Monday, 2 April 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #876: Miramax Goes For The Gold(wyn)

Miramax continues its transformation from being a major player in independent film to being a manager of film libraries by inking a deal to manage the library of the Samuel Goldwyn Company.

Now this deal involves a good chunk of Hollywood history, and this history is kind of convoluted, so I'll try to explain it as briefly as I can.
The story begins with producer Samuel Goldwyn (nee Goldfisch) who had just been ousted from Goldwyn Pictures which he had founded with a partner named Anthony Selwyn. Goldwyn Pictures went on to form part of the MGM mega-studio, and Sammy went independent.

He formed Samuel Goldwyn Productions, struck distribution deals with United Artists, and later RKO Pictures,  and made films with the philosophy of "make fewer, but make them better."  He knew he couldn't compete with the majors like Paramount and MGM when it comes to quantity, so he pursued quality, hiring the best writers, directors, and actors to make his films.

Samuel Goldwyn Productions put out a hell of a lot of Academy Award winners during an over 30 year run.  But a company built around the skills and energy of one man can only last as long as that one man.  Eventually the founder and the company just ran out of steam.

But that wasn't the end.

Samuel Goldwyn's son, Samuel Goldwyn jr. started his own company, The Samuel Goldwyn Company in 1979. During the company's run the company went from being an importer of art-house and foreign films, to regaining control of Sam sr.'s film library.

Now a series of takeovers, buyouts, mergers, The Samuel Goldwyn Company ended up yet another moribund piece of the MGM/UA/Orion/Polygram film company heap. 

Sam jr. then went on to start Samuel Goldwyn Films, keep control of the family's film library, and now make this deal with Miramax, now owned by Ron Tudor and Colony Capital, to manage said library.

Now let's look at the PROS & CONS of this deal:


1. FRESHNESS:  When you manage film libraries there will come a time when you go to the people running the TV/home video outlets and they sigh, and go "What else you got?" So making a deal with a company that has several hundred movies in their library is a great deal.

2. QUALITY:  The Samuel Goldwyn library has a lot of Oscar winners, and acknowledged classics that don't get the exposure in the marketplace that a lot of the big studio movies of the golden age get.  That means they're still relatively fresh to large swathes of the audience.


1. FRESHNESS:  While it's great to make a deal with a company with a good sized library of classic movies, eventually you're going to run out of companies with film libraries in need of management.  

When your company doesn't make new product, just shuffles around the old stuff, it's inevitable, no matter how large your stable is, they're going to say "What else you got?"  Even classics can fall out of fashion for periods of time, and if you're not consistently restocking your shelves with new content, you're going to go stale.

2. WILL TO SHILL:  There is a question that has to be asked by anyone with a library that needs managing and it is: "Will they shill the movies I own with the same verve that they shill the movies they own?"

Shilling their own productions involve fewer hands in the till when it comes time to share the profits, so there's going to be a tendency towards favoritism.  That means the owners of the library are going to have to watch Miramax like a hawk.  Relationships can get strained, and eventually break with this worry in the way.

Anyway, I stand by my case that a film company has to do more than just manage libraries if it's going to be viable in the long term.

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