Chicken Soup for the Soul, awash in debt, declares bankruptcy

Positive thinking wasn’t enough to help Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment escape a pile of unpaid bills.

The publisher of uplifting books, TV, movie and online video content, which also owns DVD rental operator Redbox, on Friday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware court after racking up nearly $1 billion in debt.

Chicken Soup was founded in 1993 by motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Over the ensuing years, the company expanded beyond publishing books and developed a range of advertisement-supported video-on-demand services, including Redbox, Crackle, and Popcornflix, according to S&P Capital IQ. 

The publicly traded company, which is based in Cos Cob, Conn., also runs Redbox Free Live TV, a free ad-supported streaming service, and operates thousands of DVD rental kiosks. 

Chicken Soup for the Soul owes money to more than 500 creditors, including entertainment companies such as Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. Discovery and retailers Walgreens and Walmart. As of March, the company had debts of $970 million and assets of $414, its bankruptcy filing shows.  In court documents, the company said its lenders were unwilling to cooperate with refinancing.

A spokesperson for Chicken Soup for the Soul declined to comment.

Chicken Soup for the Soul saw rapid growth after going public in 2017, when its investors included Ashton Kutcher, with its annual revenues soaring from less than $10 million to more than $294 million in 2023. The company in 2022 bought Redbox, a dotcom-era survivor best known for its self-serve kiosks outside of pharmacies or groceries stores that let customers rent or sell DVDs.

At the time, Chicken Soup for the Soul touted the deal as a way to reach consumers across mediums and boost revenue, but the merged business failed to turn a profit while its losses piled up. The company reported 2023 revenue of roughly $110 million, and in March disclosed in a regulatory filing that it might not be able to continue as a going concern. 

The company’s stock price, which approached $50 in 2021, had tumbled more than 90% over the last year and was priced at 11 cents shortly before the close of trade on Monday.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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