Abstracted from the weekly edition of Screen International
No doubt smarting at missing out on foreign-language megahit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon last year, Miramax Films has done everything in its considerable power this year to bag the cream of the world crop.
But all its many international pick-ups this year - which range from Italian For Beginners to Tears Of The Black Tiger - this week's limited release of Amelie in New York and Los Angeles arguably provides the best chance of delivering the breakout hit that Miramax did not want to miss.
Indeed, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's crowd-pleasing has followed in many of the same footsteps as Crouching Tiger on its road to US screens and possibly the Oscar podium confection directed by. The UGC title was the sensation of this year's Cannes Film Festival - even if it was for not being selected. Further honours came with the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival and last week's selection as France's submission for the foreign language Oscar.
Reportedly costing Miramax $1m for North American rights, the film has become one of the biggest hits of all time in France and has now taken $61m worldwide.
Rather than a presumably still sensitive Crouching Tiger, Miramax executives prefer to compare Amelie to their strategy for one of their own big Oscar winners from overseas. Like Life Is Beautiful, for which Roberto Benigni won best actor, Miramax is not just pushing Amelie in the best foreign-language category. In fact, the film is gunning for all categories - best picture as well as best foreign language film, best director, actress, cinematography, editing and music.
"Let's just say we are taking the same strategy as we did on Life Is Beautiful," says Mark Gill, president of Miramax LA. "We're opening in New York and Los Angeles and then widening slowly to the top 10 cities and
then the top 20 cities. Like Life Is Beautiful, we are prepared to add more screens and even take TV advertising, which we did in the fifth week on that film. We're tied in with all the French businesses in the US."
Miramax has already turned Amelie into a buzz movie at Cannes, where a screening was held for US critics. "I think in the current climate, such an uplifting film will be even better received," said Gill.
One French critic predicted that Amelie's picture-postcard view of Paris would seduce US audiences. Although others decried Amelie's feelgood style for transposing "EuroDisney to Montmartre", the controversy only fuelled the box-office.
Audrey Tautou, the film's star, noted the film's joie de vivre factor on a recent promotional visit to Los Angeles. "It's just a movie but if it gives two hours of happiness to people, that's nothing to feel ashamed of," she told Screen International.