Weinsteins ramp up release, production slate


Although it looks as if it won't regain Miramax, the Weinstein Co. is moving ahead with a slate of movies to be released by the independent company Harvey and Bob Weinstein formed after leaving Disney. They're tapping into the equity and borrowing power put in place when they got their financial affairs in order last month.

"The company has been restructured in a healthy manner that works for all parties involved," a source with knowledge of the company said, "which provides the ability to not only release the current slate but also to do new production."

The goal for TWC is to have four to six wide releases a year and at least a half-dozen other limited releases, both in-house productions and acquisitions.

The company's next wide release will be "Piranha 3-D," opening Aug. 20 in more than 2,000 domestic theaters with a marketing campaign of about $30 million. Apparently, TWC has been able to book the number of 3D screens it needs.

That will mark the first movie in a renewal of the Dimension division run by Bob Weinstein. Other sequel titles being developed include "Hellraiser" and "Children of the Corn."

Wide releases are planned for "Scream 4" in April and then "Spy Kids 4" in August 2011, both now in production with budgets of about $40 million each. In active development for wide release are sequels to "Scary Movie" and "Halloween," among others.

Harvey Weinstein, meanwhile, is said to be focused again on movies with lower budgets (typically $15 million-$25 million) that will get platform releases that could be expanded. That includes at least four this year that will be given his well-known Oscar push.

The pics seen as worthy of Academy consideration are "The King's Speech," starring Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter, which goes out limited Nov. 24; Sundance pickup "Blue Valentine," starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, which gets a limited release Dec. 31; and recent acquisition "Miral," from director Julian Schnabel and starring Freida Pinto and Willem Dafoe, opening Dec. 3. The Weinsteins also will push documentary "The Tillman Story," about the NFL player who went to Afghanistan and was killed by friendly fire.

Harvey Weinstein apparently did a re-edit on "Blue Valentine" after it played at Cannes to tighten it for domestic release.

On Wednesday, TWC firmed up dates for its slate of limited releases. In addition to those mentioned, they are "Nowhere Boy" (Oct. 8), "The Company Men" (Oct. 22, expanding a week later) and two others for this year, "Easy Money" and "Reign of Assassins."

"Shanghai," a co-production with a Chinese company, was pulled from the release schedule when money woes hit this year. It will get a domestic release, said the source, though how wide is not clear. It opened last month in China, a requirement under its original contract.

Several of the Weinsteins' Miramax movies are available to them under their exit agreement with Disney, which gave them certain rights to remake movies in the library. How the Weinsteins will interact with the new owners of Miramax, assuming the current sale closes as expected, remains unclear.

Originally launched in 2005, the Weinsteins raised about $1.2 billion in capital but nearly ran out of money this year despite the success of Oscar nominee "Inglourious Basterds." In the June restructuring, they received a $115 million insurance settlement that helped reduce about $450 million in debt, with the rest eliminated by handing over control of about 200 of the 350 movies in their library along with about $233 million in receivable funds. The Weinsteins eventually can get back the movies by repaying that money.

Most importantly, the deal led by Goldman Sachs and its partner Assured Guaranty did not include many of TWC's most important franchise films. Even for those it did include, the Weinsteins have the right in most cases to produce sequels in return for sharing returns with investors. They also came away with new equity and a sizable line of credit for production, marketing and distribution.
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