NEWS ARCHIVE

Bob Berney on the New Landscape for Theatrical Distribution

By Daniel Loria
Read at boxofficepro.com

CinemaCon+2019+Amazon+Studios+Invites+Exclusive+2JPxeBtW6vQx

In this week’s episode of The Boxoffice Podcast, distribution veteran Bob Berney joins Boxoffice Pro editorial director Daniel Loria in a conversation about the seismic changes affecting theatrical distribution and exhibition as audiences return to theaters.

After starting his career programming independent and specialty films for movie theaters in Texas, Berney made the jump to distribution and went on to release some of the most successful arthouse titles of the last three decades. Roles at IFC Films (Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIEN, MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING), Newmarket Films (THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, MONSTER, WHALE RIDER), and FilmDistrict (INSIDIOUS, DRIVE) preceded his appointment as head of marketing and distribution at Amazon Studios in 2015. During his four years at Amazon, Berney helped launch the tech giant’s foray into theatrical distribution with a strategy that embraced traditional theatrical releases and promoted a diverse slate of crossover independent titles like MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and THE BIG SICK.

Berney left Amazon to relaunch his own distribution company, Picturehouse, in 2019. In this interview, Berney shares his insights on the current volatility affecting the theatrical market as streaming companies make a play for big movies and major franchises at the multiplex, while specialty players learn to adapt to a market without the influence of the film festival circuit.  

This Mother’s Day, Fatima to hit AMC theaters

By Sophia Martinson
Read at The Angelus News

Like most movies of 2020, FATIMA has had anything but a traditional release.

Originally intended to hit theaters April 24 of last year, the historical drama chronicling the 1917 Marian apparitions to three Portuguese children experienced delay upon delay due to theater closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But next month, the film will finally have a major theatrical release when it opens in AMC theaters nationwide.

“I sometimes think this is Mary’s release, not ours,” said Jeanne Berney, chief operating officer of the film distribution company Picturehouse. To Jeanne and her husband Bob, Picturehouse’s CEO, the May 7-14 scheduled release, which coincides with Mother’s Day and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, is nothing short of providential.

In a phone interview, the Berneys explained that Bob had been communicating with AMC last year in preparation for the film’s original release. But in light of the pandemic, Picturehouse had to change course. They settled for an August 28 “premium video on demand” release, a new pandemic-driven phenomenon that released the film digitally as well as in select independent theaters. Later, viewers could purchase the film online or on DVD, and starting in January, they could find it on Netflix.

Since its release, FATIMA has received a 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and won the Family Award at this year’s Los Angeles Italia Film, Fashion, and Art Festival. It has also received endorsements from several bishops, as well as the official shrine of Fátima in Portugal.

But as restrictions have eased, the Berneys felt compelled to increase the film’s visibility. “I always felt like we never were able to really deliver that [release] in a theatrical way because of the pandemic,” said Bob, “so I really started thinking, with AMC’s support, that we could actually bring it back. The theaters have now opened … but there still aren’t a lot of movies yet to be released. The studios have been held back. So [AMC] loved the idea.”

According to the Berneys, bringing FATIMA to the big screen is important for the film itself and for audiences. “It’s a way not only to see how beautiful [the film] is, but also for people to experience a film like this together,” said Bob. “You do feel the power of it in the auditorium. It’s all great to watch it at home, but I think it is special to see it with people in a bigger auditorium.”

“[This is a way] for people to see the movie the way it was meant to be seen,” said Jeanne. 

Depending on states’ COVID-related restrictions at the time of release, the film will show in up to 350 AMC theaters nationwide. To encourage audiences to get out to the theaters, Picturehouse and AMC agreed to set up the re-release as part of AMC’s “$5 Fan Faves” program, which brings previously released films back to the big screen. Tickets will remain at that price throughout the weeklong first run and the duration of its time in theaters, which will depend on its box office performance. The Berneys hope that the reduced price will motivate church groups, schools, and families to gather and see the film in theaters for several weeks. 

“We can really give people all the reasons to come and see it,” said Jeanne. “The presentation, the price, the story, and the month of May being Mary’s month.” 

After a year navigating the challenges of a global pandemic, the Berneys have found the film to be a source of consolation. “Particularly this past year, I think everyone has needed something to inspire them or to give them hope, and the movie does that,” said Bob. “I hope it also brings people back to their faith … or reaffirms it.”

