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Indie film distributor the Orchard was on a roll. Then the Louis C.K. sex scandal blew up

It was shaping up to be a banner year for the Orchard, the New York music distributor that two years ago turned toward the unpredictable business of indie and foreign film distribution.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, the company beat out its rivals to acquire one of the main competition’s biggest titles — “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” the acclaimed French drama about the early days of AIDS activism that won the festival’s Grand Prix, or second-place prize. Earlier this year, the Orchard scored an Oscar nomination for “Life, Animated,” the quirky autism-meets-animation documentary it bought at Sundance.

Louis C.K.’s movie “I Love You, Daddy” was supposed to add to the harvest when the company scooped it up at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival for an estimated $5 million. But the sexual allegations that engulfed the comedian-filmmaker this week have effectively killed the deal, with the Orchard deciding to drop the title just one week before it was scheduled to open in cinemas.

The Orchard declined to comment beyond a statement released Friday that said the company “will not be moving forward with the release of ‘I Love You, Daddy.’” It remains unclear if the black-and-white feature film — which Louis C.K. wrote, directed, produced and stars in — will be sold to another distributor or if it will skip theaters altogether.

In a short amount of time, the Orchard has forged relationships with auteur talent, including mumblecore veterans Mark and Jay Duplass, with whom the company struck a seven-film deal in 2015. It has released two films by the acclaimed Norwegian director Joachim Trier, including the unconventional thriller “Thelma,” which opened this weekend in New York.

The Orchard has developed a reputation for aggressive acquisition tactics and has also poached executive talent from its rivals, according to one industry insider.

The company’s biggest theatrical release to date was the Taika Waititi-directed movie “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” which grossed a little more than $5 million in the U.S. when it was released last year. Waititi directed this year’s Marvel superhero sequel “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Its acquisitions this year at Cannes and Toronto have helped to elevate the Orchard to within the vicinity of the indie world’s top distributors, including its corporate cousin Sony Pictures Classics, as well as A24 and Magnolia Pictures.

The Louis C.K. debacle will test the company’s resilience, but it isn’t the only indie distributor to have to endure a sex-related scandal tied to one of its titles.

Fox Searchlight faced a publicity firestorm last year with “Birth of a Nation,” when rape allegations resurfaced against writer-director-star Nate Parker, who denied the accusations. The movie, which was acquired for $17.5 million at Sundance, was released in theaters as scheduled but was a box-office disappointment.

Summit Entertainment released Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” in 2010 when the filmmaker was still under house arrest in Switzerland, facing a U.S. extradition request related to his 1977 statutory rape case. The movie generated a respectable $15.5 million domestically in limited release.

Times staff writers Ryan Faughnder and Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.

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