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Golden Globe nominations give Annapurna Pictures a boost after a tough year

Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

If any studio needed an awards season win this year, it was Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures.

Despite vast resources, the West Hollywood film production and distribution company has weathered internal shake-ups and belt-tightening and has offloaded movies amid a string of costly box office flops.

But the 7-year-old mini studio got a serious confidence boost Thursday when it scored 10 Golden Globe nominations for ambitious movies including the Dick Cheney biopic "Vice" and Barry Jenkins' James Baldwin adaptation "If Beale Street Could Talk."

Annapurna tied with awards season stalwart Fox Searchlight Pictures for the most nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which bestows the Golden Globes. The 21st Century Fox Inc.-owned Searchlight garnered plaudits for movies such as Yorgos Lanthimos' "The Favourite" and Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs."

Run by Ellison -- daughter of Oracle Corp.'s billionaire founder Larry Ellison -- Annapurna has previously been an awards season contender with such films as "American Hustle," "Her" and "Zero Dark Thirty."

Thursday's news could hardly have come at a better time for Annapurna, which has been struggling financially while trying to establish itself as an indie film powerhouse. Award nominations can attract bigger audiences to the honored movies and help studios attract major filmmakers.

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Ellison has made a name for herself in Hollywood as a patron of artsy, often social justice-themed projects such as this year's "Sorry to Bother You." But those bets often have not paid off financially. The studio's box office disappointments have included "Detroit" and "The Sisters Brothers."

In recent months, the company has responded by adopting more financial discipline by curbing its lavish spending on less-commercial fare, according to people familiar with the matter. Rumors arose that Larry Ellison -- an advisor to the studio -- stepped in to take a more active role to stop the bleeding, but Annapurna denied that.

In October, Annapurna suddenly pulled the plug on its drama about the downfall of late Fox News chief Roger Ailes and the sexual harassment scandal that ended his career. Lionsgate and Bron Studios revived the movie.

Still, Annapurna's Golden Globes tally is an undeniable success.

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