Relativity Media will have to wait longer than it wanted to escape from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Michael Wiles proposed a schedule that will take the company into February, later than Relativity’s proposed January 31 target.
“We do actually have films we’d like to release by the end of March,” Relativity lawyer Richard Wynne says. Since trailers would need to be shown for two months ahead of time, a “January 31 exit date is critical for the business.”
But Wiles says that is “not realistic” considering how much work would have to be done, including over the holidays. Wiles noted the “number of objections you have” to Relativity’s reorganization plan, and the number of approvals it will need to line up weeks before an exit — including a vote of major impaired creditors.
He proposed a schedule that would only slightly delay the plan: A confirmation hearing is targeted for February 1. If that isn’t delayed, and the court approves the reorganization, then Relativity could emerge from bankruptcy shortly after that.
“I have due process issues and I just can’t compress the schedule,” the judge says.
Relativity says that delays like this one “are common in complex [Chapter] 11 cases such as this, and we will continue to work with the appropriate parties.” It still anticipates “emerging as a well-capitalized company with a robust slate of content, including 14 previously announced films.”
Also at a hearing today the judge considered some of the objections to Relativity’s reorganization plan.
Investment management firm VII Peaks, a Relativity investor, complained that the studio’s latest financial reports don’t say how it’s been doing over the last few months.
Wiles was not concerned, though. “There’s been nothing remotely like normal operations. Not even close.”
He also swatted down VII Peaks’ complaint that Relativity hasn’t said whether it has raised the cash for the reorganization. Relativity has said that Aperture Media Partners and EMP Media Partners agreed to jointly lead an effort to raise $250 million to fund advertising and marketing. It also expects to have $100 million in equity financing from an undisclosed source.
“You want too many ducks to be in a row,” the judge says. To put everything on hold until the capital structure is in place would “do harm to the business and for not any good reason.” Wiles told Relativity to regularly disclose where it is in the financing process.
The investment firm also challenged Relativity’s filings that said CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and his financing partner Joseph Nicholas will end up owning equity — but not how much.
Relativity says that it hasn’t been decided yet. “The discussions are ongoing and the negotiations are ongoing. That will be part of the plan supplement.
Another creditor, CIT Group, says it has foreign distribution collateral rights to films including Mastermind with Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig, and wants to take control of them to expedite their release.
“We’re being held hostage while this process rolls on,” CIT’s lawyer says. ‘The plan as proposed unfairly shifts the risk” because events — possibly involving the actors and their reputations — could diminish the value of the films.
Here, too, Wiles was unpersuaded. “You are where you are due to the fact that the [original] release dates were missed,” he says. “If that damaged you in any way, it’s already happened. That’s a fact of life… I was stumped when I read your ojection as to what makes you any different from any other secured creditor.”
Relativity assured the court that the films exist. I’ve seen Masterminds,” Wynne says. “My 20-year-old nephew has seen Masterminds. We think it’s going to be a huge hit.” Although he’s “sympathetic,” with CIT’s concerns “it’s no reason to stop.”
Manchester Securities said that it is not yet on board with the reorganization plan. For example it has rights to Immortals 2 and hasn’t agreed to the production, although its lawyer says the firm is “very hopeful that these issues will be resolved before February 1.”
Wiles told Relativity to put into its final reorganization documents that it has “potential issues about rights” with Manchester.
One creditor questioned a filing that indicated Solace will be released on a Wednesday instead of a Friday. Wynne told the court that, although release dates are “a moving chess game,” this one was intentional to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend.