Disney May Shut Down Miramax


The LA Times has a story today about how Miramax might be the latest specialty division to be shut down by its big-studio owners (Disney), pointing to the studio’s low box-office revenues and the trend of specialty labels being axed in recent years.

Last year, Miramax made a combined $65.8 million in U.S. ticket sales, down 50.3% from $132.3 for 2007. It’s had a couple of movies that have crossed over to the mainstream: No Country for Old Men, which made a $50 million profit that Miramax shared with Paramount Vantage, and There Will Be Blood, which was also co-financed with Paramount Vantage but not nearly as profitable.

Indeed the arthouse fare that most specialty divisions release typically doesn’t generate huge box-office revenues. Which is why it’s not surprising that Miramax is planning to release more mainstream, (hopefully) profitable fare like the following:

  • Mike Judge’s Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck-starrer Extract on September 4, which looks like the sort of comedy that could appeal to the valuable teenage-boy demographic.
  • The romantic comedy The Baster, starring Bateman and Jennifer Aniston, currently filming in New York (pictured).
  • A Katie Holmes-starring horror film, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, produced by Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro.

It’s a strategy that indie studios like Lionsgate and Summit have used to generate box-office profits from horror films and thrillers like Knowing. And even Fox Searchlight is embracing more crowd-pleasing fare, picking up Alexis Bledel’s Post Grad from Fox Atomic and releasing the well-reviewed (500) Days of Summer and Adam this summer. In fact, the best strategy for Miramax to follow with respect to the types of movies it releases might be that of New Line Cinema, which produced broadly-targeted, moderately budgeted fare. Even though Warner Bros. technically shut down the division last year, it’s produced a string of hits for Time Warner’s movie studio this year, including Friday the 13th, He’s Just Not That Into You, 17 Again and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

Producing moderately budgeted, crowd-pleasing fare would be a perfect strategy if those films do well at the box office. And Disney needs some box office winners.

But Miramax might still not survive at Disney, simply because there might not be room for the division.

Walt Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said it doesn’t plan to sell Miramax, but given that DreamWorks will soon start producing titles for Disney’s Touchstone pictures live-action division, there might not be room for more crowd-pleasing fare from Miramax. If Miramax and DreamWorks developed similar slates that could create conflict in the Mouse House.

But maybe someone, like Relativity Media, could buy Miramax and enjoy the spoils of its crowd-pleasing films.

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