Miramax Films swiftly completed its international sales goals this market, closing a big deal with Gaga Communications in Japan for Shall We Dance, Duplex and Tadpole and with Asmik Ace for Spy Kids 3D and Blue Car, and re-teaming with Svensk Filmindustri in Sandinavia for the first time in a decade for a package of six titles including JM Barrie's Neverland, Scary Movie 3 and Cursed.

Miramax International now sells to about 30 territories, complementing its joint venture operations with Buena Vista International (BVI) in the UK, Italy, Germany, Australia and parts of Latin America and with TF1 in France (TFM). Under Miramax COO Rick Sands, the independent powerhouse is now evaluating financing and distribution for its films on a picture-by-picture basis.

"We are shifting our risk management strategy," said Sands midway through a sizzling Cannes for the mini-studio. "We are partnering with studios on some projects like Starsky And Hutch with Warner Bros or The Brothers Grimm with MGM and with independents on others like An Unfinished Life with IEG or Shall We Dance with Spyglass [Miramax retained Japanese rights]. We will sell other films to independents, who have always done a great job on our movies. But there are limits as to how much the independent marketplace can bear."

"We haven't changed our business plan," he adds, "but remain a hybrid, moving in and out of the studio system."

Miramax's acquisitions strategy meanwhile under executive vice president of acquisitions and co-production Agnes Mentre continues on a selective basis with titles such as the Dutch film Twin Sisters this week or Italian film I'm Not Scared at Berlin or US independent The Station Agent at Sundance. "We are open to everything," said Mentre. "We buy big movies, small movies, edgy movies, foreign language movies. My only mandate is to find good movies."

Mentre is also looking for select territory buys outside North America such as the recent acquisition of UK rights to The House Of Sand And Fog and is working closely with TF1 to identify projects for French joint venture TFM.

2003 domestic highlights for Miramax include Spy Kids 3D (July 25), The Human Stain (Sept 26), Duplex (Oct), Scary Movie 3 (Oct 3), The Station Agent (Oct 3), Kill Bill (Oct 10), Bad Santa (Oct 24) and Cold Mountain on Dec 25.

Sands said that Kill Bill will open day-and-date or within one or two weeks of the US opening in Japan, Italy, France, Germany and the UK.

2004 highlights include Cursed (Feb 13), The Great Raid (Feb 13), Ella Enchanted (March), Jersey Girl (first quarter), JM Barrie's Neverland (second quarter) and potential summer tentpole Artemis Fowl.

Under new Miramax International chief Stuart Ford, big sales deals were also closed with RCV in Benelux for six films including Bad Santa, Spy Kids 3D, Scary Movie 3 and Cursed and for three with Scanbox in Scandinavia including Bad Santa.