Miramax Films, a division ofThe Walt Disney Co, laid off about 16% of its staff on Friday in a massiverationalization effort which stunned the industries in New York City, where thecompany is based, and Los Angeles, where it maintains a busy office. The cullcame just eight days before this year's Academy Award ceremony whereMiramax is the studio with most nominations with 15.

75 people lost their jobsout of about 500 and more are expected to go, with Miramax reportedly planningto bring its annual overhead down to $75m. Of the laid off to date, the mostsenior are senior vice presidents of publicity Robin Jonas and Teri Kane. Mostof those losing their jobs are medium- and lower-level staff, with none so farin acquisitions and only a handful in the company's international sales operationand its overseas offices.

Miramax spokesman MatthewHiltzik said that the layoffs were decided upon autonomously by co-chairmenHarvey and Bob Weinstein, and not dictated by Disney, which itself has been incost-cutting mode for a year now. "We are independent andautonomous," said Hiltzik.

Last March, Disney said itwould eliminate 4,000 jobs or 3% of its global workforce and proceeded to scaleback dramatically in, among other areas, its film studio where investment inlive-action films was cut by $600m a year as well as over 100 jobs in itsfeature animation department. The whole group suffered in the wake of Sept 11as spending on travel and leisure activities reached an all-time low.

Hiltzik said that Miramaxhad grown quickly since Oct 2001, increasing its staff by 17% and thatFriday's layoffs returned the company to pre-October levels. "Theend of another Oscar campaign season gave us a natural opportunity to take astep back and conclude that we grew too fast," he said.

He also said that the arrivalof two new senior executives in the last six months "lends itself tore-evaluation." He was referring to Ross Landsbaum who joined Miramax asexecutive vice president of finance and operations and CFO in Dec and AmandaLundberg who joined as executive vice president, worldwide publicity in Feb2002.

Hiltzik pointed to similarcutbacks at other studios over the last year and said that there had beenindustry-wide consolidation as a result of the recession.

For Miramax, 2001 was agolden year, as the company inched further into the mainstream with SpyKids, Scary Movie 2, Bridget Jones's Diary and The Others, while maintaining a healthy dominance of the arthouse sector with InThe Bedroom and Amelie. 2002 is perhaps one of its riskiest, with theexpensive Gangs Of New York,whose budget over-runs the companypaid for, opening on July 12.