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Breaking Windows

Breaking Windows

The other night I spoke at a film class here in New York and was surprised that some of the students seemed more interested in talking about Magnolia than Miramax. Students wanted to know about some of the significant changes in the business being explored by Magnolia and its sister companies Landmark Theaters and HDNet Films.

Without a doubt, Magnolia Pictures owner Mark Cuban has struck a chord, his every move in the film business seems to stir both skepticism and praise. Cuban’s HDNet Films, which will simultaneously distribute movies in multiple windows (theatrical, DVD, cable TV) at the same time has struck a chord in Hollywood. Calling this year “the worst year in cinema for quality” and charging “we have been seduced by the DVD and what will sell the DVD,” in Variety, director M. Night Shyamalan criticized such moves as greedy, saying, “It’s heartless and soulless and disrespectful. And of course, cable companies are behind it, and Internet companies. They need their product. But they have to wait their turn. Wait for the thing to finish its life.”

Of course for the sorts of films that Magnolia and HDNet Films make and releases, having the film available quickly on DVD could actually increase its potential audience. But Cuban is also facing a number of critics within the traditional specialty film distribution business.

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