Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver on the set of Tracks?? Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver on the set of Tracks 2_TRB8207.jpg Dev Patel as Arjun in Hotel Mumbai, shot in Adelaide and Mumbai and directed by n Anthony Maras.
With the Hollywood sex abuse scandal showing little sign of abating, and with none of the allegations yet tested in court, it’s too soon for a comprehensive body count. But whatever the final casualties, there’s a good chance n filmmakers may be among those who inadvertently pay the price.
The Weinstein Company has been a significant backer of n talent in recent years. But the future of the company is in serious doubt, which means our industry may be in danger of losing one of its strongest allies in the world’s biggest movie market.
The Weinstein Company (TWC) has specialised in mid-budget adult-oriented fare, which just happens to be the sort of filmmaking our industry tends to be rather good at (TWC is not snobbish, however; it also has a genre arm, Dimension, which specialises in horror and science-fiction movies, and in recent years has moved into television in a big way).
The company famously bought the distribution rights to Garth Davis’ Lion at script stage in 2015, paying $US12 million for Luke Davies’ dramatisation of Saroo Brierley’s memoir. The film went on to gross $US140 million and to collect six Oscar nominations and two BAFTA wins (for Dev Patel as best supporting actor and for Davies’ adapted screenplay) this year.
In 2010 TWC distributed The King’s Speech, produced by See-Saw Pictures, the boutique production house headed by Emile Sherman in Sydney and Ian Canning in London. In 2014, it distributed The Railway Man, directed by n Jonathan Teplitzky. The previous year it helped take Tracks to the world. In 2012, it picked up The Sapphires.
n directors Justin Kurzel (Macbeth, 2015), John Hillcoat (The Road, 2009), Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly, 2012) and Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, 2005) have also been the beneficiaries of Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s considerable expertise in distributing and marketing movies.
And what expertise it is. As the TWC website boasts, “during Harvey and Bob’s tenure at Miramax [the company they founded in 1979 and sold to Disney in 1993] and TWC, they have received 341 Oscar nominations and won 81 Academy Awards”.
For smaller films, the likes of which produces, an awards nomination – even the talk of an awards nomination – is the all-important key to media attention.
Emile Sherman described Harvey Weinstein recently as being “relentless in all his activities and relentless on behalf of movies, campaigning for them”. None of that guarantees ticket sales, of course, but in a crowded marketplace, it’s the kind of help a small-release film desperately needs.
But the future of TWC is under a massive cloud. Bob Weinstein sacked his brother Harvey in the wake of the escalating sex scandals, but that may not be enough to save the company. On October 17, Reuters reported the company was in talks with private equity firm Colony Capital to buy it, or a chunk of its assets.
Just a year earlier, amid rumours the company was facing serious cash-flow problems, Harvey Weinstein told The Hollywood ReporterTWC was worth up to “$800 million in a worst-case scenario”. He claimed the bulk of the value lay in its library of 550 film and television titles.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario worse than this one, and it’s also hard to imagine the value of the brand has been anything but tarnished.
There have been reports that Paddington 2, the family-friendly animated sequel due for release in next month, may be in search of a new US distributor. TWC is slated to release the film in North America in January, but last month producer David Heyman told Deadline his hope was that “The Weinstein Company name is nowhere near Paddington 2”.
Reports on Monday suggested the film might be released by Lionsgate (which has a broader distribution deal with Studio Canal, which has financed the film).
All this uncertainty could be especially bad news for two n films on the TWC slate for next year, Hotel Mumbai and Mary Magdalene.
The former, based on the tales of survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, stars Lion’s Dev Patel and The Social Network’s Armie Hammer and was shot in Adelaide over five weeks last year. The latter stars Rooney Mara (who also starred in Lion) in the title role and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. The modern take on the Biblical tale is directed by Garth Davis (Lion), with Ryan Corr as Joseph.
Both are the sort of film that demand smart marketing, a staged release, the courting of exhibitors, media and the public – the sort of exercise at which Harvey Weinstein excelled. But with his reputation beyond repair and his company possibly beyond salvation, these promising n titles may soon need to start looking elsewhere for someone to champion their cause.
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