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New Miramax CEO focuses on 700-film library

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - The new chief executive of Miramax Films said Thursday that he'll focus primarily on boosting sales of the 700-movie library of Oscar winners and other classics while looking for partners to make new films.

Mike Lang, a 45-year-old former strategy executive at News Corp.'s Fox, started this week as head of the edgy studio, which investment group Filmyard Holdings bought from The Walt Disney Co. for $663 million last week.

Miramax was founded in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and named after their parents Miriam and Max. The studio is behind a string of Oscar winners including "Shakespeare in Love" (1998), "Chicago" (2002) and "No Country for Old Men" (2007). Disney offloaded the niche label in favor making more family-oriented franchises and its Pixar and Marvel brands.

Among Lang's top priorities are partnering with distributors to sell DVDs and offer Miramax movies, such as "The English Patient," online. He's also looking to license the films to TV channels at home and abroad.

"The TV market around the world is growing. They're all going to need movies for their channels," he said in an interview.

Among his first priorities: releasing "Pulp Fiction" on Blu-ray and finding a partner to distribute three films that have not yet been released theatrically: "The Debt," "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," and "Last Night."

Filmyard Holdings is majority owned by Colony Capital, its CEO Tom Barrack, and passive investor Qatar Holding LLC, an arm of the Middle Eastern country's government. Ron Tutor, the chief executive of construction company Tutor-Saliba Corp., is also an investor.

Their purchase of the studio, which Disney bought in 1993 for $80 million, included taking on $408 million in debt in two batches, which Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday rated as below investment grade at "Ba2" and "B2." Accounting for fees and cash on the books, the investors' equity portion came to $245 million.

Filmyard expects existing deals should result in cash flow above $150 million for the first year, and it expects to be able to pay back its debt before maturity in six years. Moody's said its rating reflects that the library will age and generate less revenue over time.

Lang said he expects to hire 50 to 75 people in the next couple years. Besides generating new sources of revenue for existing movies, he said he hopes to partner with others, including the Weinsteins, to develop sequels to franchises in its catalog. Miramax and the Weinsteins share rights on a number of series including "Scary Movie" and "Scream."

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