THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY GOING DOWNHILL?
Gabriel Chong & Linus Tee | 12 September 2009
Their names are Harvey and Bob Weinstein, two brothers who began their foray into the film business in Buffalo, New York. Spying a niche in obscure foreign movies, the no-nonsense, hard-hitting Weinsteins started out procuring foreign arthouse dramas like “Crossover Dreams” for distribution in the United States.
They chose the name “Miramax” by conjoining the names of their parents, Miriam and Max, and before long, their humble film company found respect and recognition for turning tiny movies into modest, mainstream hits- “Sex, Lies and Videotape”, “The Crying Game” among others.
Through the ‘90s, they produced some of the most defining movies of the decade-“Pulp Fiction”, “Shakespeare in Love”, “Good Will Hunting”, “The English Patient” - and chalked up an impressive 249 Academy Award nominations and three Oscars for best picture.
Fast forward to the year 2009 and things couldn’t be more different for the Weinsteins. In the first eight months of the year, the brothers only released four films with a net gross of $1.3 million in the United States. That’s about the figure one of their films used to earn on a Friday night back in their heydays.
What’s happened to the pair of legendary, infamous brothers? To trace their present dire state, one has to go back to the year 2004, the year a certain Michael Moore documentary on terrorism was released. Yes, that was the year of “Fahrenheit 9/11”, a movie that was as controversial on-screen as it was off-screen.
The then-CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, ordered them to drop production on the movie but they refused. (The movie was eventually sold and distributed by Lionsgate.) The Weinsteins’ public spat with their parent-company Disney only confirmed rumours that were already swirling- Eisner was fast losing patience with the pair of brothers.
It was Eisner who led the acquisition of Miramax back in 1993 for the sum of $70 million and gave the Weinsteins creative license to run their own live-action slate- but this generosity was fast disappearing. News of the expected divorce between the Weinstein brothers and Disney was unveiled in March 2005, when the Weinsteins announced that they would not be renewing their contractual terms with Disney.
Arguably, most pundits in Hollywood thought the Weinsteins were better off without Eisner’s tightening creative control. They were now free to pursue the kinds of edgy, independent stuff in which they had carved a niche for themselves. They were starting a new chapter with their new outfit The Weinstein Company and they were flush with $1 billion from Goldman Sachs.
Together with The Weinstein Company, they retained their Dimension Films genre label, famous for Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy and countless low-budget horror/slasher titles like Halloween and Wes Craven’s Scream series. Bob Weinstein led the ship on Dimension- its most successful hit the US$14 million “Scream” (1997) which went on to gross US$173 million worldwide.
Yes, the Weinsteins were none the worse for the wear after their departure from Miramax. Or so they thought. In the four years since, The Weinstein Company has released about 70 films, and more than half have under-performed at the box-office- including those that would have been box-office gold in their Miramax days, “Miss Potter”, “Zack and Miri Make A Porno” and “Fanboys”.
“I got more fascinated by other business and I figured, ‘Making movies, I can do that in my sleep,” said Harvey Weinstein in a rare interview with The New York Times a few months ago. “I kind of delegated the process of production and acquisitions. Yes, I had a say in it, but was I 100 per cent concentrating? Absolutely not.”
Indeed, that same article accuses Harvey of getting distracted trying to build his own media empire, using their start-up money to venture into other risky forms of business like fashion, online social networking and cable TV, areas which the Weinsteins had no experience (and no business) in dabbling.
Their self-professed failure was so significant that they have hired Miller Buckfire & Company to advise them on how to restructure their business. The recommendation was not something the Weinsteins should be unaware of: release and promote only 10 movies a year, unload unpromising titles from their film library and concentrate on the movie business.
"The Weinstein Company Going Downhill?" continues...
The classic Quentin Taratino hit, "Pulp Fiction" that Miramax fully financed and the movie that revived John Travolta's flagging career
The 2002 musical drama, "Chicago" grossed over $300 million and garnered 6 Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones
in one of his spaghetti westerns
In Love" won the Academy Award for Best Picture
beating Spielberg's hot favourite, "Saving Private
just love making this 'hand-sign'
the Oscars a
and directs the a-winning "Million
The production of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 ignites the feud between the Weinstein and Disney
The under-whelming "Miss Potter"
"1408", the Stephen King's adapted horror thriller marks one of the Weinstein's recent hit under the Dimension label
Director Kevin Smith wasn't pleased with the way Miramax handled the marketing for "Zack & Miri Make A Porno"
"Soul Men" starring the late Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson skipped the theatrical release here