Miramax takes new approach to Cannes

Mipcom 2011

Nine months after Filmyard’s Ron Tutor, Tom Barrack and Qatar Holding dislodged Miramax from the Disney mothership, the 25-year-old company will enjoy something of a coming-out party at this year’s Mipcom.

The one-time minimajor, which dropped “Films” from its name as part of its reinvention, plans to use its first Mipcom to make good on a promise to fully exploit its catalog of nearly 800 films that have amassed 280 Oscar noms, including four of the past 15 best pictures.

“Our goal … is to exploit (the library) in every market in the world that we can,” says Miramax CEO Mike Lang, a former News Corp. exec who was instrumental in bringing MySpace into the News Corp. fold as well as launching Hulu.

“With all due respect to Disney, our sense was the library just wasn’t being exploited in every type of distribution platform either, everything from TV channels to physical media. Our mandate was just get it out there to potential buyers.”

Despite the reeling global economy, such sellers as Miramax are anticipating a robust market in Cannes, with Turkey, Brazil and England expected to be among the most active territories. Furthermore, there are more pay TV channels, digital opportunities and cash-flush consumers in emerging markets than before.

At the same time, the Miramax library has matured, and rights have reverted back to the company. A Mipcom presence became critical, given that there are a number of key rights to Miramax movies available in major territories. Such titles as “The English Patient” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” hold particular appeal to Euro auds.

“Television and digital platforms are live animals that require constant feeding,” says Joe Patrick, senior VP and head of domestic television and digital sales at Miramax. “The economic climate changes, but the need for programming doesn’t.”

Lang, who will present a keynote address, is particularly bullish on the digital sphere, where his team will hawk such titles as “No Country for Old Men,” “Reservoir Dogs” and “Muriel’s Wedding.” In fact, Miramax has already made rumblings in the digital space, inking a recent deal with Netflix in Latin America that brings the company’s diverse catalog to users’ TVs, computers and mobile phones.

“Our goal is to get this library into circulation,” says Patrick, an MGM alum and Mipcom regular who sees this year’s market as an opportunity for Miramax to build direct sales relationships with broadcasters and digital platforms around the world. “A lot of it was underserved. There are Mipcom clients that are saying, ‘Hey, we’ve have never had access to these (films).’ We’ve got quite a big job on our hands just focusing on this catalog.”

But how long will Miramax brass be content to simply mine its library? The iconic brand founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, which is synonymous with auteurs and edge, seems ripe for a new creative push. But Lang, who has hinted in the past that he would like to create quality original programming on par with such skeins as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” says not so fast.

“We have so much going on with 755 films, we don’t really need 756 right now,” Lang says. “There will be a point where we will need more new content, but that really hasn’t happened. It’s still a bit early for us. We’ve met with more than 500 potential TV and digital buyers, and not one has ever said, ‘If you guys just got some new content, we’d love to do a deal with you.’ There may come a day when it comes up.”

And when the time comes for Miramax to venture into original content, the company will likely start with the 600-plus film and TV projects in development that it inherited as part of the acquisition. Lang says the company is developing partnerships to bring some of those dormant projects to life, particularly on the TV side.

“We don’t have the bandwidth or the resources to put out seven to 10 new releases a year, plus exploit our library,” he says, leader of the 50-plus staff, whose top sales execs are scattered around the globe. “What we are doing first is building relationships with the international community. Once that’s in place, we’ll do more original content.”

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