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November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax" 
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Post November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
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Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:33 am
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Gaffer

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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Maybe it's just me, but when I look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fi ... amax_Films I see a steady progression from the genuinely non-mainstream (Sex, Lies & Videotape; The Pope Must Die; even Reservoir Dogs) to the generic Hollywood - granted, Hollywood Oscar-bait rather than Hollywood sex-and-explosions, but I still see a whole lot less "independence" than would be needed to keep them as a distinct brand.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 7:55 am
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Firedrake wrote:
Maybe it's just me, but when I look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fi ... amax_Films I see a steady progression from the genuinely non-mainstream (Sex, Lies & Videotape; The Pope Must Die; even Reservoir Dogs) to the generic Hollywood - granted, Hollywood Oscar-bait rather than Hollywood sex-and-explosions, but I still see a whole lot less "independence" than would be needed to keep them as a distinct brand.


The "independent" concept doesn't apply strictly to content. It generally applies to budget and the pedigree of the cast and crew. Indie movies can be generic, but they usually are generic with small budgets and without A-list actors and directors. It's usually a question of where the funding comes from. In the beginning, indie films were made then sold to distributors. Miramax, however, started getting into the film production business (making them rather than just buying them), and this muddied the waters. Miramax's slide, in fact, began when they started trying to be a studio rather than just a clearinghouse. This same problem has plagued many of the other indies, especially following the infusion of cash than accompanied being bought out by a major studio. Note that IFC, the largest true indie distributor out there today, makes ZERO films but distributes a couple dozen features each year.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:29 am
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Miramax, however, started getting into the film production business (making them rather than just buying them), and this muddied the waters. Miramax's slide, in fact, began when they started trying to be a studio rather than just a clearinghouse.


This makes sense to me. The studios aren't the pap- and sequel-houses they are by choice - they're that way because of the risk aversion that automatically comes along with current mainstream accountancy-driven methods of funding for film productions.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 10:34 am
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
IMO, it's cause, as usual, these people truly do not understand how to market.

It is a joke that the movie theaters are not more responsible for promoting movies and taking responsibility for the viewing experience.

Also, with the rise of the home theater, the stigma of direct-to-DVD releasing needs to go away, and the company's need to learn how to market to the over 35 crowd this way, directly to their home theaters, so that movies like Harry Brown get reviewed in the appropriate places and marketed to the constituency that would buy into it.

Honestly, the movie-makers have just as much ability to get their movie distributed these days as musicians do. They can get their movies to the right reviewers, start viral advertising online, and even sell the DVDs themselves. They even have an advantage over the music community because of file sizes and movie quality needs, as adults will not put up with shitty quality video's in the same way kids don't care about shitty quality anything, seemingly.

When a movie takes off like that, you can BET a distributor is going to come around, even if there is some distribution of the movie already. Its a new age, and these large companies are truly clueless how to move their asses away from the current flow that the movie theaters have killed by not being involved in the process and only caring about selling 25c worth of popcorn for $11.

There are still some terrific small theaters that care alot more about the experience, even if their popcorn is still over priced (at least they sell NON coke/pepsi soda products, which is f*cking important). I would go see almost anything at the Chatham, NJ Roberts Cinema. EVERY single movie I have ever seen there has been an unforgettable experience, because of the quality of movie they bring in. I saw Happiness there. Parts of Happiness were filmed in the streets outside the freaking theater! That was incredible. I saw Almost Famous there for the first time. Just an amazing experience.

The theater is one of those long rooms with only 1 screen and a low ceiling. The have the thick plush old velour seats, and they keep them in good shape. There are so many seats that it is almost never full, so the lack of stadium seating doesnt matter much. And the theater gets DARK, and when I say dark, you almost cannot see when the screen is dark. Its a classic theater that is worth driving to. And there are still a couple of these in NJ.

Now, would I rather see a great indie movie like The Serious Man in a stadium theater with arm rests that go up and teak cup holders and people to massage your feet while you watch? Yes.

But obviously that is not going to happen, and since most people dont have a movie theater like the Chatham theater near them, home viewing (either DVD or Download) is the only way indie's are going to survive, and they need to do more than go to 3 conventions and hope some disney blue suit is going to "get it"

OK, I am all over the place with this. Suffice to say, home theaters with media servers and fast download speeds, along with indie filmmakers with someone who understands how to market online can overcome the 1920s style big movie company BS and make it on their own. Pay for your movie, pay your actors, and make some money for yourself to live and treat your family right and get your next picture made. EVERYTHING doesnt have to a multi-million dollar or bust experience. Socialism rules :) lol


Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:23 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
An excellent analysis by JB.

