Friday, January 29, 2010

R.I.P. Miramax Films, 1979-2010?

The offices of legendary arthouse movie studio Miramax closed their doors on Jan. 28. Founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who left the studio in 2005 and formed The Weinstein Company, recently expressed interest in buying their former company back from Disney, but Disney chief Bob Iger set a price of $1.5 billion, which is probably too high, considering the issues the Weinsteins have been having at their own company.

However, the Weinstein bros. might have been motivated enough to find the funds to get back their old name through sheer nostalgia and force of will. They started Miramax in 1979 and named it after their parents, Miriam and Max. They sold the studio to Disney in 1993. Due to budget restraints and disagreements with Michael Eisner, who was then the head of Disney, the Weinsteins left in 2005 and haven't really looked back until now. When they left the studio they left the name and the studio's film library behind.

Throughout the years, Miramax has produced and distributed such critically acclaimed films as Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Crying Game, The Piano, Clerks, Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Sling Blade, Trainspotting, Good Will Hunting, Life Is Beautiful, The Cider House Rules, Shakespeare in Love, Chocolat, Bridget Jones's Diary, Amelie, City of God, Chicago, The Aviator and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The Weinsteins and Miramax are at least partly responsible for launching the careers of filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, and have been an important force in bringing foreign films to American filmgoers. The face of independent cinema, and cinema as a whole, over the last 20 years would not be the same without Miramax's contributions. The legacy of the studio will not be forgotten.

Here's a highlight reel, circa 2003:

Miramax's six current projects, which include the romantic drama Last Night (starring Keira Knightley) and director Julie Taymor's take on William Shakespeare's The Tempest with Helen Mirren, will either be scrapped, get a very limited release in theaters or head straight to DVD. More information about projects they had in the works can be found on their website, and you can scroll through their impressive list of "Signature Films" at the bottom of the page.

*Update, Jan. 31* According to the latest news report, Disney is looking to sell off what's left of Miramax for around $700 million, attracting "seven to 10 bidders." Hopefully one of those bidders (and the winning one) is the Weinsteins.

On Miramax closing: The Wrap
On The Weinstein Co.'s financial issues: Deadline Hollywood
On the Weinstein bros.' desire to buy back Miramax: Deadline Hollywood
List of films released by Miramax: Wikipedia


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