Luc Besson's film studio gets six-month reprieve as losses mount

Paris (AFP) –


French filmmaker Luc Besson's production studio has secured court approval for a six-month suspension of its debt payments as it faces a fourth straight year of losses following a string of underwhelming films.

The studio sought a so-called "safeguard procedure" last week in order to "negotiate the terms for restoring its financial health," it said in a statement Tuesday.

Trading of Europacorp shares was to resume Tuesday after the company halted trading last week as it sought approval for the deal from a court north of Paris, where the studio is based.

Creditors have granted the company a waiver on payments required to pay back debt which stood at 222 million euros ($250 million) as of September 30.

Europacorp has warned it will end its current financial year "significantly in deficit", after racking up an 89-million-euro loss in the first half of the period.

It will come after three years in the red, hit in particular by the huge production costs of the box-office disappointment "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" in 2017.

Besson, whose titles include the suave thrillers "Nikita" and "Leon: The Professional", created the studio in 1999 and it long raked in profits from producing hits like "The Transporter" and "Taken".

Thirty-one years ago he burst onto the international scene by presenting "The Big Blue" at Cannes, which opens this week for the festival's 72nd edition.

Panned by critics, "The Big Blue" nonetheless went on to become a phenomenal success, paving the way for a series of successful films in both French and English.

But the "Valerian" setback forced it to slash costs and rein in its ambitions, and in 2016 China's Fundamental Films injected 60 million euros in the studio, becoming its second-largest shareholder.

Europacorp's latest film, the crime thriller "Anna", is set to open this summer.

Its release was reportedly delayed for several months as Besson faced several accusations of sexual assault and harassment from young actresses, including former students at his Paris film school.

He has denied the claims.