EXCLUSIVE: London office unmanned as staff told not to return; sales outfits and producers ink deals with new distributors.

The gate to Revolver's office was locked on March 4

The gate to Revolver’s office was locked (March 4)

As of 10am Monday morning, Revolver Entertainment’s large office in London’s Holland Park was unstaffed with the gates padlocked. Reports from a number of recent employees are that the remaining staff have been told not to return as the company wouldn’t be paying them.

This comes after weeks of speculation about the company’s current status, with Screen reporting in mid January about a number of staff exits and rumours swirling in Berlin that the company was shutting down and the distributor not acquiring new product there.

Just recently, the outfit had celebrated its 15th anniversary and been publicly acclaimed — in October, winning the DVD Campaign of the Year Award at the Screen Marketing and Distribution Awards for Iron Sky; and then Revolver’s joint release with Picturehouse, The Imposter, won two BIFAs and a BAFTA.

But UK distribution is a tough business at a time when the DVD business — vital to the company from its early days — is suffering and a number of companies have struggled to cope with high releasing costs in a competitive market.

The independent distributor, responsible for the likes of iLL Manors, Anuvahood and Exit Through the Giftshop, also had a staff of nearly 40 working out of one of the most impressive offices in the industry.

“Cash flow problems”

According to senior staff formerly at Revolver, there are also other company-specific financial reasons for the company’s demise, not just the general DVD downturn. One internal email between executives from late last year seen by Screen describes the company’s “cash flow problems” and income being “significantly below that forecast.”

The company listed as Revolver Entertainment Limited has yet to submit its 2012 financial statement to Companies House [and does not need to until September of this year]. But the 2011 and 2010 statements for that listing reveal an outfit in decline with significant overheads. Financials for related and sister companies isn’t known.

Company profit for that business specifically declined from £721,546 in 2010 to £119,219 in 2011. Despite only adding two staff in the same 12-month period, the company’s already hefty wage bill increased by almost £250,000.

Amid fluctuation, Revolver’s “director’s remuneration” remained consistent at £240,000 each year according to Companies House.

Despite its problems, the company has yet to enter administration.

Renegotiated deals

Most sales companies and producers who had films set to be released by Revolver have now renegotiated deals or are in discussions with new distributors.

AV were the first to announce a restructured deal on their thriller The Liability starring Tim Roth — Revolver had planned a Feb 22 launch but Metrodome will now release in May. Among more recently re-signed deals, Picturehouse has picked up rights to Shane Meadows documentary The Stone Roses: Made of Stone, Bankside is close to signing with a new distributor on Spike Island and Ciaran Foy’s Citadel – due for release last Friday – has been returned to sales company Films Distribution, which is now in talks with UK distributors.

While sales outfits have lost time and some are waiting for materials to be returned, none Screen spoke to are owed money.

Producer disputes

Among producers, there is a different story. Screen knows of at least two recent disputes between producers and Revolver over unpaid MGs, one being Film London on Ben Drew’s drama iLL Manors, starring Riz Ahmed.

One experienced producer Screen spoke to lamented a recent “communication problem” with the outfit and said it had to “hound the company on a daily basis” for updates on the distribution of their film.

However, another executive praised the company for its “original” outlook and the positive experience they had working with the company last year and said they were saddened by their demise which “means another hole in the distribution landscape for films which might not have an obvious path to release”.

Wait continues

Revolver company head Justin Marciano has declined to comment for several months.

A spokesman for Revolver-backer Corniche, who took a significant minority stake in the company in September 2012, said there hadn’t been any contact between Hani Farsi’s outfit and the UK distributor for “weeks” and that it is “waiting to hear what is happening at the company”.

Screen first reported Revolver’s troubles in January. A number of former staff have joined other companies with further announcements imminent.

Former MD Nick Taussig, who headed Revolver’s in-house production arm Gunslinger, departed last month to launch London-based production outfit Salon Pictures. The fate of most of the films on the Gunslinger slate isn’t known although Salon is working on a Lenny McLean biopic that had been first set up at Gunslinger.

Screen also understands that former Allders’ finance director Max Menon took the reins as finance director for three months at the end of last year in a bid to turn the company around but he resigned at the end of January.

The company also has an office in Los Angeles.

Urban hits

Since its launch in 1997, Revolver carved a niche in the production and innovative distribution of UK urban titles.

But it also had success with market-facing French-language films including Heartbreaker and Tell No One, and acquired a number of critical hits including documentaries The Imposter and Exit Through the Giftshop, and dark Australian crime drama Snowtown.

Revolver’s biggest box office hit came in March 2011 with Adam Deacon comedy Anuvahood, which grossed £2.1m. However, the diversely-slated company struggled to replicate those numbers across releases.