Miramax

Over the past 12 months, Miramax has proven that it definitely has not retreated from the arthouse and specialty film business.

Last year’s standouts were smaller pics such as “In the Bedroom” and “Amelie,” but some of the company’s glossiest fare, such as “The Shipping News,” failed to click with audiences.

Part of what makes Miramax a complex, and some say, confused place these days is the range of pics it produces.

Top grossers continue to come from Dimension’s side of the business, with “Holloween: Resurrection” the latest case in point and expectations high for the division’s Aug. 7 release of “Spy Kids 2.”

The grosses expected for “Spykids 2” and Miramax’s Christmas release “The Gangs of New York” are of a different dimension than such pics as “Italian for Beginners,” the Danish film that brought in $4.4 million and numerous flattering reviews, or “The Son’s Room,” which grossed $1 million.

Still, it’s not deterring Miramax from being aggressive on the festival circuit. At Sundance, the studio beat out several suitors for the fest’s hottest pic — the Gary Winick-helmed “Tadpole” –with a $5 million offer that was $1 million lower than a competitor.

The studio’s bigger plays, however, are more in line with the majors. Miramax recently slapped down $3 million for book and film rights to the “Harry Potter”-like Bartimaeus Trilogy, which the company plans to publish through Talk Miramax Books and build into a trilogy of films.

Because it straddles the specialty and studio worlds, Miramax knows as well as any distrib how difficult it’s become to distinguish oneself in the marketplace.

“Movies burn out more quickly than they used to,” says Rick Sands, chairman of worldwide distribution for Miramax Films. “This makes smaller movies more difficult to expand. You’re trying to make noise against other events. It’s more expensive to market movies. But you need to differentiate yourself and that’s getting harder and harder to do.”

Besides “Gangs,” which you can bet Miramax will push for Oscars in every category, the studio is especially excited by upcoming releases such as “Chicago” and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

Outside of those larger titles, the studio has forthcoming such films as 2002 Sundance acquisition “Blue Car” and 2001 Cannes acquisition “Ararat,” slated to open the Toronto Film Festival.

“Besides our big fall and winter films, the three films to watch, whether just for individual awards, are ‘Blue Car,’ ‘Frida’ and ‘Ararat,'” said Mark Gil, president of Miramax Films/LA. “We will watch carefully how these films perform and how the critics respond to them.”

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