through the Never” begins its platform release schedule Aug. 9.
In addition to the first-look deal with Warner, Berney said that Picturehouse has set up an exclusive multiyear deal with Netflix, which will stream all Picturehouse films after their theatrical and Blu-ray/DVD releases.
“At the original Picturehouse, we did one of the first streaming deals with Netflix for ‘Pan's Labyrinth,'” Berney said. “It kind of broke new ground with them — it was one of the first films they did in that manner.”
Berney said the traditional pay services, the premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, are closely tied to the major studios, and it was difficult for independent studios and distribution companies to compete with the majors for space on such channels' schedules. Netflix, he said, has been “a game changer.”
“So there was really no decision other than working out a deal, because it's a win-win for both of us,” he said. “Plus, the films we've had over the years have connected with their audience, so Netflix really looked at me and our team as picking the movies their customers like.”
The new Picturehouse will be based in New York, with Berney serving as chief executive officer and his wife Jeanne Berney, who most recently worked as vice president of marketing at FilmDistrict, will serve as president.