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Popular Fatima film to re-release in 350 theaters on May 7th

An interview with Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney of Picturehouse, the North American distributor of Fatima, which was one of the top 10 of grossing films in 2020.

Stephanie Gil stars in a scene from the movie "Fatima." (CNS photo/Claudio Iannone, courtesy PICTUREHOUSE)

Last August, amidst the shutdowns and restrictions imposed by government officials at every level—which included the shuttering of movie theaters across the country—a new film premiered, beautifully and engagingly depicting the apparitions of Our Lady to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. The film Fatima was released in a handful of theaters, but was largely seen by audiences at home via “Premium Video on Demand” rentals.

Bob Berney is CEO and Jeanne Berney is COO of Picturehouse, the North American distributor of Fatima. They have been involved in the marketing and distribution of many prominent films, including My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Drive, Manchester by the Sea, Pan’s Labyrinth, and The Passion of the Christ, among others.

Picturehouse recently struck an exclusive deal with AMC Theaters to re-release Fatima, beginning on May 7, in 350 theaters around the country. This will be a traditional release, as the film would have had initially if it hadn’t been for the shutdown of theaters. Jeanne Berney said that “this release has been all in Mary’s hands from the beginning,” a point which is emphasized by the fact that they were able to secure a date just before Mother’s Day (May 9) and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima (May 13).

(As a side note, Ignatius Press also published a book last August, which is a helpful and accessible resource for those seeking more information about the Fatima apparitions: Fatima: 100 Questions and Answers about the Marian Apparitions, written by yours truly.)

Bob and Jeanne Berney recently spoke with Catholic World Report about the film, its upcoming re-release, and how the film’s message of hope can impact the world today.

Catholic World Report: Can you briefly explain the role the two of you, and Picturehouse, play in regards to this film?

Jeanne Berney: Picturehouse acquired the film for North America from the producers. Then we proceeded to set up a traditional release plan for the movie, beginning with a release in theaters, followed by what we call “home entertainment” or “transactional video on demand,” where you go in and pay each time you watch, followed by “subscription video on demand,” which in this case is Netflix. We were responsible for all aspects of those things in North America for the film Fatima. In other countries there are other companies that have acquired the rights and will release the film in those territories.

Bob Berney: We’re really responsible for the distribution, dealing with theaters, and the marketing, which includes the publicity and the creation of all the materials—like the “coming soon” trailer, the poster, the digital campaigns, the social media, all the stuff that’s related to a film’s release.

CWR: Why did you decide to re-release the film? And why now?

Jeanne Berney: We didn’t decide—Mary decided!

Bob Berney: A lot of it—at least in the U.S.—has to do with the opening up of the country in many ways. With the vaccines and new guidelines, easing of restrictions, based on lower cases, it felt like a hopeful time in the country. With Easter and everything, it felt like a hopeful time with things actually opening up. Then we talked with AMC Theaters, who originally responded positively to the film before they were shut down for a long time due to the pandemic. And with things opening up, it feels like an opportunity to get this hopeful message of the film out there, and help communities to sort of come back to life.

Jeanne Berney: I would add that we originally were going to open it in April; but then, due to the pandemic, we moved it to August. But by the fourth of July, when theaters still had not opened, we moved to a hybrid release, having some theaters showing the film but also having it available on what’s called “Premium Video on Demand”—the opportunity to see a movie in your home at the same time you could see it in a theater. As things start to open up, the opportunity to see that film together, in community with your friends, your church, your school, is great. We have a movie that looks great on the big screen, and a lot of people who love it. So why not put it in 350 theaters and give people a reason to come together? The timing is perfect, and we’ve set a price point we think really works: $5 per ticket.

Bob Berney: It’s a new way to experience it for most people. I’m not stuck in the old world; I know the impact streaming is having. Audiences want to see movies when they can, but I still do really believe that there’s a sense of community and passion when you see a movie with people and can feel the response in the theater. So I think it’s important that we let people have that, since they really miss it.

Jeanne Berney: The movie is beautiful on the big screen. That’s what it was shot for. The director was the cinematographer for Game of Thrones, so he’s really got the chops to create a movie for theaters. And when you see this on the big screen it will be very different than what you saw on your computer or your TV. And with 350 screens, it’s pretty much national. So everybody should be able to find a theater near them that’s playing it.

CWR: Was AMC at all reluctant to strike this re-release deal?

