CNC schedules emergency meeting with the administrators and key French players in the post-production scene on Dec22 to see if parts of group can be salvaged.

Tarak Ben Ammar’s Paris-based post-production group Quinta Industries and film laboratories LTC were placed in judicial liquidation by a French commercial court on Thursday.

In a statement issued late Thursday, Ben Ammar said the two groups were direct victims of the rapid digitisation of France’s some 5,550 cinema screens.

Alluding to the 2009 closure of the historic GTC laboratories, founded by Pathé and Gaumont in 1947, the Franco-Tunisian media tycoon said: “Today, it’s the turn of Quinta Industries and LTC to suffer the same fate.”

Quinta Industries — in which Ben Ammar holds an 83% stake alongside minority partner Technicolor with 17%, comprises nine separate subsidiaries — specialising in different aspects of post-production from 3D animation to sound.

According to French financial daily Les Echoes, the group’s losses amounted to €10 million at the end of 2010, for a turnover of some €40 million, €32 million of which was generated by the LTC laboratories.  

Notable among Quinta Industries subsidiaries is the 3D and special effects Studio Duran Duboi, which has worked on hundreds of films over the years including The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Sec, Amelie and Asterix at the Olympics[pictured].

The studio, which will remain operational until Jan 4, was handling post-production on Laurent Tirard’s Asterix and Obelix: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  

News of Quinta Industries and LTC’s demise broke on the final afternoon of ParisFX, the French capital’s annual conference revolving around the latest developments in the special effects arena.

In an unscheduled address following the news, Eric Garandeau, head of France’s powerful National Cinema Centre (CNC), told the conference that his organisation had held lengthy talks with the administrators on Wednesday to see if anything could be done to save Quinta’s activities, and was due to hold new discussions on Dec 22.

“We want to see if we can unblock LTC’s activities so the films which were due to be printed at the laboratories can be processed ahead of their scheduled releases,” he said.

LTC’s 115 employees, who have staged several strikes since October, halted production again last Frida, jeopardising the Wednesday opening of Martin Scorsese’s homage to the early days of celluloid, Hugo. The laboratories have been at a standstill ever since.

Distributor Metropolitan Export was able to ensure a smooth release by expanding the number of digital copies and doing an eleventh hour print-run at laboratories in Italy.  Other films, however, remain blocked at the lab.

Garandeau also highlighted the CNC’s concerns over the fate of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of film reels dating back to the 1930s, in storage at the LTC premises.

“This is our cinema heritage,” said Garandeau. “We have to find a way to protect and preserve these works.”

Ironically, some in the field said the CNC had precipitated LTC’s demise by subsidising digitisation and quickening the pace at which theatres converted.

“In the space of 24 months, we passed from 20% to 75% of our theatres being digitised  — laboratories such as those of Éclair and LTC lost 70-80% of their market,” said Thierry de Segonzac, head of the technical industries body FICAM, told Les Echoes.

The news of the liquidation elicited little surprise from ParisFX participants.

“This is difficult period for the whole sector,” said Pierre Buffin of Paris-based Buf, which has recently worked on features such as The Green Lantern and Thor. “Producers don’t have the means to invest properly in the post-production part of projects and try to do things on the cheap.”