"Marcie had stayed in touch with the producers throughout, and when we heard the film was out of the lab and about to be screened for the first time, I rushed over there. After the screening was over, I walked 20 paces to an outside cafe, sat down with the producers and made the deal."
On another occasion in Paris, Bernard caught an early screening of Jean-Paul Rappeneau's French version of "Cyrano de Bergerac," without subtitles, and immediately convened a telephone conference with his partners in New York.
"Tom said, 'I didn't understand a word of it, but it's one of the greatest things I've ever seen,' " Bernard recalls. "We bought it right away."
The Sony team say that once they see a movie they agree they want, it usually takes less than half an hour to come up with a price.
"When we evaluate product, how we're going to sell it, where it's going to play, what it's going to cost to release, we can go sit in a room for about 20 minutes and pretty much know its value," Bernard says. "We'll make an offer. . . . If it's not enough for the filmmaker, we move on."
Adds Barker: "I don't think we'd be in business if the movie went to the highest offer every time. Many times, we're not the highest bidder, but because of overages [profit shares], people can make more money with us. We paid $1 million for 'Howards End.' I know Merchant Ivory had offers as high as $5 million, but they went with us knowing they'd make more on overages, and they did."