Venture ends in disappointment

LONDON — Two years ago Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein called HAL Films “the European dream team.” But now the dream is over.

Miramax confirmed Tuesday that it is disbanding its London-based partnership with HAL founders David Aukin, Colin Leventhal and Trea Hoving.

The production joint venture, launched with high hopes and hoopla in October 1997, is ending in disappointment halfway through its five-year deal.

Leventhal and Aukin, previously Channel 4′s joint film chiefs, will leave later this month to pursue other unspecified interests in the entertainment industry.

Hoving, a former Miramax exec who is married to Leventhal, will devote her time to her family.

Miramax retains ownership of HAL’s extensive development slate, and will continue to run the venture’s London office under its own banner.

HAL development chief Allon Reich, along with other key HAL execs, will likely remain to spearhead Miramax’s U.K. operation.

No official grounds have been given for the divorce, which is described as “by mutual agreement.”

But the news of HAL’s demise comes as no surprise to U.K. film insiders, who have been speculating feverishly in recent months over when, not if, the company would fold.

Creative disagreements

It’s an open secret in London that the relationship between the HAL trio and their American partners soured rapidly after the initial honeymoon period, because of creative disagreements and personality issues.

The joint venture replaced Miramax’s London production office when it launched.

Miramax committed a $50 million production fund and $3 million in development coin, while ceding, on paper at least, an unprecedented degree of creative control to the London-based trio.

But HAL’s much vaunted autonomy in creative decision-making from its New York-based paymasters proved, in the end, to be an illusion. There was always an insoluble tension between HAL’s desire to do its own thing, and Harvey Weinstein’s personal hands-on commitment to U.K. filmmaking.

HAL was involved in four productions over the past two years — “Mansfield Park,” “Elephant Juice,” “About Adam” and “Birthday Girl.”

Pic problems

But “Elephant Juice” was produced against the wishes of the Weinsteins, and Miramax is now refusing to release it. By contrast, Miramax’s enthusiasm for “Birthday Girl,” starring Nicole Kidman, resulted in HAL being swept aside from the production process.

“We had a great run with our HAL partners, and Harvey and I are proud of the films we worked on together,” Bob Weinstein said in a statement. “We have great respect for Trea and Colin and David and wish each of them well.

“Miramax’s strong commitment to the proud tradition of European cinema will continue in full force through our London office,” he added.

Leventhal said, “We are very, very proud of the films that have been produced by HAL over the past two years. We wish Harvey and Bob and their colleagues the best for the future, and we have no doubt there will be opportunities to work together again on individual projects.”

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