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Cash-Starved Harvey Weinstein Backs Away from Oscar-Bait, Tarantino

There are two headlines in a lengthy New York Times profile of The Weinstein Company’s ongoing financial troubles. The first is that the company is cash-starved and preparing to back away from the smaller, Oscar-bait films it is famous for. The second is that the usually outspoken Harvey Weinstein wants no part of Quentin Tarantino’s ongoing war against law enforcement.

Time and again, over the last five years, the box office has proven that the public has had its fill of The Weinstein Sensibility, which is primarily made up of small, arty, left-wing films that hit the Academy sweet spot for small, arty, left-wing films. In 1997, this genre was exciting and different. It also resulted in better films  that are not as driven by nihilism as the self-parodies we see so much of today.

With so much great television drama filling up Americans’ DVRs, dramas that actually (unlike current indie film releases) have something universal to say about the human condition, why gamble your whole evening and $12 on a small, self-important Hollywood movie that these days has an 80% chance of sucking?

That reality has finally caught up with Weinstein, the man primarily responsible for birthing the indie revolution of the nineties:

Resolving that matter, however, did not address the main issue between the brothers and a newly assertive board. The fact is, investors who put their money behind the brothers in their venture 10 years ago are itching for more than Oscar-worthy entertainment; they want a payout.

Mere survival is a challenge for most independent film and television companies. Dogged by a need for immediate cash to produce and market movies that will not return their investment for years, if ever, smaller studios are perennially capital-hungry. …

He proposes spending more money, but cutting his output to two or three films each year from perhaps six. With fewer, more expensive films, the Weinsteins will face increased pressure to avoid marginal performers like “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” which took in only $39 million worldwide when it was released in 2014. …

“The company really needs me to step up and say what’s next,” he said. By Harvey’s own assessment, the company needs to deliver at least one, and possibly two, hits a year on the order of “Paddington,” a live-action and computer-animated comedy released in January that took in more than $76 million in North America.

One prospect is “The Six Billion Dollar Man,” to be directed by Peter Berg, with Mark Wahlberg in a lead role, based on the 1970s television series “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

From the lesbian-themed “Carol” to the “Six Billion Dollar Man.” There’s a victory for the American people.

The New York Times goes out of its way to make the point that “Weinstein is not in the precarious financial position of a Relativity and is not likely to be forced into a sale by the board,” but he is in enough of a precarious position that he is not defending his top director Quentin Tarantino.

As you read below, keep in mind that this is the same Harvey Weinstein who launched a public petition to protect admitted child rapist and fugitive Roman Polanski from prosecution: [emphasis added]

This time around, “The Hateful Eight,” which Mr. Tarantino wrote and directed, brings opportunity and headaches. The film, about a bounty hunter and violent encounters in the Old West, may be a strong box-office prospect. But when police organizations called for a nationwide boycott after Mr. Tarantino said he regarded some shootings by the police as murder during a New York City protest against police violence in October, the Weinstein brothers, usually quick to embrace controversy in selling their films, were publicly silent.

“I think that’s his issue. He’s his own person,” Bob said. Harvey later said the brothers had worked to defuse the controversy with the help of “off-the-record conversations and friends of the family.”

After one of the worst box office years in his long career, when you add in promotion, Weinstein probably has $100 million invested in “Hateful Eight,” which means it will have to earn $200 million to $250 million just to break even.

 

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC               

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