Jeanne added that they envision the film inspiring dialogue between Catholics and people of another or no faith and bring a message of hope from over 100 years ago to the present day. “It’s an emotional, beautiful story,” she noted. “And this story is still relevant. It’s not a thing of the past.”

SCREEN INTERNATIONAL

By Mike Goodrich

On Wednesday, Feb 25, in the early hours of the morning, crowds will start gathering outside the Tinseltown 20 Multiplex in Plano, a middle-class suburb of Dallas, Texas. 

It’s Ash Wednesday. The event: the first show of the opening-day screening of Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. At 6.30am, the 125-minute film will begin playing on not one, not 10, but all 20 of the screens. In fact, at the time of writing (Jan 22), all 20 screens are sold out for all the shows of the film until the evening. 

For Newmarket Films, the independent distributor which has partnered with Gibson’s Icon Entertainment on the theatrical release of the picture, the demand for the film is unprecedented and should continue right through Lent to Easter. This kind of demand is unprecedented for most Hollywood studio blockbusters. For all the controversy which has plagued Gibson’s third film as a director, the major nay, monster commercial success of the film is now almost a given.

For the majors which turned down the film, the demand for THE PASSIION is a big lesson. The conservative religious population in the US is a potentially massive cinema-going demographic which was underserved by Hollywood until Gibson, an A-list star if ever there was one, decided to make his personal, RomanCatholic film of the passion. Gibson isn’t even in the picture; his stars are Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Romania’s Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Italy’s Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene; the film is in the (dead) Aramaic language, is subtitled and contains brutal scenes of violence against Christ which have earned it an ‘R’ rating in the US. But this particular audience doesn’t care that it’s subtitled, violent and doesn’t have stars in it:this isn’t the upscale audience of LosAngeles or New York City, nor teenagers or African Americans or any other key demographic. This is Middle America. Welcome to the Bible Belt. 

Bob Berney, the independent distribution veteran who is a partner in Newmarket Films and runs the company’s distribution activities, explains that the combination of Gibson, a supremely bankable star in Middle America, and The Bible is an extraordinary one. “They want to know what Mel Gibson’s take is,” he explains. “Gibson is probably the most popular movie star in the country and he definitely is in the world of Reader’s Digest readers.

“The film, which is only now starting to screen for press, is,” says Berney, “intense. It’s the last 12 hours of Christ’s life, with flashbacks, and is quite an experience. People who have seen it are stunned and can’t talk at the end of it. Mel is trying to humanize the bible story and therefore it’s very violent. We got the R rating from the MPM after some discussion. Some kids will be horrified, but it’s not a family movie. We are working in the campaign to educate families as to this fact in advance, so that, if they take kids, they will take older kids rather than younger.”

Good reviews, says Berney, are not a priority as they would be in the smaller arthouse films which he is such an expert at releasing: “It’s a powerful and moving film and I think it will get good reviews, but only if critics can review the film and not Mel. Some won’t be able to get past it.”

So how has this subtitled, ‘R’-rated, violent picture reached such a fever pitch of excitement in the US? Berney explains that Icon and Newmarket have worked together in the past on financing agreements and that Newmarket’s Will Tyrer approached Gibson’s partner at Icon, Bruce Davey, about handling the domestic release of the film when Icon’s studio partner 20th Century Fox and others passed on it after accusations of anti-semitism started flying at Gibson from Jewish groups, none of which had seen the film. 

Icon had already hired a consultant called Paul Lauer to devise a strategy targeting different churches and work on a grassroots religious campaign. “They were trying to build awareness in the churches like you would a political campaign, and while this was going on, we started to realize the scope of the film. Since we took on the film, we have had hundreds of thousands of calls from churches asking how to get advance tickets and free tickets. Most of the exhibitors started asking for two _or three prints per complex. We decided that we should go as wide as possible to begin with.”

And it’s not just the Catholic Church which approved the film – although whether the Pope himself uttered the now-famous edict, “It is as it was,” has been disputed by Vatican sources. Even leaders in the Southern Baptist church which usually condemns Hollywood product and certainly disapproves of ‘R’rated films, has told its congregations that they can go to the film.

