Miramax axes 14% in retrench

70% of cuts were at lower or mid-management positions

This article was corrected on April 1, 2002.

Miramax was hit with a heavy round of layoffs Friday as co-heads Harvey and Bob Weinstein pink-slipped approximately 75 staffers — roughly 14% of the studio’s 540 workers.

The cuts were made in Gotham, Los Angeles, London and Rome and include employees of both Miramax and genre arm Dimension. Publicity, production, distribution, finance, marketing and Talk Miramax Books suffered losses.

“A number of factors led to this decision,” said Matthew Hiltzik, VP of corporate communications. “We had increased our staff by about 16% over the past four months, one of our busiest times of the year. These cuts restore us to the level where we were last October.”

Hiltzik also said the recent appointments of chief financial officer and exec VP of finance and operations Rob Landsbaum, as well as publicity topper Amanda Lundberg, “offered a natural opportunity to re-evaluate our staffing and personnel.”

Direction eyed

Miramax dodged the wave of layoffs afflicting other entertainment companies last year. But the Weinsteins may be re-evaluating the structure and direction of the company as the end of Oscar season approaches.

Miramax Films has recently displayed a renewed interest in the kind of pics that have historically brought it the most success: smaller English-lingo titles and foreign acquisitions, as opposed to glossy, expensive pics such as “The Shipping News” and “All the Pretty Horses.” Hiltzik cited pickups “In the Bedroom” and “Amelie” as examples of the types of pics Miramax will continue to pursue.

But for a mid-size company, Miramax also continues to maintain a deep roster of execs in areas like production, acquisitions and publicity.

“The company is way over-staffed,” said a source inside the studio. “There are just too many people. But that doesn’t make today any less depressing.”

Pressures mounted

Other pressure on Miramax’s bottom line has come from the demise last year of Talk magazine — which cost Miramax $25 million since its startup nearly three years ago — and disappointing box office results for recent high-profile films like “The Shipping News,” which grossed just $11.4 domestically, and “Imposter,” the $30 million-budgeted Dimension pic that grossed less than $10 million. More recently, Miramax’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Birthday Girl” grossed only $5 million.

Though Miramax and Dimension together posted a record box office year in 2001, riding on the shoulders of such pics as “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Spykids,” “The Others” and “Serendipity,” the costs of making so many films and losing big on some of them may have finally caught up with the company.

Hiltzik said the cuts were not required by parent company Walt Disney, which last year mandated 4,000 job cuts.

New duo have a hand

Landsbaum and Lundberg were said to have been instrumental in Miramax’s decision to make broad cuts. Publicity was hit especially hard, including staffers Juliette Knight and Robin Jonas. About 70% of the personnel who lost their jobs on Friday were at lower or mid-management positions.

Distribution also saw deep cuts, but production, development, marketing and acquisitions were not greatly effected. Exceptions include Gotham execs Heidi Herman, Adam Spetler and Regan Graves. These and other employees are said to have been given small severance packages.

Insiders say that while more major cuts are unlikely, a handful of additional personnel will be given pinkslips. And some execs will not be renewed once their contracts come due.

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