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Miramax Film to Cut 13% More of Its Workforce

The Disney-owned studio says the 55 employees affected will be mid-level executives and support staff.

September 24, 2004|Lorenza Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Walt Disney Co.'s Miramax Film Corp. announced Thursday that it was laying off 55 workers, three months after trimming nearly 20% of its workforce.

This latest round of job cuts, most of which will be at Miramax's New York headquarters, will result in an additional 13% reduction, with 365 employees remaining. Miramax said the cuts would affect mid-level executives and support staff.

The layoffs come as co-founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein are under increasing pressure from Disney to slash spending.

"This is not a reflection of anyone's performance," company spokesman Matthew Hiltzik said. "It is part of an ongoing effort to maximize efficiency and profitability by bringing our staffing levels in line with our [film] release plans."

The cuts also come as the Weinstein brothers are negotiating with the parent company over their future at Miramax.

But the recent announcement by Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner that he plans to step down when his contract expires in September 2006, combined with the Disney board's search for a successor, has slowed talks.

Since Miramax was bought by Disney in 1993 for about $75 million, the brothers have produced such highly profitable films as "Pulp Fiction" and the lucrative "Scary Movie" franchise and "Spy Kids" series. They have also given Disney the prestige of Oscar winners such as "The English Patient," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Chicago."

But Miramax has increasingly chafed under tighter financial reins imposed by Disney, which is under pressure to further improve profit.

Likewise, Miramax has struggled as some of its expensive films, including "Gangs of New York" and "Cold Mountain," had disappointing box-office returns. The Weinsteins and Disney have been feuding for more than a year over how much production and marketing money Disney allocates to Miramax and how Miramax accounts for its profit, which determines how much the Weinsteins are paid.

Beyond the layoffs, Miramax has been reining in costs by curtailing movie development, production and acquisition. The company expects to announce its 2005 production slate soon.

This year the studio had 16 releases, down from 22 last year. Coming films include such Oscar hopefuls as "Finding Neverland" starring Johnny Depp and Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biographical film "The Aviator."

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