The BLOGFlume—Antici……….pation

A couple of seasonal parks release details about the 2005 season, and the Disney/Miramax split.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: February 23, 2005 at 9:54 PM

Mr. Six
PR Newswire 2/23/05

Six Flags New England has announced the addition of two new coasters for the 2005 season. One of the coasters is actually a water coaster, which will be added to its Hurricane Harbor water park, and will feature some of the fastest uphill sections of any water coaster in the country. Riders will board rafts with two other people for a wet and wild ride featuring high-banked turns and tunnels. Typhoon is scheduled to open when the Hurricane Harbor water park opens. Unlike the Tornado, down the drain-style, water slides that Six Flags is adding all over the country, Six Flags New England is building something that is rare outside of Texas. As many know, the Master Blaster water rides found at the Schlitterbahn parks in Texas are some of the most popular “water slides” in the world, and have brought about a renaissance of water parks around the country. This water ride looks rather exciting, but I would question its placement in New England. An attraction like this would be far more popular in a park that can operate it nearly year-round like Six Flags Magic Mountain or Six Flags Over Georgia.

The second coaster coming to Six Flags New England will be called Mr. Six’s Pandemonium. The first roller coaster themed around Six Flags’ crazy old mascot will be a new twist on the wild mouse coaster style. Instead of a standard wild mouse coaster where riders sit in 2 rows of 2 people, or the normal spinning wild mouse where riders all sit on one side of a circular car, this wild mouse coaster will seat passengers in 2 rows of 2 people facing each other. Not only are passengers tossed, turned, and spun in every direction, but they get to watch the expressions on their friend’s faces sitting just across from them. The ride looks pretty exciting for a small wild mouse coaster designed to be enjoyed by the entire family, but I have to question the name. I don’t know about anyone else, but Mr. Six has got to be one of the creepiest “non” spokesmen in the world, edging out the sock puppet, Quiznos’ Baby Bob, and the Verizon Guy (Can you hear me now?). It’s cool that Six Flags is trying to come up with its own characters, instead of buying someone else’s ideas, but I think they could probably come up with something a little bit better than an old bald guy dancing to 90’s techno music.

LA Times 2/22/05

The once solid “independent” film division of the Walt Disney empire, Miramax, is about to go through a major overhaul. Both Harvey and Bob Weinstein, founders of Miramax, are in negotiations with Disney to get the freedom to seek a new distribution partner. Miramax is most known for bringing home Oscar gold with small, well marketed films like The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love, and Chicago (all Best Picture Oscar winners with modest budgets). The Weinsteins are famous in Hollywood for putting massive amounts of marketing behind their top films every year to push for Oscars and other prestigious awards. Disney’s problem with Miramax started a couple of years ago as the company pushed towards larger and larger budget movies like Gangs of New York and Cold Mountain, which failed to recoup their bloated investments and did not receive any major accolades. The Weinsteins’ frustration with Disney came to a head early last year when Disney refused to allow Miramax to market and release the incredibly popular and controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9-11. Disney did not want to be associated with a film that contained tons of rhetoric against a sitting president in an election year. Miramax was forced to pass on what would be the most successful documentary of all time, grossing well over $100 million, more than just about every Disney mainstream release in 2004. This year, Miramax’s budget grew even larger. The massive Aviator production has garnered the most Oscar nominations this year, but is not what Disney wants in its independent film division. The new, slimmer Miramax will have its budget slashed in half, down to $300 million, and focus on smaller films like the critically acclaimed Sideways, Hotel Rwanda, and Million Dollar Baby. The negotiations for the split are ongoing, with the Weinsteins netting a reported $100 million lump sum to leave the company they built from scratch behind. Disney would retain rights to the entire Miramax library, including hundreds of films that can be released and re-released on DVD, and more importantly the name Miramax, which is a combination of the Weinsteins parents Miriam and Max. The Weinsteins will stay on as consultants for the films which are already slated for 2005 release like the very interesting looking Sin City from Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez, but their influence will be minimal as they're shown the door.

