Annapurna Upheaval: Megan Ellison Is ‘Reevaluating’ Film Division Amid Money Woes

Annapurna Pictures, the boutique film and TV studio started by Oracle scion Megan Ellison, has run into financial difficulties that on Tuesday resulted in the exit of its film division head and the jettisoning of two upcoming films with marquee talent, multiple individuals told TheWrap.

Ellison is “reevaluating” the studio’s film division and is expected to take a more active role in day-to-day development and production after a rocky 18 months that included Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” and the modest indie hit “Sorry to Bother You,” one insider said.

According to at least two individuals close to Annapurna, Ellison’s father, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, is balking at any further investment in the studio after an initial outlay by him and his daughter of more than $200 million.

“These are unfounded rumors. Everything is business as usual,” a spokesperson for Annapurna told TheWrap. Larry Ellison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also Read: Annapurna Film President Chelsea Barnard Departs Company

The new developments, including Chelsea Barnard’s exit as president of film, come at least three months after the departure of company president Marc Weinstock and CFO Josh Small. Many in Hollywood considered their sudden exits a warning sign of internal troubles.

The studio has produced or co-produced many prestige projects that have won accolades — from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” to Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” to David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” — but insiders say that Ellison has overspent on many of them.

The challenges have been exacerbated by Annapurna’s decision to launch its own distribution division last year instead of working with the majors as co-producers and distribution partners and spreading the risk.

“Detroit,” a prestige 2017 project by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, cost $40 million, but made only $16 million at the box office and lost the company tens of millions of dollars after a major marketing spend, according to two knowledgeable individuals.

Also Read: Jennifer Lopez’s ‘The Hustlers at Scores’ in Talks to Move to STX Entertainment After Exiting Annapurna

The Western drama “The Sisters Brothers,” starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, was released last month and has so far taken in just $730,000, according to boxofficemojo.com. A knowledgeable individual said the film cost $38 million to produce and Annapurna paid a significant fraction of that for the U.S. rights, not including marketing costs.

The studio’s anticipated December release “Vice,” about Dick Cheney, cost a bloated $60 million to produce. Knowledgeable sources said the movie should have been made for half that amount. The studio declined to comment on the budget.

“There is a financial issue going on,” an individual with knowledge of the studio told TheWrap. “Her dad has put a lot of money into the company and I don’t think he wants to support her behavior and what’s been going on. There are restraints — the money is not flowing.”

Also Read: Fox News Film Focused on Roger Ailes Scandal Dropped by Annapurna

On Tuesday, the company abruptly unloaded a star-studded Jay Roach movie about Fox News founder Roger Ailes and that was three weeks away from starting production, as well as Jennifer Lopez’s “The Hustlers at Scores,” the latter picked up by STX Films.

An insider told TheWrap that there were budget issues involving the Roger Ailes film, but another individual with knowledge of the project said that the company had approved a $35 million budget just one week ago. The film, which Canadian-based Bron Studios is expected to co-finance, will star John Lithgow as Ailes as well as Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie.

One insider familiar with Annapurna’s operations said that Ellison is focused on making passion projects without regard to the cost.

“She makes bad decisions,” the individual said. “She wanted to chase all these expensive movies that weren’t going to make money, and she said, ‘I don’t care whether they make money.’ That’s not how you run a company.”

Also Read: Annapurna’s Josh Small Tapped as New Blumhouse CFO

Annapurna got into distribution in January of 2017 — at the time, the company was planning to become a full-fledged studio after six years focused solely on production.

Weinstock and Small departed over the summer, the latter to join Jason Blum’s Blumhouse. An insider said, “When the president and CFO leave at the same time… it’s not a good sign of what’s ahead.”

Another Annapurna insider insisted that the company didn’t have financial troubles and that Ellison is confident about her marketing and distribution teams despite an acknowledgement that the film division wasn’t working.

“I don’t think she’s going to shut down production,” the first insider said. “She’s going to slope it way back down.”

One bright spot in Annapurna’s future is the marketing and distribution deal announced earlier this year with MGM, which includes the North American rights to the eagerly awaited “Bond 25.”

Also Read: Annapurna Pictures Parts Ways With President Marc Weinstock

In recent months, a number of indie film companies have either closed their doors or struggled to distribute films. Global Road filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday after Donald Tang struggled to raise enough capital to stay afloat.

Relativity Media filed for its second bankruptcy in May, and many of the films were up for grabs when the company first went under.

STX has seen executive turnover and box office troubles this year: “The Happytime Murders” opened to a dismal $10 million, following underachievers such as Mark Walhberg’s “Mile 22,” which has pulled in $25 million domestically on a $50 million budget, and “Adrift,” which earned a modest $31 million on a $35 million budget.

