The Japanese producer, distributor and exhibitor files for protection amid mounting debts.

Japanese producer-distributor-exhibitor Cine Qua Non (CQN) has filed for bankruptcy protection after building up $52.46m (Y4.73b) in debts, according to a report made public by corporate credit research firm Teikoku Databank Ltd.

The filing, made at a local Tokyo court, seeks assistance for both CQN and its associated exhibition company CQN Cinemas.

The company abruptly closed its theatre in Tokyo’s Yurakucho cinema district yesterday, one of the locations it still directly managed, and it closed its Shibuya cinema last October. CQN theaters in Kobe and Seoul also shut their doors in recent years, adding to mounting debt.

Other locations in Yurakucho and Shibuya, whose management was taken over by Tokyo Theatres in an agreement made last September, will continue to operate.

CQN president and executive producer Lee Bong Ou, born in Japan of Korean descent, launched the company in 1989. It played an important role in driving popularity for Korean contents in Japan (the “kanryu boom”) distributing early hits Shiri and JSA. CQN generated revenues of $37.71m (Y3.4b) in 2005 and found critical success with the likes of Pacchigi!.

In 2006, CQN partnered with Japan Digital Contents to establish a $51m film fund created to underwrite 20 titles. The 2006 title Hula Girl (pictured) was the funds only real success earning $15.5m (Y1.4b). Other titles such as February 2009 release Halfway, Last Game and Bugmaster all underperformed at the box office.

As previously reported on ScreenDaily, JDC’s investigation and suspension for misappropriation of funds last year added to recoupment difficulties, with the fund never reaching maturity.

Additionally, the rapid decline in the video market made it increasingly difficult for productions and foreign acquisitions such as UK title Boy A to recoup.

The financial hardships facing CQN follow a string of bankruptcies and restructurings of small-medium size companies in the last two years, including Movie-Eye Entertainment, Wise Policy and Xanadeux.