It wasn’t that the Miramax label was not profitable. Its huge hits like Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2 and Chicago far overcame the failure of its losers like Gangs of New York and Cold Mountain. Disney just wanted the bloated label to return to its independent roots, instead of buying $50+ million films hoping for a Best Picture Oscar. It may seem like the Weinsteins are getting the worse of the deal, but the $100 million is more than enough seed money to get the brothers on good footing to try to make it on their own, or hook up with another major distributor. Unlike the potential Disney/Pixar split, this split will leave both sides in a better situation. The Weinsteins will be able to continue to wine and dine Oscar voters in the hopes for a big prize, with the films they want to produce. Disney in turn, will be able to return Miramax to its independent roots, and save $400 million per year in the process, and under the right leadership, still bring home Oscar gold with cutting edge and avant guard independent releases.

Busch News
Busch 2/22/05

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has released new information about its additions for the 2005 season. While the much-anticipated Curse of Darkastle is the gem of the additions for the 2005 season, there are many other enhancements that guests will notice in the park this year. Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve will get some much-needed upgrades to the bald eagle display that will make the viewing area much more guest-friendly, and the wolf attraction will also receive enhancements to improve guest viewing. A new full-service restaurant will be added in Aquitaine where the often closed Le Coq d’Or was located - next to the LeMans Receway. The LeMans Bistro will feature new dishes including “Chicken Cannelloni Crepes” and “Das Alpine Paninis.” There will also be a new open-air marketplace near the new Curse of Darkastle attraction, Oktoberfest Marketplatz, which will feature gifts and snacks. These smaller additions are surprising since so much money and effort is going into Darkastle, but goes to prove Busch Garden’s commitment to improving the guest experience. At first glance, I don’t think the new LeMans Bistro will survive in a location that is so close to the very popular Trappers Smokehouse. For season passholders and frequent visitors such as myself, the addition is great as it offers new foods for those of us who grow bored of the same three choices every time (Smokehouse, Festhaus, or Grogan’s Grill). However, for not-so-frequent visitors, they will inevitably choose the Smokehouse over this new restaurant.

Busch Gardens also released a new construction video on The Curse of Darkastle, showing the progress both inside and outside the massive attraction. They also made it clear that the new state-of-the-art attraction will not be ready for guests until May 2005. While it’s typical for big new attractions to open a month or two after the season’s opening day, this attraction has been under construction for well over a year, and in development for much longer. Hopefully this delayed opening will give Busch Gardens lots of time to test the ride so that when its opening day arrives sometime in May, the attraction will run flawlessly.

Readers' Opinions

From Joe Lane on February 23, 2005 at 10:51 PM
"Disney’s problem with Miramax started a couple of years ago as the company pushed towards larger and larger budget movies like Gangs of New York and Cold Mountain, which failed to recoup their bloated investments and did not receive any major accolades."

Which is hypocritical of Disney, of course. Around the World in 80 Days, anyone? The Alamo? Anyone? Anyone? Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen? Home on the Range? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

From Russell Meyer on February 24, 2005 at 7:16 AM
Disney is being hypocritical with this move, but Miramax has been the gem of the Disney film division, and keeping it limited to smaller films is what Disney wants to do. If Disney wants to tarnish its own film division, or Buena Vista for that matter, then let them. However, if you ask the average person on the street, even in Hollywood, if they could even tell you who owns Miramax, you'd probably get a bunch of blank stares. If you told them Disney owned Miramax, they would probably be shocked. Disney needs to do whatever is necessary to keep Miramax at arms length, because there are people in Hollywood who flock to movies because of the distributor. Whether that will still happen when the Weinsteins are gone is pure speculation though.

