Pic partners ponder prospects as Eisner, Weinstein haggle

HOLLYWOOD — Is he staying or leaving?

That question surrounding Harvey Weinstein continues to beleaguer Miramax staff and business partners, who await an answer with growing impatience.

There were rumors last week that Harvey had signaled to his staff that he fully expected to depart his Disney association, but the report was firmly denied.

No one, however, was denying that tensions between Miramax and Disney had reached a boiling point. Similarly, the once unthinkable possibility that brothers Harvey and Bob might go their separate ways was not refuted.

One game plan under discussion is that Bob Weinstein and his Dimension label might stay at Disney while Harvey takes the Miramax program of films to another entity.

The key to the situation, of course, is the position of Michael Eisner.

At this point, insiders say, it’s up to Eisner to advance a proposal that would either keep Harvey in the company or pave the way for his exit.

Despite what’s reported to be an amicable dialogue between Eisner and Harvey at Herb Allen‘s retreat, nothing from Eisner has been forthcoming. Indeed, Disney’s main dealmaker Peter Murphy was on vacation.

“Is Eisner icing Harvey?” asks one key producer who has many dealings with Miramax. “And how long will it be before the ice starts to thaw?”

The Weinstein brothers founded Miramax in 1979 and sold it to Disney for $80 million in 1993. Disney has estimated that the company is now worth $2 billion.

The brothers, as co-chairmen of Miramax, are under contract until 2009. But Disney has an option to opt out of their pacts next year.

Relations between the freres and Eisner have grown fractious over matters as diverse as P&A budgets and aesthetics. The two sides have publicly aired disagreements even over profitability; however, the most high-profile flap was over Disney’s refusal to distribute “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The company’s film library, including some 550 pics, has earned 200 Oscar nominations and includes such Oscar winners as “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago.”

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