Indie distrib Premiere in need of cash

'French,' 'Daddy' release dates uncertain

The lights aren’t out in the offices of Premiere Marketing & Distribution Group, but they are flickering.

Premiere was founded 18 months ago by ex-New Line exec Mitch Goldman with the aim of giving modestly budgeted indie pics a wide release of the studio variety. However, sources close to the Sherman Oaks-based company say there’s a better than 50-50 chance Premiere could close within days, without ever releasing a single film.

Money woes are to blame, though the company issued a statement Thursday saying it still hopes to shore up operating capital.

“Premiere is still in business,” spokesman Al Newman said. “Its management is working diligently to finalize the last few pieces of its banking and financing arrangements. They expect to know something more concrete early next week.”

About two dozen staff were updated on the status of financing negotiations Thursday morning. Insiders said the message was laid out in much more pessimistic terms than the company’s public statement.

Premiere has taken a novel approach to indie releasing, as indie distribs normally unspool films in a limited number of theaters and expand incrementally. Only a handful of pictures ever make in into wide release, defined by box office tracker Nielsen EDI as playing in 600 or more theaters; Premiere promised producers runs in 2,000 or more theaters.

JPMorgan Chase has led a long effort to assemble $120 million in financing for the company. But the financing hinges on certain arrangements with ancillary distribs for pay TV and other windows, and talks have proven so difficult as to threaten the entire lending package, sources said.

Goldman has said he expected prints and advertising costs to run upward of $16 million per film. As a result of its financial problems, Premiere repeatedly reskedded the bows of its intended first two releases, laffers “Slap Her, She’s French” and “Who’s Your Daddy.”

Most recently, “French” was slotted for Nov. 8 and “Daddy” for Nov. 15. Melanie Mayron-helmed “French” originally was set to unspool June 7 before being bumped first to Aug. 30 and then Sept. 20 before yet another postponement.

It wasn’t immediately clear what alternate distribution arrangements might be available for “French” producers should Premiere close its doors prior to pic’s latest skedded release date. Piper Perabo starrer preemed at the Motion Picture Academy Aug. 28.

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