Battsek: Miramax safe during crisis

Studio head says Disney dollars help company

Miramax topper Daniel Battsek managed to get some respite from the financial turmoil on Wall Street when he jetted in to his native London to deliver Monday’s keynote speech at Film London’s Production Finance Market.

Battsek mused on a number of topics during the lively session, including the impact of the global financial downturn, the challenges facing the U.S. specialty sector and the shifting sands of traditional models in the face of online distribution.

“It’s an interesting time because people have tended to view the entertainment industry as gloriously immune to recession but it is a different world today then during the Great Depression with people able to get their escape without having to pay $10 at the box office,” said Battsek in a reference to the impact of the Internet on auds’ viewing habits . “As for Miramax most of our movies are financed by Disney so we have our financing in place. If we had been an independent (the financial crisis) would have had a major impact.”

Battsek did point out that Miramax had already undergone a major re-structuring three years ago when he took over the helm from founding co-chiefs Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

“Miramax was massively downsized three years ago and re-structured, re-focused and re-set,” he told Daily Variety. “There were opportunities then for Disney to do something else with Miramax but they didn’t want to. They wanted to continue. I see no reason why that shouldn’t continue as long as we get results both in terms of what we do for the Miramax brand and the Walt Disney Co. critically, in terms of the Academy and match that with consistent economic results.”

While specialty arms such as Picturehouse and Warner Independent have all been shuttered this year, Miramax has reinforced its standing in the market. Battsek doesn’t see the woes of his rivals as necessarily beneficial to Miramax.

“I don’t like to see contraction in those areas and it hasn’t made a noticeable difference to market place,” he said. “There are still lots of films getting released and made. It’s still as competitive as it ever was. Yes there are fewer buyers and more films are available but doesn’t necessarily make life any easier. It means there is more clutter and more decisions to be made.”

The two-day, which ends todayis part of the London Film Festival. Confab brings British producers together with international financiers, including private equity firms, hedge funds, banks active in film financing, as well as public funding bodies, broadcasters and sales companies. At the 2008 market $1.6 billion worth of film projects were being pitched, up from $800 million production value in 2007. Last year’s keynote was delivered by the Film Dept. co-topper, and former Miramax exec, Mark Gill.