R.I.P. Miramax; Blame Disney

Long in the works, the shuttering of the arthouse division is official today

By TheWrap Jan 28, 2010 5:56PM

It’s been a slow death, but Miramax dies today.


The New York and Los Angeles offices of the 31-year-old arthouse movie studio that wrought such landmark films as "My Left Foot," "Reservoir Dogs," "The Piano," "Pulp Fiction," "Clerks," "Sex, Lies and Videotape," "Shakespeare in Love," "Swingers," "Good Will Hunting" and "The English Patient" will be shuttered Jan. 28 by corporate owner Disney.

"Miramax wasn't just a bad-boy clubhouse, it was a 20th-century Olympus," filmmaker Kevin Smith wrote in a blog for TheWrap. "Throw a can of Diet Coke and you hit a modern-day deity. And for one brief, shining moment, it was an age of magic and wonders."


The story of Miramax has been told and retold: Scrappy New York brothers name the studio after their parents, wheel and deal to hold their movie company together, bully business partners, seduce filmmakers and spend loads of money on award campaigns that win Oscars.


Then in 1993 came the sale to Disney. The success, the hubris, the Oscars, the overspending. The Weinsteins ran what was Disney's most autonomous division until things went bad with Michael Eisner, leaving in 2005.


Then came the loss of identity, the desperate attempts to reconcile with Eisner followed by the bitter divorce, and the quiet takeover by Daniel Battsek.


The final chapter has been short and bitter.


Battsek's Miramax was squeezed to a smaller and smaller size by Disney, despite releasing some respectable movies including Oscar winners "The Queen," "Tsotsi" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."


The studio endured endless rumors of its impending closure. On Oct. 2, Disney announced, "Miramax Films will reduce the number of films it releases annually while consolidating certain of its operations."


Dick Cook, the former chairman of the studio, told TheWrap last summer that while reduced in size, the studio would continue.


But by year-end, Dick Cook was gone, and Rich Ross had taken over. Soon after, Battsek was gone, too.


All that remained was the final sweep-up -- the firing of the remnant staff as part of the Ross reboot of the larger Disney studio, focused on a digital future with great big global brands.


TheWrap asked Harvey Weinstein how he felt on Wednesday. He wrote:


"I'm feeling very nostalgic right now. I know the movies made on my and my brother Bob's watch will live on as well as the fantastic films made under the direction of Daniel Battsek. Miramax has some brilliant people working within the organization and I know they will go on to do great things in the industry."


The Weinsteins have tried to buy the name of their former company back. Disney has not responded. But Bob Iger has made it known that he would be willing to sell Miramax outright -- for about $1.5 billion.


Too rich for the Weinsteins, and probably anybody else.


So today, one more arthouse film outlet goes away.


Some in this business just can't believe it.


"I refuse to believe it will go away forever," said Amanda Lundberg of 42West, who spent eight years working at the company.


"I think Miramax is too strong a brand to not exist in some incarnation. Maybe not this year or in five years, but the library is huge and the brand is big. I can't imagine it will disappear," she told TheWrap.


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