Two words that Hollywood never thought it would see anywhere near each other: Harvey and humbled.
But after several years of financial tumult and the near certainty that Miramax will not be returning home, the Weinstein Co. promises to be a less-grandiose version of its former self.
The media empire ambitions have evaporated, and it looks as though Harvey and Bob Weinstein are planning to run the company in the hands-on way they ran the Miramax of, say, 1990.
“The Weinstein Co. was distracted by trying to do too much, like fashion and the Internet,” the company’s top operations executive, David Glasser, told Daily Variety on Sunday. “What we are now focused on is what we have done best, what the Weinsteins have always done best — marketing and making great films.”
The company would not make the Weinstein brothers available for an interview.
The company is talking about a fresh start because of an agreement it reached in June with Goldman Sachs and Assured Guaranty that allowed it to eliminate $450 million in debt, giving the Weinstein brothers the most breathing room they have had in years, if not since they created the company in 2005.
What’s more, the Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday that it was selling its Miramax division to construction magnate Ron Tutor and Colony Capital, ending the possibility that the Weinsteins would again end up with the company they launched in 1979 and named after their mother and father.
“Now that we have completed our restructuring, it is a clear opportunity and time to go back to the basics. This will be a tighter, more efficient operation,” said Glasser, adding, for example, that the Weinstein Co. is operating with 109 employees, down from a peak of 200. “While many specialty divisions are closing up, this is a great time and opportunity for an independent company like TWC.”
Expect some strategic partnerships within the industry in the next several weeks, said Glasser, declining to elaborate.
Company execs say movies will be financed by revenues from 150 of TWC’s library of 400 titles, which was negotiated as part of the debt restructuring with Goldman, along with any money that comes in from future partnerships.
The strategy is evident in its upcoming lineup of lower budget productions and acquisitions with many films said to fall in the $20 million range. The slate looks a lot like a return to the kind of smaller prestige pics with which the Weinsteins made their name at Miramax.
Specialty offerings including Julian Schnabel-helmed “Miral,” Sundance buzz magnet “Blue Valentine,” John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” and period piece “The King’s Speech” (all set to hit screens by year’s end) are balanced by genre outings like “Scream 4” and “Spy Kids 4,” both targeting release in 2011.
It seems to indicate a renewed focus on the fare for which the Weinstein brothers are best-known — with the “Scream” and “Spy Kids” movies repping the siblings’ remaining ties to Miramax, whose genre offshoot Dimension Films launched both franchises.
“Our slate will be more focused. Not 15 movies, but six to eight as well as some additional acquisitions,” Glasser said.
What’s more, he added, “Producing TV shows will be a big part of what the Weinstein Co. will be doing. Three TV shows are currently in the works.”
This is precisely the prescription TWC needs to follow, said one industry observer. Play a quieter, smaller game, said Harold Vogel, a finance professor at Columbia U. and author of “Entertainment Industry Economics.”
“What they can’t afford to do now is go out on this larger stage (again), and buy up TV channels, magazines and other assets. They can’t be Rupert Murdoch.”
Glasser would not comment on the Miramax deal but one source suggested that the Weinstein brothers still harbored a sliver of hope they could end up with the company should the Tutor deal fall apart. TWC bid $565 million for Miramax, but Disney clearly wanted more.
It is still unclear how relationships that TWC maintains with Miramax will be unwound, such as agreements TWC has in place for 17 franchise movies in the Miramax library, including “Spy Kids,” “Scary Movie” and “Scream.”
As for there being a real chance for a more humble, easy-going Harvey Weinstein to emerge at the helm of TWC redux, don’t count on it, said Reed Martin, author of “The Reel Truth: Everything You Didn’t Know You Need to Know About Making an Independent Film.”
If they want to repeat the successes they had early in their careers, said Martin, who is also a former media industry researcher, “you can’t be a kinder, gentler Harvey or Bob Weinstein. You can’t achieve those two things since they are diametrically opposed.”