Bob Berney: They were very good about it. I have a really good relationship with them, and when we were originally going to open before COVID, we had screened it at their home office in Kansas City, and they had invited to the screening a lot of people from the local diocese. They all responded really well to the film. The theaters are opening up now, but there aren’t as many movies as there normally are, so we thought it would be a great win-win—a way to both help the theaters, and to help people come back to theaters, and also for us to spread the message of the movie even further. It’s a repertory booking, in a way, for them (bringing back a film), but it’s a film that most of the audience hasn’t really been able to see on the big screen.

Jeanne Berney: And it differs a little from a repertory booking because it’s not just one night; they will keep the film in theaters as long as people come to see it. It’s an open-ended, regular run, like we would have had, had the theaters been open when we released it, and that’s the unprecedented part. So we’re excited about that, that they’re willing to roll the dice with us on this movie, and give a full slate of showtimes and promote it with us.

Bob Berney: I think it’s great that they see the opportunity to not just play Hollywood films and art films, but a film that has a faith message, a Catholic story. So we’re really impressed that they wanted to do that in a big way.

CWR: Since the initial release in August 2020, what sort of traction has the movie had? It was a hybrid release—at release, and since then, have there been a lot of box office ticket sales, downloads, purchases?

Bob Berney: It’s actually done very well on the Premium Video on Demand at the time, and then subsequently with the typical home entertainment—lower-priced rentals and Netflix. It’s done very well. So I’m hoping that that word of mouth will generate new people coming to see it, but also people who want to see it again, to experience it on the big screen.

Jeanne Berney: You know, the way the movie business works, they must report the numbers from the box office in the theaters, but those laws were written in like 1939. So once the home entertainment came up, they weren’t bound to release that information. We can’t really talk specific numbers, but I can say that the film is in the top 10 of grossing films in 2020. Of course, the pandemic caused a lot of studios to pull their pictures out. But the independent theaters that played it, and the Premium Video on Demand from August 28 to October 5, we grossed in the top 10 of movies for 2020. And that’s another reason AMC wants to bring it back: it has been successful. That’s a great accomplishment for a movie like this.

CWR: What do you hope for from this re-release?

Jeanne Berney: We’re hoping to go to heaven!

Bob Berney: I think what we hope for is that it’ll get some people out into the theaters. We don’t have expectations that it’ll go through the roof or anything, because we just don’t know. It’s hopeful that the film will get attention again, and in this period of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and Ascension Thursday, the message of hope of the film combines with the hope that a lot of people have that there will be a healing in our country. The message is very positive, so I hope that that message has an effect on people. And if it does good business, that could generate more word of mouth and spread the film even further, and even become a classic, I hope.

CWR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jeanne Berney: We’re also trying to encourage people to come see the movie in connection with Mother’s Day. Bring your mother to the movies! Honor the mother of all mothers! This is really an opportunity to see this film together.


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About Paul Senz 82 Articles
Paul Senz recently graduated from the University of Portland with his Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry. He lives in Oregon with his family.

15 Comments

  1. I so looked forward to seeing the Fatima movie, and bought it on DVD as soon as it came out. I was terribly disappointed. This is a review I wrote at the time.

    It’s not a good movie. Perhaps if it had been a fictional story about fictional events, I would have liked it; but for reasons that I can’t understand it is full of inaccuracies and omissions. I also found it rather choppy and disjointed and poorly paced. This post is long; sorry about that! But I wanted to tell about the things that stood out in my memory.

    The movie starts with Lucia, alone, in a cave; a bird comes in and flutters around, and then its shadow changes and there’s a rather androgynous person there (I thought for quite a while that it was supposed to be a woman). Contrast that with what Lucia actually wrote (via the America Needs Fatima site):

    “”We had been playing for a while when a strong wind shook the trees. Since it was a calm day, we looked up to see what was happening. Then we began to see, well above the trees that covered the stretch of land to the east, a light whiter than snow in the shape of a transparent young man who was more brilliant than a crystal struck by the rays of the sun.

    “As he approached, we began to see his features. He was a young man of great beauty about fourteen or fifteen years old. We were surprised and ecstatic. We did not utter a word.

    “Once he drew near us, he said: ‘Fear not. I am the Angel of Peace. Pray with me.’ “Kneeling down, he bowed until his forehead touched the ground.”

