Miramax plays ball with sports docus

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With sports documentaries comprising half its slate, Miramax Films' first summer under new president Daniel Battsek didn't hit any home runs, but it placed a few pics on base. "The boxoffice doesn't lie," Battsek says. "We haven't broken any records, but we're dealing with low-cost movies, and we just want to make sure we turn a profit," he says.

The Walt Disney Co.'s specialty division no longer has the big-bucks genre division Dimension Films, which Disney bequeathed to the Weinstein Co. Without horror or teen comedy films to rely on, the company found its biggest success with Battsek's first Sundance Film Festival pickup, Patrick Stettner's dramatic thriller "The Night Listener," grossing $7.8 million since its August bow.

Scott Marshall's bar mitzvah comedy "Keeping Up With the Steins" was given $4.3 million. "With some strong grass-roots marketing, we managed to get a decent result, so I'm more than satisfied with it," Battsek says.

In the sports arena, Miramax didn't fare quite as well. The new regime's first pickup, Ward Serrill's girls' basketball docu "The Heart of the Game," scored $444,687, but Battsek says it's just the beginning for a film that will do "very nicely" at schools, sports clubs, on TV and DVD.

Paul Crowder and John Dower's "Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos," the company's joint acquisition with ESPN from GreeneStreet Films and Passion Pictures, has made just $144,431 since its early July release. The company originally planned a spring release followed by an ESPN airing in the summer.

"With the World Cup, we felt we could do some business out of it (theatrically), but we didn't set the bar incredibly high in terms of the acquisition price," Battsek says. Still, during its first summer, the new Miramax has shown that it is ready to play ball.
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