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CameraPlanet closes TV, digital film ops

80 employees laid off

Veteran Gotham-based TV production label CameraPlanet, and its three year-old digital film operation CameraPlanet Pictures, shuttered its offices over the weekend, laying off 80 employees.

Company was launched in 1984 by CEO Steve Rosenbaum as BNNtv, eventually rebranding as CameraPlanet after bringing aboard former Shooting Gallery prexy Steve Carlis to run its fledgling digital film operation, CameraPlanet Pictures, in 2001.

CameraPlanet brass said that Carlis was terminated this month.

BNNtv had emerged as a significant producer of nonfiction programming, producing or partnering on episodes for series such as HBO’s “Real Sex,” Court TV’s “Crime Stories” and A&E’s “Inside Story” and “Investigative Reports.”

Recent projects included the Discovery Channel’s “Decisions That Shook the World,” and a deal in the works to produce a film by “Hoop Dreams” producer Peter Gilbert for Discovery Docs. A joint venture with Anchor Bay Entertainment that aimed to release a line of about 12 nonfiction titles each year on DVD was inked this year.

“Because our assets outweigh our liabilities, it’s really a reorganization, and we are downsizing significantly,” Rosenbaum said Monday. “We are getting out of the physical production business.”

Carlis had come aboard at CameraPlanet at the same time financially embattled Shooting Gallery faced Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as well as a lawsuit filed by investors.

Carlis’ relationship with CameraPlanet seems to have been a poor match. The company’s site, which was slated to be shut down as of Monday night, showed a posting that read: “(CameraPlanet) is evaluating appropriate legal action against Mr. Carlis and third parties, including as warranted to protect the company’s intellectual property, based on thousands of pages of document the company discovered after Mr. Carlis’ dismissal.”

Carlis did not return calls seeking comment.

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