Sony Pictures Entertainment's (SPE) German production arm Deutsche Columbia Pictures Filmproduktion (DCPF) is to be closed down due to "the difficulties of the media market and the downward box-office trends in Germany", according to SPE chairman and CEO John Calley.

"It just makes more sense for us to refocus our resources into other regions", said Calley, who announced that SPE would now enter into a long-term producer deal with DCPF's managing director Andrea Willson (pictured).

When DCPF was launched in 1997, the company's philosophy was, in Willson's words, "not simply to act as financier, but to be a strong creative partner for writers, directors and producers in Germany. Our objective is to continue to work with the diversity of talent which the German film industry has to offer, and to seize the opportunity to develop films which audiences not only here, but all over the world will enjoy watching!"

While the company's main aim was, as Willson put it, "for our films to conquer the German market", DCPF could also potentially tap into Columbia's international distribution network as happened with the first Anatomie film which was theatrically released in more than 15 territories.

However, of the five films produced to date, only this first - Stefan Ruzowitzky's Anatomie - was an unqualified box-office success, clocking up over 2 million admissions in 2000 to become the top local film (and 14th most successful release) of that year .

The next three productions - Lars Kraume's Viktor Vogel - Commercial Man, Gregor Schnitzler's Was Tun, Wenn's Brennt, and Maria von Heland's Big Girls Don't Cry - all fell way below of expectations at the box office and increasingly fuelled speculation about the outfit's future.

Indeed, industry insiders began seriously wondering last year as to when Sony would say that "enough was enough" and pull the plug.

But salvation was expected, ironically, this year from a sequel of DCPF's first production with Anatomie 2, again directed by Austrian filmmaker Ruzowitzky.

While starting respectably with Euros 2.3m in the first week, the horror shocker's admissions subsequently plummeted and it is unlikely to reach the 1 million admissions mark.

Among DCPF's projects in various stages of development were the psychological thriller Whisper In The Attic, to be directed by Peter Keglevic from a screenplay adapted by Belinda Bauer from Gloria Murphy's novel; Hendrik Handloegten's thriller Ego, penned by Handloegten with Achim von Boerries; and the drama Der Verlorene, adapted by Ruth Toma from Hans-Ulrich Treichel's novel.