Lola UK given notice

Topper Gomez buying time

LONDON — These are mystifying times at Lolafilms, the Spanish producer-distributor.

Two weeks ago, company topper Andres Vicente Gomez handed pink slips to the entire staff of Lolafilms UK, his London-based sales and production arm. All eight, including head of sales Nicole Mackey and production chief Nadine Nuque, have been given notice to quit by the end of the year.

But when questioned by Variety, Gomez denied that any major changes are afoot, beyond the departure of Nuque on maternity leave.

The explanation for this apparent contradication appears to be that Gomez is hoping for strong film sales at Mifed to ease the pressure from his main shareholder Telefonica Media, and thus save Lolafilms UK from the chop. The pink slips, by this thinking, are just a precautionary measure.

He is also understood to have given notice to three key staffers in Spain, including head of distribution Jose Luis Gimare and head of marketing Guillermo Velasco.

There’s no doubt that Gomez has found it much tougher than expected to enter the English-lingo production business. His first couple of pics, Susan Seidelman’s “Gaudi Afternoon” and Chris Monger’s “The Girl From Rio,” sold well to distribs, but many have since proved reluctant to release them.

Manuel Gomez Pereira’s “Off-Key” will premiere at the upcoming London Screenings and Mifed, with Katherine Lindberg’s “Rain” also showing. But the company is holding back its strongest title, John Malkovich’s directorial debut “The Dancer Upstairs,” for a likely Sundance premiere.

Meanwhile, Lolafilms UK has struggled to ramp up its own British-based production slate. Two projects are stuck in development – “The Maid of Buttermere,” to be directed by Billie August, and “Loving the Goddess.”

A much-vaunted production joint venture with BBC Films and Germany’s Kinowelt has also failed to bear fruit.

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