Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie’s Owners Want to Know if a Film Is Fit for Framing; New York Times, 7/11/10

Michael Cieply, New York Times; Movie’s Owners Want to Know if a Film Is Fit for Framing:

"Spun around politics, sexual identity and cinema, “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” nominated for four Oscars and the winner of one in 1986, is the consummate art film.

But is it a collectible work of art? Those who own it are trying to find out.

In an unusual twist even for a picture outside the norms — its Oscar-winning lead, William Hurt, paused his red-hot career to play a film-struck homosexual for almost no fee when that still seemed more suicidal than savvy — David Weisman, the movie’s producer, and David S. Phillips, who joined him later in acquiring its rights, are planning in coming weeks to offer “Kiss of the Spider Woman” for sale as an artwork.

By that, they mean an object of beauty. The film is now available in its entirety — its copyright, negatives, prints, digital video masters and more — along with a carefully preserved archive that includes 313 boxes of 35-millimeter outtakes, five drafts of the screenplay by Leonard Schrader and a stack of rejection letters from studio executives who were sure that the movie would never work.

“I’m not aware of its having been done before,” said Grey Smith, who specializes in film collectibles at the Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, and is not involved in the “Spider Woman” sale.

“I wish them the best,” Mr. Smith added. “This could open up avenues for people who own rights to other feature films.”

After their commercial release, feature films are typically held in clumps, like the 4,000-title library owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or the smaller collection of about 700 movies and television shows at Miramax Films, which is now being sold by the Walt Disney Company.

But independent films sometimes fall out of the system, as agreements under which they were licensed for distribution expire, and the copyright remains with, or is acquired by, individual owners who are not aligned with any of the major film companies.

Such outlying works normally have little value for large distributors, which may buy them for a relatively small fee, based on future returns in the home video and television markets, but which remain far more interested in fresh films or mass transactions."

No comments: