End of Alliance-Miramax era?

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TORONTO -- Canadian indie movie distributor Alliance Films believes its long relationship with Miramax Films is likely coming to an end.

"We're speculating, as we don't have a formal notice" from Miramax, Alliance chairman Victor Loewy said Monday after Disney released Miramax's "Smart People" in Canada over the weekend.

Alliance Films and its predecessor, Alliance Atlantis Communications, has released all Miramax titles in Canada since 1994, including such boxoffice hits as "Pulp Fiction," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Life Is Beautiful."

Now that pipeline has stopped as Miramax weighs its distribution options for the Canadian market.

"I'm not holding my breath. They have not decided who they are going to go with," Loewy said.

He added that Alliance has released Miramax titles on a film-by-film basis since 2005, when the Weinstein brothers left the distributor they founded in 1979 and set up their own company.

The last formal agreement between Miramax and Alliance Films, which has former Miramax executive Charles Layton as its president, expired Dec. 31.

A source at Miramax said that the U.S. supplier has since begun "to explore other opportunities," and that options on the table include continuing to let Disney's Canadian arm release its titles here, re-upping with Alliance or recruiting a new Canadian distribution partner.

Alliance made a bid to renew its distribution pact with Miramax six months ago, and has not sweetened its offer since as the U.S. studio has courted other possible Canadian suitors, including Maple Pictures and Entertainment One.

"They're looking at all the options available to them to best serve them," a rival Canadian distributor now wooing Miramax Films said of the U.S. supplier.

Alliance Films' remaining customers include Focus Features, the Weinstein Co. and Overture Films. The indie distributor is about to lose a longtime distribution pact with New Line Cinema at the end of 2008 when that studio is absorbed by Warner Bros.

Output deals with U.S. suppliers, while potentially lucrative for Canadian distributors because they guarantee a supply of popular Hollywood films, are expensive, as they call for a massive P&A expenditure required to release titles into Canadian theaters.

Loewy said that the Miramax relationship hasn't been profitable for some time, adding that Alliance will unveil new Canadian output deals before the Festival de Cannes as it looks to replace lost partners.
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