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Looking Back at Miramax, While Many Wonder About the Future
by Eugene Hernandez
Another real Oscar contender from Miramax, one that many believe has the potential to win big this year, opens in theaters today while at the same time many in the industry continue to speculate whether the company’s founders will still be at the helm come Oscar night. Martin Scorsese’s spectacular look at the life of Howard Hughes, “The Aviator,” was one of many films touted during a seven-minute highlight reel from the 25 year history of Miramax, screened at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan last night. The clips, a collection of iconic Miramax movie moments cut together to some of the most familiar music from the company’s films, kicked off a 50-film series at MoMA, followed immediately by more than an hour-long Q&A session with the Weinsteins, moderated by filmmaking favorite son Quentin Tarantino.
Much of the discussion looked at the legacy of the company, with Tarantino leading the Weinstein brothers through a discussion of the history of Miramax from its launch in 1979 and including a number of anecdotes and light-hearted insights on the company’s films. After about an hour, the director finally asked the primary question on the minds of many of those in attendance. “What’s going on guys?” Tarantino said, as the Weinsteins sat silent for a beat and some in the audience chuckled. “We’ve gotta go now,” Bob Weinstein said quietly. While brother Harvey reiterated the same message," From our point of view, the idea is to resolve it in an amicable way with Disney."
The Weinsteins remain in ongoing discussions with executives at their corporate parent, that bought Miramax in 1993, and the brothers are still under contract to run company, however it is understood that Disney wants to make some changes before the end of 2005.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing earlier this week, Disney said, “The Company does not expect business at its subsidiary Miramax to continue at the same level beyond the September 30, 2005 date on which the current contractual relationship with the co-chairmen (Bob and Harvey Weinstein) will end.” The Disney filing continued, "The Company is currently in negotiations with the Weinsteins regarding the future of our business relationship with them. At this time the Company is unable to determine whether projects currently in progress may be abandoned or otherwise impaired and whether there will be any material charges."
With a nod to their mother Miriam, who they asked to take a bow from her seat a few rows back, the Weinstein’s reminded attendees that the Miramax name was formed with the names of their own parents, Miriam and Max. And Weinstein, reiterating that Miramax is “the house that Quentin built,” underscored his pride in the films that they have released over twenty-five years, noting that the company is “a debt-free, $2 billion asset.” That would seem to be his answer to recent comments from Disney that questioned Miramax’s profitability.
With last night’s event, including the reel of clips emphasizing the award-winning works that have earned the company some 229 Academy Award nominations and 54 Oscars, the brothers are clearly trying to remind people (including the journalists in attendance) of their own legacy while at the same time positioning themselves for the future. A day after the Disney finling this week, Miramax issued a press release touting its successes, including a leading 15 Golden Globe nominations on Monday, and hyping the kick-off of last night’s MoMA retrospective that will screen some 50 films now through the end of the year and continuing next summer.
Miramax said this week that on its upcoming release slate are Dimension’s “Darkness” (December 25) and “Hostage” (January 21) and Gurinder Chadha’s “Bride & Prejudice” (February 11), as well as Wes Craven’s “Cursed” (February 25), Robert Rodriguez’ “Sin City” (April 1) and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D.”
“A lot of this had to do with ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’,” Harvey Weinstein said, talking about the current tensions with Disney, “When you stand up for what you believe in, sometimes you pay a price,” but he added that he would do it again. Continuing, he noted that “the response from the financial community has been great,” joking, “I’ve never been the pretty girl,” but saying that he and his brother are entertaining many offers.
“We feel young,” Bob Weinstein said on stage, drinking from a bottle of Diet Coke during the chat, “We want to keep doing it. Look at the film and see what we’ve done, and we want to do more of it.” And brother Harvey Weinstein offered, “We are not gonna stop making films or being the kind of film company that we are,” emphasizing that their relationships with Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and others would continue at any new company he and his brother create. “They’re coming with us,” he asserted.