Many major movie studios have worked really hard to create independent film divisions, WB2, Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics, etc, and Disney just wants to keeps its independent film division small and competitive with other independent producers. Disney did put out some awful movies this year, but most under the Disney, Dimension, or Buena Vista production moniker. What I think Disney wants to do is move some of the larger budget films that Miramax is producing to its Dimension and Buena Vista labels, boosting their profitability, and re-focus Miramax on independent and foreign films. Any way you look at it though, the Disney conglomerate will probably be better off without the Weinsteins blowing their budgets. While the Weinsteins stayed very profitable under the wings of Disney, their trends over the past few years are scary, taking huge financial risks like Kill Bill (a well publicized accounting disaster that was saved with a clever gimic that probably cost Tarentino and Uma Thurman Oscars) and Finding Neverland (another overbudget "small" movie that was saved by an impressive performance by Johnny Depp--perhaps the Regis Philbin of this decade for Disney).

The bottom line is that no one would call The Aviator, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, or Kill Bill independent releases, and Disney doesn't want Miramax to take huge financial risks. They would prefer to instead focus on smaller films that have potential for huge payouts. Ever since Blair Witch and My Big Fat Greek Wedding (miniscule productions by Hollywood standards---Blair Witch was made for a reported $35,000 and grossed over $140 million and My Big Fat Greek Wedding was made for around $5 million and grossed over $240 million), studios have been scrambling to establish independent labels to find the next diamond in the rough. Disney had that studio, Miramax, but it has since gone astray, and Disney wants Miramax to get back to its roots and find the next movie that makes $25,000 for every dollar spent on production. In the world of independent film, it's not always about the bottom line box office gross, but usually about the return on money spent.

To put it simply, Disney wanted Miramax to stop being the New York Yankees of the independent film world, and instead be the Oakland A's, Minnesota Twins, or Florida Marlins.

From Chuck Campbell on February 24, 2005 at 4:30 PM
Busch did experiment briefly with making the old Coque d'Or a full-service restaurant last summer--maybe to see how this new LeMans Bistro would fly.

The Smokehouse is pretty stiff competition.

From Russell Meyer on February 25, 2005 at 6:55 AM
Yeah, I had noticed that they brought out all of those rod iron tables in the middle of last year, and it looked like everything was set up inside to serve. I never saw it open, but I rarely go to the park on Saturday, so chances are, it was probably only open on the busiest days. I'm not really sure how people will accept a French-style restaurant, but I'll probably give it a try.
From Derek Potter on February 25, 2005 at 8:00 AM
When you look at this from the outside, one wonders why?? What are the Disney execs thinking here. I can just see it. "Hmm, Miramax is our golden boy. They win oscars and sell a lot of tickets, so let's cut their budgets." Regardless of financial scares like Kill Bill (which ultimately was a success), some of the biggest movies of the past five or ten years have come out of Miramax, while Dimension and Buena Vista have struck out time after time. Why would Disney mess with Miramax's mojo? to speak. I know why, because they want something for nothing, and throwing more money at Dimension and Buena Vista isn't necessarily going to make them more profitable companies. Why would you shift big budget production from a proven winner to a not so proven one? Talk about a financial risk....It just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

I'm thinking about a return to Busch Gardens this year. I'm glad to hear of the improvements they are making. I think that the delayed May opening is directly related to their testing schedule. They want it to be totally ready. A May opening is a good tradeoff for that. As for Mr. Six, he was a great marketing ploy, but his 15 minutes are running out fast, and he won't last as a Six Flags character. By 2007, Mr. Six's Pandemonium will simply be called Pandemonium. Magic Mountain is getting very little attention lately, with all the big Six Flags additions coming to the east coast. Have they given up on Magic Mountain as a flagship park?

Speaking of creepy spokespeople in commercials, my award goes to the Quizno's spongemonkeys.

From TH Creative on February 25, 2005 at 8:28 AM
The Miramax studio also holds the rights to the 'Artemis Fowl' series -- which has the potential to become Disney's "Harry Potter-esque" franchise.

Back to oblivion.

