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Weinsteins Renew Disney Contract for 7 Years

May 05, 2000|JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The two brothers who founded Walt Disney's Miramax Films, the leading distributor of independent films such as "Shakespeare in Love," the "Scream" series and "The Cider House Rules," have agreed to stick with Disney seven more years, the company said Thursday.

Bob and Harvey Weinstein had been getting informal feelers by other studios in anticipation of their contracts expiring in two years. They sold Miramax to Disney for about $75 million in 1993.

At Disney, the Weinsteins enjoy exceptional autonomy, running what amounts to a studio within a studio and dealing directly with Eisner rather than going up through a chain of command.

Their financial restraints have loosened considerably since being bought by Disney, to the point where they are close to starting their biggest film to date, the $80-million "Gangs of New York" directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. They also launched such ventures as "Talk" magazine and a television division last year.

"These are the guys we came to the dance with, and we want to continue," Bob Weinstein said.

The acquisition has proved exceptionally profitable for Disney. Last year, Miramax made a profit of about $67 million with films such as "Shakespeare in Love" and "She's All That." In 1998, it earned $125 million on such films as "Good Will Hunting" and "Scream 2."

During a conference call this week with Wall Street analysts, Disney officials said that despite the success of "Cider House Rules," Miramax's numbers were off somewhat from the previous year because profit from "Shakespeare in Love" had been so strong.

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