August 17, 2009
Is it game over for The Weinstein Company?
Harvey and Bob Weinstein are trying to keep a sinking ship afloat. The legendary Hollywood producers, who were the first to build an independent studio that rivaled the majors with Miramax, are struggling to sustain The Weinstein Company, their mini movie studio, part deux. TWC was created four years ago after the sale of Miramax to Disney, but in that time it’s failed to live up to its predecessor’s former glory. For months, rumors have abounded about The Weinstein Company’s financial troubles, but Harvey Weinstein, who has long been the company’s public face, refused to talk. Until now.
Last June, The New York Times reported a story about the company’s decline, stating: “The Weinstein Company has been a relatively minor factor in the film industry since it was founded. None of its movies have reached $100 million at the domestic box office, and “The Reader,” though nominated for a best picture Oscar, had only about $34 million in domestic ticket sales…Not since 2006 has Weinstein ranked among the top 12 companies in box-office market share, according to figures compiled by BoxOfficeMojo.com. That year, “Scary Movie 4,” its best performer, with $90.7 million in sales, lifted the company to ninth place, with 2.5 percent of total sales.”
Those figures are a far cry from the mega-success of Miramax, which not only put the Weinsteins on the map but crowned them permanent Hollywood royalty, and still, they fail to give an accurate picture of how bad it really is. In a lengthy profile published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, the actual figures weren’t just missing the $100 million mark, they were missing the $1 million mark. According to the story, “Since opening its doors in 2005, the Weinstein Company has released about 70 films, and more than one quarter of them failed to break the $1 million box-office mark in the United States. Thirteen of these took in less than $100,000.”
So while Disney gets to keep the beloved Miramax name—and its extensive, Oscar-heavy library, the Weinsteins may soon find themselves out of a job.
In his first on-the-record, all access interview since rumors of the company’s demise have circulated, Harvey Weinstein told David Segal that he got distracted by investing in other businesses. The Weinstein Company ventured into fashion, online social networking and even network cable. “I figured, ‘Making movies, I can do that in my sleep,’ ” Weinstein told Segal. “[W]as I 100 percent concentrating? Absolutely not. I thought I could build the company and delegate authority, and that’s where it went wrong.”
The Weinsteins have a lot riding on the performance of “Inglourious Basterds,” the new Quentin Tarantino film starring Brad Pitt, which releases next Friday. Though they have high hopes, “Basterds” is a tricky film to sell. For one thing, it’s incredibly gory, full of beating, burning and scalping, and on the other hand, it’s a rewriting of history and because it has to do with Nazis and the Holocaust, is sure to earn the ire of certain Jews. The Weinsteins, who grew up Jewish in New York City, reportedly appreciate the film’s Jewish vengeance theme.
“In the end, I realized that I’m not a good C.E.O., I’m not a good manager,” Weinstein said to the Times. This means, either somebody else has to run the business or the business is doomed.
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