Toronto-based entertainmentcompany Alliance Atlantis plans massive cuts to its production arm, cutting upto 60 positions nearly half the division's workforce - and axing the twomost senior production executives, EntertainmentGroup CEO Peter Sussman and Seaton McLean, the group's president for productionand one of the founders of the original company, Atlantis Communications.

Citing what he termed a"permanent down-turn" in demand for prime time television series, movies of theweek and miniseries as well as art house features, "all of which represented asizable portion of our production activities in the past", senior executive vice president and CFO Judson Martin saidthe decision is the culmination of a "wide-ranging" review of the company'sEntertainment Group. The review excludes the company's profitable CSI: CrimeScene Investigation TV franchise and doesnot affect the company's broadcast or motion picture distribution groups. InOctober, the company placed its Canadian and UK film distribution operationinto an income trust.

AllianceAtlantis has for several years been pursuing a so-called production reductionstrategy, reducing its involvement in high-cost low margin drama, but the newcuts are unprecedented, particularly the departures of Sussman and McLean. Therecent disappointment of Foolproof, an Alliance Atlantis production backed by a C$2m marketingspend, only added to the general sense of gloom. But company spokesperson Kym Robertson told ScreenDailythat to blame Foolproof's lack of successwould narrow a broader issue. "We're of the opinion that the downturn ispermanent." She continued, "Our strategic direction is clear and we have legalobligation to articulate it. And we have a responsibility to our employees tolet them know what is happening."

AAC chairman and CEO MichaelMacMillan said that although the company was reducing its overall productionexposure, international television distribution would remain an important partof the business.