Annapurna Pictures is one of the premiere film production and distributors today. Having released bold films like American Hustle, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Spring Breakers, and The Master, it seemed like the young company would continue to stay in business.
However, having just dropped two major films before they were set to hit production, there is word that the indie distribution company is in major financial trouble. More on the story below.
The Wrap says Annapurna founder Megan Ellison is now re-evaluating its film division. This comes after they dumped the untitled Fox News film starring John Lithgow and Charlize Theron, and the Jennifer Lopez-starring vehicle The Hustlers At Scores. It also comes after Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit failed to meet expectations and a rather tepid box office for this year’s Sorry To Bother You.
Annapurna films were meant to be unconventional and a part of the auteur film landscape. The aforementioned films would certainly fit that bill. However, it has been revealed that Ellison may have been spending more money than she actually has. Now she is taking a more active role in the day-to-day duties of her film division. Sources tell The Wrap that Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Megan’s father, is “balking at any further investment” in the studio. According to the report, there was a request for a $200 million dollar investment.
So why such a high price? Well, go back to out of control spending. Bigelow’s Detroit cost up to $40 million to make. Unfortunately, the film only managed to gross $16 million at the box office. Vice, the Adam McKay-directed Dick Cheney biopic, was reported to have a $60 million production budget, and sources say that it could have been made for half of that. Their latest western effort The Sisters Brothers was made on a $38 million budget. Yet, it has only grossed $730,000. Annapurna is also behind Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk.
Sources close with Annapurna’s operations tell The Wrap that there’s a “financial issue going on,” and that Ellison is “focused on making passion projects” with no concern for the cost. As they put it:
“She makes bad decisions. She wanted to chase all these expensive movies that weren’t going to make money, and she said, ‘I don’t care whether they make money.’ That’s not how you run a company.”
However, damage control is already being set in place. An Annapurna spokesperson said These are unfounded rumors. Everything is business as usual.” Another source told The Wrap that Annapurna wasn’t heading towards financial ruin and that Ellison had confidence in her marketing team despite the acknowledgement that some of these films weren’t performing up to their expectations.
Though they still do have films on their slate, Annapurna unloading two critical films is not a good sign. Worse, it appears that Annapurna is also cleaning house. THR says that the company’s president of film Chelsea Barnard had exited recently. This follows Annapurna’s president Marc Weinstock and chief financial officer Josh Small exits in the past few months.
Despite all of the bad news, there is still some light at the end of the tunnel. “I don’t think she’s going to shut down production,” an insider said. “She’s going to slope it way back down.” Let’s just take that as a sign that things are changing for the better. Annapurna Pictures’ films are fantastic if you are looking to get away from the studio flicks. As noted, they are willing to take on risks other studios won’t. Which is pretty rare in this day and age. Especially when everyone criticizes that there are no original films any more.
It will be real interesting to see what will happen to Annapurna in these next few months. Obviously, they have better odds of staying in business if their films are a success. We will keep you posted as soon as more developments come in.
[Source: The Wrap | THR]