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Author Topic: Miramax is splitting from Disney
Jason M Miller
Master Film Handler

Posts: 284
From: Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Registered: Jul 2004


 - posted 03-29-2005 09:12 PM      Profile for Jason M Miller   Email Jason M Miller   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Here is the link http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7330491/site/newsweek/

March 29 - After months of contentious negotia­tions, Disney and its estranged film bosses, Miramax brothers Harvey and Bob Wein­stein, reached an agreement today to for­mally divorce, ending the bitterest chapter in one of the most successful independent film ventures in Hollywood history.

The long-anticipated settlement—in which the Weinsteins will receive an untold sum of cash
and the highly successful Dimension film label as well as share with Disney certain ex­isting high-profile projects—ends one of the most tumultuous relationships in Holly­wood, marking the disassociation of two of the industry’s most volatile personalities. But the Weinsteins and Disney CEO Michael Eisner will be setting off on dra­matically different paths. Eisner is preparing to exit the stage in an inglorious end to his Disney tenure. Meanwhile, the Wein­steins are poised now to immediately begin to try to replicate their storied triumph in the film industry with a new startup forged from the detritus of Miramax, which the brothers cofounded in 1979 and sold to Disney in 1993. At a press conference Tuesday, Harvey Weinstein said the new venture will be a “fully integrated company” with interests in broadcast television, the Internet and books, among other things. “We’ll be able to build a giant media company of our own,” he said. Adds an associate: “They will be able to start right away on building the new company,” says a person close to the Weinsteins. “It’s not like they are going to be starting from scratch.”

The new company won’t carry the name Miramax, a combination of the names of the Weinsteins’ parents—Miriam and Max. In the biggest disappointment for the Weinsteins, Disney spurned their efforts to retrieve the corporate moniker. “That was the toughest part of the entire negotiations,” Weinstein said in the press conference, noting that his mother is now 79 years old and that his father died before Miramax was established. He seemed to suggest that it might be possible to recover the name later, saying "maybe the whole chapter on that has been written, maybe it hasn’t." Speaking more bluntly, an associate said, “it’s pure spite on Disney’s part. It’s no skin off of Disney’s back. It [Disney] can’t make much use of the name.”

Under the settlement, the Weinsteins officially part with Disney on Sept. 30 when their contracts expire. Yet their ties will en­dure. Among other things, they retain an interest in “Breaking and Entering,” a proj­ect by Anthony Minghella (“Cold Moun­tain”, “The English Patient”), and “Scary Movie IV.” All told, the two will collaborate on up to 25 projects. In addition, the Weinsteins have recently purchased projects that they will be absorbed by the new company. Among them: “Wolf Creek,” the Australian horror flick that debuted at Sundance. “They are leaving with a signifi­cant number of projects,” says another Weinstein associate. “Many will be produced through an on-going relationship with Dis­ney. Many will be developed on by Harvey and Bob.”

Yet a top priority will be to tap the fi­nancial markets for the fortune required to launch Miramax 2. Goldman Sachs, the in­vestment bank which helped advised the Weinsteins in the Disney talks, is leading the fundraising. With the focus on sealing the separation, however, Goldman has de­voted little time to the effort. So far, the We­instein team has only “spent some time thinking about the right [corporate] struc­ture and where the money will come from,”
says a close Weinstein associate. The assets obtained in the settlement will be put into the new company, and “people will then in vest on terms that are yet to be decided,” the associate added.

The two sides had been locked in con­tentious talks for months. But in the wake of Disney’s appointment of Robert Iger as its next CEO, the negotiations are said to have unfolded smoothly and with a heightened pace “My sense is that negotia­tions are more constructive,” says a top We­instein associate. “The attitude is more, ‘let’s get it done.’ There’s less screaming.”

Even some of the Weinstein’s most ar­dent supporters acknowledge that replicat­ing their Miramax success is a formidable challenge. More than any single company, the Weinstein-led Miramax almost alone launched the independent film boom of the 1990s, luring mainstream mass audiences to so-called “art films.” Miramax’s one-of-a-kind library includes “My Left Foot,” “Shakespeare In Love” and “The Crying Game.” It scored big last year with Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the controver­sial film about George W. Bush and the Iraq war. But striking lighting in bottle twice could be even beyond the high­ly-regarded skills of the brothers. “The record of independent film pro­duction over the last 20 to 30 years is pretty poor,” says one Weinstein backer on Wall Street. “Most don’t work.” However, this financier added: “With Harvey and Bob, you are dealing with uniquely talented individuals. They have proven they can make this an attractive business.” The in­dustry also is enjoying one vast improvement in film economics: the rise of DVD. “The increased volume of DVD purchases has made the business more attractive than it was,” says the Wall Street financier.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

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