‘Tree of Life’ alone in Apparition stable

Posted by · 1:53 pm · June 30th, 2010

Things looked so upbeat for fledgling distribution outfit Apparition when they started out last year. Masterminded by former Picturehouse head Bob Berney, the company was christened with the acquisition of one of 2009’s best films, Jane Campion’s “Bright Star.” A classy roster of titles followed, including “The Young Victoria,” “Fair Game,” “The Runaways” and, most eagerly awaited of all, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.”

They didn’t quite know what to do with everything they had — “Bright Star” was unfortunately buried by ill-thought scheduling and idle marketing — but they did manage to eke out an Oscar win for “Victoria” before their first birthday, and also nabbed one of the starrier titles at this year’s Sundance fest: the Kristen Stewart and James Gandolfini starrer “Welcome to the Rileys.” Not bad going, particularly in the current indie climate.

How quickly things change in Hollywood. Just before Cannes, Berney caught industry watchers off-guard by pulling out of Apparition, and the company has been reeling from the shock ever since. Anne Thompson reports that co-founder Bill Pohlad has taken the drastic measure of shutting down their New York office and nearly halving the staff.

Meanwhile, Apparition have been giving away their titles left and right: “Fair Game” was handed over to Summit some time ago, while Samuel Goldwyn Films has inherited “Welcome to the Rileys.” This effectively leaves the big one, “The Tree of Life,” as the streamlined company’s only child left as they soldier on. With so much riding on the success of that one film, Thompson reminds us that Apparition have brought in former Lionsgate chief Tom Ortenberg to ensure it goes well:

There is still debate about when Malick will be ready to deliver River Road’s The Tree of Life, which Pohlad produced with Sarah Green. Apparition describes the film starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn as a “mystical epic” about a family coming to terms with loss. While Venice hopes to debut the film, there have been no promises made. And Apparition has no firm release plan; Ortenberg will be taking lead on that strategy. An end-of-year opening is the target.

Given that Malick’s film is my (and no doubt many others’) most anticipated title of 2010 bar none, I hope the move pays off. But more than that, I hope these downsizing measures help Apparition itself pull through: it’s sad, if not altogether surprising, to see a young company with noble artistic commitments struggling in this manner.




→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 6-30-2010 at 2:11 pm

    aspect ratio said...

    Ugh, it would suck if this brink-of-death company isn’t able to give this film a proper release because of no budget, etc. I’d much rather see them hand it over to a company that would be able to support it into theaters and beyond (and Oscar-wise, if it’s that good).

  • 2 6-30-2010 at 2:29 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    im nervous for tree of life, will it be lovely bones all over again? i hope not, and im always rooting for brad pitt lately. well see what they can do

  • 3 6-30-2010 at 3:39 pm

    James D. said...

    AmericanRequiem: Malick is no Peter Jackson. All he does is release masterpieces.

  • 4 6-30-2010 at 4:25 pm

    Zac said...

    Tree of Life isn’t my most anticipated of 2010; it’s second to Inception.

  • 5 6-30-2010 at 5:46 pm

    Adam M. said...

    Way to bet the farm on a film that isn’t going to make any money. Nice knowing ya, Apparition.

  • 6 6-30-2010 at 5:48 pm

    Dean Treadway said...

    I’m with you, Kris. Most anticipated title of the year. Hell, of the last THREE years.

  • 7 6-30-2010 at 6:46 pm

    AmericanRequiem said...

    @ Dean Treadway this is guys most anticpiated, i dont know if the same goes for kris

  • 8 6-30-2010 at 8:55 pm

    Glenn said...

    AmericanRequiem the situation with “The Lovely Bones” shares nothing in common with “The Tree of Life”.

  • 9 6-30-2010 at 9:43 pm

    Silencio said...

    Regarding Bright Star, I’m sure the scheduling and marketing was subpar, but to me that’s not why the film failed to soar. I love The Piano. Bright Star just didn’t do it for me.

  • 10 7-01-2010 at 2:46 am

    j said...

    Bright Star was one of the most beautiful films of the year visually and had amazing directing and acting from all involved. I’m still more miffed at A Single Man’s small showing, but at least the best performance of the year got a nom.

  • 11 7-02-2010 at 10:39 am

    Nel said...

    Dear Harvey
    Please pay Apparition whatever they win for this movie and win Malick his first Oscar. I in return will make my mission to watch ever Weinstein movie out there and give gifts of your movie’ to friends and family? Deal?, I thought so as Miral ain’t gonna win you any Oscars.

    Mwah x
    Nel