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Canton fires staff, Senator backing out

WB shingle hits rough seas

HOLLYWOOD — Producer Mark Canton pinkslipped his staff on Friday as he and backer Senator Entertainment struggled to come to terms with how they can wind down their production and financing alliance.

The Canton Co. shingle has a first-look deal at Warner Bros. Pictures through 2005 that is backed by German entertainment conglom Senator to the tune of nearly $6 million a year in development, production and overhead. A Warners rep said the studio makes a “minimal” financial contribution to the Canton deal.

With the Senator share price at 2.99 euros ($2.69) — an 85% drop from a year ago — the company is no longer in the same financial position as it was when it formed the joint venture in August 2000.

Negotiations to resolve this discrepancy have been going on for months, but the two sides so far have been unable to reach an agreement.

Under the alliance, designed to develop and finance four to six titles annually, Senator holds a 51% stake in Canton Co., while Warners was to serve as a co-financing and distribution partner on a first-look basis.

To date, one film has been produced through the deal, Luis Mandoki’s “24 Hours,” now in post. Pic was developed by and produced with Propaganda Films and will be released domestically by Columbia Pictures.

Senator had no comment on the situation, while Canton, through a rep, denied any difficulties and said all was “business as usual.”

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