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studio shakeups: focus up, miramax down.

studio shakeups: focus up, miramax down.

Two studios were shaken up yesterday in Hollywood. Disney promoted Rich Ross (head of its Disney Channels Worldwide) to the chairman slot, while Universal brought in marketing head Adam Fogelson and production head Donna Langley to share the chair.

Universal president and COO offered a rather surprising quote to my colleague Anne Thompson, “Shit happens,” Ron Meyer said. “We needed to get back on the horse riding in the same direction.”

How will this affect their specialty divisions: Miramax at Disney and Focus at Universal? Before announcing the new studio head, Disney laid its cards on the table on Friday, cutting off Miramax at the knees and barely keeping it alive with just three films per year and a much smaller staff of about 20. On the other hand, Universal is supporting Focus.

Outgoing co-chair David Linde was James Schamus and Ted Hope’s business partner back at Good Machine before the company was acquired by Universal in 2002 and he later oversaw the specialty division when he became studio chief. Some worried that the departure of Linde might be bad news for Focus. But, Langley spoke up in support of the unit yesterday.

“In comparison with the other specialty divisions,” Langley told Anne Thompson, “They are profitable, and have been for eight years. James Schamus runs an excellent business, one I’m happy to be working with.”

As I tried to explore in yesterday’s column, the specialty studio model exploded in the 90s and then died in this decade. Universal’s Focus, which funds and produces specialized films, is singular among studios in its vision for creating interesting cinema. Meanwhile, Sony’s SPC makes some movies but importantly remains the last studio division buying acclaimed foreign films from film festivals. The majority of other such releases are coming primarily from IFC Films, Magnolia and others.

The landscape has certainly changed. How will it evolve in the next few years?

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