France's StudioCanal, which once boasted ambitions of being Europe's biggest film production outfit, looks to be heading towards total meltdown.
It had recently been rumoured that hefty job cuts lay ahead at the company as parent Vivendi Universal sought cost cutting measures - and reported figures placed that number at around 250 - out of its total staff of some 350. One StudioCanal insider told Screendaily, however, that the figure could be closer to 275.
Although it is not certain when the layoffs will happen - some say February, some say not before May given the complicated process of letting people go in France - it is certain that employees are on tenterhooks while they wait for the axe to fall. All divisions of StudioCanal will be affected and, rumour has it, there will be even more firings at the company headquarters.
Still, this is nothing really new for StudioCanal which has seen its ranks shrink, its production mandate cut from over 60 films in 2001 to a planned 15 per year and much of its management leave the company. Most recently, StudioCanal chief Richard Lenormand has been rumoured to be leaving but while that was meant to happen by December 31, he is still working and has made no official announcement.
In Los Angeles, former StudioCanal US head Stephane Sperry has now resigned and signed a production deal with Focus Features, a division of Universal Pictures. Pierre Weisbein who was senior vice president, international sales for StudioCanal in LA has also left and is rumoured to be joining Sperry.
Curiously, while all of this is going on and as film production has been officially slowed, StudioCanal continues to invest heavily in new films. Christophe Gans' Bob Morane adaptation L'Aventurier should be greenlit this month at a budget of $40m. Several other titles could be announced at Berlin.
StudioCanal staffers say they are anxious to find out who's going and who's staying just so they can get back to work. "Everything is stopped, but It's been so long that people are just tired of hearing that it's going to happen."