Discussing the Transformation of Miramax

9780292754355_p0_v2_s260x420In this week’s book, Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s, Alisa Perren traces the transformation of Miramax from its beginnings as an independent distribution company, throughout its years under ownership by Disney. When the Weinstein brothers created the distribution company, it was only a small independent distributor that ran out of a one room apartment in Buffalo, New York. At the time, the future for low-budget independent films was not all that promising because, “most other independent distributors went into decline due to a range of factors, including overproduction, mismanagement, and broader industry consolidation” (Perren, pg. 17). One of the struggles faced was that independent operations lacked a distinct market. The major Hollywood studios were starting to show less interest in lower-budget productions, because audience attendance and support was hardly present. After these other independent distributors declined into bankruptcy, Harvey and Bob Weinstein transitioned their way from concert booking and promotion into film distribution. It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that Miramax became the first small independent distributor to be bought by a global media conglomerate. This new relationship with Walt Disney Studios opened up new opportunities, and:

“enabled the small independent film distributor to attain the resources it needed to produce, distribute, and market such Oscar-worthy fare as Shakespeare in Love” (Perren, pg. 2).


The new deal inevitably changed Miramax’s position within the industry. Under Disney’s ownership, it could no longer be classified as a small independent distributor. Instead, Miramax would now become a part of the indie division. I imagine that this distinction must be made, because after becoming a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, all the advantages Miramax gained no longer qualified them as “independent”, seeing as though they really were not on their own. Perren deciphers the blurred line that exists between the assumably interchangeable terms for the purpose of her book as:

“a film or company will be described by me as independent if it is unaffiliated with a major media conglomerate. If a conglomerate has and investment in it, I label it an indie. Thus, following its purchase by Disney, the formerly independent distributor Miramax became an indie division” (Perren, pg. 8)

After this new relationship was established, Miramax was able to capitalize on all the resources given to them by their new conglomerate partnership to create a multimedia franchise.  Perren argues that we must think beyond Miramax’s obvious accomplishment of making American independent films mainstream, but instead we must think of how this distribution company single-handedly restructured global Hollywood (Perren, pg. 12). She refers to the process as “Indiewoodization”. This was an alternative for producers and filmmakers who did not want to create a project through the Hollywood studio system. There was much advantage to creating films through Indiewood, that Hollywood just did not allow. (I came across an clever blog called Indiewood, Hollywoodn’t, for anyone that wants to check it out). To me, it seems as if Indiewood became a fortunate shortcut for those who did not want to go through Hollywoods big-studio system. Films made through Indiewood would cost far less money to produce, and would not have to be confirmed nor heavily regulated during production. The Weinstein brothers are looked upon as with much recognition and respect, many cannot help but to commend the way Miramax has restructured the independent film industry.


Work Cited:

Perren, Alisa. Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s. Austin: University of Texas, 2012. PDF.

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