Miramax, LLC (also known as Miramax Films) is an American entertainment company known for producing and distributing films and television shows. It is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Miramax was founded in 1979 by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and was a leading independent film motion picture distribution and production company before it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company on June 30, 1993. The Weinsteins operated Miramax with more creative and financial independence than any other division of Disney until September 30, 2005, when they left the company and founded a new studio, The Weinstein Company. Miramax was sold by Disney to Filmyard Holdings, a joint venture of Colony NorthStar, Tutor-Saliba Corporation, and Qatar Investment Authority, in 2010, ending Disney's 17-year ownership of the studio. In 2016, the company was sold to the beIN Media Group. In 2019, beIN agreed to sell a 49% stake in the company to ViacomCBS (via its Paramount Pictures unit).
The company was founded by the brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein in Buffalo, New York, in 1979, and was named by combining the first names of their parents, Miriam and Max. It was 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 American marketplace. The resulting film, the American version of The Secret Policeman's Other Ball 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 American sensibilities and audiences.
Among the company's other breakthrough films as distributors in the late 1980s and early 1990s were Pulp Fiction; Scandal; Sex, Lies, and Videotape; Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!; The Crying Game, and Clerks. The company also made films such as Flirting with Disaster, Heavenly Creatures and Shakespeare in Love.
Miramax acquired and/or produced many other films that did extraordinarily well financially. The company became one of the leaders of the independent film boom of the 1990s. Miramax produced or distributed seven films with box office grosses totaling more than $100 million; its most successful title, Chicago, earned more than $300 million worldwide.
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, while TV distribution is now with Trifecta Entertainment & Media.
On June 30, 1993, Miramax was purchased for $60 million by The Walt Disney Company, which paved a way for Disney to enter the independent film market. Bob and Harvey 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 subsidiaries, and as a result had more autonomy than the other Disney-owned 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 released Miramax output.
In addition to owning Miramax between 1993 and 2010, Disney also owned the rights to Miramax's pre-1993 library at the time.
With a more stable budget, Miramax began moving beyond acquisitions and distribution and into film productions. Until September 30, 2005 the company also operated the label Dimension Films, which was solely founded by Bob to specialize in teen, horror, and other genre films, and created the Scream and Scary Movie film franchises. Harvey funded larger projects and from up and coming directors including Robert Rodriguez, Gus Van Sant and Quentin Tarantino. Some of the films earned Oscars.
In 1997, Miramax joined Peter Jackson as a primary financial backer in attempting to get the Lord of the Rings films produced. Disney disliked the cost of a two-parter, requesting that it be produced as a single film. Jackson and Saul Zaentz rejected Disney's request and looked for another studio or financier. Thus, Miramax sold the rights for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to New Line Cinema in August 1998 for about $12 million, which led The Lord of the Rings to be produced as a trilogy. Miramax retained a 5% stake in the films' gross and then gave 2.5% to the Weinsteins.
Through Miramax, Harvey founded Talk magazine with Tina Brown in 1998 (it shut down in 2002), albeit without the approval of then-Disney chief Michael Eisner, which upset Eisner. Also that year, 30 former employees filed suit over unpaid overtime wages.
By 2003, Miramax was less operative in the independent film market and became more of a mini-major as the company only acquired 3 films while producing Cold Mountain for $80 million. The Weinsteins claimed the company was profitable, but Walt Disney Co. president Robert Iger indicated in June 2004 that they were not properly accounting for "account standard overhead, distribution fees, bonuses that we pay Bob and Harvey. Nor are they applying current accounting rules."
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. The primary source of dispute was over distribution of Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore. 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 The Weinstein Company, and took the Dimension Films label with them. The Miramax name remained with the film studio owned by Disney. Production at Miramax was taken over by Daniel Battsek, who had been head of Buena Vista International in the UK. Battsek refocused Miramax to produce films of high quality but low budget. Maple Pictures held the rights to distribute Miramax films in Canada from 2008 up until August 10, 2011, when Maple Pictures was acquired by Alliance Films.
Attorney Bert Fields of Greenberg Glusker Fields represented Bob and Harvey Weinstein through years of skirmishes between Miramax and its corporate owner Disney, rarely making public statements until he settled up the brothers’ departure in 2005, without litigation.
On October 3, 2009, Disney announced that the staff of Miramax was to be reduced by 70%, and the number of releases would be reduced by half to just three films per year. The label's marketing, distribution and administrative functions, which had operated independently, would be folded into the parent studio in Burbank. The move became effective in January 2010. On October 30, 2009, Disney announced the resignation of Daniel Battsek as President of Miramax Films, effective when the transition from the studio in New York to Burbank was completed. The company merged its operations with The Walt Disney Studios on January 28, 2010, shutting down Miramax's separate New York and Los Angeles offices.
