Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2009 by Russ Fischer
This has been coming for some time, and after recent shakeups at Disney, is really no great surprise. Now Daniel Battsek, the current president of Miramax, has announced that he’ll step down at the end of January 2010. At the same time, Disney will relocate the label from New York City to Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, CA, where they’ll reduce Miramax’s output to just three films a year. The label that launched Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith and was the biggest face of the ’90s indie explosion is basically dead.
OK, the real end of the era hit four years ago, when the Weinstein brothers left Miramax, the company they built into an indie juggernaut. The years since then have been an extended coda for Miramax as it soldiered on at Disney. We’ve known for some time that Miramax would be cutting back, and that move was seen as part of the death knell of the indie in general. But Battsek’s exit is a surprise, as Disney had recently said that he would “continue to oversee all aspects of creative, development, production and business and legal affairs.” Corporate climates change fast.
While Miramax wasn’t truly indie since Disney bought into it in 1993,the company the Weinsteins built into the most recognizable face of ‘indie’ film remained a player post-Weinstein. Gone Baby Gone, No Country For Old Men, The Queen, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: all Miramax. Now THR reports that Battsek is exiting and that only about 20 jobs will remain. This all comes after a rough year for the company: Adventureland, Extract, Cheri and The Boys Are Back were all underperformers.
Where will the indie culture be in a few years? The big-ticket indie represented by Miramax is almost a dinosaur. While Fox Searchlight, Focus Features and Sony Pictures Classics are still doing well, none of those are actually independent, and there’s been a great deal of commentary in the past six months about the death of the American indie. But if it is truly dying, then how did we get Big Fan, World’s Greatest Dad, Precious, We Live in Public, That Evening Sun, Black Dynamite (bought by Sony Classics, but not made by them) and many other true indies this year? The landscape is changing, and fast, but it isn’t dying. This is a changing of the guard, if a difficult one.