I must admit that I'm part of the problem. Since investing in my home theater, I don't go to the multiplex much at all anymore. And for indie films, the closest theater is about an hour's drive away, making me even less enthusiastic.

It's still amazing to see these studios fade away. For several years, Miramax had become a mainstream studio to me. Is Lionsgate still in business?


Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:39 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Until alot more people watch indie films instead of high Hollywood crap like Transformers 2, the indie company will always be under the big companies's foot.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 8:22 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
I occasionally provide a link of your reviews or ReelThoughts articles on another discussion board. One of my friends who used to work for Artisan had this to say about your Miramax essay:

"He completely misses the real cause, which is costs being out of control.

When Miramax started, they were making movies like Pulp Fiction that cost $3 million to make and $5 million to market. By the time they were done, they were making Shakespeare in Love that cost $130 million between the two."

Any response to his comments? Thanks.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:43 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
johnfrank1970 wrote:
I occasionally provide a link of your reviews or ReelThoughts articles on another discussion board. One of my friends who used to work for Artisan had this to say about your Miramax essay:
"He completely misses the real cause, which is costs being out of control.
When Miramax started, they were making movies like Pulp Fiction that cost $3 million to make and $5 million to market. By the time they were done, they were making Shakespeare in Love that cost $130 million between the two."
Any response to his comments? Thanks.



Self-serving ego of the big business takeover of the indie industry.


Fri Nov 06, 2009 11:55 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
johnfrank1970 wrote:
I occasionally provide a link of your reviews or ReelThoughts articles on another discussion board. One of my friends who used to work for Artisan had this to say about your Miramax essay:

"He completely misses the real cause, which is costs being out of control.

When Miramax started, they were making movies like Pulp Fiction that cost $3 million to make and $5 million to market. By the time they were done, they were making Shakespeare in Love that cost $130 million between the two."

Any response to his comments? Thanks.


My ReelThought doesn't deal specifically with the reasons behind Miramax's decline. That company, more than any other, suffered because it became to enamored with making movies rather than buying them. There's a difference. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is not an independent film. It is studio financed. (PULP FICTION wasn't a true indie, either. A distributor was involved in financing. The movie had a distribution deal before it was completed. Miramax bought RESERVOIR DOGS; it financed PULP FICTION.)

Indie movies are made with the financial backing of various individuals and/or corporations. They are completed before finding a distributor. The distributor buys the rights to the completed film. In some cases, they may finance minor re-shoots and re-edits. Despite being released by a major studio (Paramount), PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is an independent movie. It was independently financed, completed, then sold. Major studios, however, are not generally in the business of buying indie films and releasing them; this was an exception.

Studio and/or distributor-backed movies go into production with at least some money from the studio or distributor involved. The distribution rights have already been negotiated. Miramax may have been known primarily for its distribution of indie movies (rightfully so: in the early days, it bought rights to many films), but on those occasions when it invested money in the production of a movie, that title was not an indie, even though it may have appeared to be.

Cost has not appreciably increased with indie movies. They are still produced for about the same amount as they were a few years ago (a few hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars). The market simply isn't there for them.

Escalating costs was an issue with Miramax (and New Line), primarily because of bad management. But it's a red herring when looking at the indie market as a whole. Ten years ago, with lower ticket prices, indie films were easily making enough money to cover $3 million distribution deals. Today, with higher ticket prices, that's not the case. That's what the article is about.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:30 am
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Thanks for your response. I wonder how many truly indie movies I have really enjoyed then.

It would be better if I had a list of all the movies I enjoyed, but, alas, even I am not that crazy. Anyway, below are the movies taken from my list of my all-time faves that *might* be considered indie. I am not sure at all about many of these, and I have not taken the time to look them up. If someone knows this type of stuff off the top of their head, feel free to share your knowledge.

Anyway, it's clear to me that although I see many small/foreign/indie films, the majority of my all-time faves come from the big studios. I guess I am not as much of a snob as I thought.

