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Artisan Entertainment

In the three years since Artisan Entertainment released its industry-shaking blockbuster “The Blair Witch Project,” nothing changed in the way you might expect.

“I think this year has been our best year yet,” says Artisan Entertainment CEO Amir Malin. “Maybe not from the vantage point of theatrical releases, but this has been a transformation year. All of us in film entertainment are getting toward turbulent economic times and I had to look at what to accentuate and what to pull back on.”

Toward that end, Malin says Artisan has reduced its debt by $100 million, has $150 million in cash available (“a lot for a company our size”), got into the TV business through the acquisition of Bob Cooper’s Landscape Entertainment and continues to do a booming video business with titles like “Barbie and the Nutcracker.”

While Artisan has a respectable slate of smaller films this year, such as the music docs “Amandla!” and “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” Malin’s aware that he needs major theatricals to raise the company’s profile. Toward that end, Artisan is looking to Artisan Pictures, headed by CEO Cooper and president Richard Saperstein, to produce three or four titles for the company next year. Ideal release slate would be 10-12 titles.

Separately, Artisan launched Landscape Pictures, headed by Michael Birnbaum, which is designed to set up projects for around $20 million-plus at third-party studios.

Artisan will handle the animated “Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie,” in wide release this fall, as the first release from its new family label, Artisan Home Entertainment, and is ramping up for production on the Miramax co-financed “Havana Nights” (aka “Dirty Dancing 2”) as well as the Marvel Comics adaptations “Punisher” and “Iron Fist.”

A once-touted project that has gone by the wayside are the “Blair Witch” producers’ would-be follow-up, “Heart of Love,” with the rights reverting back to Haxan.

“You have to get your house in order,” says Malin. “I think we’re heading back to the highs of what this company can do.”

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