Miramax International says it has taken major steps toward more closely controlling its own distribution and marketing in Australia and New Zealand through the establishment of a new Sydney office to be headed by former Roadshow executive David Collins.

Miramax says its Australasian operation will perform a similar function to its supervisoryoffices already established in London and Rome, providing a closer oversight relationship not only with local distributors who have licensed Miramax's films, but also with the creative and production communities.

Collins, who now assumes the title of director of distribution, marketing & publicity forMiramax Australia, served most recently as general manager for Roadshow Film Distributors in New South Wales. He had previously served as director of distribution for PolyGram Filmed Entertainment/Universal Pictures.

Until now a large number of Miramax titles have been sold to Roadshow including its currentrelease Spy Kids which has taken US$2.6m so far in the territory and even saw a 62% jump in business during its third week. With the creation of this local office, Miramaxcan be expected to forge greater links with Buena Vista International, its sister distribution operation within the Walt Disney empire.

Already, two of Miramax's upcoming US hits are about to see wide releases through BVI: ScaryMovie 2 is opening this weekend with a 220-print release through to be followed by a 250-plus print splash of The Otherson Nov 8 that will be supported by a heavy publicity push from its Australianlead Nicole Kidman. More such BVI collaborations are now anticipated.

"Consideringthe importance and potential of the Australian market, we have wanted to makethis move for some time," explained. Rick Sands, chairman, worldwidedistribution for Miramax Films. "As we continue to expand and solidify ourdistribution relationship with BVI, our new set-up will allow us theopportunity to fully maximize Miramax's own marketing skills with BVI'sexceptional muscle in the Australasian marketplace."

Added Miramaxco-chairman Harvey Weinstein: "The Australians and New Zealanders not onlymake great movies; they also love great movies. This population has the highestper-capita movie attendance average of any country in the world, so it'snatural that we would focus special attention here."

Collins will work closely with Victoria Treole, who continues as Miramax's Sydney-basedproduction and acquisitions executive. "It's a privilege to be part of ateam recognized as being without peer in their creative and aggressive approachto marketing," said Collins. "With the upside potential of thismarket, and the quality and range of Miramax's product, this is a rareopportunity."

Miramax has enjoyed a long and fertile association with Australian/New Zealand talent, including Baz Luhrmann, Jane Campion, Peter Jackson, Phillip Noyce, Robert Luketic, P JHogan, Gregor Jordan, the Working Dog team and Shirley Barrett, among others.