Germany's Studio Babelsberg Swings to Loss Without 'Cloud Atlas,' Big Shoots

Shoots including George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' have helped revive Babelsberg's fortunes this year.
Shoots including George Clooney's 'Monuments Men' have helped revive Babelsberg's fortunes this year.
 Gettty Images

CANNES – Without Cloud Atlas or similar big-budget productions to fill its stages, Germany's Studio Babelsberg had a tough 2012.

Revenue for the studio group was cut in half last year, from $57.5 million (€44.3 million) to $29 million (€22.5 million), and the company booked a loss of $9.3 million (€7.2 million) after a slim profit in 2011.

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Christophe Gans' Beauty and The Beast, starring  Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, was the only major international feature to shoot at Babelsberg last year. Shooting on smaller local features could not make up for drop in overall production at Germany's biggest backlot.

Babelsberg's bottom line also took a hit as the company's board cut the value it assigned to a deal of its subsidiary Babelsberg Motion Pictures International with Silver Slate, a production fund Babelsberg set up to co-finance films produced by Joel Silver's Dark Castle shingle. The company said it has reduced the value of the loan deal by $6.5 million (€5 million).

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The slate was set up as a revolving production fund, by which Babelsberg would co-finance Dark Castle titles in exchange for the films shooting at the German studio and Babelsberg getting a piece of the back-end financials. While the cooperation has delivered a number of titles, including Liam Neeson-starrer Unknown (2011) and Todd Lincoln's horror thriller Apparition (2012), the output has been well below initial forecasts of two films a year and a total of 15 features for the entire slate.

Studio Babelsberg has now fully written off its stake in the film package, saying the $3.4 million (€2.6 million) it has received in back-end payments from the agreement so far make it unlikely that it will be able to repay the loan before it comes due in 2020.

Things are looking much better for Babelsberg this year though. The studio is currently booked solid with four international features in production: George Clooney's The Monuments Men, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brian Percival's The Book Thief, and The Voices from Persepolis helmer Marjane Satrapi.

Babelsberg said it was in negotiations for further shoots for later in the year and expected revenue for 2013 to be up sharply.

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