Once the film was screened to leaders of various churches and they officially endorsed it, fliers were sent out into the church communities and screenings were set up to drive word of mouth. The official The Passion website started to get millions of hits a day. Meanwhile, the controversy and Gibson’s name have fueled interest in traditional media outlets and want-to-see among non-religious audiences. Gibson’s publicist Alan Nierob, who is based at Rogers & Cowan in Los Angeles, has worked closely with Newmarket to combat the negative publicity on the film. The teaser trailer was premiered on ABC morning show “Good Morning America” and the first trailer was premiered on CBS show “Entertainment Tonight”.

”After that,” says Berney, “the website went through the roof. After the trailers went out on those network shows, we started to get enquiries about group sales. The major circuits like Regal, Cinemark and AMC have set up their own 800 numbers and internet sites to go to for information on tickets.”

Astonishingly, six or seven weeks before Feb 25, most circuits had set the daily times and schedules of the film in its first few weeks, when normally the times are not set in stone until a fortnight before opening. 

Gibson himself has personally screened the film for numerous church and religious groups and will continue to do so to further the grassroots campaign, but he won’t spend too much rime on the road tubthumping for publicity purposes. Instead, the star has opted to do select interviews with key press and TV outlets, preferring the spotlight to fall on his actors. 

He did, however, attend the Ain’t It Cool News (AICN) Film Festival, which was held recently in Austin, Texas, where he was interviewed on stage after the screening by Harry Knowles, the founder of the maverick website. “If you go to the festival, you have to watch movie after movie for 24 hours,” says Berney, “and THE PASSION was the final film, but the response was incredible from the audience, which was composed of internet geeks and was not religious.”

Even Jewish groups will want to see the film, thinks Berney: “So much has been written about it which was negative without anyone seeing the film. It certainly is very upfront about its Catholic faith, but it’s not anti-semitic, and the Jewish community will want to see it for themselves.” 

Opening on some 2,200 sites, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is the widest ever opening for a subtitled film and, although Berney won’t be drawn on estimates, it is expected to top $30m in its first weekend and maybe outgross the $128m taken by previous top subtitled film CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.

The question remains as to whether it will inspire Hollywood studios to look at the sleeping giant that is the Christian audience in a different light. After all, Hollywood never used to shy away from spending tens of millions of dollars to produce religious epics like QUO VADIS?, BEN-HUR, KING OF KINGS, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE ROBE. Those films are not only classics but some of the biggest moneyspinners in history.

An indication will be where the video rights land for the film, a deal Icon has not yet opted to make. Certainly Fox and the other studios, only a few weeks ago shying away from THE PASSION out of political correctness, will now be looking hungrily at its long-term value on DVD and video, not to mention in non-theatrical arenas and direct mail markets. No longer a hot potato, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has quickly evolved into one of the year’s must-see hot tickets.

IT'S MOVIETIME AT THE INWOOD

By Tom Sabulis

It’s late August, and you want to see a movie. Only you’ve had it up to here with Hollywood and its weird science projects. You want a vacation from boobytrapped movie vacations. Instead of real geniuses, you’d like a story about real people. Or maybe something underground, just a bit off-the-wall. Maybe you’d even like – perish the thought – to think.

At times like this, you want the Inwood.

For sophisticated foreign films and precocious comedies, celebrated art movies and the latest documentaries, small independent productions and fattening concession-stand candy, the Inwood is indispensable.

Other theaters may have bigger screens and equally fine sound systems, but few of them feel like the Inwood, Dallas’ only first-run art film emporium. It has a remarkable sense of place. The name even exudes a neighborly’ ambiance. And with its art moderne doors, high-tech lighting and marine mural motif, the lobby may be the coolest place in town. If it isn’t, the Inwood Lounge is. The convenient off lobby bar was built three years ago (at a cost of $200,000), yet it looks like part of the original establishment that opened in 1946.

But while the Inwood has been a fashionable hangout for serious film buffs for years, it only recently became an economically successful movie house. Since the theater opened as an art theater in June 1981 – it was one of the city’s most popular mainstream theaters during the ’40s and ’50s – growth has been slow. During the first few years, the Inwood lost money or broke even, said Bob Berney, the theater’s general manager and film buyer.  

