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Megan Ellison fends off Annapurna Pictures bankruptcy ‘rumblings’ as the company struggles

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein in Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart.”
Kaitlyn Dever, left, and Beanie Feldstein in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, “Booksmart.”
(Francois Duhamel / Annapurna)

Annapurna Pictures founder Megan Ellison on Wednesday fended off “rumblings” that her film studio is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, as the company tries to renegotiate its deals with lenders.

The West Hollywood firm behind movies including “Booksmart” and “Vice” is in talks with banks to restructure its debt after struggling for years to produce commercial hits in the challenging independent film business.

Ellison, the daughter of billionaire Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, has developed a reputation for making quality films, including last year’s “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Sorry to Bother You,” but has recently faced speculation that her company is running out of money because of a string of box-office disappointments.

In a memo to staff, Ellison sought to quell concerns about the company’s financial health, in response to a looming Deadline article that said the company was exploring a bankruptcy filing. If the current talks with banks fall apart, the company may need to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors, according to people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to comment.

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“I got word this morning that there are some rumblings around town about our current status with the banks,” Ellison wrote. “Restructuring deals with financial institutions is not uncommon, yet the process is usually handled without a spotlight on it. Fortunately/unfortunately, people like to write about me and my family.”

Larry Ellison is one of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $65 billion, according to Forbes. His son David Ellison runs Santa Monica-based Skydance Media, another film financier and production company, which focuses on blockbuster fare such as the “Terminator” and “Mission: Impossible” movies.

Although Annapurna’s more artistic films are often up for awards consideration, the company has weathered internal shake-ups and financial disappointments, with duds including “Detroit” and “The Sisters Brothers.” Last year, the studio decided to drop films including the Jennifer Lopez-starring “Hustlers” and a project about the late Fox News chief Roger Ailes as it reconfigured its movie strategy. Annapurna’s film president, Chelsea Barnard, also left the company.

Annapurna is just the latest mini-studio to face hard times in the hazardous indie film space. Last year, both Weinstein Co. and Global Road Films sought bankruptcy protection in order to sell their assets. Burbank-based STX Entertainment, which focuses on mid-budget films, has also struggled financially as the movie business has become increasingly dominated by studio franchises.

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Nonetheless, Megan Ellison told staff she remains optimistic about the company’s prospects. Its next release is Richard Linklater’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a book adaptation starring Cate Blanchett that hits theaters next week.

“I believe in what we make and have no intention of stopping any time soon,” she wrote. “We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon and I have no doubt all of our hard work will continue to show Annapurna’s unique and powerful place in this industry.”


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