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Thompson on Hollywood

Battsek Exits Miramax

Just weeks after Disney announced that Miramax was scaling back to three releases a year (what's the point?), the specialty unit's president, Daniel Battsek, 50, is exiting the company. This is not a surprise, except that like former Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook, Battsek was a company man (18 years). He had been rewarded by Cook for years of service with the Miramax gig in the first place, replacing the Weinsteins in 2005. He had run Disney's distribution arm in the U.K. But with his protector gone, he was soon out the door.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 30, 2009 7:14 AM
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Another Shoe Drops: Disney Replaces Cook with Ross

Disney chairman Bob Iger has finally announced that Disney Channel star Rich Ross, a 13-year Disney veteran, will replace Dick Cook as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. As studio chief he will supervise worldwide production, distribution and marketing of the Walt Disney, Touchstone, Miramax and Disney/Pixar labels. He will also take on Disney’s theater and music groups.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 5, 2009 9:37 AM
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Miramax Restructures, Reduces Film Output

With the departure of Disney studio chief Dick Cook, things were not looking up for Miramax Films, yet another studio specialty division trying to survive some weak boxoffice. (Current release The Boys Are Back, starring Clive Owen, is not taking off.) Disney is dealing with the issue for the moment by restructuring Miramax, consolidating marketing and distribution with the parent studio, and reducing the number of films that Miramax releases every year. (That's the exact opposite of my solution for what they should do.) Miramax will reduce its output to just three movies a year (including acquisitions), and cut its staff of 75 by some 50 positions, winding up with about 25. (At its peak under the Weinsteins in 2004, when the firm released some 30 films a year, the staff was at 500.) The company had already shrunk considerably since Battsek took over in September 2005, and now releases from six to eight films. UPDATE:
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 2, 2009 8:19 AM
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Indie Fallout: Should Studio Specialty Units Change Focus?

Indie Fallout: Should Studio Specialty Units Change Focus?
Ever since the Indie Summit last week, something has been nagging at me.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 30, 2009 3:58 AM
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  • 14 Comments

Bad B.O. Weekend: Surrogates, Fame Flop, Capitalism Scores

It was a nasty weekend for studio openers. Disney's $80-million robot thriller Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, flopped with an estimated $15-million opening; MGM's sagging fortunes were not buttressed by the ill-conceived $18-million teen musical remake Fame, the only movie they've opened in months. They marketed the hell out of it. They just missed the mark with audiences.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 27, 2009 5:07 AM
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Disney's Next Move: Who Will Replace Cook?

Something had to give at Disney. But motion picture chief Dick Cook was such a fixture at the studio that despite Disney chairman Robert Iger's public complaints about the quality of the movies, I figured production chief Oren Aviv would be the target. Disney's output has been suspect ever since Aviv replaced Nina Jacobson at the studio. Cook, who over 38 years rose up through the ranks to run distribution before he took over running movies, was clearly comfortable with Aviv, who came from the marketing side, but had written the high-concept hit, National Treasure. So Cook and Aviv were both strong marketers, but hit a rough box office patch in the last year.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 20, 2009 8:48 AM
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  • 2 Comments

Toronto: Winners, Losers, Oscar Contenders

Toronto: Winners, Losers, Oscar Contenders
There was plenty to see in Toronto. Here's how the films shook out for me.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 20, 2009 3:20 AM
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TIFF#: The Boys Are Back's Owen Goes Family

TIFF#: The Boys Are Back's Owen Goes Family
Everyone goes into Toronto with a schedule of films to watch. And that list changes with buzz. Some movies fall off due to bad WOM, while others become must-sees. IndieWIRE's in-progress critics' poll of 34 films is indicative of the movies that everyone went to see-- and the ones that nobody did.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 16, 2009 2:23 AM
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Telluride Day One: The Road, Waking Sleeping Beauty

Telluride Day One: The Road, Waking Sleeping Beauty
At LAX this morning I chatted with indie press agent Laura Kim and ex-Disney exec Peter Schneider, who produced Don Hahn's documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. The doc tells the story of how Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and the 80s generation of Disney animators woke up the sleeping Disney animation giant between 1984 and 1994. Schneider, who has been working on Broadway, showed the film to ex-Disney chairman Michael Eisner, who isn't a fan. The current Disney management--Bob Iger and Dick Cook--are supportive of the movie, however. In fact, Leonard Maltin told me on the shuttle through the splendid Rockies this afternoon, Cook has been supportive of a number of Disney animation docs that needed help with clips, cooperation, and even release, from Frank and Ollie to Walt & El Grupo, about a Disney excursion to Latin America. It's in Disney's interest to keep fanning the old Walt flame.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 3, 2009 12:12 PM
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Marvel Update, Netflix Refunds, Simple and Cheap is Good

Thankfully, a cooling marine layer blew in over L.A. Tuesday morning, which shifted the balance a bit for exhausted firefighters battling the huge Station fire which has destroyed some 63 homes and threatens some 12,000. "The Station fire grew to more than 122,000 acres overnight and continued to burn out of control despite some signs of improving weather conditions," reported the LAT. UPDATE 4:20 PM: "Firefighters made significant progress today in the Station fire, but a tense battle was underway this afternoon to save the communication centers atop Mt. Wilson. By 3 p.m., the fire was approaching closer than ever from two directions: one-half mile to the north and three-quarters of a mile to the west." Here's a NASA space photo from Sunday--the fire is now twice as big.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • September 1, 2009 10:43 AM
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