From Russell Meyer on February 25, 2005 at 9:49 AM
Word is Magic Mountain is working on something HUGE for 2006. They're just rumors, many from overimaginative CMs, but the word is Superman: The Escape's tower may be reworked by Intamin into a rocket coaster that will shatter Kingda Ka's records (the number 500 has been used a couple of times, and reportedly seen on concept blueprints). There are supposedly survey marks around Superman, but we all know that unsubstantiated rumors need to be taken with a grain of salt.
From Robert OGrosky on February 25, 2005 at 12:33 PM
While miramax did win awards because of the hollywood mentality of voting for there friends and not the best movie(which is the only possible reason a crap movie like shakespere in love could beat a classic like Saving Private Ryan), there movies didnt have a track record of making alot of money which is why studios exist. While the Kill Bill movies were good movies, they werent blockbusters and medium size hits at best.
As for naming a ride after Mr SIx., that is another awful idea by a company that is full of bad ideas that go well with its awful balance sheet!!
From J. Dana on February 26, 2005 at 1:11 AM
Few short thoughts: One, to TH, glad you're back. And about the Artemis Fowl franchise, Disney still owns Miramax and all the films in its library. They're just losing the Weinsteins...which, according to most Hollywood insiders, is a good thing, because the brothers had become too difficult to manage. They were prima donnas who threw fits and ruined people's lives at the drop of a hat. Read the recent book detailing Harvey's ways and you'll all be glad you never had to deal with him.

Russell, Dimension is a unit of Miramax films, so if they put out stinkers, blame Miramax, not the Disney brand.

And Disney only distributed Around the World in 80 Days...someone else put up the $110 million for that bomb. So they came out clean on that deal.

And it is kinda ridiculous that Mirimax had a $700 million budget, when most independent studios have about $300. Gangs of New York was a dismal money pit. At $100 million-plus, a movie is no longer an independent. All I can say is good ridance to the Weinsteins. Let them go terrorize someone else.

From Kevin Baxter on February 26, 2005 at 5:28 PM
A few problems with your comments, J...

The Weinsteins are not considered prima donnas and difficult to manage. Those feelings are held solely for Harvey and Harvey alone. Bob, who is actually the brains behind Dimension, is considered by almost all to be a wonderful man. So wonderful, in fact, that Disney was hoping to keep him and get rid of Harvey. And no matter how HE "terrorized" people, it certainly didn't keep people from lining up to do films for them.

Was Disney right in wanting budgets lowered at Miramax? Definitely. But Disney is renowned for cheapness and they undoubtedly wanted budgets much lower than any other studio would ever be stoopid enough to ask for. So what if Miramax has a budget in the nine-figure range. They stopped being "independent" when Disney bought them. Miramax has FOR YEARS stopped being an independent studio and has become a haven for art films. And there is clearly a market for that as how many studios have opened their own Miramax-like branches in the past several years?

But it is easy to look back and say $100M for Gangs of New York??? But it was Martin Scorsese. Not many people would turn down Scorsese. And no one knew how crappy the final result really would be, as his track record certainly says otherwise.

Fact is, Disney will be hurt by this loss. No one of worth will vie for the Weinsteins' jobs. Losing Harvey won't affect the bottom line much, but it will definitely affect the prestige awarded Disney, since really their only prestige of late came from Miramax and Pixar. But losing Bob will be a huge blow. If Bob is as well-liked as everyone says, why would anyone go to Dimension when they could work with Bob at his new studio and undoubtedly make more money doing so???

Other problems... Disney may have only distributed 80 Days but that doesn't mean they didn't lose money on it. I can't find the particulars but I seem to recall they paid $30M for the "privilege" to distribute the film domestically. It only made $24M, and Disney probably only got about 15% of that. HUGE failure on Disney's part.

Add to this the Pixar problems, and Disney is going to have serious problems in the film division until at least a year after the management shakeup. Has anyone seen a pic of Chicken Little yet? Seriously SERIOUSLY fugly. Disney is goin' down!

From TH Creative on February 27, 2005 at 6:43 AM
"Disney is going down."

