The Berney’s Greatest Hits

Jeremy Kopp
Vice President, Media Society
September 17, 2015

Actors, Directors and Producers tend to get all the acclaim when a film succeeds. However, the marketing and distribution teams behind the scenes are just as important to a film’s success as anyone else. Take Bob & Jeanne Berney. For years this dynamic duo has spearheaded the marketing & distribution campaigns for some of the most successful independent films in history.

On October 9th, Bob & Jeanne Berney will theatrically release Altar Identity Studios’ debut film, Big Stone Gap, across the nation. In honor of this exciting event, let’s take a look back at some of Bob & Jeanne Berney’s most successful releases.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
$5M Budget    |    $241M Domestic    |    $368M Worldwide

Fate struck when Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks saw Nia Vardalos one-woman play in Los Angeles in 1997. Hanks’ company, Playtone, stepped up to produce the film version after several studio executives had passed on it. Released on April 19th, 2002 by Bob & Jeanne Berney while with IFC, the film opened on a modest 108 screens grossing approximately $600K. By eliciting word-of-mouth endorsements from the Greek-American community, the Berney’s helped My Big Fat Greek Wedding become the biggest independent movie of all time. The film ran for 52 weekends. By contrast, Avatar stayed in theaters for only 34 weekends.

Whale Rider
$3.5M Budget    |    $21M Domestic    |    $41M Worldwide

A coming of age story about a young girl from a small tribe in New Zealand sounds about as art-house as it gets, however, riding critical acclaim this little film took in a massive box office haul. The film also went on to win the Best Foreign Film at the Independent Spirit Awards as well as receiving an Academy Award Nomination for its star, the then 13-year-old Keisha Castle Hughes. Once again, The Berney’s impeccable taste and savvy marketing led the film to great success.

$8M Budget    |    $34M Domestic    |    $60M Worldwide

Director Patty Jenkins credited the Berney’s for having the vision to release Monster while other studios balked. Monster was released on Christmas Eve 2003 on just four screens. It would later expand to over 1,000 screens, taking in more than four times it’s budget at the box office. Charlize Theron took home the Oscar for her transformative performance in this gritty drama.

The Passion of the Christ
$30M Budget    |    $370M Domestic    |    $612M Worldwide

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was the first faith film blockbuster. Icon Productions put up the entire $30M production budget as well as $15M in advertising after 20th Century Fox passed due to the controversial nature of the film. Released on February 24th, 2004 by Bob & Jeanne Berney while with Newmarket, The Passion of the Christ became the most successful independent film of all time, supplanting My Big Fat Greek Wedding. By rallying the Christian community around the film, Bob & Jeanne Berney once again used their grassroots magic to lead an independent film to dizzying heights.

$1.5M Budget    |    $54M Domestic    |    $97M Worldwide

Working with noted horror producer Jason Blum (The Purge, The Conjuring), the Berney’s took a $1.5M Horror Film to nearly a $100M worldwide gross. Featuring Big Stone Gap star, Patrick Wilson, Insidious has gone on to become one of the horror’s most lucrative franchises. In their first true foray into the horror genre, Bob & Jeanne knocked it out of the park.

In addition to dozens of other success stories, the Berney’s also released two of the most successful foreign language films in the United States with Pan’s Labyrinth and Y Tu Mamá También

Needless to say their track record is phenomenal. Film investors seeking real passive income opportunities should always consider not only who is starring in their films, but also who is distributing them