The Miles Davis Movie: Who will distribute the Miles Davis biopic?

A big topic of discussion around Hollywood these days is distribution; specifically indie-film distribution and the changing landscape for the specialty-film divisions.

While the big studios are having a hot, hot summer with titles like “Iron Man,” “Get Smart,” “Wall-E” and “Wanted,” things are a but chillier for the art-house movie scene.

We’ve already seen earlier this year Paramount Pictures announce that its main studio will absorb the marketing, distribution and physical production departments at its specialty label, Paramount Vantage.

This news was preceded by Warner Bros. closing down two of its art-house labels, Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures.

Just the other day the NY Times ran a story about Alex Gibney, the director of this year’s Oscar-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” who filed for arbitration, ‘asserting that its box office prospects were undermined by the financial troubles of the film’s distributor, ThinkFilm.’

And David Carr, columnist for the NY Times, said of this summers’ art-house movie scene: “Once you start looking under the tent poles, though, perhaps for a film where nothing is blown up, things become grim.

“There’s no small wonder like “Once” on the horizon, let alone miniatures with big breakout potential like “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine.” The rest of the movies — lots of moody family stories, dysfunctional parables and eat-your-vegetables documentaries — come and go without notice in these long, hot summer months. Why are there no independent movies worth seeing? As Yogi Berra might say, there are just too many of them.”

So what does all this have to do with the Miles Davis biopic? As far as I know, which is nothing(!), the biopic does not have distribution lined up (which makes sense to a point since I don’t think anything has been filmed), and there’s only so many shops on the block these days who can distribute a movie.

I read that producer Cary Brokaw and his Avenue Pictures have a deal in place with Fox TV Studios, but I’m not sure if that carries over at all to the film division at Fox.

To check production credits on various Brokaw-related projects (via Avenue Pictures) it’s a mix of big name distributors (Sony) and smaller groups (Anchor Bay Entertainment).

One would have to believe Brokaw could ring a number of studios who might be interested.

Don Cheadle’s upcoming drama, “Traitor,” is being produced through his Crescendo Pictures, and Overture Films is listed as the distributor, so maybe they are talking about the Miles Davis biopic.

Of course if the film makes the rounds at all the big film festivals there could be a bidding war to get the rights to the project.

It’s an important part of the process because in the right hands the film can achieve all its marketing and box-office potential. I have no doubt the biopic will be a critical hit and bring in well-deserved praise, but it’s called the movie business for a reason and the biopic needs to find an audience to make it a financial success as well.

I’m sure plenty of studios, from the majors to the independents, will be intrigued with the Miles Davis biopic. I’ll be interested to see how it plays out because the marketing of this project (any project) is vital to its success with the ‘general’ movie-going public; I’m already good for a ticket (or more!), but how this particular film is positioned in the marketplace will go a long way in determining how successful the Miles Davis biopic ultimately is.

We’re talking dollars and cents, of course. It’s ‘success’ as a piece of cinematic art I think will be firmly established, but just as Michael Corleone says to his brother Sonny —

“It’s not personal… it’s just business.”


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