Montreal-based distributor Equinoxe Films is pulling out of distribution after its principal backer, France Film, withdrew its funding.

The company has laid off the core of its 14-strong staff, including acquisitions chief Marie-Claude Poulin and marketing director Michele Laroche, and closed its Toronto office. Poulin has since joined Pierre Even’s production company Item 7 as a partner. Calls to Equinoxe’s Toronto number were forwarded to the Montreal headquarters. The company website is also down.

President Michael Mosca told ScreenDaily that he was close to working out a deal to acquire the Equinoxe Films brand from France Film, as well as its sub-distribution deals with companies including Walt Disney, MGM and Lionsgate. He hopes to own the new company outright and foresees a return to a stand-alone distribution slate as early as next year.

It is not clear what the changes in financing will mean for Equinoxe Production, which Mosca runs with producer Lyse Lafontaine. It was formed in 2004 following the takeover of Montreal-based company, Lyla Films and has produced films including Un Dimanche A Kigali and Lea Pool’s Maman Est Chez Le Coiffeur.

Lafontaine is currently a co-producer on the Robert Lantos production of Barney’s Version, which is shooting in Rome. She was unavailable for comment.

Equinoxe came to prominence as a distributor through a number of astute pick-ups, including comedy monster hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ. It also championed local hit Mambo Italiano.