Last year, however, things began to turn around. Over the past 12 months, the Inwood has done its best business to date. Smash engagements of films such as “A Private Function” ”’Stop Making Sense” and ”Choose Me” have turned the theater into a moneymaker. And today’s long-awaited opening of the controversial Brazilian film, “Kiss of the Spider Woman/’ should continue the new trend of long lines, packed houses, and high grosses. “The last year has proved that Dallas is a pretty good art-film town” Berney said. “We’ve had real solid hits. It has been difficult establishing the theater. But now I feel Dallas has become a real viable market.” At the same time, the Inwood’s success has seemingly worked against the theater. Other theaters, such as the UA Cine and General Cinema’s Galleria, have proven to be tough competitors for top art film products. (The Galleria is the only other theater in the area showing “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” while the Cine has featured area premieres of “Das Boot” and “Mephisto,” among others.)

Suddenly, the competition is getting even thicker. Last week, American Multi-9nema (AMC), the nation’s third-largest movie chain (after General Cinema and United Artists), announced plans to devote three screens in the area solely to ‘specialty’ films.

AMC’s jump into the art film business should increase local competition for the Inwood, but Berney feels that the bijou program won’t hurt the market unless there is a shortage of good films. “I don’t think they’re going to pull any of our people away,” he said.

Neither does AMC, which plans to develop its own audiences apart from the Inwood crowd. The first bijou opens. next Friday at AMC’s Prestonwood 5 in north Dallas with the area premiere of “Streetwise,” an acclaimed documentary about street kids in Seattle. Other bijous will operate at new theaters that are under construction in Fort Worth and Mesquite.

Competition for films is nothing new to Berney, 32, who worked three years as a theater manager for AMC in Austin and Houston.

“We’ve always had to be aggressive going after films,” he said. “You have to get the big art pictures to make the theater work. For a while, we had trouble, but now we are getting them. We have a track record. Producers and distributors have come to know the Theater. They know it can get grosses. They know their pictures will be treated right here.”

Berney cites the coveted “Kiss of the Spider Woman” as an example of the Inwood fighting for – and getting – the “big” art picture. Berney saw the movie earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival and knew he wanted it for the Inwood. But other exhibitors, including General Cinema, also wanted to show “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in Dallas. As it turns out, Berney had to “stretch” to get the film. “We really had to go on and on to get “Spider Woman,” he said. “We had to guarantee more money than we ordinarily have to. We paid probably twice as much as we’ve ever paid (for the rights to show a film). But I never doubted it would earn that back. I really wanted it, and I think the distributors knew it had to go here.”

If the Inwood has earned the power to exhibit the most prestigious art films in town. Beqiey credits the “general constistancy” of bookings at the three-screen theater for making it a profitable alternative movie house, With a lot of good products available, he likes to keep the balance of feature films mixed preferably  running one obscure film with a major art product and an offbeat American film.

The current triple bill is an ideal example of that desired versatility. Along with “Spider Woman” the Inwood is currently featuring “The Shooting Party,” a dry, superbly acted British film about the decline of the aristocratic class in the days preceding World War I, and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” the comedy starring Pee Wee Herman and his bicycle.

The soft-spoken Berney seems excited with the lineup. Regarding “The Shooting Party”, he said, “There’s a real market here for quality British films, and this one has that ‘Masterpiece Theater’ feel to it. There’s  an older audience here that really wants to see sophisticated British films.”

As for “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” he feels it’s actually a “specialty” film and not a mainstream Hollywood movie, which is the way it’s currently being marketed . To prove his point, Berney said that of the 10 theaters in town showing “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” the Inwood had the biggest individual showing on the first weekend.

Despite the emergence of the Inwood as a major, moneymaking art house, there are always big movies that Berney cannot get because of what he calls “distribution patterns and industry politics.” For example, Berney has tried to land every new Woody Allen film, but hasn’t gotten one of them. “Amadeus” was another movie he desperately wanted to show, but couldn’t.

“Although we get major art films, they usually come from independent distributors. It takes longer to get established with major companies because not all their films would play at the Inwood.” On the other hand, the chains play most of their movies, so they usually get first crack at the few the Inwood would like to have.

While the major art films get most of the competitive attention, some

smaller, lesser-known films turn out to be pleasant surprises for the Inwood. “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” is one; Berney substituted it for “Streetwise” when it turned out that AMC had its exclusive rights in Dallas.

