Tough Q1 for Constantin Film

Lack of movie releases hurts company

BERLIN — Constantin Film, Germany’s healthiest indie producer-distributor, saw first quarter net profits plummet 86% to 400,000 euros ($460,000) and sales slide 35% to $27.4 million.

Company’s world sales were down $10.6 million as it had no movie releases in the quarter. Last year box office hit “Resident Evil” powered results in the first three months of the year, which also saw high net profits due to tax credits.

TV licensing up

Despite lower overall revenues, the group saw a first-quarter boost in its TV licensing business of $6.2 million to $12.7 million.

Constantin is expecting full-year revenues of between $133 million and $149 million, with a profit margin of 2% to 5%, putting it in line with last year’s sales of $142 million. In 2002, Constantin reduced its net loss from $12 million to $1.3 million.

Upcoming films include “Resident Evil — Apocalypse,” with Milla Jovovich set to reprise her role as a zombie slayer. Alexander Witt will direct pic. The original “Resident Evil” earned more than $100 million worldwide.

Constantin’s “Wrong Turn,” about teens hunted by cannibal mountain men, will be released in the U.S. May 30 by Fox.

It is set to film Patrick Sueskind’s bestseller “Perfume,” about a psychotic 18th century French perfume maker, as a major international in-house production in 2004.

Growing slate

Since going public in 1999, company has increased annual production of TV and feature films from eight to last year’s 22. Constantin accounted for eight of the top 10 domestic grossers of 2002, including foreign-lingo Oscar winner “Nowhere in Africa.” “We will keep expanding production, as this is the most profitable business for us,” said Constantin’s distribution chief Thomas Peter Friedl.

Constantin’s management is fighting off a takeover by Swiss distrib Highlight Communications, which has so far shown little stomach for a protracted battle. Highlight boosted its share in the company last month after buying a minority stake from media firm EM.TV and intends to make an offer to minority shareholders for the remaining free-floated stock.

(Christian Kohl in Cologne contributed to this report)

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