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Big Idea Productions laid off more than 30 employees a week before the release of Jonah, its first theatrical film. Reports of pay cuts between 15 and 20 percent for remaining employees were unconfirmed by Big Idea, which is based in Lombard, Illinois, and produces the best-selling VeggieTales video series.

According to former employees, this is the third time layoffs have occurred at Big Idea in the last three years. Sources tell Christianity Today that Big Idea's future now rests on the success of Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.

Executives at Big Idea this week refused CT's repeated requests for comment. A spokesman for the company, A. Larry Ross, said that everyone who could speak for the company's financial and staffing status was booked to promote the film's opening. "I can't confirm or deny any reports," he said. "Big Idea, as a private company, does not discuss staffing issues."

Company Chief Operating Officer Terry Botwick told CT that laid-off employees signed nondisclosure contracts as they left.

Several former employees who spoke with CT asked that their names not be used. One called the layoffs a shock. Another said that laid-off employees represented different levels of responsibility and seniority. "Looking at it on paper doesn't make sense," she said. "It wasn't those most recently hired. In some cases, it was people there since the beginning."

Cyclical staffing?

Company spokesman Ross said that changes in employment are typical at stages of film development. "Like at many studios, production staffing needs vary within the production schedule," he said. "The important thing is that, as [Big Idea founder] Phil Vischer has said in the past, they don't exist to profit but they profit to exist. As such, you have to periodically ...

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