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Lionsgate Bows Ambitious Blu-ray Disc Rollout of Miramax Catalog

14 Apr, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Minimajor assumes retail control more than 180 titles April 15

Lionsgate April 15 will formally acquire retail control of 180 titles from Miramax, the famed independent studio founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

The global disc and digital distribution agreement — first announced in February — encompasses more than 550 titles, including Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, Good Will Hunting, Life Is Beautiful, Kill Bill Volumes I and II, and No Country for Old Men, among others.

Initial titles already released on Blu-ray, VOD and electronic sellthrough include The Switch March 15, and Scream, Scream 2 and Scream 3 March 29 — the latter three to coincide with the Scream 4 theatrical release April 15 by The Weinstein Co.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Lionsgate plans to release about four Miramax titles per month separately on DVD and Blu-ray (no combos planned yet) with enhanced audio and visual resolution, and new special features on select releases, according to Ron Schwartz, EVP and GM of Lionsgate.

‘There are a number of Miramax titles that have yet to be exploited (notably Pulp Fiction, slated to be released on Blu-ray in the fourth quarter), and we obviously think that is a tremendous opportunity,” Schwartz said. “It’s a such a deep catalog with great films that have never been out on Blu-ray.”

Schwartz said Lionsgate throughout the years has attempted to redefine special edition releases, which typically involve re-releasing titles with updated bonus material and directors’ commentary, among other features.

Indeed, one of the studio’s first Blu-ray releases, First Blood in 2007, was followed by Rambo 2 and Rambo 3 in May 2008 to coincide with a Rambo Complete Collection on DVD. Rambo: The Complete Collector's Set bowed on Blu-ray last July to correspond with the release of Rambo: Extended Cut, also on Blu-ray.

Similar treatment was afforded T2: Judgment Day on Blu-ray in 2007, followed by T2: Skynet Edition in 2009 — Lionsgate’s biggest-ever Blu-ray special edition — subsequently timed with the T2 Complete Collector's Set.

“We will look at films like Sin City and Kill Bill, and some of the [Oscar-nominated and winning] films you see out there we’ll look at for opportunities to create a different version down the road,” Schwartz said. “There are opportunities to do multi-packs because you’ve got a number of Quentin Tarantino films and number of Robert Rodriguez films.”

Schwartz, who believes the new owners of Miramax aggressively are seeking to distribute the catalog across multiple platforms domestically and internationally, said titles released on Blu-ray typically energize sales of the DVD as well.

“DVD is still a very big part of the library business,” he said.

The Miramax license deal is so important to Lionsgate it appointed an executive point person (VP of marketing Amanda Kozlowski), according to Eric Doctorow, EVP of worldwide home entertainment and distribution at Miramax.

‘[Lionsgate is] a very smart, execution-oriented company and they get a lot of really good things done,” Doctorow said, adding the studio was key to getting Miramax titles in Walmart. “For that reason, they are a perfect home for Miramax and help us re-energize our brand in the marketplace.”

Lionsgate also is seeking to create a larger digital footprint — one that will mesh with the studio’s Miramax packaged media campaign during the next two years, according to Jim Packer, president of worldwide television and digital distribution.

Packer said the studio’s offerings of digital titles in high-definition on iTunes is “actually pretty good.” He said the emphasis for Miramax would be on electronic sellthrough compared with transactional VOD.

While acknowledging that EST sales industrywide have lagged, he said the jury is out as whether the issue involves title selections, platforms or both.

“We’ve seen some very good growth with Vudu,” Packer said. “And I do not think we would have seen the same growth had Walmart not bought it. Look at the eyeballs they can promote to.”

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