Cash-strapped Kinowelt Medien's production arm Kinowelt Filmproduktion has become the latest victim of the German media group's radical programme of restructuring.

Redundancy slips have been handed out to all of the production arm's employees as well as to co-managing director Ulrich Limmer, whose contract would have been up for renewal at the end of the year.

According to a report in German magazine Blickpunkt:Film, Kinowelt's production activities, in particular its international co-production operations, will now be managed solely by Kinowelt co-chairman Rainer Koelmel (pictured) with the assistance of Daniel Guckau, senior vice president acquisitions & development, and Holger Stern, director of acquisitions & development, at Kinowelt Lizenzverwertungs GmbH, Kinowelt's central purchasing and sales company for worldwide film rights.

The German-language projects developed by Limmer during his tenure at Kinowelt Filmproduktion such as the Oskar Maria Graf adaptation Wir Sind Gefangene and the coming-of-age drama Backstage, will be pursued by Limmer in a new production company which he plans to establish by the beginning of next year and is expected to enjoy a first-look arrangement with Kinowelt.

Headed up by Koelmel and Limmer, Kinowelt Filmproduktion had served over the past three years as co-producer on such award-winning films as Vanessa Jopp's Vergiss Amerika, Esther Gronenborn's, and Istvan Szabo's Sunshine as well as Jacques Rivette's Va Savoir, Sandra Nettelbeck's Mostly Martha and Daniel Diaz Torres' Playing Swede (Der Cuba Coup).

The company also served as partner on Dominik Graf's drama Der Felsen which is currently in postproduction, as well as co-producer on newcomer Katherine Lindberg's drama Rain which was made as part of a joint venture pact between Kinowelt and Spain's Lolafilms launched at Cannes in 2000 (Screen Daily, August 28, 2000).

Great hopes are currently being pinned on the production outfit's first in-house production, the family film Das Sams, which based on the classic children's book by Paul Maars which sold over 2.7m copies and has been directed by Dutch filmmaker Ben Verbong. The release date by Kinowelt is set for October 18.

The ongoing restructuring process at Kinowelt is expected to see the company focus its resources in future on theatrical distribution, license trading/production, and home entertainment and shed such operations as its in-flight entertainment business and many of its cinemas.

The contraction of the Kinowelt empire has also seen the number of employees fall from a high point at the beginning of the year when almost 1,000 people were working for companies within the Kinowelt Group. As of June 30, the number of employees had fallen 11% to 871 due to the consolidation of the merchandising division Brameier Fanworld, and Rainer Koelmel was quoted by Blickpunkt:Film as aiming for a staff total of 70-90 in the medium term.