Amelie (2002) / R
Bob Roberts (*) (1992) / R
Chasing Amy (*) (1997) / R
Clerks (1994) / R
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) / R
Hors de Prix (Priceless) (2006) / PG-13
Sideways (*) (2004) / R
Swingers (*) (1996) / R
Thank You for Smoking (*) (2006) / R

City of God (2004) / R
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (*) (2005) / R
Narc (2003) / R
Pulp Fiction (*) (1994) / R
Reservoir Dogs (*) (1992) / R
True Romance (1993) / R
The Way of the Gun (2000) / R

Adaptation (*) (2003) / R
The Cooler (2004) / R
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) / R
Rachel Getting Married (2008) / R
River’s Edge (1987) / R
Rounders (1998) / R
The Savages (2007) / R
Secretary (2003) / R
The Visitor (2007) / PG-13

Bound (1996) / R
Hard Candy (2006) / R
The Last Seduction (1994) / R
The Machinist (2005) / R
Memento (*) (2000) / R
The Usual Suspects (*) (1995) / R

The City of Lost Children (1995) / R
Equilibrium (2003) / R
Gattaca (1997) / PG-13
Sunshine (2007) / R


Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:39 am
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
And my friend's response...

First, we should be clear about what we are calling an "indie movie." There are movies that are created by filmmakers without having an associated studio for distribution, which are typically purchased by studios once completed. These are, indeed, "indie movies." Then there are movies that are produced by independent, smaller studios or the indie labels of major studios. These are also "indie" movies by definition -- at least such is their intent. Artisan purchased "Pi" at the Sundance Film Festival. This was an indie film. Artisan financed the production of "Requiem for a Dream" by the same director. This was also an indie film. Both were relatively inexpensive, though Requiem cost about 30X as much. We also produced movies like "Stir of Echoes" which can also be argued are indie films -- compare its cost and star-power with The Sixth Sense, for example, which is basically the same story (Artisan's source material predated Sixth Sense by many years).

So we may be speaking about a definitional thing. However, it seems to me the original piece was talking not just about the decline of micro-labels (e.g. Samuel Goldryn) but also about the decline of the independent label and/or distributor (i.e. Artisan, Miramax, New Line). Consequently, we need to look at a number of things.

I have argued before that the fundamental cost structure of films is not viable. This has never been more true, and with piracy and other factors eating into DVD revenue (as well as the gradual decline of pay and free TV markets) it's going to get worse.

Costs of indie films -- in the no-distributor sense of the word -- has indeed remained about the same. For all intents and purposes, Paranormal Activity costs no more than Blair Witch did ten years ago. There is, however, a very limited market for these films -- other than the one film every five years that strikes a chord (we have two this year, including District 9). A good movie is a good movie -- once a movie strikes a chord, it no longer appeals because it is alternative programming. When a movie has a box office of $50 mil, for example, it's appealing to a broad swath of consumers -- the same ones that see the derivative fare that is decried.

Costs of movies produced by independent labels have gone up significantly. I would agree with Mr. Berardinelli that some (lots?) of this is due to undisciplined management. It's more fun for Harvey Weinstein to go to big Hollywood parties and cast hot actresses in major films than it is for him to chat with Dame Judi Dench about Her Majesty Mrs. Brown. It is more fun for movie moguls (would-be or otherwise) to have larger overheads, bigger offices, more people in their employ, and ultimately more money to spend. You can see how this leads to a lack of discipline, both in terms of overhead (Miramax's was prodigious by the end of the Weinsteins' term) and strategy (my earlier point about Shakespeare in Love versus, for example, Sex, Lies & Videotape). At Artisan, our overhead at the end was essentially the same (minus inflation) that it was when we started. We had other issues -- including some egos and Hollywood-itis -- but we remained pretty disciplined when it came to cost structure.

The other aspect of film costs -- marketing -- has gone up and it goes up inexorably because here, you are having to create awareness amongst the clutter. The required spending is at least partially a function of what other, less disciplined counterparts are spending. It's like being the only sober guy at the Black Jack table and watching people hit on 18, take your King and prevent you from winning the hand. "Indie films" (in the meaning of Paranormal Activity) can still be marketed for very little -- at least initially until they are proven successful and rolled out in wide release. "Indie films" (in the meaning of movies produced by labels such as Miramax) are expensive to market. Miramax was notorious for spending not just in primary marketing but especially in marketing around awards season, such that even a film like Her Majesty Mrs. Brown got extra marketing behind it.

So ultimately, I would agree that small movies produced without any distributor backing aren't really any more expensive than they were ten years ago -- but the distributors that have gone away (other than Artisan, which was merged per its original strategic plan for an exit to the investment) have mostly done so because they spent too much money making movies, and tried to be something other than what they were.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:39 pm
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Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Hey John Frank, get your buddy down here so he can post his own stuff. I just think it would be quicker for points to be expressed without you being a middleman, no offense.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:54 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Hello folks. I'm John Frank's friend. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into here (other than the likely "studio executives are all morons" sentiment which is probably unavoidable) but I used to be one of the senior executives at Artisan Entertainment. When John sent me JB's comments on the demise of the independent film (studio?) I responded to him -- somewhat shorthandedly -- that costs were responsible. In light of JB's response, I wanted to clarify my points, which I did in another post that John faithfully reproduced.

