DAILY NEWS: AOL/IFILM Thoughts; Lions Gate Saves Miramax
by Jeffrey M. Barker and Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE
>> AOL/IFILM Deal Might Ruin and Validate Online Film World
(indieWIRE/ 9.21.00) — Rumors that America Online may acquire IFILM
chatter across message boards and offices but most everybody connected to
such a deal is saying, officially, “No Comment.” By which they lend
credence to the rumors.
In response, people in the online film industry are looking at such a deal
in two different ways: the buyout of the industry’s most successful company
could be just another form of the dot-com-death experienced by DEN and Pop; or, a high-profile deal could validate the industry and elevate it from its
current low point due to those deaths. So, both good and bad.
There are a variety of rumors, including Yahoo! and even publishing company
Cahners. The greatest of them is of an outright buyout by online-skyscraper
AOL. Currently wading the muddy waters of its merger with offline media
juggernaut Time-Warner, AOL would not comment on a possible acquisition nor
its plans for IFILM, were it to be acquired.
However, the rumors do conjure up images of a tentacled AOL, reaching into
all areas on the Internet and preventing diversity of content. One might
fear that AOL’s goals mirror those of Time-Warner, which controls an array
of media companies and thereby saturates television and print with its
In May, AOL-owned Moviefone.com launched an “Internet Movies” section of its
site, saying, at the time, that the site was not at all competing with IFILM
or other sites like it.
In a May interview with EB Insider, Moviefone’s general manager, Matt
Bromberg, called the site’s goal very different from that of IFILM. “We’re
introducing movie-goers — movie-lovers who may not be ‘Net heads’ — to
But as that newness wears off and online film becomes more commonplace —
something that is happening before our eyes — the two sites may become more
and more alike, in appearance and intent. Moviefone.com currently showcases
several films borrowed from IFILM, as well as shorts from Shortbuzz,
MediaTrip, CrapTV and others. In the AOL world, it looks like IFILM would fit nicely into the niche Moviefone’s “Internet Movies” page has carved out.
[Jeffrey M. Barker]
>> Lions Gate Intercepts “Bowl” from Miramax
(indieWIRE/ 9.21.00) — Lions Gate Films will release Ismail Merchant and
James Ivory‘s latest period drama “The Golden Bowl” in the U.S., as its
original distributor Miramax Films has bowed out of their agreement to put
out the film. After the filmmakers refused to make cuts to the 2-hour,
14-minute film at the request of Miramax, the film’s rights became
available. Lions Gate then “eagerly stepped in to snap up the rights,”
according to a company press release, and will begin a platform release of
the film in Spring 2001.
The movie received weak reviews when it premiered in competition at the 2000
Cannes Film Festival, with Variety‘s Emanuel Levy writing, “vastly uneven, with some wonderful period touches, but also more than a few tedious
moments, ‘The Golden Bowl’… suffers from lack of subtlety and
miscasting.” The film stars Nick Nolte, Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam.
Despite the criticisms, Lions Gate co-president says, “‘The Golden Bowl’ is
exquisite on every level, with top-notch work from everyone involved.”
Ortenberg, co-president Mark Urman, and Peter Block of Trimark Pictures, made the announcement — an indication of the impending final merger of the two companies.
It’s the third time Lions Gate has taken on its role of indie film savior,
picking up Kevin Smith‘s “Dogma” last year after Miramax opted out of that
deal to avoid controversy, and more recently, Jon Shear‘s “Urbania,” which
UNAPIX Films could not muster the funds to release last week.
The announcement comes on the heels of a busy Toronto Film Festival for the
company, where they secured U.S. rights to Kathryn Bigelow‘s poorly received
“The Weight of Water,” the award-winning Mexican film “Amores Perros,” and the controversial Kevin Smith produced “Vulgar.” The company was also
pursuing the Jeff Daniels starring indie “Chasing Sleep,” but the film
remains available. Not a single other major distributor acquired any films
at the festival. [Anthony Kaufman]