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Annapurna Pictures Lays Off CFO James Pong, Film and TV Executives (EXCLUSIVE)

Larry and Megan Ellison
REX

Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures has enacted a round of layoffs, reaching as high as chief financial officer James Pong, insiders told Variety.

In addition to Pong, four creative executives were eliminated, two from the film division and two from television, and two assistants were also let go, according to sources. Those seven employees represent nearly ten percent of the staff, said another insider.

An Annapurna spokesperson confirmed a “modest number of layoffs due to the current economic climate.” In addition to layoffs, senior leadership will also take pay cuts to help shoulder the financial burden.

The fiscal conservatism comes as a direct marching order from Larry Ellison, Megan’s billionaire father and the founder of Oracle. One person familiar with Annapurna said overhead remains a concern of Paul Marinelli, Larry Ellison’s number two and head of his financial estate Lawrence Investments. A company insider disputed this, saying cuts were made in the name of efficiency.

Annapurna is already a significantly leaner operation today than it was a year ago, having spun out its theatrical distribution arm into the free-standing United Artists Releasing. Last fall, the company broke up its New York office and relegated departments like theater and film to work from home.

Variety reported exclusively last summer that Annapurna, strapped with tens of millions in material losses from Oscar players like “Destroyer” and “Vice,” had resolved more than $200 million in debt from lenders and was forging ahead with financing from Ellison alone.

With no distribution mechanism, Annapurna has stopped acquiring films (not that many festivals are going forward during the coronavirus pandemic) and is focusing on development. The TV unit has projects ordered including a scripted version of the Netflix doc “The Staircase,” starring Harrison Ford. Several other series are confirmed but not yet announced, sources said.

Annapurna joins a rapidly growing list of entertainment labels affected by COVID-19, most recently Blumhouse Productions. Larger shops, like the juggernaut Walt Disney Company, and most talent agencies have been severely impacted in wake of the virus.