Twelve years may be a long time for a Hollywood marriage to last. This one ended bitterly, with a contentious battle over custody and money. After months of hammering out an agreement, however, the divorce between Disney and Miramax’s Weinstein brothers was finalized Tuesdays, with the principals appearing all smiles. The partnership, which turned numerous art-house films into blockbuster hits and Oscar winners, and which created a blueprint for Hollywood’s assimilation of the indie film world, ended with the studio keeping Miramax’s valuable film library and label name. Harvey and Bob Weinstein will form a new company, taking with them a cash settlement, their successful Dimension Films label, and their relationships with such top directors as Quentin Tarantino and Spy Kids‘ Robert Rodriguez.
After Miramax’s success with such indie and foreign hits as sex, lies, and videotape and The Crying Game, Disney bought Miramax in 1993 for $80 million, prompting other major studios to buy or start their own ”specialty” divisions. The Weinsteins brought prestige (and their Oscar-campaigning savvy) to the partnership, while Disney provided the brothers with production funds and wide distribution. The result was such triumphs as Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, and the franchises of Bob Weinstein’s Dimension Films (Scream, Scary Movie, Spy Kids). But the Disney-Miramax partnership soured in recent years, with Disney CEO Michael Eisner accusing the Weinsteins of being spendthrifts who created money-losing flops (Cold Mountain). The Weinsteins denied that their recent slates had been unprofitable, and they criticized Eisner for his risk-averse stewardship, passing on such future hits as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Fahrenheit 9/11.
Last summer, Disney decided not to renew its contract with the Weinsteins. Talks went on for months over such bones of contention as who would keep the Miramax name (which comes from the names of the Weinsteins’ parents, Miriam and Max). Those disputes were all settled by Tuesday, according to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook and Harvey Weinstein, who spoke to reporters in a conference call. Disney is keeping the Miramax name and the 550 films Miramax has distributed over the last quarter century, as well as the rights to collaborate with the Weinsteins on as many as 25 future films spun off from them (like the forthcoming Scary Movie 4). The brothers will remain with Miramax until their contract expires on Sept. 30 and will continue to oversee the releases of the remaining films on their slate, including this Friday’s opening of Rodriguez’s Sin City. Cook said Disney would name new Miramax executives by July.
Cook would not say how big a severance check the Weinsteins would receive, though news reports put the figure at $100 million (the Hollywood Reporter said it could be as much as $135 million). The Weinsteins keep the Dimension label, though their new company doesn’t have a name yet. It does have some financial backers, including Robert Redford and Paul Newman. ”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, how cool is that?” Weinstein said.
(To read more about the dissolution of the Disney-Miramax partnership, read Entertainment Weekly’s March 18, 2005, cover story.)