It stands to reason that when Bob and Harvey Weinstein left Miramax to establish a new studio that they could call their own, they would leave behind a number of projects in development, projects that apparently languished through the rest of Disney’s stewardship of the studio up until its sale to investment group Filmyard Holdings last December.
But the new owners aren’t looking to exploit just the current library of Miramax films, but are looking at which projects that have been languishing in development hell for years at the studio may be worth resurrecting.
In an interview with Deadline at the Cannes Film Festival, recently installed head of Miramax Mike Lang revealed that the studio is reviewing some 650 screenplays that were in various stages of development for projects that the studio could get in front of cameras with minimal effort.
Aiding in the evaluation process is actor Rob Lowe, who as an investor in the Miramax deal is acting as a strategic advisor to the studio. He stated that the archives on unproduced material are –
a lot like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the warehouse with all those crates stacked up. Boxes and boxes of scripts and material, none of it catalogued. We’d get five from the bottom of a box, and find a script by Anthony Minghella that he and Sydney Pollack were working on before they died. It’s called The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, it’s a great script, and if it was good enough for Minghella and Pollack, it is certainly good enough for me.
The pair mentioned two other scripts that they may be interested in moving forward. One is a new wedding comedy from the writers of The Wedding Crashers and the other is The Alibi by Stephen Colbert about a company that creates cover stories for married men in extra-marital affairs.
Lang explained that “Bob and Harvey spent hundreds of millions developing these projects, and when they left, you got the feeling it all started shutting down,” with Lowe adding, “Some of these are 90% there, at the level where you begin engaging talent and getting ready to make a movie.”
If all goes to plan, Lang is expecting to have some projects in front of cameras by next year and would like to ramp up a production schedule that would see three to seven films being made a year.
Anyone who watched how the Brothers Weinstein ran their studio Miramax, both as an indie and later when it was under the Disney corporate umbrella, knows that they loved to acquire content. But often, it seemed like they would buy a script or foreign film almost on impulse and then would let it sit on a shelf, seemingly forgotten for years until they got around to doing something with it. Ask any fan of Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s about the number of films that Miramax would nab the US distribution rights for and then sit on the films for months and years before finally seeing the light of day.
It is understandable that many of these in-development projects withered on the vine after the Weinsteins’ departure though. When a studio has a regime change projects that were being worked on by the departing administration are often set aside in favor of films that the incoming executives want to make. A major part of this can be attributed to ego – It reflects badly on the new studio chiefs if a film championed by an ousted exec does well.
But questions of go aside, what Lang is spearheading is a financially very sound for the studio and its investors. Out of the 650 or so screenplays that they have been going through there are reportedly some 50 to 75 that they feel are makeable. If they only make a fraction of these, they will have still saved several millions of dollars in development costs. Besides, the studio already owns these assets. It is smarter to use them than to let them gather dust.
And looking at the bigger picture, we can see how this initiative is a part of the re-invention of Miramax. Coupling this with the company’s desire to have an acquisitions executive hired in time to do some buying at the Toronto Film Festival this fall and their recently announced deal with Netflix to stream a majority of their library through the digital service and it looks as if Miramax is roaring back to life from its near-death status of a year ago.