Miramax Films

Miramax Films

Miramax Films is a film production and distribution brand that was a leading independent film motion picture distribution and production company headquartered in New York City before it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. Miramax was considered an important quasi-independent studio for many years after the Disney purchase. After the Weinsteins left in late 2005, Miramax Films is operated by Daniel Battsek under Disney.

History

Founded by the brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein in Buffalo, New York in 1979, the company was named by combining the first names of their parents Max and Miriam, and was originally created to distribute independent films deemed commercially unfeasible by the major studios.

The company's first major success came when the Weinsteins teamed up with British producer Martin Lewis and acquired the U.S. rights to two concert films Lewis had produced of benefit shows for human rights organization Amnesty International. The Weinsteins worked with Lewis to distill the two films into one film for the US marketplace. The resulting film The Secret Policeman's Other Ball (US Version) was a successful release for Miramax in the summer of 1982. This release presaged a modus operandi that the company would undertake later in the 1980s of acquiring films from international filmmakers and reworking them to suit US sensibilities.

Among the company's other breakthrough films as distributors in the late 1980s and early 1990s were Scandal, sex, lies, and videotape, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and The Crying Game. The company also made films such as Pulp Fiction, Heavenly Creatures and Shakespeare in Love. In addition to those successes, Miramax acquired and/or produced many films that did extraordinarily well financially. The company became one of the leaders of the independent film revolution of the 1990s. Miramax produced or distributed seven films with box office grosses totalling more than $100 million; its most successful title, Chicago, earned more than $300 million worldwide. The company was also exceptionally successful in securing Academy Award nominations for its releases and a large number of the nominations resulted in Oscar wins.

In 1992, Miramax began a deal with Paramount Pictures for VHS and TV distribution of certain Miramax releases. Paramount would also distribute theatrically certain releases that might have commercial appeal (such as Bob Roberts, though video rights to that film were owned by Live Entertainment - which is now Lions Gate Entertainment). Paramount still owns video rights to some of these films today, while TV distribution is now with CBS Television Distribution.

In 1993 Miramax was purchased for $70 million by The Walt Disney Company. Harvey and Bob Weinstein continued to operate Miramax until they left the company on September 30, 2005. During their tenure, the Weinstein brothers ran Miramax independently of other Disney companies. Disney, however, had the final say on what Miramax could release (see Fahrenheit 9/11 and Dogma, for examples). Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment division releases Miramax output.

After extensive negotiations and much media and industry speculation, on March 30, 2005, Disney and the Weinsteins announced that they would not renew their contractual relationship when their existing agreements expired at the end of September 2005. Disney's film studio consortium, Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group assumed control of Miramax, which was projected to have a smaller annual production budget. The Weinsteins started a new film production company called simply The Weinstein Company, and took the Dimension Films label with them. The Miramax name remained with the film studio owned by Disney. Miramax is currently run by Daniel Battsek, who formerly was head of Buena Vista International in the UK.

Miramax Family

Miramax Family (also known as Miramax Family Films) is the family division of Miramax Films created in 1991. Some films distributed by them are:

Criticism

Miramax has come under criticism for its editing, dubbing, and replacing the soundtracks of various foreign films it releases. One notable example is Iron Monkey, which though released subtitled, had its subtitles altered to remove the political context of the story, had scenes trimmed and changed for violence and pacing, and had the soundtrack changed, removing the famous Wong Fei Hung theme. Other films that they have altered in this way include Shaolin Soccer, Farewell My Concubine (theatrical release) and Jet Li's Fist of Legend.

Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures details many of Weinstein's dishonest dealings with filmmakers.

Under the Weinsteins, Miramax had a history of buying the rights to Asian films, only to sit on them without releasing them for some years. One example of this is Hero, a 2002 Chinese martial arts film. It languished in Miramax's vaults for two years before it was salvaged with the intervention of Quentin Tarantino. And sometimes Miramax purchased films only to never release them. An example of this is Tears of the Black Tiger, a Thai film. After changing the ending of the film, Tears of the Black Tiger sat in Miramax's vaults for five years until its rights were purchased by Magnolia Pictures in 2006.

One reason for the delays and non-releases of films was an accounting scheme the Weinsteins used to shift potential money-losing films to future fiscal years and ensure they would receive annual bonuses from Disney. while trying to bar retailers from selling authentic imported DVDs of the films.

Many North American fans, wanting to see the films held up by Miramax, would seek out DVD versions of the films on the Internet from overseas dealers such as MonkeyPeaches This Chinese movie website accused both its ISP and Miramax of "backstabbing" their site by threatening legal action with no prior warning, unless it immediately stopped selling Hero, which was still in US theaters. The ISP responded by shutting down the site.

As a result of the Weinsteins' actions, a number of Asian producers who sold their distribution rights to the company refuse to do so for their subsequent films.

Defenders of the company point out that prior to Miramax most of the films purchased by the company would have had little to no chance of achieving U.S. distribution other than by very small distributors with minimal marketing expertise and funds. They also state that the purpose of the company's aggressive re-editing technique was always to try help the films find a broader American audience than they might otherwise find.

"I'm not cutting for fun", Harvey Weinstein said in an interview. "I'm cutting for the shit to work. All my life I served one master: the film. I love movies."

Selected list of Miramax films

1980s

1990s

2000s

References

External links

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