Weinstein Co., MGM cut short deal

TWC to release 'Zack,' others on its own

The Weinstein Co. and MGM have cut short their distribution deal by three months, with TWC taking back seven films to release on its own between now and the end of the year.

They include Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which opens Oct. 31, and the bigscreen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s haunting tome “The Road,” which unspools Nov. 14.

Per the terms of the early exit, MGM will still release two titles from TWC’s Dimension Films — Bernie Mac-Samuel L. Jackson comedy “Soul Men,” opening Nov. 7, and Christmas Day sports drama “Hurricane Season,” toplining Forest Whitaker.

The three-year distribution deal between MGM and Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s TWC was set to expire Dec. 31. The decision to exit the agreement early came after TWC signed its own pay TV output deal with Showtime, instead of relying on MGM’s Showtime deal, a main impetus for the pairing with MGM.

“This transition was always anticipated and now it has been amicably executed,” the Weinstein Co. said in a statement.

MGM said this: “When it became clear that the deal wouldn’t be re-upped, TWC asked for its films back, minus the two Dimension titles, and we agreed.”

Under the distribution deal, TWC paid for marketing and prints, with MGM taking a distribution fee for booking theaters.

From Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s perspective, releasing their own films gives them more control, particularly when it comes to specialty films. The company has its own distribution operation, headed by Steve Bunnell.

Most TWC titles came out of MGM as wide releases. TWC will have far more discretion to use platform releases.

After “Zack and Miri” and “Hurricane Season,” the TWC films that will now be distributed directly by the company include “Killshot” (Nov. 7), “Fanboys” (Nov. 26), “Crossing Over” (Dec. 3), “Extreme Movie” (Dec. 12) and “Shanghai.”

“Zack and Miri” is the only film scheduled to open wide; the other six are all set to begin in limited runs. That makes for a hectic schedule for the Weinsteins.

It’s not clear whether TWC will release “The Reader” this fall as well.

From MGM’s side, the break with TWC comes as the studio aggressively ramps up its production side, vs. relying on third-party distribution deals.

While TWC’s Showtime deal doesn’t technically kick in until 2009, the seven films it has taken back from MGM will be fed through that output deal.

At times, relations between MGM and Harvey Weinstein grew strained over release strategies.

In terms of box office, the two highest-grossing films under the deal were both from Dimension — “1408,” which cumed north of $72 million, and “Halloween,” which grossed roughly $54 million. No pure Weinstein Co. title grossed more than $30 million.

TWC has always released some titles on its own, separate from the MGM deal.