Luc Besson's French film studio is facing a fourth year of losses, forcing it to seek help for paying back its creditors

Paris (AFP) - French filmmaker Luc Besson’s production studio has secured court approval for a six-month suspension of its debt payments as it faces a fourth-straight year of losses following a string of underwhelming films.

Besson, whose titles include the suave thrillers “Nikita” and “Leon: The Professional”, created the studio Europacorp in 1999 and it long raked in profits from producing hits like “The Transporter” and “Taken”.

However the studio has struggled in recent years, hit in particular by the huge production costs of the box-office disappointment “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” in 2017.

Last week the studio sought a so-called “safeguard procedure” in order to “negotiate the terms for restoring its financial health,” it said in a statement Tuesday.

Trading of Europacorp shares resumed with sharp losses Tuesday after the company halted trading last week to seek approval for the deal from a court north of Paris, where the studio is based.

After intially plunging more than 30 percent, the stock recovered and was down just 7.6 percent at midday to 67 euro cents – the company has lost two-thirds of its market value over the past year.

Creditors have granted the company a waiver on payments required to pay back debt which stood at 222 million euros ($250 million) as of September 30.

Europacorp has warned it will end its current financial year “significantly in deficit”, after racking up an 89-million-euro loss in the first half of the period.

Besson burst onto the international scene 31 years ago by presenting “The Big Blue” at Cannes, which opens this week for the festival’s 72nd edition.

Panned by critics, “The Big Blue” nonetheless went on to become a phenomenal success, paving the way for a series of successful films in both French and English.

But the “Valerian” setback forced the studio to slash costs and rein in its ambitions, and in 2016 China’s Fundamental Films injected 60 million euros in the studio, becoming its second-largest shareholder.

Europacorp’s latest film, the crime thriller “Anna”, is set to open this summer.

Its release was reportedly delayed for several months as Besson faced several accusations of sexual assault and harassment from young actresses, including former students at his Paris film school.

He has denied the claims.