Brit film unit shutters amid bankruptcy

LONDON — Renaissance Films, once one of the biggest names in the British film industry, is history.

Employees at the London-based sales outfit were pinkslipped last week, as managing director Angus Finney started the process of taking the company into bankruptcy administration, having failed to raise fresh equity to keep it afloat.

The rights to its films will revert to their producers, unless Finney can find a white knight to take over the company’s sales slate and its tax losses within a week of entering administration.

That covers eight movies: “Pobby and Dingan,” “The Baxter,” “Candy,” “Shooting Dogs,” “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “The Mother,” “Only Human” and “Big Plans.”

Renaissance has been handling some other films for which it had not yet finalized contracts, and which will return immediately to their producers. These include Todd Louiso’s “Macbeth,” Marcos Siega’s “Pretty Persuasion,” Gregg Araki’s “Creeeeps!” and Phil Morrison’s “Junebug.”

Underperforming pix

Renaissance has paid the price for its shortage of working capital since Finney arranged a management buyout last year by Hermes, a giant British pension fund that invested more than $40 million into the company in 1999. That groundbreaking link-up with Hermes went sour as Renaissance burned through the cash on underperforming pics such as “The Reckoning,” “The Safety of Objects,” “The Luzhin Defense” and “Disco Pigs.”

The failure of the Hermes deal forced Renaissance to pull out of production and focus exclusively on foreign sales. It also triggered the exit of founder Stephen Evans in 2002, leaving Finney to run the company solo.

Evans, a former stockbroker, set up Renaissance in the late 1980s to produce Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V.” It was one of Blighty’s hottest production outfits through the ’90s, with a run of critical and commercial hits including “The Madness of King George,” “Twelfth Night” and “The Wings of a Dove.”

But Evans’ ambition to put the company on more solid business footing by raising the investment from Hermes ultimately proved its downfall. After Hermes finally extricated itself last year, the revamped Renaissance could never build up sufficient sales volume to cover its costs.

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