Bunhill: Reel uncertainty

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The Independent Online
RUMOURS of the demise of Kenneth Branagh's corporate empire have, it appears, been greatly exaggerated. Only one small company, Renaissance Theatre, has been folded. Its much bigger sibling, Renaissance Films, remains.

The film company was founded five years ago as a BES scheme by a distinguished cast including Brian Wenham, the ex-BBC executive who introduced snooker to television, and Roger Wingate, the reclusive property tycoon who controls the Curzon Cinemas.

The scheme behind Renaissance, crafted by ex-stockbroker Stephen Evans, was to make three movies over a five-year period and then divide the spoils. The scheme received an enthusiastic response, from a number of foreign trusts as well as media groupies who knew a good thing when they saw one. Unusually, the three films were actually produced at a reasonable cost and, even more unusually, all of them, Henry V, Peter's Friends and Much Ado About Nothing, were critical and box-office successes. Unfortunately, the investors are discovering that the neat five-year framework of a BES scheme is rather unsuited to the film industry, in which producers only learn the financial position from the film's distributors a couple of years after the film is launched - and actually get the cash even later. The last accounts, for the year to September 30 1992, show accumulated losses of over pounds 1.5m. Hence a certain tension: the investors still don't know if they will end up with a profit.

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