Following recent disparaging press reports and rumours following staff departures, Capitol Films managing director Peter Naish reiterates that the business is solid, if a bit dampened by current market conditions.

Naish, who joined Capitol from Icon about a year ago, said that the recent departure of his co-MD Nick Hill wasn't a sign of the business going downhill. Ed Clarke and Sofia Neves have also recently left Capitol, to join Kudos and HanWay respectively.

'When David Bergstein's group acquired Capitol in 2006, we were a London-based company,' Naish said. 'Now there's been an LA operation set up and that's where the company is focused in terms of operations. London is the home of sales and we don't need as many people. There's been different shift in the group's structure.'

Capitol's longtime general counsel Hannah Leader added: 'London is the right place for foreign sales for so many reasons but you do need your acquisitions and development executives in LA so that they can talk to the senior people at studios and agencies.'

The London-based group won't replace Hill or Clarke directly, but Naish said: 'We will add another junior person to the team when the market perks up.'

The LA Capitol office, led by new senior operating officer Mike Corrigan, has 35 employees. Bergstein's group has US distribution via ThinkFilm, and international sales is separate from that business -- through Capitol Films and its division ThinkFilm International (also based in London, not New York). The companies share an office: ThinkFilm International handles smaller films of budgets up to $10m usually; Capitol handles larger, more US-focused projects.

Peter Naish didn't gloss over the fact that Capitol isn't having a boom time currently. 'It's a soft market, productions are down because of the strikes, presales are challenging unless packaging is spot on. And once you've got a product made, people need you to deliver that at the right price,' he noted.

He continued: 'I don't think there's any doubt trading conditions are detrimental, but London is focusing on international sales and we've got good product.'

Responding to a recent story that Capitol/Think were in a dire situation reflected by the temporary shutdown of David O Russell's Nailed, Naish defended their position. 'That film was resurrected [from the Intermedia slate] by Bergstein's group, which has put a lot of money in it. Yes there was some glitch but now the film is back on track.' IM Global, not Capitol or ThinkFilm International, is selling the project here in Cannes.

Capitol's current sales slate includes finished films The Edge Of Love, Black Water Transit (screening in Cannes by invitation only), and a new post-Sundance cut of Incendiary. In post is Taylor Hackford's Nevada-set Love Ranch starring Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci.

Two top projects in development are Don Roos' Love And Other Impossible Pursuits to star Jennifer Lopez, which started pre-production last week after a writers-strike delay and now has a SAG waiver; and Phillip Noyce's $50m+ Mary Queen Of Scots which still has Scarlett Johansson 'firmly attached.' Hannah Leader notes that that film has been hurt by both strikes -- with the script previously delayed by the writers strike and the film too big for any waiver for a potential actors strike.

Pre-strike projects announced at AFM, including Robert Redford's Against All Enemies, are 'on hold until everything [with the strikes] is sorted,' Naish said.

Leader added that strikes were the biggest factor in the company's dampened business: 'The money has been spent on development, and now films are sitting there because of strikes so it takes longer to turn the money around,' she noted.

ThinkFilm International, now headed by Will Machin (reporting to Naish but some autonomy) has added two new films to its Cannes slate: Michael Radford's La Mula and Ken Bowser's Down And Dirty Pictures.

Library sales will become more important to Capitol, and Naish says that there are plans to add a library sales executive in London. The company's library now boasts more than 1,000 titles, fed by the Intermedia and ThinkFilm libraries among others.

Of course, Capitol had seen departures prior to the recent trio. Co-founder Jane Barclay sold her stake in Capitol with the Bergstein deal [early 2006] and is no longer connected to the company. Sharon Harel also left Capitol, and is now one of the backers of new sales outfit WestEnd Films, which is launching from former Capitol and ThinkFilm exec Eve Schoukroun and Maja Amsellem, formerly of Capitol.