當然，這對安納普爾納來說并不是頭一遭，去年也因為妮可·基德曼的《毀滅者》（Destroyer）和西部片《姐妹兄弟》（The Sisters Brothers）等影片表現不佳而一直有這樣的傳言。但安納普爾納長期以來一直以挑釁性的、打破陳規的電影制作享有盛譽，隨之而來的是一定程度上的財務風險。
在好萊塢，埃里森堅定支持由一線演員領銜主演的嚴肅電影，因此備受尊重——在這個被超級英雄大片主導的行業里，這一類的電影越來越少。在安納普爾納，在她的支持下，才有了《底特律》（Detroit）和《副總統》（Vice），前者是凱瑟琳·畢格羅對1967年底特律市騷亂期間警察暴行的辛辣描述，后者是亞當·麥凱對前美國副總統迪克·切尼半真半假的審視。這兩部影片的全球票房都勉強超過了預算，但都沒有給工作室帶來大成功。就連《月光男孩》（Moonlight）導演巴里·詹金斯這樣大熱的導演執導的《如果比爾街會說話》（If Beale Street Could Talk）也沒能完全點燃票房——這部電影被視作能夠在《月光男孩》之后成為他的第二部奧斯卡最佳影片，《毀滅者》更是徹頭徹尾的慘敗。
Before last week was out, there could be grim news for Annapurna, the boutique studio owned by Megan Ellison.
An Oscar-anointed Hollywood tastemaker known for its risky gambles on prestige, adult-centered dramas, Annapurna has reportedly burned through most if not all of the $350 million credit facility it secured two falls ago. According to reports, Annaupurna has either already defaulted or is about to default on that debt, in what would constitute a crushing blow to the independent film world.
All this puts founder Megan Ellison and her billionaire father, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, on course for a potentially eventful showdown with lenders last week, should a decision be made to put Annapurna into bankruptcy. It’s by no means a guarantee that will happen; Deadline reports that Larry Ellison was widely expected by banks to step in before Annapurna’s financial woes reached this point in order to help bail out his daughter and her company.
That could and likely will still be how things shake out, given that bankruptcy would be seen as a massive embarrassment for the Ellisons. (Larry Ellison is estimated to be the fourth-richest person in the country and the seventh in the world, with a fortune totaling $70 billion.) But preparations are nevertheless being made, according to The Hollywood Reporter, for Annapurna to file for Chapter 11 in either Delaware or California, in the event the elder Ellison doesn’t rescue the studio. The uncertainty around this situation means staffers at the company don’t know whether their studio is on the verge of collapse.
Of course, that’s not entirely new for Annapurna, which has been trailed by such rumors across the last year, brought on by low-performing titles like Nicole Kidman vehicle Destroyer and off-kilter Western The Sisters Brothers. But Annapurna has long enjoyed a reputation for provocative, outside-the-box filmmaking, and with that comes a certain amount of financial perilousness.
Ellison is known and fiercely respected around Hollywood as a champion for serious dramas led by A-list actors, the kind increasingly of a rare breed in an industry propped up by superhero tentpoles. At Annapurna, she’s been behind movies like Detroit, Kathryn Bigelow’s scorching account of police brutality during the city’s 1967 riots, and Vice, Adam McKay’s tongue-in-cheek examination of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Both of those squeaked past their budget at the worldwide box office, but neither constituted a significant hit for the studio. Even awards darlings like Moonlight director Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk (seen as an anticipated second act following his Best Picture Oscar winner) haven’t exactly set the box office on fire, and Destroyer was an outright bomb.
This summer, the studio’s fared slightly better, with Booksmart slowly growing into a minor-key summer hit (buoyed by glowing reviews), but Annapurna's wide-release strategy for the Olivia Wilde-directed comedy was much-criticized as the wrong move for the title, which sputtered against juggernaut competition from Disney’s Aladdin. Annapurna’s also shed some high-level executives and a few titles in the past year—including Jennifer Lopez-Cardi B pic Hustlers and an untitled Roger Ailes drama—with some speculating those shifts were precipitated by Larry Ellison stepping in to help manage the company.
“The Ellison family is in negotiations to restructure their deals with the banks,” an Annapurna spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. “They remain in full support of the company and are dedicated to Annapurna’s future.”
“Restructuring deals with financial institutions is not uncommon, yet the process is usually handled without a spotlight on it,” Ellison wrote in a memo to Annapurna staffers, as cited in reports. “Fortunately/ unfortunately, people like to write about me and my family. That said, it is of tremendous importance to me that you all know we are as committed as ever to this company and are in full support of our future.”
Ellison added in the note that: “Regardless of whatever comes out in the press, the truth is that we are well on our continued path towards success. There will always be speculation, misinformation and personal jabs in the press – that’s part of the business. But know, none of that matters to me. What does is your sense of security and protecting the special community and culture at Annapurna. I believe in what we make and have no intention of stopping any time soon.”