BVHV grabs 5 Miramax pix

Adding a touch of art-house class to its rental release slate, Buena Vista Home Video has acquired the homevideo distribution rights to “Mediterraneo, “”Zentropa,””Strictly Ballroom,””Into the West” and “Ethan Frome” from Miramax Films.

Announced Friday, the deal advances BVHV’s year-old strategy of acquiring independent films from outside sources for homevideo release.

The Disney unit made its first foray into the marketing and distribution of outside product with the 1991 rental release of Samuel Goldwyn’s “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.” Since, the Disney unit has been steadily adding movies beyond Touchstone Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Hollywood Pictures product to its annual release slate of roughly 25-35 homevideo rental titles a year.

“The independent films we acquired and released on video in 1992, such as ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ and ‘Strangers in Good Company,’ have proven profitable for retailers,” Walt Disney Co. international theatrical and worldwide video president Bill Mechanic said in a statement. “With the Miramax titles, we are continuing a successful strategy of securing rights to quality films.”

For New York-based Miramax–the indie headed by co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein–the deal comes after months of negotiations with several studios for the homevideo rights to two of its prized properties: the cheek-to-cheek Australian dance pic “Strictly Ballroom” and director Jim Sheridan’s children’s legend “Into the West.”

It is believed that the Weinsteins negotiated the subtitled “Mediterraneo” and “Zentropa” into the Buena Vista package.

However, Disney’s Mechanic said BVHV has taken the stance that the 1992 Best Foreign Film “Mediterraneo” is “a highly acceptable movie” for the video marketplace. It will be the first rental title released among the five Miramax movies, earmarked for an early 1993 release.

BVHV will also likely prep homevideo release of such movies as “Ethan Frome, “”Into the West” and particularly “Strictly Ballroom” in spring 1993, highlighting the movies in time for next year’s Academy Awards, Mechanic said.

Each Miramax title will have a separate focus and an individual marketing campaign, according to BVHV. “It gives (us) something different to handle, ultimately it is good for the filmmakers and the video business,” Mechanic said.

The homevideo deal underscores Miramax’s continued foray into relationships with major studios. Earlier, the 12-year-old indie entered into an 18-title ancillary rights package with Paramount Pictures (Daily Variety, Feb. 6) and sold the distribution rights to its $ 4 million acquisition “Sarafina!” to BVHV for a reported $ 7 million, escalating up to $ 11 million depending on box office performance (Daily Variety, Sept. 17).

Attempts to reach the Weinsteins about the five-picture BVHV deal were unsuccessful.

BVHV acquisition of the Miramax titles dovetails with Disney’s overall push to add prestige and variety to its more mainstream Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures live-action fare.

Walt Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg has pushed the strategy forward by inking the producer/director team Ismail Merchant and James Ivory to a three-year, first-look deal (Daily Variety, July 27) and acquiring distribution rights to the Whoopi Goldberg-starrer “Sarafina!.”

Augmenting the prestige push, BVHV is currently marketing five old John Cassavetes movies, including the upcoming releases of “Faces,””Shadows,””Killing of a Chinese Bookie” and “Opening Night” (Daily Variety, July 13).

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