    The angel’s emphasis on suffering was downplayed to the point of invisibility. In real life, Lucia and Francisco and Jacinta all tied knotted ropes around their bodies to suffer, and wore them all day and all night. Our Lady told them to wear them only during the day, not while sleeping. In the movie, Lucia alone impulsively ties a plain rope around herself, and Our Lady tells her not to wear it.

    The specifically Eucharistic aspect of Fatima is ignored in the movie, which completely skips the visit of the angel when he talks about the Blessed Sacrament and gives the children Holy Communion. Here’s what Lucia wrote: “We rose to see what was happening, and we saw the angel bearing a chalice in his left hand. Drops of blood fell into the chalice from a Host suspended over it.

    “Leaving the chalice and the Host suspended in the air, the angel prostrated himself beside us and said the following prayer three times:

    “‘Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly and offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the earth, in reparation for the insults, sacrileges, and indifference with which He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg Thee for the conversion of poor sinners.’

    “After this, rising up, he again took the chalice and the Host in his hand; he gave the Host to me and the contents of the chalice to Jacinta and Francisco to drink, saying: ‘Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, who is horribly insulted by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.’”

    In real life: “The three seers were playing at Cova da Iria on May 13, 1917 when they saw two flashes like lightning, after which they saw the Mother of God above a holm oak. She was, according to the description of Lucia, “a Lady dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun…” Her face, indescribably beautiful, was “neither sad nor happy, but serious,” with an air of mild reproach. Her hands, joined together as if she were praying, were resting at her breast and pointing upward. A rosary hung from her right hand. The seers were so close to Our Lady – about a yard and a half away – that they stood within the light that radiated from her.”

    In the movie, the Lady is not above the oak, she stands on the ground with the children. She is dressed in white, but there’s no light radiating from her.

    The children ask her about one dead person and are told that she is in heaven. The movie ignores their question about a second person, about whom Our Lady said “She will be in purgatory until the end of the world.”

    In the movie, the Lady simply disappears. Compare that to what Lucia wrote: “She immediately began to rise serenely toward the east until she disappeared far into the distance. The light that surrounded her was, so to speak, opening her way through the starry firmament.”

    In the movie, some drops of blood appear on the bodice of the Lady’s gown. In real life: “In front of Our Lady’s right hand there was a heart encircled by thorns that seemed to pierce it. We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary, insulted by the sins of humanity and which desires reparation.”

    The threats and terror are pretty much omitted from the part where the children were kidnapped by the mayor. In real life threw them in jail with criminals; and he thratened that he would put them in boiling oil, and cruelly had a guard take away Jacinta, then told the remaining two that she was dead, taking Francisco and then telling Lucia that he was dead, too.

    The apparitions of Our Lord, Our Lady, and St. Joseph that the children saw during the miracle of the sun? Omitted. And I really don’t think that the movie did a very good job of matching the descriptions of the miracle of the sun.

    The truth is so amazing and dramatic that it simply boggles the mind that the people who made the movie thought they could improve on it. It’s as if they’re a bit timid about telling the whole truth, so they pick some things that won’t offend modern people, or non-Catholic people, too much.

    • Thanks for your review. It is what I feared. In the 1980s, The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima wanted to make a remarkable film on Fatima. Many donated for this promising film. It turned out the film didn’t have much to do with the Message of Our Lady, it was only the story of a man and his conversion. Not what we expected. A great Movie about Our Lady of Fatima and Her message could probably be done by the one great Mel Gibson, as his great film “The Passion of the Christ” was beyond anyone’s expectations.

      • Thank you Andrew, I believe Mel Gibson would be someone who could do that. That’s a great suggestion.

        • Leslie’s description is is quite accurate! However Mr. Angelo’s are quite inaccurate. Anyone who has any real knowledge of the events that have unfolded regarding the message of Fatima, knows Fr Gruner, a stickler for detail, put his life on the line for the truth of the Fatima message which is why he is known as The Fatima Priest. By the way, Fr Gruner told us the story at one of the many talks I personally attended about how Fr Gruner invited Mel Gibson to consider making a movie about Fatima. Fr was told by members of his staff who overheard Mel say to another of Mel’s staff, “If I made a movie about this, they’d kill me!” Be careful to discern
          that those you listen to have enough detail to be believable or are just spouting or making up out right lies.
          Sr Lucia would never say such a thing about Fr Gruner because she herself stuggled her whole life to get the last two requests of Our Lady fulfilled but to no avail. Both Cardinal Raymond Burke and Archbishop Vigano recently announced that neither the consecration of Russia was done nor the third secret, Our Lady’s words
          revealed. Nor the Five Saturday devotion promoted by the church for that matter. Go to http://www.fatima.org to learn the whole truth given by God to save us from these very times we are currently living in. “Only She Can Help You.”

