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One final gold rush at Miramax

Future uncertain as studio continues to fight with Disney

HOLLYWOOD — It’s been a long and loud goodbye for Miramax.

Following a year in the press it would probably choose not to repeat, the mini-major came up strong in the Oscar race, casting doubt on the notion that it will simply fade into the sunset.

Miramax’s future remains uncertain as it continues to butt heads with Disney over its financial and distribution deals.

But it lived up to its reputation as a producer of prestige pics, leading the entire race with 11 Oscar nominations for “The Aviator” and seven for “Finding Neverland.” Both are nominated for best picture.

A few months ago, pundits were ready to write Miramax out of the Oscar race, due to its financial wrangling with Disney. Plus, the studio curtailed its usual flood of end-of-year releases, reducing the company’s kudos chances. But Miramax bounced back with double noms for best pic — the third time it’s earned that distinction in seven years. Last year, it failed to score a best-pic nom (“Cold Mountain” was its big hope), though it had a stake in “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” But before that, it had scored 13 best-pic noms in 11 years.

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“We’re grateful that the Academy recognized the diverse range of Miramax’s films,” Miramax co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “We’re proud to be working with such talented filmmakers, actors, writers and craftspeople responsible for a foreign language film, a modestly budgeted classic tale (‘Finding Neverland’) and, of course, Marty Scorsese’s epic (‘The Aviator’), which were recognized today.”

Another goodbye tale belongs to United Artists, which will no longer operate as a studio as of this summer due to the buyout of parent company MGM by a Sony-led consortium.

Its “Hotel Rwanda” received three noms: actor (Don Cheadle), supporting actress (Sophie Okonedo) and original screenplay.

Bingham Ray, former head of United Artists, said it was a script that “blew me away. I thought it was a very powerful story. It was what we’d always been looking for at UA, the stories that are unlike any other that are out there or soon to be out there,” he added.Despite its accolades, Ray, who left UA two weeks into shooting “Rwanda,” says the film proved a difficult, “nightmarish” project due to financing troubles and complications involved in filming in South Africa.

Meanwhile, UA was facing its own hardships. Last year saw Ray’s departure (he was eventually replaced by Danny Rosett) along with the move of the company’s Gotham base to Los Angeles, and a shift from acquisitions to production.

Ray said of “Rwanda’s” success, “It’s well-deserved. It’s not bittersweet.”