Miramax Intl. has unveiled a new strategy to develop long-term relationships with what the company is calling “primary” distributors in major territories worldwide, starting with a five-film sale to Japan’s Shochiku and its entire 10-film slate to Italy’s Cecchi Gori.

In a market short on available product, the deals are a welcome signal to foreign distribs that Miramax is still a seller of theatrical-quality films overseas. On the other hand, such multifilm deals make it harder to cherry-pick from the company’s varied production slate, a situation somewhat mitigated by the promise of Miramax marketing savvy as part of the deal.

Here at the American Film Market, Shochiku finalized a deal to distribute Miramax’s “Four Rooms” (directed by Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, Allison Anders and Robert Rodriguez), Gary Fleder’s “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” George Miller’s “Robinson Crusoe,” John Ehle’s “The Journey of August King” and “Halloween 6.” Such bulk acquisitions are unusual in Japan.

Miramax also sold its 10-film slate to Cecchi Gori for release in Italy, and expects to sign up distribs in as many as five other countries, including Spain and Germany, by the end of AFM.

Rick Sands, who took over as president of the international division earlier this year after the departure of Ian Jessel, said the company’s foreign sales arm has “a new philosophy: We’re a full-service organization now.”

Miramax co-chairman Bob Weinstein credited Sands with turning Miramax Intl. into a more “distribution-oriented” division, rather than just “a sales operation.”

“Whoever we sell our films to becomes an arm for Miramax’s marketing and distribution,” Weinstein said. “So they bid more because they make more money.” Although he wouldn’t disclose sales figures, both deals are thought to be good for Miramax. Sources say sales prices for the company’s films are tracking significantly higher than in recent years.

Sands said the company is not seeking output deals, but is looking to create what he calls “primary relationships” in major territories with indie distribs who will release the bulk of its slate, up to 12 or 15 films a year. Miramax will work closely with its chosen local partners on marketing its movies under the Miramax brand.

Under the pact with Cecchi Gori, the Italian company’s U.S.-based execs will be able to consult directly not only with Miramax’s international marketing execs – led by exec VP Christian Grass – but also with the team responsible for the domestic campaigns.

Over the past year, Miramax has ruffled feathers among indie distributors in some territories, notably the United Kingdom and Latin America, by releasing its films through Buena Vista Intl., the foreign arm of the Walt Disney Co., which owns Miramax. “There is a misunderstanding that we give our films to BVI,” said David Linde, senior exec VP of Miramax Intl. “They compete for the films like anyone else.”

Smaller sales

Also at AFM, Miramax Intl. has sold a five-film package to Lauren Films in Spain, including “Four Rooms,” “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” “Faithful,” “Robinson Crusoe” and “The Journey of August King.”

Lauren has acquired a number of Miramax titles in the past, and the latest deal establishes the distrib as Miramax’s “primary” outlet in Spain.

Miramax also has sold large packages in several smaller territories during the American Film Market.

Israel’s Forum Films has bought eight titles. In Brazil, Lumiere Latin America, in partnership with the exhibition group Ribiero, bought five pix.

Bulgaria’s Multivideo bought 18 Miramax titles. In the former Yugoslavia, UCD picked up 15 pix. Butterfly in the Czech Republic stepped up for 10 pix, continuing its existing relationship with Miramax, and Mokep acquired 12 titles for Hungary.

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