Another classic from the same guy who told us a year ago that "Eisner's a goner."

From the same guy who predicted that Disney stock would drop "into the teens" and then subject the company to another hostile takeover.

From the same guy who predicted Disney would lose millions in the Pooh case.

Mr. Baxter is like the Bill O'Reilly of themeparks.

From Derek Potter on February 27, 2005 at 7:30 AM
...and TH connects with a shot below the belt...(calling anyone Bill O'Reilly is a shot below the belt in my book),
From Chuck Campbell on February 27, 2005 at 9:40 AM
"So, Mr. Baxter and Mr., er, Creative--the games begin again," says Blofeld as he thoughtfully strokes the white cat sitting in his lap.
From steve lee on February 27, 2005 at 10:04 AM
"Mr. Baxter is like the Bill O'Reilly of themeparks."

This from the guy who said he wasn't going to come 'round anymore.

And Kev, in the "losses" for 80 Days column, don't forget that Disney also had to market that bad boy. That's gotta add another several million bucks into the red.

But ultimately, every studio is going to screw the pooch from time to time. Remember, Mirmamx couldn't afford to keep the Lord of the Rings films (granted, they wanted the three books compressed into two films. If that meant less Treebeard and only six endings for Return of the King, maybe that wasn't a bad idea).

Kevin's theory about Chicken Little requires only two words: "Shark Tale." No matter how mediocre the final product, folks are swarming to them computer animated flicks lately. And the trailer has gotten relatively good responses. Heck, it got a couple of laughs out of me.

From Tim Hillman on February 28, 2005 at 6:49 AM
Man, what a weekend!

I got a favorable ruling from the IRS on my taxes,

I just sent in my last car payment, and

THC and Kevin are posting again to TPI.

I’m gonna echo J. Dana on this one. Glad you’re both back. (Are you two sure you’re not alternate personalities hosted in the same body?)

By the way, I like Bill O’Reilly. Why can’t you all insult Kevin by calling him the Al Franken of themeparks? Now there’s a sniveling little jerk if I ever saw one.

From TH Creative on February 28, 2005 at 11:35 AM
>chuckle< I like Bill O'Reilly too. Don't agree with him, but I'm charmed by an irishman who enjoys a good argument -- political or otherwise.

Truth be told, I like Mr. Baxter as well. His knowledge of the film and television industry is extraordinary. Just wish he could stick to discussing issues and avoid making personal attacks.

From Derek Potter on February 28, 2005 at 9:51 PM
Ah... both Franken and O'Reilly are blowholes who abuse their platforms. When they interview people they like (agree with), they kiss their butt. When they interview people they don't like, they argue with them. Neither wants to lose an argument, so they wait until the next show when the subject is gone, than they finish the argument by getting in the last word. It's like..."This is my TV show and I'm always right, no matter how stupid I look." I like a good argument as much as the next guy, but sheesh. I had a nice chuckle when ol Bill got into some trouble a while back. Exposing gross hypocrisy is one of the ultimate forms of justice in my book, especially when an egomaniac is involved.

From Kevin Baxter on March 13, 2005 at 1:43 AM
Wow, an intelligent comment in the whole conservative/liberal retardation that is polluting the airwaves. I like Al Franken for two reasons, he's funny and he actually employs factcheckers. But does he ever kiss political ass of those he likes (to be fair, he does like McCain)! O'Reilly, on the other hand, makes stuff up on the fly and appears to have no discernible sense of humor. And that has nothing to do with politics. I think Bill Maher is a moron too, but he at least CAN be funny and he lets other people actually talk.

I wish I could say I was happy about some dipwad being back, but he just brings back the same tired LIES. Once again, since reading seems to be tough for you... I NEVER EVER EVER said that I thought Disney stock would drop into the teens. I simply repeated what stock analysts were saying during the whole Comcast thing. I don't recall EVER saying I thought Eisner would be gone. I definitely WISHED it, but why would I think he would be fired by a board that has their heads farther up his butt than you do??? Lord, don't remember the rest and don't care enough to try.

