Apparition isn’t worried about her bad reputation, will distribute Joan Jett biopic


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Bob Berney loves rock ‘n roll.

Apparition, the upstart company co-founded earlier this year by the film-distribution guru, has picked up U.S. rights to ‘The Runaways,’ a movie based on rocker Joan Jett, who co-founded that seminal 1970s band before finding stardom as a solo act.

The distributor plans on releasing the movie, which stars Kristen Stewart as Jett and Dakota Fanning as her band mate Cherie Currie, on March 19 -- meaning that fans of ‘Twilight’ (and everyone else) will be subjected to a kind of Stewart-mania, as she appears three times on the big screen in a span of seven months (she also stars in the the third ‘Twilight’ picture, ‘Eclipse,’ set to be released in June.)


Music-video veteran Floria Sigismondi directed ‘The Runaways’ and Apparition will pursue a dual marketing strategy for the film that targets the adults who remember the Jett-era and the kids who are fans of Stewart and ‘Twilight’ (though the edgy tone and R rating of ‘Runaways’ could keep the ad campaign from skewing too young).

‘We want to appeal to an older audience and people who can remember the scene back then as well as show younger people that this was someone who paved the way,’ Berney said in an interview. ‘We want to make sure people know it’s not just a typical rock biopic.’

‘The Runaways’ is financed and produced in part by River Road Entertainment which, like Apparition, is funded by Bill Pohlad. Other movies from River Road will make their way through the Apparition pipeline -- they include the Terrence Malick opus ‘Tree of Life’ starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt -- but this will mark the first Apparition release of a River Road production.

Berney described an arrangement between Apparition and River Road -- which are run as separate companies -- in which both sides discuss whether a given River Road film is a fit for Apparition. ‘It’s fairly informal but I think as we grow it will become clearer,’ Berney said, adding that it’s ‘pretty obvious on certain films.’

Apparition’s ‘Runaways’ move, while not a shock given the Pohlad-Berney connection, nonetheless takes one big acquisitions title off the Sundance table. ‘Runaways’ had been part of a small group of pictures, including John Wells’ recession tale ‘The Company Men’ and the offbeat Natalie Portman drama ‘Hesher,’ as movies that distributors have set their sights on.

Apparition is planning on a roll-out that lies somewhere between a platform and wide release, with a Sundance premiere -- and a possible Joan Jett performance in Park City, Utah -- helping to launch the campaign.

-- Steven Zeitchik