So now, I'm here, in the unlikely event that people wanted any additional clarification. :)

I should add that I am now an executive with the corporate parent of a major studio, though I am no longer specifically in the "film business."


Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:05 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Yes, can you get Harvey Weinstein in here so I can ask him how much the 98' Best Picture Oscar cost?


Sat Nov 07, 2009 1:11 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
nvandyk wrote:
Hello folks. I'm John Frank's friend. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into here (other than the likely "studio executives are all morons" sentiment which is probably unavoidable) but I used to be one of the senior executives at Artisan Entertainment. When John sent me JB's comments on the demise of the independent film (studio?) I responded to him -- somewhat shorthandedly -- that costs were responsible. In light of JB's response, I wanted to clarify my points, which I did in another post that John faithfully reproduced.

So now, I'm here, in the unlikely event that people wanted any additional clarification. :)

I should add that I am now an executive with the corporate parent of a major studio, though I am no longer specifically in the "film business."


I am the idiot who mention the "self-serving ego-driven" sentiment. But if the shoe fits.. IMO it is a stereo-type that shows its ugly head WAY too often. Kudo's to you if you did not fall into that category, but it is a situation played out endlessly in movies, books, music, screenplays and whatnot. That being said, it is still pretty amazing some of the great movies that do get made. Unfortunately, the list of horrible movies that get made is 100x greater (see any Vexer post), be they indie or partial indie or studio.

Berardinelli wrote:
Escalating costs was an issue with Miramax (and New Line), primarily because of bad management.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:06 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
MrGuinness wrote:
nvandyk wrote:
Hello folks. I'm John Frank's friend. I'm not sure what I'm getting myself into here (other than the likely "studio executives are all morons" sentiment which is probably unavoidable) but I used to be one of the senior executives at Artisan Entertainment. When John sent me JB's comments on the demise of the independent film (studio?) I responded to him -- somewhat shorthandedly -- that costs were responsible. In light of JB's response, I wanted to clarify my points, which I did in another post that John faithfully reproduced.

So now, I'm here, in the unlikely event that people wanted any additional clarification. :)

I should add that I am now an executive with the corporate parent of a major studio, though I am no longer specifically in the "film business."


I am the idiot who mention the "self-serving ego-driven" sentiment. But if the shoe fits.. IMO it is a stereo-type that shows its ugly head WAY too often. Kudo's to you if you did not fall into that category, but it is a situation played out endlessly in movies, books, music, screenplays and whatnot. That being said, it is still pretty amazing some of the great movies that do get made. Unfortunately, the list of horrible movies that get made is 100x greater (see any Vexer post), be they indie or partial indie or studio.

Berardinelli wrote:
Escalating costs was an issue with Miramax (and New Line), primarily because of bad management.
Trying to get under skin again cause you got nothing better to do eh? didn't think i'd notice eh?


Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:16 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
He even posted it in a public forum to make sure it would slip right past you. That mad genius with the satan-looking man in his signature made a funny.


To be fair, that post was argument-bait. But then, this is a forum, shouldn't that be kind of encouraged (short of death threats)?


On a more topical note, I think that praise should be doled by the boat-full to Warner Bros, who have had a great track record of ground-breaking box office coups (for their latest trick, they essentially made a modern day re-telling of 'Day Of Wrath', marketed it as a popcorn flick, and grossed over 500 million dollars) and have never descended into a non-entity.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:56 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Vexer wrote:
Trying to get under skin again cause you got nothing better to do eh? didn't think i'd notice eh?


Not really, no. Trying to educate, and get you to explain your lowbrow interests beyond your default Aspergers explanation, however indirect my methods may seem.


Last edited by MrGuinness on Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.



Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:10 pm
Post Re: November 5, 2009: "R.I.P. Miramax"
Evenflow8112 wrote:
On a more topical note, I think that praise should be doled by the boat-full to Warner Bros, who have had a great track record of ground-breaking box office coups (for their latest trick, they essentially made a modern day re-telling of 'Day Of Wrath', marketed it as a popcorn flick, and grossed over 500 million dollars) and have never descended into a non-entity.


Here here! Their track record of late has been pretty excellent.


Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:13 pm
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