Though Disney Studio Chairman Dick Cook was a staunch supporter of Miramax, the brand was less of a priority for CEO Bob Iger, whose strategy was to focus on Disney's branded mass entertainment that can be exploited across Disney's theme parks, television and consumer products. Following Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel Entertainment in 2009, Cook was succeeded by Rich Ross. As a result, Miramax was relegated to the status of distribution label within the Walt Disney Company. The company confirmed that it was looking into selling the Miramax label on February 9, 2010, with Bob Iger explaining "We determined that continuing to invest in new Miramax movies wasn't necessarily a core strategy of ours".
On November 23, 2010, it was reported that Google was interested in purchasing the digital rights to the Miramax library to improve the premium content offerings on YouTube, and compete with similar services such as Hulu and Netflix.
On December 3, 2010, Disney closed the sale of Miramax for US$663 million to Filmyard Holdings, an investment group and joint venture of Colony NorthStar, Tutor-Saliba Corporation, and Qatar Investment Authority. The sale included 700 film titles, books, development projects, and the "Miramax" name. Mike Lang, the former News Corporation business development executive who was selected as the CEO of Miramax, indicated that the company would focus on their existing library, though they would continue making original content.
After the sale was closed, some movies already developed at Miramax, including The Tempest and Gnomeo & Juliet, were eventually released by Disney under its Touchstone Pictures banner, and theatrical distribution of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and The Debt were shifted to FilmDistrict and Focus Features respectively.
On February 11, 2011, Miramax entered a home entertainment agreement with Lions Gate Entertainment and StudioCanal to distribute over 550 titles from the Miramax library on DVD and Blu-ray. Lionsgate will handle distribution in the United States, with StudioCanal handling European distribution. On February 17, they struck a deal with Echo Bridge Home Entertainment to distribute the company's additional 251-title catalog domestically on DVD/Blu-ray. The latter deal expired in October 2014, after which Lionsgate expanded its existing deal to include Echo Bridge's collection of the library; thus, Lionsgate has full home entertainment distribution of the entire Miramax library in North America. From 2012 to 2017, Warner Home Video had assumed Japanese home entertainment distribution of the Miramax catalog.
On March 1, 2011, Miramax renewed its Canadian distribution deal with Alliance Films, which had been a distributor of Miramax releases in Canada from 1987 to 2008 and will replace Maple Pictures (which had distributed Miramax releases from 2008 to 2011). Alliance will have access to all of the company's library titles again and distribution rights to new Miramax films produced in the next five years.
On March 25, 2011, Miramax entered licensing talks with various digital premium services, including Netflix, Amazon, Google, and Hulu, for digital distribution of the former company's film library.
On September 6, 2011, Miramax announced that hundreds of its film titles were available digitally in Latin American territories including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina under a multi-year agreement with Netflix. Miramax on September 28 signed a multi-year agreement to bring a broad array of its films to Hulu subscribers in Japan. On November 16, 2011, Miramax announced a multi-year digital licensing agreement to stream a broad range of films to Netflix members in the U.K. and Ireland, and on November 21, 2011, Brazil's NetMovies and Miramax entered into a multi-year movie streaming agreement.
During 2011, Miramax raised funds via a film-backed securitization that valued the company at over $800 million.
On January 29, 2012, Panasonic announced that the Miramax App will be one of the new apps to join Viera Connect in 2012, enabling users to access Miramax's library of films. On January 31, 2012, Miramax signed a video-on-demand agreement with BT Vision that gives BT Vision Unlimited subscribers instant access to a range of Miramax's award-winning movies.
On March 16, 2012, Mike Lang stepped down from as Miramax CEO. Miramax CFO Steve Schoch ran the company until 2016.
In March 2012, Miramax and Britain's branded multichannel broadcaster UKTV announced a licensing agreement under which a number of the studio's hit films will be made available to UKTV subscribers across its basic pay and DTT channels.
On April 1, 2012, Miramax and Sky Italia, Italy's leading pay TV platform, announced a deal under which that network will air many of the leading titles from Miramax's collection across all of its pay television channels in Italy. On April 2, 2012, Miramax and the Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Family Trust announced that Miramax's Global Sales team will manage global licensing of the library produced by Samuel Goldwyn across a broad range of television and digital platforms.
