The closing of Miramax–because that’s what has effectively happened by shutting its New York office and letting Daniel Battsek go–is appalling, sad, practically devastating from a historical view of American independent cinema, and not entirely surprising. As corporate powers see more profit in the culture of tentpoles, they’ve been fleeing from smaller-budget films across the board. But what about the brand? Speaking from a purely base commercial perspective, Miramax was one of the most recognizable film companies in the land. And if any entity should have been able to survive the current dip–because that’s what it is, a temporary shift, one that all entertainment companies, big and small, will eventually be able to adapt to–Miramax was probably it.
I don’t know much about Disney and the new mucky-muck atop the “Mouse House,” but what I do know is all of this panic surrounding indie cinema appears to be particularly short-sighted. There are still hundreds of Landmarks and similar art-houses across the country and there are still people going to those movies. And remember, they also cross over into the mainstream. Don’t the corporate elite remember little movies like “Twilight,” “Juno,” “Slumdog Millioniare,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Traffic”–movies that never would have been made within the studios and yet far outgrossed most of the crap they put out. I’m not a business analyst, but isn’t a little risk worth taking when the profit margin can be so potentially large? Maybe releasing movies is just too costly nowadays. Maybe audiences don’t want to go to theaters anymore. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that New York has lost a part of its film history. Love the brand or hate it–and I wrote many critical stories about the company over the years when it was run by the Weinsteins–the community has lost one of its giants, and the fall will have repercussions for all of us.