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Harvey Weinstein took the battle over the title of The Butler to the airwaves this morning, telling CBS This Morning that he was surprised by Warner Bros.’ position, claiming “there’s an ulterior motive” and insisting the studio was trying to bully his smaller company.
“I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I’m happy testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to The Hobbit they would drop the claim,” Weinstein explained. “For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic. I think this is 100 percent. This was the big guy trying to hit the small guy.”
The Weinstein brothers negotiated a piece of The Hobbit many years ago, when they controlled Lord of the Rings while running Miramax, The Hollywood Reporter previously reported. Their deal gave them at least 2.5 percent of The Hobbit‘s first-dollar gross, or the money Warner Bros. and MGM received. It’s unclear whether the Weinsteins are entitled to a cut of the Hobbit sequels. Warner Bros. says the deal only covers the first film, but the Weinsteins believe they are entitled to a cut of all three movies, sources told THR.
A rep for Warner Bros. says there is “no correlation” between the Hobbit dispute and The Butler title fight.
Weinstein, who appeared with attorney David Boies and MPAA chairman Chris Dodd on CBS’ morning show, says he’s still pushing for a resolution to The Weinstein Co.’s dispute with Warner Bros. over the title of its upcoming Lee Daniels film The Butler.
The MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau ruled in an arbitration Tuesday that The Weinstein Co. couldn’t use the title for its upcoming film because a 1916 short in the Warner Bros. library shares the same name. The Weinstein Co. is appealing the arbitrator’s ruling.
Meanwhile, both Dodd and Boies said they want a resolution to the conflict.
“[Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Co.] need to sit down and resolve this,” Dodd said on CBS. “There’s an appeals process, go through that. There’s no reason why this needs to become as large an issue as it is.”
Dodd later added, “Sit down and work it out. This is silly.”
When it was pointed out that the clock is ticking — the film is set to be released on Aug. 16 — Boies said, “We’re going to have to find a way to get this important civil rights movie out.”
Weinstein also noted that in order to prevent having to pay $25,000 a day in penalties, the company pulled its trailers from theaters and took down its website promoting the film.
In response, Warner Bros. issued the following statement:
The Weinstein Company, as the New York Times has noted, is following an oft-trodden path of creating “well-publicized controversies” in order to promote their films by disseminating deliberate misinformation about the true nature of this dispute. The Weinsteins are sophisticated experts in this arena and three neutral arbitrators have penalized them for blatantly disregarding MPAA rules. It goes without saying that Warner Bros. has no issue with Lee Daniels’ film (never has) and fully supports the artistic goals of the filmmakers. The Weinsteins’ suggestions to the contrary are deeply offensive and untrue.
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