Sharon Waxman contributed reporting to this story.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Fox News Film Focused on Roger Ailes Scandal Dropped by Annapurna

Annapurna’s Josh Small Tapped as New Blumhouse CFO

Annapurna Pictures Parts Ways With President Marc Weinstock

Annapurna Pictures, the boutique film and TV studio started by Oracle scion Megan Ellison, has run into financial difficulties that on Tuesday resulted in the exit of its film division head and the jettisoning of two upcoming films with marquee talent, multiple individuals told TheWrap.

Ellison is “reevaluating” the studio’s film division and is expected to take a more active role in day-to-day development and production after a rocky 18 months that included Kathryn Bigelow’s “Detroit” and the modest indie hit “Sorry to Bother You,” one insider said.

According to at least two individuals close to Annapurna, Ellison’s father, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, is balking at any further investment in the studio after an initial outlay by him and his daughter of more than $200 million.

“These are unfounded rumors. Everything is business as usual,” a spokesperson for Annapurna told TheWrap. Larry Ellison did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The new developments, including Chelsea Barnard’s exit as president of film, come at least three months after the departure of company president Marc Weinstock and CFO Josh Small. Many in Hollywood considered their sudden exits a warning sign of internal troubles.

The studio has produced or co-produced many prestige projects that have won accolades — from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” to Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” to David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” — but insiders say that Ellison has overspent on many of them.

The challenges have been exacerbated by Annapurna’s decision to launch its own distribution division last year instead of working with the majors as co-producers and distribution partners and spreading the risk.

“Detroit,” a prestige 2017 project by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow, cost $40 million, but made only $16 million at the box office and lost the company tens of millions of dollars after a major marketing spend, according to two knowledgeable individuals.

The Western drama “The Sisters Brothers,” starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, was released last month and has so far taken in just $730,000, according to boxofficemojo.com. A knowledgeable individual said the film cost $38 million to produce and Annapurna paid a significant fraction of that for the U.S. rights, not including marketing costs.

The studio’s anticipated December release “Vice,” about Dick Cheney, cost a bloated $60 million to produce. Knowledgeable sources said the movie should have been made for half that amount. The studio declined to comment on the budget.

“There is a financial issue going on,” an individual with knowledge of the studio told TheWrap. “Her dad has put a lot of money into the company and I don’t think he wants to support her behavior and what’s been going on. There are restraints — the money is not flowing.”

On Tuesday, the company abruptly unloaded a star-studded Jay Roach movie about Fox News founder Roger Ailes and that was three weeks away from starting production, as well as Jennifer Lopez’s “The Hustlers at Scores,” the latter picked up by STX Films.

An insider told TheWrap that there were budget issues involving the Roger Ailes film, but another individual with knowledge of the project said that the company had approved a $35 million budget just one week ago. The film, which Canadian-based Bron Studios is expected to co-finance, will star John Lithgow as Ailes as well as Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie.

One insider familiar with Annapurna’s operations said that Ellison is focused on making passion projects without regard to the cost.

“She makes bad decisions,” the individual said. “She wanted to chase all these expensive movies that weren’t going to make money, and she said, ‘I don’t care whether they make money.’ That’s not how you run a company.”

Annapurna got into distribution in January of 2017 — at the time, the company was planning to become a full-fledged studio after six years focused solely on production.

Weinstock and Small departed over the summer, the latter to join Jason Blum’s Blumhouse. An insider said, “When the president and CFO leave at the same time… it’s not a good sign of what’s ahead.”

Another Annapurna insider insisted that the company didn’t have financial troubles and that Ellison is confident about her marketing and distribution teams despite an acknowledgement that the film division wasn’t working.

“I don’t think she’s going to shut down production,” the first insider said. “She’s going to slope it way back down.”

One bright spot in Annapurna’s future is the marketing and distribution deal announced earlier this year with MGM, which includes the North American rights to the eagerly awaited “Bond 25.”

In recent months, a number of indie film companies have either closed their doors or struggled to distribute films. Global Road filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday after Donald Tang struggled to raise enough capital to stay afloat.

Relativity Media filed for its second bankruptcy in May, and many of the films were up for grabs when the company first went under.

STX has seen executive turnover and box office troubles this year: “The Happytime Murders” opened to a dismal $10 million, following underachievers such as Mark Walhberg’s “Mile 22,” which has pulled in $25 million domestically on a $50 million budget, and “Adrift,” which earned a modest $31 million on a $35 million budget.

