You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Harvey Weinstein answers critics

Doubts remain about viability of TWC

Flying under the radar is not in Harvey Weinstein’s DNA.

He casts a giant shadow on the Croisette and in his dealings, attracting attention to himself, his stars and his movies. Weinstein, 55, is all about living large: throwing large parties and fundraisers (this year’s AMFAR benefit raised a record $7.5 million), announcing large prebuys, and often adjusting large deal terms.

But the Weinstein Co. — launched by Bob and Harvey Weinstein amid considerable hype some 19 months ago — has spent millions and produced several profitable films, but only one big grosser: Dimension’s “Scary Movie 4,” half-owned by Disney, earned $91 million in 2006.

Including the titles released by MGM, TWC’s domestic box office for 2006 was $311 million, second among independents to Lionsgate. But as of May 20, their domestic box office for 2007 was just $76.1 million.

This year at Cannes, there were hints of the old Weinstein magic. The brothers had three high-profile entries: Wong Kar Wai’s competition fest opener “My Blueberry Nights,” Michael Moore’s out-of-competition health doc “Sicko” and Quentin Tarantino’s in-competition recut of “Death Proof.”

But the buzz on the Croisette was focused largely on the brothers’ miscues: Bob and Harvey’s spending on “Grindhouse,” which cost some $100 million to make and market worldwide, but which has grossed only $25 million thus far (they sold off non-English-language foreign territories); their less-than-productive distribution deal with MGM; their rumored cash-flow problems; and speculation that they could lose TWC to their investors, who could force them to sell or merge to survive.

If DreamWorks couldn’t stand alone as an indie studio, the logic goes, how can the Weinstein Co.?

Something else seems to be fueling the rumors, and maybe it’s the rivals’ wishful thinking that the rumors are true.

Harvey has always been a magnet for media attention, but he says he’s tired of all the sniping and misinformation.

“We’re financially healthy,” says Harvey, wearing a black shirt and pants in his Majestic Hotel suite. “This is done out of jealousy. Execs and people I know who look cool and have a big office just say nasty shit. At the end of the day, no one made more money in the indie sector than Bob and I both personally and professionally: $400 million in 12 years, not including the sale of Miramax.”

When the Weinstein brothers left Disney to start the Weinstein Co., they boasted of the $1 billion they were raising through Goldman Sachs ($490 million in equity and a $500 million line of credit) and the scale of the “giant multimedia company” they were building.

Harvey challenged the very suggestion they were in the movie production and distribution business. That was too small for his outsized ambitions.

Now the empire-builders own 70% of the cash-generating video company Genius, the social networking site aSmallWorld.net, a Halston product line, the Ovation arts channel, a 1,500-title library (including the acquisition of Wellspring and some Asian and grindhouse titles), and a separate $285 million Asia Fund.

All well and good. But with an indie company like TWC, it’s not so much about how much money each movie makes as it is about meeting quarterly projections.

Cash flow is key. If the lenders don’t get their money back in a timely manner, they might be unwilling to open up the credit line without new security coming in. After an early pay TV misunderstanding with Encore, the Weinsteins were forced to forge a distribution arrangement with MGM — in effect paying MGM for their rich Showtime deal. (While they take responsibility for supervising their releases thru MGM, the Weinsteins will be free to forge their own deal in 2009.) Weinstein insists that he has $300 million in credit which he is free to spend however he wants.

“We’ve been surpassing our numbers,” Weinstein insists, pointing out that the original projections assumed they would go through a studio for homevideo, but now share in the Genius returns.

Dimension tried to get an Encore deal but couldn’t. The reason the Weinsteins keep making distribution deals with the likes of Lionsgate (“Sicko”) is to access their pay TV deals.

From the start, the point of building the Weinstein Co. was to turn around and take it public. But Harvey says the decision whether to go public is controlled by the board — and that he and Bob control the board.

While Harvey has been forced — by his brother, among others — to state that he is refocusing his energy back on the movie business, he is also tired of hearing assessments of his company’s financial health that are not true.

When Focus Features or Lionsgate has a tough year, he says, the media ignores it. But they jump all over him.

“We made $420 million last year. (That’s the implied value of Genius based on 70% of its stock price.) What we’re missing is one big glamorous theatrical hit, and it takes a couple of years to get productions up and running.”

Prospects are rosy for the genre pics “1408,” Rob Zombie’s zombie remake of “Halloween” and “The Nanny Diaries,” which Weinstein moved off a crowded spring release date. “Sicko” should do substantial business around the world this summer, based on its Cannes reception. DVD expectations on “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror” are high. Harvey is high on the animated film “Igor,” which already has a sequel in the works.

On the Oscar front, the Sundance pickups “Grace Is Gone” and “La Misma Luna,” acquired with Fox Searchlight, could be contenders along with Moore’s “Sicko.”

Harvey is also looking forward to TWC’s fully owned projects coming to market, including Denzel Washington’s “The Great Debaters,” Wayne Kramer’s “Crossing Over,” Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader” and Anthony Minghella’s “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.”

“Next year it’s my risk and my record — my slate,” he says.

Weinstein Intl. has brokered output deals with TF1 in France, Motion Picture Distribution in Canada, RAI Cinema for theatrical, homevideo and free TV in Italy, Paramount in the U.K. for one year, a distribution deal with Australia/New Zealand’s Village Roadshow, and a coveted German free TV deal covering three years.

The doubts about the Weinsteins have many sources: the deals gone bad, the movies on the shelf, the rejiggered release schedules, the employees who have left.

For his part Weinstein dismisses such negative buzz.

“These rumors come from competitive sources or disgruntled former employees or people along these lines,” he says.

While they’ve had public tangles with filmmakers, from Pedro Almodovar and Chen Kaige to Julie Taymor, they also inspire loyalty from Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith.

Luc Besson claimed at Suicidegirls.com last week that the Weinsteins butchered the release of the animated family film “Arthur and the Invisibles”: “Its American distributor was the worst I have worked with in my entire life, in any country, because they changed so much of the film and tried to pretend the film was American.”

Harvey responded in the New York Daily News by calling Besson a “has-been” and offering him $1 million if he could prove that he made the film for the $85 million he originally claimed.

That’s one way to win friends and influence people.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    Why the Television Academy Plans to Donate Furnishings From the 71st Emmys Governors Ball

    The Emmys’ official after party is set to impress — and to leave a permanent impression. At the annual press preview of the 71st Emmys Governors Ball, the Television Academy announced a partnership with Living Spaces, Habitat for Humanity and the Hollywood Community Housing Project that will provide more than 80 custom sofas, chairs and [...]

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content