Weinsteins ride over the Rainbow

Both parties to share equally in profits from venture

Bob and Harvey Weinstein have inked an agreement with Cablevision’s Rainbow Media Holdings that pairs the two companies in home entertainment, foreign sales and the creation of a new film library.

Deal begins to answer what’s become a familiar question on the Croisette: How are the Weinsteins going to distribute their movies?

Agreement will see the Weinsteins select titles for the library, with funding from Rainbow. Titles are aimed for the television and home entertainment markets.

Both parties will share equally in profits from the venture, with Rainbow’s national networks taking first option for the U.S. TV preems on all available films.

WeinsteinCo. will also be the exclusive homevideo distribber for Rainbow’s theatrical arm, IFC Films, and for all original series, specials, documentaries and films produced by Rainbow nets AMC, IFC, WE: Women’s Entertainment and the music channel Fuse.

Media world has speculated lately that Rainbow’s AMC, IFC and WE may be up for sale.

Pact will also make the Weinsteins’ new venture the exclusive foreign rights sales agent for IFC Films.

“From our group’s perspective, that’s the most exciting thing,” said IFC Entertainment prexy Jonathan Sehring in Cannes. “Bob and Harvey built such a tremendous business, and we have not had the advantage of having a foreign sales arm in the past. For us this is a huge benefit as we have never really been able to acquire foreign territories (on projects).”

Sehring said that IFC Films’ acquisitions staff will remain distinct from the Weinsteins’ company, but that films acquired by the Weinsteins could go through IFC’s theatrical distrib apparatus.

“At Miramax, my brother and I learned the power of film libraries and built an 800-title film library,” said Harvey Weinstein. “We’re going to do that again. This agreement with Rainbow puts us in a position to immediately begin that effort.”

He added that the partnership he and his brother shared with IFC Films on the distribution of Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” with Lions Gate, paved the way for the deal. Miramax also teamed with IFC Films on French acquisition “Les Choristes.”

When asked if this deal might precede Rainbow taking an equity stake in the Wenstein’s new company, Weinstein told Variety that “this is just the first step in a continuing relationship.” He did not elaborate.

Rainbow prexy and CEO Josh Sapan said that the Weinsteins’ involvement will continue a mandate to increasingly produce “stronger and more consistent” original content for Rainbow.