Weinsteins take ‘Fahrenheit’ rights

Duo now able to close domestic distrib deal for docu

As anticipated, Miramax Films co-chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein have purchased all rights to Michael Moore’s Palme d’Or-winning documentary, “Fahrenheit 911,” from Miramax Film Corp., thus freeing the Walt Disney Co. of any corporate responsibility for the film.

This clears the way for the Weinsteins to close a domestic distribution deal on the title.

Miramax parent Disney announced Friday that the Weinsteins made the purchase through a new special-purpose company, the Fellowship Adventure Group. Any distribution profits that might have gone to Miramax or Disney will be donated to charity.

The Weinsteins now hold all rights to the film and, according to Disney, have paid Miramax for all costs of the film to date. That figure is believed to be north of $6 million.

The brothers are also responsible for any finishing costs as well as marketing costs not paid by the film’s distributors.

Showing uncharacteristic restraint, Moore’s only comment on the deal was a brief statement: “It is a fair and equitable solution.”

Under the agreement, the Weinsteins will arrange for worldwide distribution for the film in all windows, including theatrical and home entertainment.

The Weinsteins will secure distribution through third parties or may distribute the movie personally in certain markets.

The Weinsteins will continue to use Paris-based sales agent the Wild Bunch for negotiating international distribution arrangements. Wild Bunch has already put several international distribution deals in place.

Disney granted the Weinsteins permission to buy back the film earlier this month, at the start of the Cannes Film Festival.

Pic reflects on the state of America as Moore questions the roles that family connections and oil concerns may have played in the Bush government’s handling of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to Disney, Miramax was told a year ago to sell its interest in Moore’s picture. The Mouse House thought it inappropriate for a family entertainment company to be involved in such a politically charged project during an election year.

The Weinsteins have cut deals similar to this one in the past for controversial films such as “Dogma” and “Kids.”

Distrib frontrunners include Lions Gate Films (which handled “Dogma”), Newmarket and Focus Features.

The fracas behind “Fahrenheit 911” are said to have exacerbated tensions in the process of negotiating an extension of the Weinsteins’ contract with Disney, which expires in 2005.