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The Film Department calls it a wrap

May 5, 2011 |  1:38 pm

GillSacker After canceling a stock offering and failing in an attempt to raise private equity, independent studio the Film Department is shutting down.

Headed by former Warner Bros. and Miramax Films executive Mark Gill, the Film Department put out only one movie since it launched in 2007: the Jamie Foxx-Gerard Butler thriller "Law Abiding Citizen." That picture was released by Overture Films in 2009 and grossed a solid $72 million. The Film Department produced two other movies, both romantic comedies. "A Little Bit of Heaven," starring Kate Hudson, has yet to be released. "The Rebound," starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, has been distributed abroad but not here in the United States.

"A Little Bit of Heaven" was shot last year for $16 million, and Gill said he hopes to strike a deal with another company to distribute it in theaters. However, "The Rebound," which was made in 2008, may prove to be more challenging because it was already released in most foreign countries. As a result, Gill admitted that finding a theatrical distributor will be difficult and the film may go directly to DVD and digital platforms.

Founded at the height of the boom in independent movie financing, the Film Department quickly ran into financial problems and never came close to its goal of financing up to six pictures per year. By early 2010, laden with debt and having lost $34 million, the company filed for an initial public stock offering and said it would begin distributing its own pictures. But despite reducing the amount of money it sought to raise from $85 million to $69 million and then again to $30 million, the company in August  scrapped the IPO plans and decided to try to raise $200 million in private debt and equity financing.

Gill and Chief Operating Officer Neal Sacker, a former Miramax and Warner colleague, said at the time they were in talks with private investors to raise that money.

"We had four occasions where we got near the end, but it didn't close because the capital wasn't available or the investors decided they didn't like the movie business," Gill said. He added that the company was profitable in 2010 based on revenue from "Law Abiding Citizen," but all of the proceeds were used to pay off debt.

The Beverly Hills firm, which has 11 remaining employees, will close its doors May 27.

-- Ben Fritz


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Photo: Neil Sacker, left, and Mark Gill at the premiere of "Law Abiding Citizen" in October 2009. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for Overture.