Credits roll on a match made in Hollywood as Weinsteins leave Disney

This is the divorce all Hollywood has been waiting for. After 12 years of extraordinary productivity as well as near-constant bickering and personality clashes, the Weinstein brothers of Miramax and their corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, have finally called it quits.

Harvey and Bob Weinstein will at last be free to pursue their dream of building a multi-media company without having to worry about Disney's commitment to "family values" and the corporate bottom line. Disney, meanwhile, will keep the Miramax name and the library of Miramax titles, and no longer suffer regular bad-mouthings from its own subsidiary.

The tensions have been an almost constant over the past few years. Harvey Weinstein, the more vocal of the brothers, found it nigh-on impossible to contain his frustration at the tight leash wielded by Disney's chief executive, Michael Eisner. They fought over the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which ended up going elsewhere, they fought over Martin Scorsese's epic Gangs of New York, and they fought over Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which Miramax produced but Disney refused to distribute.

The acrimony was personal as well as professional. Eisner, the privately educated son of upper west side Manhattan wealth, was in many ways the diametric opposite of the streetwise Weinsteins, and his efforts to rein in the finances and the artistic ambitions of the Miramax duo created friction more or less by definition.

For the first several years, at least, that reaped remarkable creative rewards, with a string of hits - including Pulp Fiction, The English Patient and Shakespeare in Love - that turned Miramax into a virtual Oscar-winning machine. The company racked up 53 Academy Awards in the 12 years of its partnership with Disney.

More recently, however, the Weinsteins bridled at their budgetary constraints, set at $700m (£360m) a year, at the limits on their own personal compensation, at Disney's worries about suitable content, and at their relatively limited room for manoeuvring into new ventures.

The strange thing about the divorce, which has been in the works since last autumn, is that it has gone ahead even without Mr Eisner, who announced earlier this month that he would step down as Disney chief executive in October.

His replacement, Bob Iger, has tried to smooth relations, to the extent that Disney may help with the financing of as many as 25 future Weinstein productions, starting with the new installments of the Scary Movie and Spy Kids series.

The Weinsteins' new venture, tentatively called either The New Company or The Weinstein Company, will start with $130m in Disney money granted as part of the divorce settlement, although that figure will go down the more the brothers turn to Mr Iger for financing of their productions. The brothers also hope to raise as much as $1bn in new capital.

The loss of the Miramax name will be perhaps the biggest psychological blow - it was formed from the names of Harvey and Bob's parents, Miriam and Max - but the loss of their library might well prove a bigger financial hurdle. A number of analysts speculated yesterday that they would have to tighten their belts at least until they had a new crop of hits, and might have to put off their cable TV ambitions for years.

Disney, meanwhile, hopes to turn Miramax into a boutique arthouse production company similar to those at other big studios - Fox Searchlight, Sony Classics, and so on.

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