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Indie, Inc.

Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s

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  • Book Info
    Indie, Inc.
    Book Description:

    During the 1990s, films such assex, lies, and videotape,The Crying Game,Pulp Fiction,Good Will Hunting, andShakespeare in Loveearned substantial sums at the box office along with extensive critical acclaim. A disproportionate number of these hits came from one company: Miramax.Indie, Inc.surveys Miramax's evolution from independent producer-distributor to studio subsidiary, chronicling how one company transformed not just the independent film world but the film and media industries more broadly. As Alisa Perren illustrates, Miramax's activities had an impact on everything from film festival practices to marketing strategies, talent development to awards campaigning.

    Case studies of key films, includingThe Piano,Kids,Scream,The English Patient, andLife Is Beautiful, reveal how Miramax went beyond influencing Hollywood business practices and motion picture aesthetics to shaping popular and critical discourses about cinema during the 1990s.Indie, Inc.does what other books about contemporary low-budget cinema have not-it transcends discussions of "American indies" to look at the range of Miramax-released genre films, foreign-language films, and English-language imports released over the course of the decade. The book illustrates that what both the press and scholars have typically represented as the "rise of the American independent" was in fact part of a larger reconfiguration of the media industries toward niche-oriented products.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73715-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE Finding a Niche in the 1990s
    (pp. 1-15)

    In 1989, Miramax cochair Bob Weinstein employed military imagery to underscore his company’s marginal position relative to the Hollywood studios. In 1999, the press mobilized similar imagery to present the company as an oppressive force in the film business. Nowhere was the dramatic shift in Miramax’s image and industrial position more evident than on the morning after the 1999 Academy Awards ceremony. It was on this occasion that Amy Wallace of theLos Angeles Timesreported on Miramax’s surprising Best Picture Oscar win forShakespeare in Love(1998). From the perspective of Wallace, along with many others in the industry...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Rise of Miramax and the Quality Indie Blockbuster (1979-Fall 1992)
    (pp. 16-53)

    The release ofsex, lies, and videotapemarked a turning point for both Miramax and the independent scene. This film wielded an impact that resonated throughout the coming decade as Miramax released such later “indie blockbusters”¹ asThe Crying Game(1992),Pulp Fiction(1994),The English Patient(1996), andGood Will Hunting(1997). Indeed, withsex, lies, and videotape, Miramax carved out its early brand identity, helped establish the aesthetic parameters for low-budget independent films, and began to define the contours of the niche-oriented landscape of the 1990s. By “indie blockbuster,” I mean a film that, on a smaller scale,...

  6. CHAPTER THREE The “Secret” of Miramax’s Success: The Crying Game (Winter 1992–Spring 1993)
    (pp. 54-77)

    By 1992, Miramax, New Line, and Samuel Goldwyn were the only major 1980s independents left standing. It was an uncertain time for all three companies, as each struggled to redefine itself and remain afloat in a rapidly changing entertainment industry. Miramax responded to this instability by adding to its staff, acquiring more films, increasing its number of productions, and creating new divisions.¹ Such moves raised the company’s profile while at the same time diminishing its profit margins from 9 percent to 5 percent from 1990 to 1992.² Amid these changes, the company faced accusations from the press that it was...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Corsets, Clerks, and Criminals: Miramax in the Age of Disney (Summer 1993–Spring 1995)
    (pp. 78-112)

    No sooner had Disney announced its purchase of Miramax in the spring of 1993 than all eyes seemed to fix on the new subsidiary. The press and industry anxiously tracked Miramax’s actions, seeing the Weinsteins’ post-acquisition moves as general indications of the status of low-budget cinema and the independent film business at large. While optimists looked for expanding opportunities for filmmakers, pessimists watched for the first signs of co-optation or creative compromise. Both sides could—and did—easily find evidence to support their opinions in the ensuing years. But the consequences of the purchase both on the industry and on...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Another Dimension to the Miramax Brand: Kids, Scream, and the Teen Audience (Spring 1995–Spring 1997)
    (pp. 113-143)

    In early 1995, Miramax was at a high point. The company had its first $100 million hit withPulp Fiction(1994), continued to sign fresh talent and develop new divisions, and enjoyed a positive relationship with the press. The name Miramax had become a potent brand, synonymous with marketing acuity and high-quality, stylistically innovative, risk-taking content. It seemed the Weinsteins and their company could do no wrong. As the months passed, however, problems began to develop for both Miramax and the indie world at large. Smaller independent distributors continued to close their doors, thereby stimulating a heightened panic by the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Majors, Indies, Independents: The Rise of a Three-Tier System (Winter 1996–Spring 1997)
    (pp. 144-175)

    Ahandful of journalists declared nearly every year during the early-tomid-1990s as the “year of the independents.”¹ Yet this appellation failed to gain much traction until the announcement of the Best Picture nominees for 1996. Then, suddenly, this headline appeared on seemingly every newspaper and magazine in the United States. In the spring of 1997, one publication after another discussed how independents had pummeled the Hollywood majors in Academy Award nominations—and, soon after, award wins. Many in the press saw the praise directed toward indies as reaffirming that the Hollywood studios were no longer capable of—or cared to—produce...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Who Says Life Is Beautiful? (Summer 1997-Spring 1999)
    (pp. 176-207)

    By the summer of 1997, the hype about “the year of the indies” had begun to fade from the headlines. So, too, it seemed to many industry observers, did audience interest in indie films, as one release after another yielded disappointing results at the box office. Despite these modest returns, the major studios continued their steady march into the specialty business. Along with Universal’s recent purchase of October, Paramount proceeded with staffing its own classics division. The Canadian company Lions Gate also accelerated its shift into motion picture distribution through the acquisition of the independent distributor Cinepix Film Properties.¹ These...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Maxed Out: Miramax and Indiewood in the New Millennium
    (pp. 208-234)

    The Weinsteins did not leave Miramax until 2005. Disney did not shut down Miramax until 2010. By late 1999, however, cracks in the Disney-Miramax relationship, and challenges to the indie subsidiary’s business model, had already begun to appear. Though media analysts might not have declared “the age of Miramax” over until several years later—and even then, the precise moment of the end was debated—the company’s singular cultural status and industrial position had started to diminish before the new millennium began.¹ There were a variety of different reasons for this. First, structurally, the indie sector had expanded substantially since...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 235-284)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 285-290)
  14. Index
    (pp. 291-308)