Disney/Miramax split is official
According to The Hollywood Reporter after a prolonged, monthslong negotiation, Bob and Harvey Weinstein and the Walt Disney Studios announced Tuesday that they are ending their 12-year exclusive relationship, under which the Weinsteins ran Miramax Films.
The divorce was characterized as a
mutual agreement"and culminated what Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook called a
"long and arduous process,"" which he insisted
"was always amicable."
"While it's always hard to leave behind the company named after our parents, Miriam and Max,"Harvey Weinstein said,
"we are hitting the ground running,"as he and his brother prepare to launch a new company with ambitious plans to release 15-20 films in its first year.
It is not clear how much the Weinsteins had to pay Disney for the film projects that they will take to the new company. But the settlement compensation, which Disney paid to Miramax, according to Miramax sources, amounted to about $135 million. Cook would not comment on the figure.
Disney, which acquired Miramax for $80 million in 1993, retains control of Miramax's 600-title library as well as the Miramax name. Since the name had sentimental value, the Weinsteins had hoped to take it with them, and losing control of it, Harvey Weinstein said, was
"the toughest part of the entire negotiation."
The announcement came in the form of a phone conference in which Cook and the Weinsteins -- though Harvey Weinstein spoke for the two brothers -- sketched out their futures.
The Weinsteins will remain co-chairs of Miramax on a nonexclusive basis through Sept. 30, when their contract expires. During that time, they will focus on completing projects already in production and will oversee the marketing and distribution of Miramax and Dimension films scheduled for release. They include Sin City, The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D, Mindhunters, Proof, The Brothers Grimm, The Great Raid and The Underclassman, Cook said.
"immediately start the search process"for new management to run a leaner Miramax for Disney. While such names as Buena Vista International executive Daniel Battsek and producer Michael De Luca already have been mentioned, Cook emphasized that the selection process had just begun and a new Miramax head will not be announced until July.
The Weinsteins will make no new financial commitments toward the development, acquisition or production of projects on behalf of Miramax.
But the brothers will begin creating their new company, temporarily dubbed the Weinstein Co., and will begin the production, development and acquisition of projects for their venture.
Looking to the future, the Weinsteins are not thinking small. They are reportedly seeking to raise $1 billion -- $500 million in equity and $500 million in debt. They have no intention of being mere
"independent producers,"Weinstein said, but are building a "giant multimedia company" that will encompass film production and distribution, broadcasting, books, new technology, the Internet and theater and the possible purchase of a cable company.
At Disney, the Weinsteins had been frustrated, Weinstein said, by their inability to pursue the acquisition of Artisan Entertainment, Bravo and IFC Films as well as the fact that they could not get a green light for The Lord of the Rings. They would have liked to have built a company worth $2 billion into one worth $5 billion, but Disney thwarted those efforts.
"This will finally give Bob and I the entrepreneurial opportunity we have long sought,"Weinstein said of the new company.
Disney will honor all Miramax employee contracts past September, though Miramax sources said the Weinsteins have arranged with Disney to bring many staffers to their new company.
"We look forward to spending time in both the L.A. and N.Y. offices discussing with you our future plans and potential employment opportunities with our new company,"Bob and Harvey Weinstein wrote to their staffs in an e-mail Tuesday.
"We plan to immediately begin scouting out new projects for it to pursue."
The Weinsteins will take Dimension Films, Miramax's genre label, with them to their new company.
But like divorced parents who share custody of their children, Disney and the Weinsteins will continue to have dealings with each other.
They could collaborate on 25 or more projects including, but not limited to, co-productions of sequels to such hit film franchises as Scary Movie and Spy Kids. They also will co-finance the production and distribution of original films including Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering, starring Jude Law and Juliette Binoche; Stephen Frears' Mrs. Henderson Presents; Derailed, starring Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen; and the Sundance acquisition The Matador. Disney and the Weinsteins also will co-venture on the fantasy franchise Artemis Fowl.
Monday night, at the Westwood premiere of Sin City director Robert Rodriguez praised Bob Weinstein as an executive he could call and get a green light from over the phone.
"I'll follow him wherever he goes,"he said.
Rodriguez will be one of the filmmakers joining the Weinstein Co. Others expected to follow the Weinsteins include Quentin Tarantino, whose new four-hour, NC-17 version of the two Kill Bill movies will be wholly owned by the Weinsteins, along with a planned Kill Bill sequel.
Kevin Smith will deliver the Weinstein Co. his sequel The Passion of the Clerks, which also will be owned by the Weinsteins, who will no longer have to worry about the rating and content issues that forced them to seek alternative distribution for several films, including Dogma, Priest, O and Fahrenheit 9/11.
Michael Moore is expected to bring his latest documentary on the health-care system, Sicko, to the Weinsteins, though the deal has not been made. They have retained the rights to The Nanny Diaries and a remake of Honey West. The Dimension horror films Wolf Creek and Pulse also will be wholly owned by the new venture.
"They keep the old business. We keep the ongoing business,"Weinstein said.
The Weinsteins have not announced any sources of financing -- and skeptics argue that they face a challenging climate on Wall Street for raising capital and may need an angel like Paul Allen or Philip Anschutz.
"Nobody would have invested in DreamWorks if it were presented now,"one studio chief said.
"It will be difficult to sell the Weinsteins' plan to a studio or business investment without a library for cash flow."