Sharon Waxman contributed reporting to this story.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Fox News Film Focused on Roger Ailes Scandal Dropped by Annapurna

Annapurna's Josh Small Tapped as New Blumhouse CFO

Annapurna Pictures Parts Ways With President Marc Weinstock

‘Venom’ Reaction: ‘One Cool Scene Doesn’t Make Up for a Bad Movie’ (Video)

Sony Pictures’ new attempt at building out a superhero film universe “Venom” hits theaters this weekend and is expected to break box office records, but reviews of the film have been disparaging. TheWrap’s film reporters Beatrice Verhoeven, Umberto Gonzalez and Trey Williams talk what worked about the film and all the things that didn’t.

The film, rated PG-13, was marketed as a darker, violent kind of superhero film, and while Venom — the alien symbiote Tom Hardy’s character Eddie Brock turns into — is ruthless, the film plays more for laughs. The problem with that? We’re not sure it’s supposed to.

The studio cut roughly 40 minutes out of the finished film and as a result, the movie feels a little disjointed.

Also Read: Sony Fixed How Everyone Pronounces ‘Symbiote’ in ‘Venom’

“Venom” is goofy and should play well for the intended PG-13 audience, but it doesn’t seem to rise to the level that superhero films have reached in recent years with the likes of “Black Panther,” “Logan” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Some of the film’s best moments are the banter and fighting between Hardy and the Venom voice inside his head telling him what to do.

In “Venom,” Hardy’s Brock is a down-on-his-luck journalist who tries to revive his career by investigating the mysterious experiments being conducted by the Life Foundation and its shady leader, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).

Also Read: ‘Venom’ Mid-Credits Scene Explained: What You Need to Know About Woody Harrelson and Carnage

But along the way, an alien symbiote being tested by the organization bonds with Brock, transforming him into the titular monster. Brock finds himself being dragged into a fight with the Life Corporation, all the while being tempted by Venom into unleashing his darkest impulses. Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate also star, with Ruben Fleischer directing.

The film pulled in $10 million in early Thursday night showings, scoring it an October preshow record, and has a 31 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Watch their reaction video above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

James Corden, Reggie Watts and Jenny Slate Made a ’90s Rap Video for ‘Venom’

Does ‘Venom’ Have a Post-Credits Scene?

‘Venom’ Forms Symbiotic Relationship With (Mostly) Bad Reviews: ‘Loud and Stupid’

Sony Pictures’ new attempt at building out a superhero film universe “Venom” hits theaters this weekend and is expected to break box office records, but reviews of the film have been disparaging. TheWrap’s film reporters Beatrice Verhoeven, Umberto Gonzalez and Trey Williams talk what worked about the film and all the things that didn’t.

The film, rated PG-13, was marketed as a darker, violent kind of superhero film, and while Venom — the alien symbiote Tom Hardy’s character Eddie Brock turns into — is ruthless, the film plays more for laughs. The problem with that? We’re not sure it’s supposed to.

The studio cut roughly 40 minutes out of the finished film and as a result, the movie feels a little disjointed.

“Venom” is goofy and should play well for the intended PG-13 audience, but it doesn’t seem to rise to the level that superhero films have reached in recent years with the likes of “Black Panther,” “Logan” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Some of the film’s best moments are the banter and fighting between Hardy and the Venom voice inside his head telling him what to do.

In “Venom,” Hardy’s Brock is a down-on-his-luck journalist who tries to revive his career by investigating the mysterious experiments being conducted by the Life Foundation and its shady leader, Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed).

But along the way, an alien symbiote being tested by the organization bonds with Brock, transforming him into the titular monster. Brock finds himself being dragged into a fight with the Life Corporation, all the while being tempted by Venom into unleashing his darkest impulses. Michelle Williams and Jenny Slate also star, with Ruben Fleischer directing.

The film pulled in $10 million in early Thursday night showings, scoring it an October preshow record, and has a 31 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Watch their reaction video above.

Related stories from TheWrap:

James Corden, Reggie Watts and Jenny Slate Made a '90s Rap Video for 'Venom'

Does 'Venom' Have a Post-Credits Scene?

'Venom' Forms Symbiotic Relationship With (Mostly) Bad Reviews: 'Loud and Stupid'

‘Eighth Grade’ Director on Why ‘Uncomfortable’ Car Scene Reflects ‘Culture’s Failure of These Kids’

It’s not exactly a sex scene — it doesn’t go that far — but at one point during Bo Burnham’s directorial debut “Eighth Grade,” the film’s lead, Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher), finds herself alone with an older high school boy in the backseat of his car.

Kayla, an eighth grader, has never been in a situation like this, nor has she been prepared for how to deal with it, despite an earlier sex ed scene. The moment in the car is tense, uncomfortable and, as Fisher said when we sat with her and Burnham at the Sundance film festival, weird.