The British comedy, “A Private Function,” is another. It closed Thursday after an extraordinary 16-week run that grossed over $100,000. Berney says the satiric, sometimes scatological comedy did well because it offered a strong alternative to Hollywood’s Spielbergjan summer products.

He hopes “Kiss Of The Spider Woman” runs just as long. He feels it will, but refuses to guarantee its success. “I never get too cocky,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed before.” But those disappointments seem to be less frequent now. And the theater’s long-term prospects are shaping up rather nicely in the eyes of the Inwood innovator. On Sept. 6, the Inwood will premiere “Insignificance,” the new film by Nicholas Roeg, and on Sept. 20, the Inwood opens “Dance With a Stranger,” a movie being billed as the next big art film of 1985.

“I’m really confident of the future,” Berney said. “We’ve got a long lease, we’re all dedicated to keeping it going, and the market’s really good.”

Berney’s Roll Call Of Success

It’s no surprise that Icon Entertainment is looking to Bob Berney to handle the domestic release of the explosively controversial The Passion Of The Christ. Berney has been behind some of the biggest independent hits in the last few years, from Memento and Y Tu Mama Tambien to My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Whale Rider. Although he attributes the success of each to collective efforts, he stresses that a challenging independent release works best by “really working with film-makers to recognize their vision and be organic to that” as well as “executing the campaign without interference from all sorts of studio levels changing it for the sake of change”. 

MONSTER

Charlize Theron hailed him as a genius at the Golden Globes last Sunday, and few can deny Bob Berney has earned his stripes. Here he outlines some of his most successful campaigns. 

Berney loves to have time to prepare his releases, but Monster was an exception. “Everything was against what I normally do on this film,” he says. “We did the deal with DEJ and Media 8 just for theatrical at Toronto 2003 and, knowing that the film wouldn’t actually be finished until November, we had to hustle and make it in time for an end-of-year release.” Key to the release was the belief that lead actress Charlize Theron, also a producer on the film, would be a candidate for awards consideration, a belief which has proved justified since she has already bagged a handful – including the best actress Golden Globe – and is now a front-runner for the Academy Award for best actress. 

Berney says he is wary and careful about releasing films in the competitive awards season months of November and December. “We decided to come in at the end of December and roll the Academy campaign and the release campaign into one,” he explains. “Because of that, the compacted Oscar season was actually a strategic advantage for us.” Theron and director Patty Jenkins were highly supportive of the film, adds Berney, attending ShowEast and the world premiere as closing night of AFI Fm in Los Angeles in November – the same slot which had launched Monster’s Ball two years ago. 

Berney explains that the Christmas release date was the key to the film’s burgeoning success. “A lot of the awards films opened in early December and if you don’t make it straight away, you have to spend time we came out, we were perceived as the hot new film even though we were only three weeks later. The public is so fickle, they think they’ve seen the others.” 

He decided to open Monster on one screen in New York City, but rather than go for a traditional arthouse venue, he booked it into the Loews 19th Street. “It’s a more commercial theatre for studio pictures and people thought I was crazy, but due to the nature of the story, I wanted to reach a downtown audience as well as NYU students.” Monster scored the biggest opening ever at the theatre. 

Meanwhile, Berney’s wife and frequent collaborator on his films – the indomitable publicist Jeanne Berney of The Berney Group/P&F Communications – was faced with building critical support on the film. “Jeanne and her team were able to get big critics to see it early,” he explains. “She took it to Roger Ebert in Chicago and asked him to see it early. He was amazing. We also had to get people over the notion that it was some kind of stunt marketing job, that the film is a film as well as a performance.” Ebert, probably the best-known critic in the US, went wild for Monster, naming it his best film of the year and giving Newmarket a quote which was immediately slapped onto the poster and which most distributors would kill for. “It’s the best performance in the history of cinema,” he raved. For the most part, reviews were good, and Berney anticipates that come Oscar time, Monster will have grossed close to S20m. 

WHALE RIDER

Berney’s first hit as a partner in Newmarket, which he joined in 2002, was HBO Films’ Real Women Have Curves, but his first major crossover success was Niki Caro’s Whale Rider, which this week scored a surprise best actress Oscar nomination for Keisha Castle-Hughes. He bought the film after seeing its audience reception at its world premiere screenings at the Toronto film festival. “A lot of distributors left,” he remembers, “but by the end there were tears and standing ovations. Toronto is an audience festival and a good place to gauge word of mouth.” 

