Summit Expressing “Very Preliminary” Interest In Miramax Name & Film Library

By Nikki Finke, Mike Fleming Jr

EXCLUSIVE: Disney’s Miramax is shutting its doors today, and staffers are packing up their belongings. Yet the big question in Hollywood is who will walk away with the company’s name and film library? Our already reported this week that the Weinsteins Want Miramax Name Back. As Harvey just told us: “We founded Miramax 29 years ago, naming it after our parents Miriam and Max. If there is ever an opportunity to make a deal to buy it back, we would certainly take it and there isn’t much in the world that would make our 83-year-old mother happier.” But here’s the problem: “Disney will not sell the Miramax name to anyone unless they also buy the library. They will not bifurcate,” one of our sources says. And our information is that the Weinsteins haven’t even approached Disney yet. So who has?

Our information is that Disney has received “very preliminary” feelers from Summit Entertainment about buying the Miramax name and library. “It’s along the lines of, ‘Hey, if I were interested, let me see what I can come up with,'” one insider tells us. “That doesn’t mean others won’t come forward. Disney would be open to someone willing to pay the right price. But after downsizing Miramax over the past 3 years, the financial burden isn’t what it was.” In fact, Miramax has only 6 films left to market and distribute scheduled for 2010.

Our insiders say Summit so far is the only company to actually contact Disney about the Miramax library. Led by Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger, the upstart studio is flush with cash from its blockbuster Twilight Saga franchise. It has been mentioned as a possible contender for MGM, is looking to broaden its portfolio, and put Morgan Stanley on retainer to help the studio grow its business and advise on possible transactions “designed to take our company to the next level”. (Now That Summit Is Prowling For Acquisitions.) A solid library like Miramax would fit that bill.

But we’re told that also interested, even though it hasn’t approached Disney yet, is the private equity firm Dune Entertainment (an investor in Avatar and other Fox films.

At one time, Disney’s asking price for the branded Miramax name was $30 million, but now it will only come as part of the total package. Disney once placed a $1.2 billion pricetag on the Miramax library, which was always thought to be sky high. More recently, our sources say, that number has dropped to around $800 million. But the feeling is that its actual worth is closer to between $400 million to $500 million because studio library values have taken a hit as DVD/video has flattened. Our sources say that the Miramax library, which once poured off between $60 million to $90 million in annual revenue, now delivers only closer to $40 million.

As for Harv and Bob, recent woes have forced layoffs as part of a restructuring while The Weinstein Co Gets A “New Lease On Life”?. Harv would need a deep-pocketed backer — and a source tells us that “a large fund” has approached him — if he is to make a run at the Miramax library and reclaim the company name.

Even now, The Weinstein Co is in the process of making new installments of Scream and Spy Kids, both titles from the Miramax/Dimension library, and is plotting a stage musical based on Finding Neverland, another library title.

The Miramax library is a trip down memory lane of the heyday of indie film, built by the Weinsteins from 1979 to 2005, and embellished over the last five years by Daniel Battsek (now at National Geographic Films). The Weinstein era includes such indie classics as Shakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, The Crying Game, Chicago, Kill Bill, Good Will Hunting, sex lies & videotape. Battsek’s later additions include No Country for Old Men, The Diving Bell and the ButterflyGone, Baby Gone and The Queen. Because of the nature of the indie business, some of those titles come with partial ownership, and others with rights that will expire.

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