Barely six weeksafter the last round of Miramax lay-offs, the spectre of redundancy notices returned tothe mini-major yesterday (23 Sept) as a further 55 employees were told they werelosing their jobs as part of an efficiency drive.

The numberaccounts for roughly 13% of the current 420-strong workforce. Most of thoseaffected have been notified and asked to leave immediately, with the remainderset to follow once contractual issues have been resolved.

The move affectsa broader range of personnel than the last time lay-offs were announced on Aug13, and impacts production, acquisitions, finance, publicity and marketingstaff from the New York, Los Angeles and London offices.

A Miramaxspokesperson stressed the redundancies were not related to performance and saidthey were designed to bring staffing levels in line with slimmed-downproduction levels.

By the end ofthis latest redundancy cycle Miramax will have cut pre-Aug 13 staff levels byroughly 25%, from 485 to 365. Sixty-five out of 485 were made redundant on Aug13.

"This is not areflection of anyone's performance - period," Miramax spokesperson MatthewHiltzik told Screendaily. "This is part of an ongoing effort to maximiseefficiency and profitability by bringing our staff levels in line with ourrelease slate.

"We are veryexcited about our upcoming slate and look forward to continuing to be a productivepart of the Disney family."

As contracttalks between Miramax co-chiefs Harvey and Bob Weinstein and parent Disneygrind on at an almost glacial pace, it is believed the brothers are keen to stayon under the Disney umbrella.

Two weeks agoMichael Eisner, the Disney chief executive who has had a tempestuousrelationship with Harvey, announced that he will step down from his post whenhis contract expires in September 2006.

Miramax plans to release a total of 18 titles this year,an 18% drop from 22 in 2003. From 2000 to 2003 inclusive the average number ofannual releases was 26.

So far thissummer the company has only released Takeshi Kitano's Japanese-language Zatoichi, and Zhang Yimou's Chinese epic Hero. The Hong Kong police thriller InfernalAffairs opens today.

Awards seasoncontenders include the J M Barrie drama Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp; Gwyneth Paltrow inProof; MartinScorsese's Howard Hughes epic The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio; and Lasse Hallstrom's drama AnUnfinished Life, whichstars Jennifer Lopez.

Prior to Aug 13, the lastround of cuts came in March 2002, when 80 people amounting to 17% of theworkforce were released.