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French post and vfx unit Quinta shut down

Ben Ammar's Quinta Industries in bankruptcy

PARIS — The bulk of Tarak Ben Ammar’s French post-production and visual effects business, Quinta Industries, has been shut down.

A part of Quinta Communications, Ben Ammar’s production and distribution powerhouse, the group’s film laboratories LTC, Scanlab and SIS, which were placed under the French equivalent to Chapter 11 in November for six months, have gone bankrupt.

French fx and animation house Duran Duboi, which has been under protection from creditors since 2004 when Ben Ammar bought it, has also been placed in bankruptcy but will remain operational until Jan. 4.

LTC, a leading post-production studio that specialized in 35mm prints production, employs 115 staffers.

Ben Ammar owns 83% of Quinta Industries, which he says represents 5% of his business in Europe. Technicolor owns Quinta Industries’ remaining stake.

By late 2010, Quinta Industries’ losses had hit some €10 million ($12.9 million), about one-fourth of its annual revenues, per French financial trade Les Echos.

Duran’s downfall was accelerated by its legal dispute with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp over the production of “The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart.”

Duran was a co-producer on “Heart” and had been hired to create the 3D animation. But when Duran hit a financial low point in May, it stopped work on the toon and dismissed the employees allocated to the project.

EuropaCorp sued Duran and won. A Paris judge ordered Duran to give the software and tools used on “Heart” to EuropaCorp to allow it to finish the film, either with another shingle or inhouse.

EuropaCorp’s attorney, Arnaud de Senilhes from Nixon Pibody, said the company is examining how much it would cost to jump-start the toon’s production. Since many animators who had been working on the feature and had been trained to work on Duran’s software have now found work elsewhere, EuropaCorp would have to train staffers to pursue the feature, which would be a lengthy and costly process, per De Senilhes.

Ben Ammar issued a statement explaining Quinta Industries had been hurt by multiple factors, notably France’s anti-trust board’s decision to ban its merger with Eclair Group (in which Ben Ammar owns a 43% share) in 2008. He said this merger would have allowed a consolidation of the sector that’s now weakened and fragmented.

Eclair finalized its debt recovery plan earlier this year but its post-production lab GTC has closed shop.

In his statement, French-Tunisian Ben Ammar also pointed out the structural difficulties faced by the technical field and the competitiveness between the different studios. And the frosting on the cake, said Ben Ammar, has been the frantic pace of French theaters’ digital conversion.

As Thierry de Segonzac, prexy of Ficam, told Daily Variety in November, “the demand for film prints has dropped 30% every year since 2008, leading to the decline of a number of companies.”

France’s national film board, CNC, has scheduled a meeting with industryites and rights-holders on Wednesday to come up with a plan to guarantee the release of films that LTC was working on, as well as support former employees.

The CNC also wants to ensure that the thousands of film prints that have been stored at LTC will be preserved.

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