Sony Pictures Classics’ Michael Barker And Tom Bernard On Why Oscars Matter

Pete Hammond

When it comes to Oscar savvy we often hear Harvey Weinstein talked about as the kingpin of the game, but when you look at the success of Sony Pictures Classics you realize it rivals Weinstein, Searchlight, Focus and other comers in consistently, and annually, releasing and nurturing one contender after another in the quest for the elusive statuette of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Since the company was founded in December 1991, key to its success has been its co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard who first worked together in similar specialty divisions at United Artists and Orion and now continue to run one of the most stable indie shops in the industry. But with a total of 25 Oscar wins  and 109 nominations just at SPC they clearly have the Midas touch, and that includes a slew of Best Picture nominations for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (their biggest hit to date), Howard’s End, Capote, An Education, Midnight In Paris and this year’s Amour which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes and has amassed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, only the fifth film in Academy history to be named in both categories. With writing and directing nods for Michael Haneke as well as a realistic Best Actress bid for star Emmanuelle Riva the film looks to be another strong contender for the pair who continue to be one of the few high profile companies that still champions foreign language films. SPC serves up a wide variety of specialty fare of all types and always seems to find a footing in the Oscar race which has become an important part of their business plan. With two contenders for Best Documentary and two for Best Foreign Language Film in addition to the Best Picture bid, the pair are fixtures at every major film festival and are once again making lots of noise in their high season. I spoke to both late last week about the upcoming Oscars and what it means to their bottom line.

Deadline: How important is this Oscar business to the actual business of Sony Pictures Classics?
Bernard: It’s part of the  business for Sony Pictures Classics because we can get movies, or have movies, that won’t get the recognition that they deserve any other way. And if they get that recognition what we have found is that the boxoffice and ancillary and profits of these movies get much better. We can go all the way back to Camille Claudel when we had Isabelle Adjani and somebody close to her suggested that you should run a campaign for her for Best Actress and we said ‘it will never happen, no one will watch the movie. We can’t get them to the theatre. And the person said ‘well why don’t you send out VHS cassettes to the Academy’ so we did and sent them to the actors branch and lo and behold we got a nomination. And it took that movie to a level it would have never gotten if it didn’t happen. Read More »

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OSCARS: Nominated Docs Traverse Challenging Territory

Ari Karpel and David Mermelstein are AwardsLine contributors

From the homemade, unpolished qualities of 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers to the journalism of How To Survive A Plague and the investigations of The Invisible War and Searching For Read More »

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‘Searching For Sugar Man’ Takes Doc Prize

By | Friday December 7, 2012 @ 11:19pm PST

Searching For Sugar Man was named best feature tonight at the International Documentary Association Awards at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. The film directed and written by Malik Benjelloul also made this week’s list of 15 finalists for the Oscar nominations for documentary feature. Another Oscar shortlister honored tonight was David France’s How To Survive A Plague which took the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker Award.

Sugar Man, which chronicles South African fans’ efforts to find out what happened to American singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, also was named best documentary earlier this week by the National Board of Review. Last month the Producers Guild of America also nominated the film for Best Documentary, along with another of tonight’s winners, Jon Shenk’s The Island President, which took the Pare Lorentz Award. Read More »

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Hot ’60 Minutes’ Segment: ‘Searching For Sugar Man’

By | Monday October 8, 2012 @ 10:51am PDT
Mike Fleming

The Sony Pictures Classics documentary Searching For Sugar Man got a spectacular shot in the arm with a full 60 Minutes segment on the film’s subject, the rediscovered singer Rodriguez. If you didn’t get to watch the segment last night, it’s worth a look because Rodriguez’s story has to be … Read More »

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