EXCLUSIVE: After nearly 16 years on the Culver City, CA lot, Steve Bersch, President of Screen Gems, is departing Sony when his contract ends on Dec. 1.
We understand it’s a very amicable exit, and that the executive, who is going out on a high note with the highest grossing horror movie of the year, Insidious: The Red Door ($188.5M), is eyeing other pursuits after a long career in the motion picture business. As Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group CEO and Chairman Tom Rothman says in his note to staff below, he tried to convince Bersch to stay.
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Deadline also understands that Scott Strauss, EVP of Production for Screen Gems, will also be exiting when Bersch departs.
That box office result for Insidious: Red Door also repped the record for the $730M grossing franchise, one which Bersch has been with since Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group bought North American rights to the first Insidious (which was made for a reported $900K) at 2010’s TIFF Midnight Madness as Deadline first reported. That’s when Bersch was President of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquistions, a position he landed upon joining Sony in 2008 from Fox.
Among the movies Bersch worked on with Sony were the horror hit Don’t Breathe ($157.7M WW), Oscar-winning Arrival, which he snapped up foreign on (minting $102.8M overseas to $100.5M domestic); the Searching and Missing indie thrillers (combined global of $124M+); Tom Hanks WWII movie Greyhound which premiered on Apple TV+ and the actor’s dramedy A Man Called Otto which was a bright spot at the winter B.O. for older demos earning $64.2M domestic, $113M-plus worldwide.
Bersch added the title of President, Screen Gems to his oversee in 2018 after Clint Culpepper departed the genre division.
Screen Gems staffers and those businesses that reported to Bersch will now report into Sony Motion Picture Group Presidents Josh Greenstein and Sanford Panitch, including Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, which is being led by the division’s President Joe Matukewicz. In addition, AFFIRM Films, under Head Rich Peluso, will report to Greenstein and Panitch. A Screen Gems successor to Bersch will be named in coming months.
Below is the email to staffers from Rothman:
Despite my best efforts to persuade him otherwise, Steve Bersch has decided to step down from his role as President, Screen Gems, when his contract ends on December 1st. After nearly 16 years of distinguished service to SPE, and decades more in the business overall, Steve wants to pursue other life adventures — the lucky son of a gun!
Steve joined Sony Pictures as President, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions in 2008 and built that business into a powerhouse for us before adding President, Screen Gems to his oversight in 2018. During his tenure, he has shepherded the production or acquisition (on a worldwide or selected territory basis) of hundreds of films. He will depart on the heels of record-breaking success for the Insidious franchise with Insidious: The Red Door. The fifth installment has generated the highest-grossing global box office for the franchise, and become the highest-grossing horror movie globally of 2023. Steve has been with the $730 million franchise since its first installment. Among the films he worked on during his long tenure at the company are Don’t Breathe, Oscar-winning Arrival, for which Steve secured international rights; Searching, the box office sleeper hit that inspired the sequel Missing; Greyhound which premiered on Apple TV+; A Man Called Otto and many others.
Prior to Sony, Steve was with many of us at Twentieth Century Fox for 13 years, where he had a wide range of roles, serving as Executive Vice-President of Business Affairs, COO of Fox Home Entertainment, and then President of Fox Interactive. Before that, he held executive positions at Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and MGM/UA. He began his career as an entertainment attorney.
Steve has asked that I share the following with all of you:
“When I arrived at SPE in January of 2008, I never imagined I would spend almost 16 years here. It’s been a wonderful run. I will miss so many aspects of the company, especially my wonderful colleagues, and the teams at Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions and AFFIRM Films. After four decades of working, I’m inspired by the idea of jumping into something new that allows for more travel and more personal flexibility. Tony and Tom have built a great company where you can do your best work, and I am very thankful for the opportunities they provided for me here.”
I know you all will join me in thanking Steve for all he has done for Sony. He has made a lasting impact. We will miss him greatly but are eager to watch him flourish in the coming years.
Our Screen Gems label and the businesses that reported into Steve will now report into Josh Greenstein and Sanford Panitch jointly, including Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, under newly-minted President, Joe Matukewicz, and AFFIRM Films, under Head Rich Peluso. We will share an update on Screen Gems’ leadership transition in the coming months.
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