×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Arthouse, haunted house buoy Miramax

HIGH POINTS: Buoyed by five films that each rang up more than $ 20 million, Miramax Films’ total domestic box office reached a record $ 250 million in 1996, a 35% gain over the previous year’s grosses of $ 184.9 million.

“It was a banner year for us. Who says you need a ‘Pulp Fiction’?” said Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, referring to the company’s all-time grosser of $ 107 million.

Of the pics in the $ 20 million club, three were released by Miramax’s genre label, Dimension Films. Robert Rodriguez’ vampire Western, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” drank in $ 25.8 million, making it Miramax’s top grosser for the calendar year. Its success has inspired Dimension to create a franchise by simultaneously shooting a “Dusk” sequel and prequel this year.

Wes Craven’s “Scream,” released on Dec. 20, scared up $ 24.4 million in just 11 days. The Drew Barrymore-Courteney Cox starrer faced little competition for

younger audiences in the onslaught of holiday prestige pictures, and made Miramax’s earlier decision to ink a multipic pact with Craven look smart indeed.

The other Dimension standout was Shawn and Marlon Wayans’ “Don’t Be a Menace ,” a $ 7.5 million acquisition that grossed $ 20.1 million. “We had a great year at Dimension,” said Miramax co-chairman Bob Weinstein. “I only hope we can better ourselves (this) year.”

In its traditional stronghold of upscale, specialized pics, Miramax scored with “Emma,” Douglas McGrath’s adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, which it produced for $ 5.9 million. Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, the film won $ 22.2

million at the box office.

The only other arthouse pic to hit $ 20 million was “The English Patient,” a Nov. 15 release that grossed just shy of $ 24 million by the end of ’96. Miramax president of marketing Mark Gill is projecting grosses of at least $ 50 million for “Patient,” which cost Miramax $ 27 million and producer Saul Zaentz another $ 5 million. Miramax wants to sign helmer Anthony Minghella to a multipicture deal, but nothing has been finalized yet, Harvey Weinstein said.

The high-rolling Weinsteins once again demonstrated their ability to play for high stakes in the acquisitions game in 1996 by paying an astonishing $ 10 million for Billy Bob Thornton’s directorial debut “Sling Blade” and $ 5 million

for Doug Liman’s “Swingers,” written by and starring Jon Favreau.

According to Harvey Weinstein, Miramax was willing to pay big bucks for both “Sling Blade” and “Swingers” in order to establish relationships with up-and-coming talent. Thornton subsequently signed a multipic deal with the

company, and Favreau is working on “The Marshal of Revelation,” an offbeat Western featuring an Hasidic Jewish gunslinger.

If return on investment is the sole criterion, “Trainspotting” may have been Miramax’s most successful acquisition. Created by the “Shallow Grave” team of

producer Andrew Macdonald, director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge, the high-voltage tale about Scottish heroin junkies cost Miramax just $ 750,000 and

shot up $ 16.5 million at the box office.

LOW POINTS: Although “ER’s” George Clooney jump-started his bigscreen career with “Dawn,” the same could not be said for David Schwimmer, the “Friends” cast

member who starred in “The Pallbearer.” The film, which cost Miramax $ 8 million, was considered a disappointment with grosses of $ 5.6 million.

The $ 1.04 million gross for Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man” was so weak that it prompted the veteran indie director to take aim at Miramax during the New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner on Sunday. “There must have been more press screenings than theatrical showings,” said Jarmusch, in presenting the circle’s cinematography award to DP Robbie Muller for his work on “Dead Man” and

October’s “Breaking the Waves.”

“The Crow: City of Angels” managed to scare up $ 22.2 million, but this was less than half of the $ 52 million gross of “The Crow,” a 1994 release that still ranks as one of Miramax’s most successful films ever.

Miramax suffered a setback when producer Cary Woods announced he would exit when his three-year exclusive production deal expired at the end of 1996. With his former partner Cathy Konrad, Woods produced eight films for Miramax, including “Beautiful Girls,” “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” and “Kids,” which was released under the Weinsteins’ Shining Excalibur banner after receiving an NC-17 rating.

OUTLOOK FOR ’97: Following the lead of parent company Walt Disney Co., Miramax plans to cut its production and acquisitions. According to Harvey

Weinstein, the company will release no more than 30 films in 1997 and no more than 20 in 1998. Commenting on the cutback, Harvey Weinstein said he “feels good” about the decision inspired by Disney, with which the Weinsteins signed seven-year employment agreements in May after a year of difficult negotiations.

At least two upcoming films, “Copland” and “Mimic,” have budgets of more than $ 25 million, well above the average $ 12.5 million cap that Miramax and Disney

agreed upon. To compensate for the high cost of the two pics, Miramax will release films that have budgets significantly below the cap,Weinstein said.

Starring an ensemble cast led by Sylvester Stallone (who agreed to work for scale in hopes of profiting on the back end), “Copland” is one of Miramax’s most highly anticipated releases of the year. Woods produced, and Sundance Film

Festival fave James Mangold directed.

DIVERSIFICATION: During 1996, Miramax teamed with corporate neighbor Tribeca Prods. and emerged as the winning bidder for the film rights to the acclaimed Broadway musical “Rent.” The adaptation will mark the first time that Miramax has produced a musical. Also in the works is a film version of “Chicago,” the revival of the Bob Fosse musical that is currently playing on the Great White

Way.

Miramax announced last year that it would enter the TV syndication business for the first time by teaming with All American Television to bring back the classic game show, “What’s My Line?” The move does not, however, signal the formation of a full-scale TV operation, according to the Weinsteins.

The other issue occupying a great deal of the Weinsteins’ time is how to leverage the nearly 400 films in the Miramax library. In studying the history of the major Hollywood studios, Harvey Weinstein said he and his brother observed that “even when there was a bad year, the library always produced profits.”

During the next two years, the rights to many titles in the Miramax library will revert to the company as they come off their first video cycles. “By 1998, we will be in an enviable position,” said Harvey Weinstein. “Everyone else is getting insane prices for their product in places like France and Germany. Why shouldn’t we?”

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Don Cheadle

    ACLU Bill of Rights Gala to Honor Don Cheadle, Feature Appearances by Selena Gomez, Regina Hall

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will honor “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Monday” star Don Cheadle at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights dinner on Nov. 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Cheadle will be recognized for his activist work as an advocate for racial and gender equality, immigration reform, reproductive and LGBTQ [...]

  • Helen Mirren attends the LA Premiere

    Why Helen Mirren Considers Catherine the Great to Be 'Superhuman'

    It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles. Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.” Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content