          • Lorraine Mannion, There are two types of Fr. Nicholas Gruner’s, one a conspiracy theorist and the other, a liar. Fr. Gruner at one time was hailed as “The Fatima Priest”. What went wrong? Money! Fr. Gruner was suspended by Rome, when he died he was at the fourth and last stage of excommunication. He lied a great deal about how Sr. Lucia told him certain things. To the final point that Sr. Lucia through her Bishop wrote to the Holy Father and complained that Gruner was placing things in her mouth, things she never said. Also that Fr. Gruner was causing great damage to the Message of Fatima. St. John Paul the Great then forbade Gruner to ever speak to Sr. Lucia again. Sr. Lucia’s Superior ordered that Gruner was never to be allowed in the Convent of St. Teresa of Avila in Coimbra Portugal ever again. All petitions for the Consecration were to be trashed on arrival. Sr. Lucia said the Consecration was done and accepted by heaven. It is because of Gruner that there are those who don’t accept the Consecration done on March 25, 1984. In this, we can understand why Sr. Lucia said Gruner was causing great damage to the Message of our Lady. Even in death, Gruner is still causing damage to Our Lady’s Message. Sr. Lucia had an answer for all of this, “Forget the conspiracy theories and just obey Our Lady’s message”.

    • Cbalducc, Only the insane would have Fr. Nicholas Gruner as an interpreter of Our Lady of Fatima Message. As The Servant of God Sr. Lucia had said “Fr. Nicholas Gruner has caused great damage to the message of Fatima”. With your comment, What are you looking for???

    • I’m looking for accuracy. If one believes in the apparitions at all, one ought to believe in the descriptions of them given by Sister Lucia and by Sts. Francisco and Jacinta.

      I had never heard of Nicholas Gruner before I read your post, and I’m not talking about the interpretation of anything. I am talking about the facts surrounding the apparitions, and this movie fails miserably to present them.

      • Leslie, You say, “one ought to believe in the descriptions of them given by Sister Lucia and by Sts. Francisco and Jacinta”. This is the point I have been trying to make for decades. You say you had never heard of Fr. Gruner, watch out when you read what he says. He can be very convincing with conspiracy theories such as, “Sister Lucia was ordered by the Pope to lie and say the consecration of March 25, 1984 was accepted by heaven, also The real Sister Lucia was kidnapped by Rome’s orders and an imposter placed in 1960. Also, Sister Lucia was kept under lock and key so that she wouldn’t speak”. These are just a few of Gruner and his follower’s conspiracy theories. We must depend on official information from Rome, and Sister Lucia who Our Lady left in this world as her messenger of her Immaculate Heart. A good source is the official Biography of Sr. Lucia. But Gruner kept for himself, the sole interpreter of Fatima, he overrode Sister Lucia on main facts. When it comes to Gruner’s followers the words of scripture apply, “The day will come when men will no longer endure sound Doctrine but their ears will be itching for fables”. Fatima is all about the Gospel and the teaching of the Apostles. Ven. Pius Xll said, “Fatima is a reaffirmation of the Gospels”.

          • SR Elias, I thought about your question, about what my expertise is. I don’t know what my expertise is except that for over 40 years I have sought Truth for the purpose to live by it in order to please God and obtain heaven. Our Lady on May 13, 1917, asked the Children, “Are you willing to offer yourselves as a sacrifice to God, in reparation for sins committed against him and in supplication for the conversion of poor sinners?”. I was 17 years old am now 61 almost 62. At 17 I thought about what our Lady asked. I was completely obstinate against the idea of what Our Lady said, “Very well, you will have much to suffer”. For 3 days my conscience tormented me as I didn’t want to suffer. Finally, after 3 days I went before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and made the offering as Our Lady asked. I sensed an immediate powerful sense of Peace. That’s who I am SR Elias.

            SR Elias, there Are people who ask questions demanding an answer. Now it’s my turn. SR Elias, What Is Your Expertise??? You asked me, now I ask you and I expect and deserve an answer!

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