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Disney pulls two Miramax films from release due to pending sale

Walt Disney Studios has told the producers of its Miramax movies "The Debt" and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" that it won't be releasing the films because of the pending sale of the specialty division.

The two pictures are being sold to newly created Filmyard Holdings, whose partners include Ron Tutor and private equity fund Colony Capital, as part of its $660-million acquisition of Miramax Films, expected to close by the end of the year.

Disney had originally planned to release "The Debt," a thriller about a Nazi war criminal directed by "Shakespeare in Love's" John Madden, on Dec. 29 and "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," a horror film produced by "Pan's Labyrinth" director Guillermo del Toro, on Jan. 21. The studio had already started early advertising for the pictures, including a well-received trailer for "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark." Disney took "The Debt," which stars "Avatar's" Sam Worthington and "The Queen's" Oscar-winning Helen Mirren, to September's Toronto International Film Festival.

Del Toro said he was devastated by the news.

"It's been 13 years trying to make this movie, and we finally make it," he said of the movie about an estate whose basement is inhabited by devilish creatures. "It's quite shocking. I am trying to see the silver lining in this."

Added producer Mark Johnson, who was informed of Disney's decision by the studio's production President Sean Bailey today: "We were primed to come out. It's pretty disastrous."

One person close to the matter said that Disney didn't want to spend marketing money to release a picture that it wouldn't own. It originally was going to put out the movies on behalf of the new Miramax owners in exchange for a percentage of revenue.

Instead, the person said, Filmyard will find a different distribution partner to put out "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and "The Debt" after the acquisition closes -- probably sometime later next year.

Spokespeople for Disney did not respond to requests for comment.

--John Horn and Ben Fritz

Related:

Disney agrees to sell Miramax Films to investor group led by Ron Tutor

 
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