After less than a year in bankruptcy, postproduction house Henninger Media Services Inc. plans to complete its reorganization by next Monday, allowing the scaled-down firm to focus on regaining lost sales.
Henninger officials said last week's court approval of its Chapter 11 plan quelled speculation among competitors that the Arlington-based firm would not survive bankruptcy after months of slowed business, layoffs and office closings. Employment has dwindled to 100 from a high of 240 in 2001, said founder and president Robert L. Henninger. The firm filed for bankruptcy last July.
Earlier this year, the firm started a promotional campaign in conjunction with its 20th anniversary, sending monthly e-mails and mailings to clients to publicize discounts of as much as 40 percent on production, postproduction and other services. Henninger also revamped its Web site. The company said it added more than 75 new bookings in the first month.
Henninger reached about $815,000 in sales last month, a 15 to 20 percent increase from February, said Doug Miller, the company's sales and marketing director.
"With [the bankruptcy] behind us, we'll be able to build our sales," Henninger said. "I think we have lost some market share, and I think we'll be able to recapture that."
Henninger's new projects include the editing and processing of film from the new movie, "Ladder 49," a firefighter drama that stars John Travolta, Morris Chestnut and Joaquin Phoenix. The movie is being filmed in Baltimore. Henninger will edit scenes from the film and transfer them to DVD. Henninger is also producing a promo for "Walking With Cavemen," a movie that's a joint venture between the Discovery Channel and BBC, Miller said. Both contracts will draw revenue in the five-figure range, Miller said.
The Chapter 11 filing came after the firm's clients pared down their marketing spending, hurting the production of 30-second commercials in the company's Richmond office, Henninger officials said. Some of Henninger's clients, such as Silver Spring-based Discovery Communications Inc., took some postproduction work in-house as prices fell for editing technology.
Henninger officials said earlier that the biggest blow to the firm came from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Henninger's New York division, Henninger Tools, which provided equipment to produce films, was located six blocks from the World Trade Center and lost business as New York floundered. The company shuttered the New York office in August, and four staffers were laid off.
In January, Henninger closed its Richmond office, blaming a drop in demand for film and television postproduction services. Tape-duplication services were transferred to another Henninger division in Richmond, Commonwealth Film Lab and Transfer.
That same month, the company laid off and furloughed 19 employees, including its vice president of strategic marketing and business development, Steven J. Schupak.
Other postproduction companies say it's not certain that Henninger's promotional strategy will succeed.
Jim Harmon, chief executive of Waveworks Digital Media, which recently moved from Arlington to a smaller office in McLean, said he's just now seeing business improve after a difficult period in which he had to lay off 40 percent of his staff. He said he saw one of Henninger's mailings advertising a discount of up to 40 percent and was skeptical.
"I don't think you can give a 40 percent discount and make ends meet," Harmon said. "Given the cost structure of this industry, I don't know how you could give too steep of a discount. That might improve bookings but not necessarily improve their financial position."