Battsek is out: The last nail in the coffin at Miramax
Variety has an especially clueless post up this afternoon announcing that Miramax chief Daniel Battsek will be leaving his job in January. While Variety does note that Miramax had recently laid off most of its staff, including production chief Keri Putnam, who headed up its L.A. office, the trade paper acts as if Miramax has some kind of future at Disney, suggesting that it could release some of Disney's upcoming pictures from DreamWorks as well as some of producer Scott Rudin's more high-profile dramas.
Fat chance. In terms of being a functioning specialty division whose name has any meaning to moviegoers--as it did for years when Harvey Weinstein's big knobby thumbs were on the scale--Miramax is history. Kaput. Finished. DOA. Pushing up daisies. As J.J. Hunsecker says so memorably in "Sweet Smell of Success": "You're dead, son. Get yourself buried."
Variety doesn't seem to have noticed--or more accurately, seems determined to pretend not to notice--that Disney, especially under new studio chief Rich Ross, has zero interest in the specialty film world. The new Disney is all about creating and serving brands, brands that function as mass consumption entertainment, like Pixar, Marvel and Jerry Bruckheimer-produced films. Even at its best earlier this decade, Miramax was a very specialized brand, needing a sizable staff and deep-pocketed marketing resources to do the labor-intensive work needed to break art-house films like "The Queen" and "No Country for Old Men."
But Disney isn't willing to fund a label with such limited upside. The studio made that clear when it cleaned house less than a month ago, announcing that the big studio would handle the marketing of future Miramax releases, a sure sign that it wasn't in the business of nurturing films that needed special handling. (At the time, I predicted that Miramax was already a "dead man walking.") Like most studios today, Disney is in the big score business. Even DreamWorks, which has made a sizable number of quality films, is aiming toward the mass-appeal mainstream with its next round of releases. So say goodbye to Miramax. After its already-in-production films pass through the pipeline, expect to see it die a quiet death. It had a great run, but its era has passed.
Photo: Daniel Battsek. Photo credit: Los Angeles Times
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