LOS ANGELES (AP) – The breakup of the 12-year relationship between the Walt Disney Co. and indie film pioneers Bob and Harvey Weinstein allows the company some new latitude: making less expensive family films and co-producing sequels to some of Miramax’s biggest hits.

Yet Disney stands to lose the prestige that came from the Weinsteins. And it must overcome the perception that it’s unable to sustain relationships with partners, a central challenge to signing a new deal with partner Pixar Animation Studios.

Financial analysts have shrugged off the Weinsteins’ departure, saying that Disney is right to shift its attention to smaller budget pictures aimed at its traditional family audience.

“We think it is prudent for Disney to prioritize returns” over prestige films that make little money, Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto wrote in a note to clients Wednesday.

Disney bought Miramax in 1993 for $80 million, hoping for the kind of inexpensive hits the Weinsteins delivered such as “Pulp Fiction.”

But Disney chief executive Michael Eisner chafed at the Weinsteins’ ambitions to become a larger media company, bankrolling larger, costlier films and moving into book and magazine publishing.

The Weinstein brothers did deliver one thing Disney has not been able to achieve on its own – Academy Award-winning films. Three Miramax films – “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago” – have won best picture Oscars and the studio has garnered numerous other awards and nominations over the years.

This year, Miramax films received 20 nominations, including two in the best picture category for “The Aviator” and “Finding Neverland.”

But Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said Wednesday he intends to hire a creative team that will keep Miramax at the forefront of producing smart, edgy films.

“I think it’s awfully important,” Cook told The Associated Press. “It gives us an opportunity to find talented new filmmakers with fresh voices that are able to tackle new ideas in really thought-provoking and interesting ways.”

Disney has scaled back the budgets of films produced under its Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone labels and will release more movies aimed at family audiences.

Miramax will operate with less than half the budget of recent years.

The label will also have to do without the talents of such Weinstein-nurtured filmmakers as Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez. Those directors have said they will create their next projects with the Weinsteins’ new company.

Cook said Miramax will remain a serious player in the independent film world.

“We’re going to be looking to put together a team that is going to be able to ferret out great ideas, nurture filmmakers and do things that aren’t traditionally in the box,” Cook said.

With one thorny negotiation out of the way, Disney now turns its attention to another creative partner, Pixar Animation Studios.

Pixar broke off talks with Disney about extending their lucrative relationship past the delivery of next year’s film “Cars.” Disney’s incoming chief executive, Robert Iger, has said he will reopen talks with Pixar.


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