For the past eight years, Annapurna Pictures has prided itself as being one of the more dynamic voices in independent film production and distribution. They’ve worked with people like Paul Thomas Anderson, Karyn Kusama, Kathryn Bigelow, and Adam McKay, and they’ve garnered multiple Oscar nominations and wins for movies like Vice, American Hustle, and Zero Dark Thirty.
But things have been shaky for the past year or so, with reports that seriously under-performing movies have taken their toll on the company, founded by Megan Ellison. In a report from The Hollywood Reporter, an Annapurna spokesperson said, ‘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.’ Megan Ellison’s father is Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation fame. Her brother David is the founder of Skydance Media. Multiple sources also told the publications that Annapurna had retained a law firm to explore the option of bankruptcy protection. So, that’s not good.
Variety reported that Megan Ellison had sent a memo to Annapurna staff assuring them that she had no intention of stepping down amid this restructuring, writing, ‘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.’
The first signs of trouble at Annapurna came when the company scrapped two high-profile projects they had previously greenlit: Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, and Jay Roach’s drama about Fox News, which currently has no title. Around this time, two high-level Annapurna executives stepped down.
It would be a shame to lose Annapurna, and another sign of the seriously bad shape indie film is in right now as we descend further into the domination of media monopolies and expanded blockbuster universes. The company’s releases have often been highly acclaimed but either struggled to find an audience or had their releases seriously blundered. There was also speculation about whether certain investments were misguided or not, such as the $60 million budget given to Vice (it made $76.1 million worldwide, which is a definitive loss). Their next film, Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, will be released next week but has received startlingly little promotion. It didn’t help that Annapurna moved from being just a production finance company into a much riskier world of distribution.
And it sucks that the options available for those less commercial directors getting financed continue to dwindle because Disney ain’t gonna fill that gap and A24 can only do so much.
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