In another sign that the US majors have little inclination for the specialty business, Daniel Battsek will depart his post as president of Miramax in January 2010.
Disney is closing down Miramax’s New York office and it is understood will bring Miramax’s Los Angeles operations into the fold at head office at Burbank.
Considering the barren specialty landscape, it is ironic to recall that a year ago Battsek spoke out about oversupply in the sector during a keynote speech at Film London’s second Production Finance Market.
A couple of years ago the studio specialty divisions were a prestigious business, albeit a business that was occasionally inefficient and profligate. Today only Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics and now a further emasculated Miramax remain.
In early October Disney culled 70% of Miramax staff, reducing the level to around 20 and slashing Miramax’s annual film output to roughly three. With no replacement announced for Battsek, it now seems only a matter of time before the company’s total demise.
Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross said: “During [Daniel’s] 18 years of service, he has brought some very prestigious and award-winning films to the studio from Calendar Girls to The Queen to No Country For Old Men. We wish Daniel the very best on his future endeavours.”
In a statement to staff Battsek said: “After further reflection and discussion about the change in direction for Miramax, Rich Ross and I have agreed that I will step down as president of Miramax, effective the end of January, 2010.
“With this decision, we have also agreed that the best chance of success for Miramax is for the company to be located in Los Angeles, and I will work with the group on a transition plan.
“I’m very proud of all the great work we have accomplished here at Miramax and equally proud of my overall career at Disney.”
Battsek was appointed Miramax president in July 2005 and entered the Disney fold in 1991 when he was asked to start up a UK company as part of Buena Vista International’s worldwide distribution network.
He was promoted to senior vice president of BVI (UK) Limited in 1998, overseeing approximately 35 films a year from the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Miramax labels.
Prior to Disney he was managing director of Palace Pictures.