I’ve twice read Mike Goodridge‘s explanation story about why Bob Berney bolted from Apparition….and I still don’t entirely get it. I get the part about Apparition having gradually slid into a weakened financial state due to distribution disappointments such as The Runaways and Bright Star. Then came the coup de grace, he says, when Apparition lost out on distributing Fair Game, the Doug Liman political drama, which apparently led Berney to see the company as a sinking ship.

Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson has disputed Goodridge’s report, saying that the Fair Game deal was “not a factor…Summit always had first crack at North American rights to the Doug Liman thriller, which is budgeted in the $30-million range…not only do Pohlad and Summit have a long relationship, but Participant is a majority investor in Summit.”

Thompson explains that The Runaways was “the movie that most tested the Pohlad/Berney partnership…after a splashy media launch at Sundance, Pohlad altered Berney’s distribution plans, drastically pulling the film back from a planned wide release to a more conservative platform. In fact, the movie played best inside the art-house niche with fans of the original 70s group, topping out at $3.5 million. But in today’s marketplace, many movies don’t get that far.”

Here’s Goodridge’s report:

“Cannes competition title Fair Game appears to be the chief reason behind Bob Berney’s abrupt departure from Apparition, the company he co-founded with Bill Pohlad and unveiled this time last year.

“Doug Liman’s Valerie Plame drama starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn was never necessarily going to be an Apparition release. Pohlad’s production company River Road Entertainment said that it planned to secure a hefty MG and wide release commitment from any prospective buyers.

“But when Summit Entertainment bought the film last month in a deal closed by CAA for River Road and co-financiers Participant Media/Imagenation Abu Dhabi, the terms of the deal were not as rich as expected. Summit wasn’t required to come up with a huge MG and will probably release Fair Game on a platform basis — Berney’s specialty.

“Berney is thought to have been surprised by the Summit/Fair Game deal which was presented to him as a fait accompli.

“River Road, which is run by Mitch Horwits for Pohlad, has a close relationship with Summit which handled international sales on Fair Game, and was known to be disappointed by Apparition’s release of its production The Runaways, the rock and roll biopic which has grossed just $3.5 million after two months on release in the US.

“‘It got good enough reviews but it didn’t cross over,’ Berney told Screen last month. ‘It plays like an art film.’

“Nor was it easy for Berney and his staff to operate on a reduced budget after Pohlad and CAA were unable to raise additional funding to finance the p & a funds of the new company. The company had been restructured with a lower risk profile in light of the disappointment of Apparition’s first release Bright Star and the failure to raise additional funding.

“Berney is attending Cannes this week, while plans for the future of Apparition are as yet unclear.

“‘I have no comment at this time and wish Bill Pohlad much success,’ said Berney when reached yesterday.”