It’s been a troubled past 24 hours at Megan Ellison-owned indie studio-turned-distributor Annapurna Pictures, which late Tuesday evening parted ways with president of film Chelsea Barnard, per THR.
Barnard, whose executive producer credits include Foxcatcher and Spike Jonze’s Her, had been with Annapurna since its inception in 2011, and was named film division head in January 2017.
The news of Barnard’s departure came hours after it was reported that the emerging studio was dropping two projects championed by Barnard prior to her departure: a star-studded Fox News/Roger Ailes drama, which was dropped only two weeks before production was set to start, and an untitled, Jennifer Lopez-starring stripper film, which is said to have signed Constance Wu as a co-star before folding at Annapurna.
It’s still unclear what’s responsible for all these major shake-ups at Annapurna, whether it’s simply reorganizing or there are serious financial troubles in play following the company’s rocky pivot to film distribution in 2017.
Annapurna started its run as a film distributor with Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, which only grossed $16 million despite a $40 million budget and a major marketing push. The company did land a surprise hit earlier this summer with Sorry to Bother You, but the rest of this year’s slate doesn’t bode well for Annapurna being able to reverse its fortunes anytime soon.
The Sisters Brothers
, which came out over three weeks ago, has only made about $700,000 so far, despite a reported $38 million budget, with even more money going to U.S. rights and marketing. Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic Vice also reportedly came with a pricey $60 million budget, and despite all the anticipation for Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk, that James Baldwin adaptation would have to be an unprecedented breakout hit in order to make up for Annapurna’s much bigger-budgeted flops.
Either way, Annapurna has a lot of shaping up to do, and fast, as its marketing and distribution deal with MGM means a number of high-profile projects are now on the line, including the forthcoming Creed II and the Cary Fukunaga-directed Bond 25.