Indie Companies: Annapurna in Danger

Eight years after its launch, Annapurna Pictures has retained a law firm to explore bankruptcy protection.

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.

Rumors of Annapurna’s imminent demise have persisted for the past year. Ellison’s company has lost much money due to several films that underperformed, including The Sisters Brothers and Destroyer.

Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? will be released by Annapurna on August 16.

“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 Tom Cruise starrer Top Gun: Maverick.

The company scrapped two high-profile previously greenlit films last year: Jay Roach’s untitled Roger Ailes drama and Jennifer Lopez’s heist picture Hustlers. Those moves coincided with the departures of high-level executives, domestic marketing president Marc Weinstock and film chief Chelsea Barnard.

An announcement earlier this year about a new joint distribution venture with MGM was perceived 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 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.

Oscar Track Record

Ellison’s Oscar track record is impressive: She is one of the most nominated female producers in Oscar history, and Annapurna has received 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 several 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.

Then there’s 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.