On December 16, 2013, Miramax entered into a deal with Bob and Harvey Weinstein's The Weinstein Company to develop and distribute select derivative works of films from the former studio. Sequels, TV series, or stage productions of titles such as Rounders and Shakespeare in Love were among the projects said to be part of this agreement.
In October 2014, Miramax announced that it will license the television and digital distribution rights to the Revolution Studios library, which also includes the catalog of Morgan Creek International.
On July 17, 2015, Qatar and Colony NorthStar put Miramax up for sale for an offer of $1 billion. Harvey and Bob Weinstein had reportedly regained interest in reacquiring the studio via TWC in September. On March 2, 2016, Miramax was sold to beIN Media Group, a spinoff of Al Jazeera Media Network (which formerly owned its namesake beIN Sports).
In a July 2016 interview Harvey Weinstein stated that he was still interested in combining TWC's film library with Miramax's, after the acquisition of the latter by beIN.
After Miramax's co-founder Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault, Miramax became one of 60 parties bidding on The Weinstein Company on January 16, 2018. On April 27, Miramax and Lantern Capital emerged as the strongest contenders to acquire TWC's assets. Ultimately, it was Lantern that acquired TWC's library.
On June 7, 2019, beIN began the process of selling approximately 50% of Miramax in an effort to offer it for growth. Lionsgate (which is currently distributing Miramax's titles on home video), Spyglass Media Group (owners of the Weinstein Company library, inherited via their deal with Lantern) and Viacom (Paramount's parent company who re-merged with CBS Corporation on December 4, 2019 to form ViacomCBS) are seen as the leading contenders to acquire a stake in the company. However, on August 19, 2019, Lionsgate and Viacom were the only contenders, as Spyglass Media Group dropped out of contention. On September 11, 2019, it was announced Lionsgate had dropped their bid, making Viacom the only bidder for the stake in Miramax. But on November 8, 2019, Viacom exited the negotiations to acquire them. After merging with CBS Corporation to become ViacomCBS, the combined firm resumed talks with Miramax.
On December 20, 2019, ViacomCBS announced that they would acquire 49% of Miramax from beIN for at least $375 million, with Paramount Pictures gaining exclusive worldwide distribution rights to the Miramax library. ViacomCBS and Miramax will also co-produce new content based on titles from the Miramax library. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.
The company has been criticized for delaying or withholding release of Asian films to which it acquires the U.S. distribution rights while trying to bar retailers from legally exporting authentic DVDs of the films.
In a 2005 interview, director Hayao Miyazaki related that Harvey Weinstein aggressively sought a large number of edits to Miyazaki's animated film Princess Mononoke for the film's American release. Miyazaki stated that his producer sent Weinstein a samurai sword with the message "No cuts" attached to the blade. According to Miyazaki, the film was released without the edits Weinstein wanted. Weinstein has always insisted that such editing is done in the interest of creating the most financially viable film. "I'm not cutting for fun", 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."
Miramax Family (also known as Miramax Family Films) was the family division of Miramax Films; it was created in 1991 and shut down in 2006. In March 2019, Miramax revived its family and animation division. Michael Lachance, who had previously developed projects at DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation, was named the division's executive vice president.
Films and TV shows distributed by Miramax Family are listed here.
Miramax Television is the television production division tasked with producing TV shows based on the existing Miramax films library and original concepts. Its projects include the following:
|The World of David the Gnome||1987||Nickelodeon||English dub co-produced with Cinar for BRB Internacional|
|Wasteland||1999–2000||ABC||co-production with Outerbanks Entertainment|
|Clerks: The Animated Series||2000–2002||co-production with Touchstone Television, View Askew Productions, Woltz International Pictures, and Walt Disney Television Animation (uncredited)|
|Project Greenlight||2001–2005||HBO||co-production with Adaptive Studios and Pearl Street Films|
|Project Runway||2004–2011||Lifetime||seasons 1–9 only; co-production with Bunim/Murray Productions, Full Picture Entertainment, Heidi Klum Productions, Magical Elves Productions, and The Weinstein Company Television (Seasons 2–16)|
|From Dusk till Dawn: The Series||2014–2016||El Rey Network||co-production with Sugarcane Entertainment, FactoryMade Ventures, and Rodriguez International Pictures|
|Spy Kids: Mission Critical||2018–present||Netflix||co-production with Dimension Television, Mainframe Studios and Troublemaker Studios|
|Gone Baby Gone||2018||N/A||unaired TV pilot; co-production with 20th Century Fox Television|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Miramax films.|