Eight years after its launch, Annapurna Pictures has retained a law firm to explore bankruptcy protection, multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
The company, founded in 2011 by Megan Ellison, had evolved over the years from a production-finance entity to include a full-scale distribution arm whose films include Vice and Sorry to Bother You. But rumors of Annapurna’s imminent demise have persisted for the past year. Ellison’s company was said to have lost so much money — thanks to a string of soft box office performers, including The Sisters Brothers and Destroyer — that it could no longer sustain the hemorrhaging.
“The Ellison family is in negotiations to restructure their deals with the banks. They remain in full support of the company and are dedicated to Annapurna’s future,” said an Annapurna spokesperson. Megan Ellison is the daughter of Oracle Corporation billionaire Larry Ellison. Her brother, David, founded Skydance Media, which produces the Terminator sequels and is behind the forthcoming Tom Cruise starrer Top Gun: Maverick, among other titles.
Red flags abounded as the company scrapped two high-profile previously greenlit films last year: Jay Roach’s untitled Roger Ailes drama and Jennifer Lopez’s heist pic Hustlers. Those moves coincided with the departures of two high-level executives, domestic marketing president Marc Weinstock and film chief Chelsea Barnard, and were followed by an announcement earlier this year of a new joint distribution venture with MGM that some saw as Ellison relinquishing power.
The prospect of bankruptcy would be a huge blow to the independent film world. Ellison has been hailed as one of the few executives remaining in an increasingly tentpole-driven industry to champion adult-skewing dramas made at a studio-level budget. As a producer-financier, she backed such films as Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, David O. Russell’s American Hustle, Spike Jonze’s Her and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s R-rated animated breakout Sausage Party. From an awards standpoint, Ellison’s track record was impressive given that she is one of the most nominated female producers in Oscar history, with Annapurna nabbing 52 nominations over the past eight years.
But perhaps the biggest looming question is the fate of the James Bond franchise. Annapurna has at least a 50 percent stake in United Artists Releasing. Bond 25 — which has been plagued by setbacks including a director switch, star Daniel Craig’s ankle injury and at least two peeping Tom incidents involving hidden cameras in a bathroom — is scheduled to be released April 8 by UAR (Ellison is also a board member of the UAR). How Annapurna’s cash flow issues will affect the MGM tentpole’s release will be determined. An MGM source says there would be no impact on the release of any its titles including Bond.
Currently, Annapurna has a staff of 80 and a number of film projects in development, including the Emily Blunt starrer Not Fade Away, which Russell and John Krasinski are producing and which is based on a 2015 memoir by Rebecca Alexander; and a drama about Harvey Weinstein’s epic fall, based on the Pulitzer Prize reporting of The New York Times‘ Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, that Brad Pitt’s Plan B is producing. On the immediate horizon is Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which Annapurna is set to release Aug. 16.
Following the publication of this story, Ellison sent a note to Annapurna Pictures staff:
Dear AP Team,
I got word this morning that there are some rumblings around town about our current status with the banks and that a story is likely to hit the press at some point today.
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.
That said, it is of tremendous importance to me that you all know we are as committed as ever to this company and are in full support of our future.
Regardless of whatever comes out in the press, the truth is that we are well on our continued path towards success. There will always be speculation, misinformation and personal jabs in the press – that’s part of the business.
But know, none of that matters to me. What does is your sense of security and protecting the special community and culture at Annapurna. I believe in what we make and have no intention of stopping any time soon.
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.
If you have any questions or want to talk, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Aug. 7, 3:16 p.m. Updated with Megan Ellison’s note to Annapurna staff.