Miramax hits Las Vegas for CES

Topper focuses on leveraging library

The Conrad Villa atop the LVH Hotel (formerly the Hilton) is a palatial, two story apartment that has been home to Barry Manilow. With its rococo decor and sweeping views of Las Vegas, it’s the kind of showplace venue you might expect to be the CES home of a multibillion-dollar tech giant.

But it’s Miramax, the indie film distributor with a staff of 60, that rented the villa and hosted a CES party there. It’s the kind of move previous Miramax management might have made — but not at CES.

Under CEO Mike Lang, however, Miramax is branching out in ways that are unconventional by Hollywood standards, at least for an indie distributor. That includes the just-announced Miramax-branded TV app that lets consumers purchase Miramax movies, not rent them.

Variety sat down Thursday with Lang in the villa as hotel staff busily replaced the furniture following Wednesday night’s bash. Lang said it makes sense for Miramax to build direct consumer relationships at events like CES because the brand still resonates with consumers.

“There’s very few brands in the film space that have that kind of recognition,” said Lang. “That’s an advantage for us. And for us not to at least try to find ways to use that brand to license our product, to build platforms around our product, would be an opportunity wasted. Now whether we’re able to do it in a significant way we don’t know yet. We’re trying.”

Consumers are so busy they look to brands to help guide them to what’s out there, Lang believes. “Even our licensing deals with people like Netflix and Hulu, they’ve taken our content and they’ve branded it as the Miramax films.”

Right now pictures purchased through the Miramax app are streamed. There’s no local download and no cloud storage. Lang says Miramax is a big believer in the cloud-based digital locker concept, and they’d like pics sold through their app to eventually be in the cloud, but they’re not participating in the existing UltraViolet platform.

“I’m not a big fan of industry consortiums or various organizations getting together and trying to dictate to third-party retailers what the rules of the road are,” he said. “I think we can have various conversations with individual people, and if UltraViolet ultimately becomes the format that the industry adopts I’m all in favor of it and we’ll support it. But I’m not going to be beholden to what the media industry says it’s going to be.

“If I had a choice today, I’m putting all my eggs in the Apple iCloud basket. I think they will figure it out, they will create a great cloud experience, and we are very excited about being a part of that.”

Land is confident UltraViolet and other platforms will emerge besides Apple’s iCloud. “We want to be on all those platforms but don’t want to be in one format until we know how the standard evolves.”

He disagrees with News Corp-chief digital officer Jonathan Miller’s warning that content companies must offer more video and more options to consumers, and not just focus on leveraging existing content. “I still believe there is a significant opportunity to take your existing library and find ways to exploit it around the world, because there are so many platforms. We’re fortunate in that regard because we don’t have existing businesses that get in the way of that. We’re maniacally focused on creating value off our existing library wherever we can.”

Lang is also a big believer in Apple leading the charge in how more content gets delivered in the future, especially TV shows.

“They will take the lead and many of the other great manufacturers will adapt to that but for a broader marketplace,” he said. “But for the actual product definition or experience, at our little company, we believe Apple will take the lead in this.”