By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
When Panavision announced the DigiPan 70, a 70mm equivalent digital movie camera a few months back, the future looked plenty bright for the camera rental company. But that was just on the surface. Underneath, there have been a series of desperate financial moves to restructure debt and try and weather a storm that has hit the film camera business like a hurricane. And the latest chapter involves a lawsuit by Panavision’s creditors to try and get back the money it still owes. Is the clock ticking on this iconic Hollywood company?
Back in 2010, it looked like the company’s financial storm would subside. They were able to refinance much of their ongoing debt through Credit Suisse as early as 2006, and then, in yet another round of restructuring, most of their $335 million debt had been cancelled. So it looked like the camera company would be able to weather the storm.
But about $1.7 million in outstanding debt remained and the problems brought on by the rapid adoption of digital cinema hasn’t made repaying that debt any easier. So much so that Panavision simply can’t retire it. And as such, the Wilmington Trust, National Association – as agent for Credit Suisse, has filed suit in federal court over breach of contract to repay it. They are seeking all of the $1.7 million, plus interest and legal fees. But they are also seeking some sort of punitive damages as well, with a request for “such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.”
“Under the Second Lien Guarantee and Collateral Agreement, the Defendants pledged collateral, comprising substantially all of their assets, to secure their obligations arising out of the Second Lien Credit Agreement,” – Daniel Hope, Chief counsel for Wilmington Trust
And that could mean the company itself, should Panavision lose in court. It seems the company was in such dire straits, that it bet the proverbial farm that they could evolve into the digital realm. But how popular has the DigiPan 70 been since it was announced last January? Well, I haven’t heard anything else since then. Panavision’s saving grace has been their lenses, as may digital cameras like the RED Epic and Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and even DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mk. II have taken advantage of the Panny Primes.
But they’ve since stopped making them, leaving many, including cinematographer Shane Hurlbut waxing nostalgic. “It is a shame that the Panavision Primo primes that I used to shoot “Act of Valor” are not available anymore,” wrote Hurlbut in his HurlBlog in 2010. “They vignette up to a 35mm, which translates to a 24mm lens. Now that is nice. There are so many different lenses that have been lost and need a re-birth.”
And I’m not even sure that the recent Kodak deal to provide film to all six major studios will help at this juncture. So, unless Panavision can find a way to rebound from its current financial woes, the company may end up being gobbled up by its creditors for a measly $1.7 million dollar judgement. And usually, when that happens, it gets broken up and sold off. And a once great filmmaking company, synonymous with Hollywood itself, will be lost to history. Sad too, considering all the epic films, like Star Wars, that have been shot on the Panavision platform.
Hat Tip – Deadline.com