Disney set to resurrect plans to put Miramax on the market

Studio at forefront of independent film-making could fetch $700m
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The Independent Online

Miramax, the struggling art-house film studio that brought classics such as Pulp Fiction and The Queen to mass audiences, could get a new lease of life under new owners.

Disney, which has owned the studio since 1993, has resurrected plans to sell Miramax and its library of 700 titles, which include Oscar winners such as No Country For Old Men, The English Patient and Chicago, according to reports circulating in Hollywood. An attempt to sell the business a year ago faltered after the credit crisis hindered potential buyers, and the studio has been all but mothballed by Disney executives since then.

Last Friday, Miramax offices were closed and the operation was folded into Disney's larger film studio, which has decided to focus on blockbuster franchises. The company said last year that it would be cutting all but 10 of the 70 remaining jobs, and would wind down the studio over two years. Six Miramax films are left to be released, including The Baster, a new Jennifer Aniston vehicle, and Last Night, starring Keira Knightly.

Miramax was founded in 1979 by the film producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and it seems likely the brothers will at least examine the possibility of bidding for the company. "There isn't much in the world that would make our 83-year-old mother happier,'' they said last week.

Their current venture, The Weinstein Company, is behind this year's Oscar contender Inglourious Basterds.

Other potential bidders could include Summit Entertainment, which has emerged as a Hollywood power player thanks to the Twilight vampire series. Analysts said the studio could be worth up to $700m (£440m).

Disney's $4bn acquisition of Marvel Entertainment, the comic books and characters company, which was finalised last month, has bolstered Disney's efforts to create new family blockbusters that can be turned into licensing and merchandising cash machines – and left art-house movies further out in the cold. Disney also owns Pixar, the animation studio, and has a new deal to distribute Steven Spielberg movies that begins this year.

Miramax is credited with launching the career of director Quentin Tarantino and pushing independent film-making into the box office mainstream in the Nineties, but it faltered after the Weinsteins left in 2005 in a dispute with Disney over the distribution of the Michael Moore documentary Farenheit 911 and contractual issues. The economics of independent film-making have also changed now that revenues from post-release DVD sales have begun to fall.

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