Berney planned to open the film as a traditional arthouse release and expand it out once word was out. “We knew we couldn’t open it wide like Disney,• he says, “but if we opened with reviews, the word of mouth we generated would be such that when we expanded into malls and suburbs, they would come back with their kids. The word of mouth had to be there for our plan to work, so I was very careful to schedule it on June 6 when there were no big independent releases and only big car-crash studio movies opening.” Berney says that when Swimming Pool opened a few weeks later the two started playing off each other: “Having two independent hits in the market at the same time is great.

MEMENTO

Berney immediately started building the internet campaign for Memento, focusing almost exclusively on the plot. As word of mouth and critical support built from festival appearances, the film was also generating a large ‘internet geek’ audience: “You had to recognize that on some level, Memento was effective because it was a disguised genre film.” 

As in many of Berney’s releases, time was key. “The more time you have to prepare these movies, the better they work. If you can be six months out. that’s ideal,” he says. And exhibitors need to see promises of marketing support which, in Berney’s case, usually involves print advertising booked on a highly targeted basis. “I find you’ve got to be very aggressive with exhibitors and promise to support the film with good print ads across the field and not just in Los Angeles and New York. They should know that they can give screens to the independent, knowing that the campaign appears equal to a studio release. You’ ve got to target the markets that need it and analyse each market so that, every week of release you can prop up the weak spots with advertising.• Memento ran from March 2001 to the end of the summer, and Berney’s entire spend was just S8.5m. 

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN

The key to the crossover success of Alfonso Cuaron’s road movie was a two-headed campaign. “On the one hand, we opened it as an upscale, sexy art film, and on the other we wanted to pitch it to a wide young Mexican male audience in the US. While it was on two screens in New York, it was on 40 or 50 in Los Angeles and Chicago. For the Latino audience, we kept the title in Spanish and went for the teenage boy for whom this was the equivalent of American Pie.” 

Berney says IFC bought the film at Cannes 2001 and watched as it opened in Mexico in June to record­breaking results at the box office: “We had the advantage of it being so successful in Mexico and word of that success traveling up to the US. There was huge pre-awareness in the Latino market and especially within the younger male audiences.” For the arthouse audience, Berney knew that Cuaron was a critics’ favorite and that it could become a sexy date movie for the arthouse crowd. “Reviews were 100% good,” he recalls. “We went out unrated even though Alfonso tried to get it to an ‘R’ from an ‘NC-17’ by replacing some of the scenes.• 

The release was also supported by the film’s multi-millionaire producer/financier Jorge Vergara, who paid for Cuaron and the stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna to travel across the country for publicity purposes. 

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING

When Lions Gate Films pulled out of its US distribution commitments to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, producers Playtone and Gold Circle Films came to Berney and IFC. “This film was a real joint effort,• says Berney. “Gold Circle paid for the marketing spend, while my job was to come up with the overall release strategy. Marketing consultant Paula Silver also worked on the grassroots campaign within the US Greek community. 

Berney sold the film to exhibitors as a mainstream commercial project and took it to ShoWest in March with stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett, and producer Rita Wilson ( aka Mrs Tom Hanks 1- “We opened in eight cities in multiplexes and tried to make it appear a big studio release by taking TV ads. It started to build like crazy, but our idea was to keep it limited in each market. so we added cities but not necessarily screens. Each theatre which had it was selling out. We were almost trying to make it like a London show, so that you would go out to an event which was hard to get in.” 

The screen count built and by August it was playing on 2,000 screens. “If a studio had gone wide with it straight away, it probably would have died,• says Berney. “We needed that time to make it work. People that wouldn’t have liked it in March liked it in September. There was an infectiousness to it.” The challenge for Berney was to keep persuading Gold Circle to spend on it and keep the momentum going. “We spent on TV in certain weeks in certain markets and then let word of mouth carry it.” 

Remarkably, Gold Circle’s entire marketing spend on the picture was around S3om, making Greek Wedding one of the most profitable pictures in history. 

LA TIMES: MARCH 1, 2004

image
image