Oh, there was the Pooh thing. I probably did predict they would lose big, and they should have. No one can predict a stoopid outcome like that freakshow. It'd be like predicting the Michael Freakson trial.

But what have I predicted correctly? I predicted a huge anti-Eisner vote in last year's stockholder meeting (when other sites were all claiming otherwise). I predicted Disney's horrible movie year last year, including the fact that The Alamo, King Arthur and Around the World in 80 Days would be HUGE bombs. I predicted The Village would have a strong first weekend, then DIE. I predicted Shrek 2 would outdo The Incredibles. I predicted the third Harry Potter movie would make LESS than the previous two, when SOMEONE ELSE predicted it would be the summer's biggest movie. I predicted Cat in the Hat would hit $100M, no matter how horrible everyone thought it was. I predicted Tower of Terror wouldn't affect DCA's attendance in the slightest. I predicted Disneyland fans would HATE the new Winnie the Pooh ride, only because they had waited too long for something new. I predicted WDW's hotel glut would end up hurting them, as it has for several years now.

There have definitely been predictions I have made that haven't come true - and the friggin' "stock in the teens" one was NOT mine - but I don't care. They are just predictions. Semi-educated guesses. They aren't meant to be put into a damn day planner.

And for people mature enough to understand this, I will have a six-part series coming up with many predictions on Disney and NBC Universal, which can then be used against me for the next decade!

From Justin Smith on March 13, 2005 at 1:27 PM
"I predicted Shrek 2 would outdo The Incredibles."

Well at least you didn't predict Shrek 2 would be better than the Incredibles since Shrek 2 sucked.

From Kevin Baxter on March 14, 2005 at 1:24 AM
Please, both weren't that great. But at least Shrek 2 had at least one or two scenes that were actually original. Which would be one or two more than The Incredibles had. Shoulda been called The Copycatibles.

Oh, and guess what THC? EISNER'S A GONER!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! That's what you get for coming back when you said you weren't going to!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

From Justin Smith on March 14, 2005 at 7:37 AM
Since when is making fun of other stuff original? The thong joke i guess is original but it wasn't that funny. Plus I personally loved the Incredibles. In fact it got 8.2 on IMBD while Shrek 2 only got 7.7, Rotten Tomatoes gave it 97 percent fresh while Shrek 2 was 90 percent fresh. Incredibles got the Oscar while Shrek 2 didn't so overall more people thought Incredibles was better.
From TH Creative on March 14, 2005 at 9:14 AM
Um...I changed my mind.

Yay Baxter!

From Kevin Baxter on March 15, 2005 at 6:07 AM
I don't give a damn what most people thought. Neither movie compares in the slightest to previous Oscar winners in the category. Both were simply okay. And I am not surprised people liked The Incredibles so much, since intelligent, original scripts aren't usually what people pay attention to. People get taken in by the bells and whistles, and The Incredibles had bells and whistles by the cartload. If people DID actually care about scripts, Charlie Kaufman would be a bazillionaire. And Titanic wouldn't have made a cent.

As for originality, Shrek 2 took familiar concepts and made fun of them, which makes the concepts ORIGINAL. The Incredibles took familiar concepts AND DID THE SAME STUFF WE HAD ALREADY SEEN! And didn't do it better! X-Men? BETTER! Empire Strikes Back? BETTER! Spy Kids? BETTER! (Well, the first one, at least.) True Lies? Okay, The Incredibles was at least better than that crap.

The Incredibles will not stand the test of time like the Shreks or the Toy Storys or Finding Nemo. Unless, of course, Pixar makes a BETTER sequel. (If Disney makes it, then people will forget it even faster.)

Top 10 Attendance

  1. Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Universal Studios Japan
  5. Tokyo DisneySea
  6. Epcot
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  9. Universal Studios Florida
  10. Islands of Adventure