Miramax’s Road to “Indie” Dependence

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Tarantino’s 1994 film, Pulp Fiction really helped Miramax to take off as an “indie blockbuster” station of production. Alisa Perren’s Indie Inc., Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood examines the evolution of Miramax and the way in which its cultural capital influenced its economic capital.

When dealing with media and marketing, the industry is constantly changing and there seems to be no way but to follow the technology trends. Miramax is following that scope and has followed it as the times have changed. Miramax, for years, had tried to find their “niche”. They were known for “distributing a certain strand of edgy, low budget, quality American films…” (Perren 3). They opened up the independent film world and began a new specialty business. Other film companies were imitating their model in hopes that it would boost their sales as well.

imagesMiramax was distributing to specific demographic groups (Perren 6).This was the politica l economic approach to Hollyood and gateway for Miramax. “In addition it explores how, on a smaller scale, Miramax exploited Disney’s resources to transform a diverse set of films into multimedia franchises” (Perren 12). Miramax used Disney to gain and help their production and quality of films. Miramax became a cultural and creative influence to others.

An article in The Toledo Blade on April 2nd, 1998 headlines, “Miramax chief promises diversity”. The article describes Harvey Weinstein’s passion and commitment to gay rights and concerns about AIDS and HIV. Other articles as well as Perren indicate that Weinstein and Miramax’s goal was to reach a different audience and by diversity they seemed to be trying to attract the “indie” crowd.

Speaking of diversity, in 2004, Miramax has a $50,000 scholarship available at the University of Buffalo in New York that promotes diversity and encourages independent filmmakers from diverse backgrounds to continue their films studies beyond the undergraduate level.

The interview, conducted by Lucas Shaw from The Wrap with Miramax chairman, Tom Barrack, highlights the changes being made within the Miramax. Miramax was purchased for $663 million and is now being run by “veteran executives”. Miramax is now competing with Netflix and Amazon to create and distribute content. Perren writes, “This transformation involved the increasing dependence of Hollywood on niche product that exhibited the potential to cross over from specific demographic groups to broader audiences. And as argued throughout, this transformation included not only American indies but also genre films, English-language imports, and foreign-language imports—each group having its own particular stylistic traits and narrative characteristics” (63).  Miramax is entering a pool with many variables and needs to be able to compete with the broad demographic. It is not just Hollywood anymore. It is an international film world that is being created, and is now more accessible than ever before.

Barrack has no intention to sell Miramax and wants Miramax to grow immensely and be able to generate content on a level that gains popularity and is distributed with frequency. Barrack believes that “new” is what will bring Miramax to the top. What will keep them in the lead is providing new material for consumers. Barrack states,

“We’re through the first trimester of our growth. Part of the confusion in the industry was that everyone was hoping and expecting to see us continue our great legacy of independent film production that the Weinsteins had given birth to. We hoped we’d be able to, though not as well as they did. That was a dynastic era in which they developed those 750 films”.

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

Images from Creative Commons.

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Comments

  1. Early on you mention that, particularly where media and marketing, are concerned “the [film] industry is constantly changing and there seems to be no way but to follow the technology trends.”
    This seems like an observation that would really benefit from some further discussion, especially since Perren doesn’t really devote much time in Indie, Inc. to an examination of how shifts in technology affected and/or were mirrored in shifts in other areas that she considers at greater length and that you also mention. Here I’m thinking of things such as industrial organization, cinematic style, audience segmentation, social and political sensibility, the globalization/internationalization of cinema and other forms of culture, etc.

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