The Weinstein Company May Not Have the Cash to Market Inglourious Basterds. But Does it Even Matter?
The word this week is that The Weinstein Company, the mini-major studio founded after Bob and Harvey Weinstein finally parted ways with Miramax (and Disney) in 2005, is apparently on the brink of financial ruin. Originally touted as a maverick venture on par with the creation of Miramax in 1979, the studio was erratic from the start, and it quickly became clear that its future was rocky at best.
It’s reportedly gotten to the point that the studio has come to depend on the returns for H2, the sequel to Rob Zombie’s Halloween, to be able to push its upcoming slate of releases (including Oscar magnet Nine). But the real question is if it even matters if the Weinsteins can raise the money or not.
Certainly no one who has followed the studio over the last several years will swallow the argument that the larger financial meltdown is to blame for its current woes. For years, filmmakers have complained of mismanagement. Over the failure of Zack and Miri Make a Porno last fall, Seth Rogen publicly called the company out, and Kevin Smith expounded his frustration at depressing length to Vulture, saying the movie’s meltdown led him into a six-month, “weed-infused cocoon.” The studio’s entire roster is punctuated by a series of movies it was systematically incapable of selling to an audience: The Matador, Hoodwinked, The Mist, Grindhouse, The Reader. Even genre fare like Pulse and Black Christmas, not exactly tough sells, decisively failed to turn a profit.
And TWC supposedly had the money to market its movies then. Now, to this new cash-short backdrop, we’ve also received word that Harvey Weinstein has pressured Tarantino to cut large portions of Inglourious Basterds to "improve" the movie’s commercial prospects. With this the company has managed to infuriate the Tarantino base, which, at this point, seems to be the only hope it has of making Basterds into a hit of any worthwhile size.
The perennially delayed Youth in Revolt may also be pulled from the fall altogether while the Weinsteins decide what to do with it. To be fair, we haven't seen the movie, but it's a romantic dramedy that stars Michael Cera, Justin Long and Zach Galifianakis and is directed by Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl). Sounds like a no-brainer, and yet it's been treated as if it's impossible to sell, the kind of movie that eventually turns up on video and disappears without any real shot at success. Now that’s the way to build buzz.
Even if some scrappy financiers manage to pull the Weinsteins' heads over the water long enough to get their movies into theaters this fall, it would seem that by now, these supposed titans of the industry should have found a way to manage and market movies without such protracted, embarrassing headaches.
The Weinsteins' influence is undeniable, but it is on the wane. The brothers' notorious reputation for tinkering with filmmakers' work and still failing to find a broad enough hook to reach an audience has finally reached a breaking point. For now, the rumors of the TWC's imminent closure will remain rumors, but no matter how much cash it can raise, it's going to take a lot more than that to rise above the muddied reputation that has led the studio to one of the bleakest outlooks in the business.
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