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by Eugene Hernandez
October 30, 2009 8:03 AM
1 Comment
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Miramax Leaving NYC; Battsek Leaving Miramax

Miramax Films will close its New York office and president Daniel Battsek is leaving the company, the Walt Disney Studios said today. The rapid, dramatic destruction of the iconic New York company comes just eighteen months after Miramax won the best picture Oscar for the Coen Brothers' "No Country For Old Men."

Earlier this month, Disney announced a plan to slash Miramax's slate to just three films per year and cut its staff dramatically. Days later Rich Ross was named the new Disney studio chief in the wake of a major studio shake-up by company CEO Bob Iger.

"With the change in direction at Miramax, we have reached a mutual agreement with Daniel Battsek that he will leave his post as president, effective January 2010," said new Walt Disney Studios chairman Ross, in a statement this afternoon. "During his 18 years of service, he has brought some very prestigious and award-winning films to the Studio from 'Calendar Girls' to 'The Queen' to 'No Country for Old Men'. We wish Daniel the very best on his future endeavors."

RELATED ARTICLE: Anne Thompson analyzes the situation at Miramax and considers the state of specialty film on Thompson On Hollywood.

Well-respected and amiable, Battsek brought a major change to the personality of Miramax when he joined the division in the fall of 2005. A veteran of Disney who previously served as head of the Buena Vista International (BVI) unit in the UK, Battsek successfully launched Stephen Frears' "The Queen" the following year and in 2007 he and his team acquired "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," releasing it the same year as "No Country For Old Men" and their co-production, "There Will Be Blood" (which was released by the late Paramount Vantage).

At the NYC premiere of Julian Jarrold's "Kinky Boots" back in April of '06, Miramax Films president Daniel Battsek (left) alongside his president of production Keri Putnam and company EVP of marketing Jason Cassidy. Photo by indieWIRE

Miramax will remain an active brand and division at the Disney studio, a spokesperson told indieWIRE today, noting that the unit still plans to release three films each year. Miramax is expected to maintain a staff of twenty people in it's new incarnation.

As for the future leadership of Miramax, the spokesperson told indieWIRE today, "When we have something to announce we will announce it."

Founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein in New York City thirty years ago, the brothers sold Miramax to Disney in 1993, remaining in place as chairman and running the rapidly growing company until four years ago when Disney tapped Battsek to run the company in the wake of the Weinstein departure.

As the leading New York film company, Miramax dominated the scene in the 90s and into this decade. "The Thin Blue Line," "Sex, Lies and Videotape," "My Left Foot," "Clerks," "Cinema Paradiso," and "Paris Is Burning" are among the company's early successes, but everything thing changed when the company released "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, after being acquired by Disney. The overwhelming box office success of the company not only made Miramax a major player, but would ultimately inspire a bold era of studio specialty division filmmaking.

In an email message today, Battsek summed up the news succinctly.

"Dear All-

After further reflection and discussion about the change in direction for Miramax, Rich Ross and I have agreed that I will step down as President of Miramax, effective the end of January, 2010.

With this decision, we have also agreed that the best chance of success for Miramax is for the company to be located in Los Angeles, and I will work with the group on a transition plan.

I'm very proud of all the great work we have accomplished here at Miramax and equally proud of my overall career at Disney.

Best
-Daniel B."

1 Comment

  • International Media Resources | November 1, 2009 6:43 AMReply

    What a shame and what a blow to the New York film scene!! But that is what can be expected when one makes a pact with the Disney devil (or for that matter any studio that harbors a specialty division). Look for even the formidable Fox Searchlight to be severely scaled back in the months to come because of lackluster box office performance for its recent releases.

    The only way to insure truly independent companies is for them to be small in scale and totally independent in their structure. Specialty divisions of major studios unfortunately may solve short term challenges but ultimately they only receive support when their fortunes are riding high. Once they (briefly) falter, they become victims of corporate downsizing and changing priorities.

    Let us hope that the venerable SONY PICTURES CLASSICS continues to prosper.....and remain a certifiably New York company.

    Sandy Mandelberger
    INTERNATIONAL MEDIA RESOURCES
    New York, NY