“It’s a really interesting environment already. Aside from the actual scene itself, just being in a car mostly alone with an older guy, that’s weird. And the actual content of the scene is weird, but it’s important we had it,” Fisher told TheWrap. “No one should pretend it doesn’t happen, so I think this was the right way to showcase it.”

Also Read: ‘Eighth Grade’ Film Review: Bo Burnham Captures Middle School Angst

Though Kayla isn’t fully aware of what’s happening, or how far the scene could have gone, the audience is.

Burnham, during a Q&A after a showing in Los Angeles, told an audience that people have gone up to him to say how glad they are that the scene didn’t go where they may have thought it would.

“But it doesn’t have to go there to be emotionally violent and violating and it doesn’t have to be criminal on paper to be incredibly wrong,” Burnham said during the Q&A. “What’s most terrifying to me about the scene is that she’s just getting new information and being forced to process it, act on it and make decisions about it. So part of the failure is the culture’s failure of these kids. Like, we teach them about birth control, but you don’t teach them about what needs to be stated, has to be agreed to. But again, I think that conversation is actually changing rapidly now because of the cultural reckoning around it.”

During TheWrap’s interview at Sundance, Burnham said he just wanted to be sensitive and honest with the actors in the film: “If we’re being honest, we don’t have anything to be scared of. But yeah, it’s a very, very difficult, uncomfortable scene.”

Also Read: ‘Eighth Grade’ Director Bo Burnham Calls Out Elsie Fisher’s High School Teacher (Video)

“Eighth Grade,” distributed by A24, follows an awkward 14-year-old girl, Kayla, during her last week of eighth grade as she navigates relationships, coming into her and transitioning into high school.

The film debuted at Sundance, and in its first weekend sold out screenings at its four locations in Los Angeles and New York, and pulled in $252,284 at the box office. The film earned a per screen average of just over $63,000, beating out Fox Searchlight’s “Isle of Dogs” to garner the top per screen average of the year.

The film marks Burnham’s first time in the director’s chair. He most recently appeared in 2017’s breakout hit “The Big Sick.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Eighth Grade’ Lights Up Indie Box Office With Best Per Screen Average of 2018

Gaspar Noe’s ‘Climax’ Lands US Deal With A24

A24 Founding Partner John Hodges to Exit

It’s not exactly a sex scene — it doesn’t go that far — but at one point during Bo Burnham’s directorial debut “Eighth Grade,” the film’s lead, Kayla (played by Elsie Fisher), finds herself alone with an older high school boy in the backseat of his car.

Kayla, an eighth grader, has never been in a situation like this, nor has she been prepared for how to deal with it, despite an earlier sex ed scene. The moment in the car is tense, uncomfortable and, as Fisher said when we sat with her and Burnham at the Sundance film festival, weird.

“It’s a really interesting environment already. Aside from the actual scene itself, just being in a car mostly alone with an older guy, that’s weird. And the actual content of the scene is weird, but it’s important we had it,” Fisher told TheWrap. “No one should pretend it doesn’t happen, so I think this was the right way to showcase it.”

Though Kayla isn’t fully aware of what’s happening, or how far the scene could have gone, the audience is.

Burnham, during a Q&A after a showing in Los Angeles, told an audience that people have gone up to him to say how glad they are that the scene didn’t go where they may have thought it would.

“But it doesn’t have to go there to be emotionally violent and violating and it doesn’t have to be criminal on paper to be incredibly wrong,” Burnham said during the Q&A. “What’s most terrifying to me about the scene is that she’s just getting new information and being forced to process it, act on it and make decisions about it. So part of the failure is the culture’s failure of these kids. Like, we teach them about birth control, but you don’t teach them about what needs to be stated, has to be agreed to. But again, I think that conversation is actually changing rapidly now because of the cultural reckoning around it.”

During TheWrap’s interview at Sundance, Burnham said he just wanted to be sensitive and honest with the actors in the film: “If we’re being honest, we don’t have anything to be scared of. But yeah, it’s a very, very difficult, uncomfortable scene.”

“Eighth Grade,” distributed by A24, follows an awkward 14-year-old girl, Kayla, during her last week of eighth grade as she navigates relationships, coming into her and transitioning into high school.

The film debuted at Sundance, and in its first weekend sold out screenings at its four locations in Los Angeles and New York, and pulled in $252,284 at the box office. The film earned a per screen average of just over $63,000, beating out Fox Searchlight’s “Isle of Dogs” to garner the top per screen average of the year.

The film marks Burnham’s first time in the director’s chair. He most recently appeared in 2017’s breakout hit “The Big Sick.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Eighth Grade' Lights Up Indie Box Office With Best Per Screen Average of 2018

Gaspar Noe's 'Climax' Lands US Deal With A24

A24 Founding Partner John Hodges to Exit