UPDATE 1-Ritz Camera files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Ritz Camera Centers Inc, which said it is the largest U.S. specialty camera and imaging chain, on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, hurt by the recession and consumers’ shift to digital photography.

The Beltsville, Maryland-based company filed for protection from creditors with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware. Ritz said it has between $100 million and $500 million of both assets and liabilities.

Ritz operates under such names as Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, Inkley’s and The Camera Shops, and also operates the 130-store Boater’s World Marine Centers chain. It said it had nearly $1 billion of revenue in the year ended Nov. 30, 2008.

In an affidavit, Chief Restructuring Officer Marc Weinsweig said the company’s lenders ordered the company in January to boost reserves, thereby reducing available credit.

He said this came after the recession caused Ritz’s 2008 holiday sales to be “materially lower” than a year earlier. Ritz was also hurt by losses at Boater’s World, which suffered falling sales in 2008 as gas prices soared.

“The loss of revenues and profit margins from the diminution in the photo-finishing business proved too much of a burden, coupled with the losses experienced by the Boater’s World business in 2008,” he wrote.

Ritz said it will seek court permission to obtain $85 million of financing to keep operating while it restructures.

Among the largest unsecured creditors are Nikon Inc 7731.T, with a $26.6 million claim, and Canon USA Inc 7751.T, with a $13.7 million claim, the bankruptcy petition shows. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)