Production, distribution and now exhibition - German cinema chain Ufa-Theater looks like becoming the latest in a growing list of insolvent German media companies.

According to business daily newspaper Handelsblatt, a shortfall of Euros 4m could bring down the once dominant German exhibitor.

Company shareholders have already spent weeks considering various rescue plans while managing director Stefan Lehmann even won approval from backers Apax Partners and Pricoa (who hold 45% of Ufa shares) for a restructure strategy.

However, Lehmann's rescue package - proposing to stop or at least reduce, rental payments on 42 sites until after the slack summer months - had allegedly not impressed the other 45% shareholder Volker Riech, owner of the properties housing the cinemas.

Riech confirmed to Handelsblatt that he had already given some Ufa cinemas notice to quit the premises because of the plans to hold back rental payments.

Some industry observers claim that Germany's exhibition market has been a commercial nightmare for years. Strict labour laws, environmental restrictions and punitive rental rates have beset recent circuit building.

Indeed, last year saw the closure of 153 German screens, including the first multiplex to close in the western part of the country - Ufa's complex in Freiburg /Baden-Wuerttemberg.