Cannes Lions: Harvey Weinstein Boasts About TWC TV Biz

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Harvey Weinstein

Reality shows such as 'Project Runway' and 'Mob Wives' contribute to the company's bottom line.

Television makes up the majority of The Weinstein Company’s business, founder Harvey Weinstein told a panel Friday at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France, where he also sang the praises of Netflix and Amazon.

“Sixty percent of our business — maybe more — is in the television business … it’s going through the roof,” he said, propped up by reality shows including Project Runway. And while the legendary producer has a cabinet full of Oscars, he also produces Mob Wives. “I’m embarrassed about it, but it makes so much money I have to check my integrity at the door,” he joked.

The company will produce seven or eight more TV projects by the end of next year, he said. The shift has changed not only the company that was built on Oscars, but his own attitude of how to approach projects, Weinstein said.

“I can just say, ‘War & Peace? Two more hours.’ ‘Doctor Thorne? Another hour.’ In fact, in the U.K. it was three episodes, but [creator] Julian [Fellowes] and I though it should be four, and so we did it,” he said. (That show airs on Amazon.)

The critical reaction to his Marco Polo series for Netflix has not been strong — Weinstein cited a particularly brutal New York Times review as the worst of his career — but he pointed out that the show is still a hit for the SVOD service.

“In television, the critics can’t kill you," Weinstein said. "If people watch one they will watch two or three. Netflix is paramount in that.”

Both Netflix and Amazon have “improved the business greatly,” he said, reinvigorating creativity in programming by taking on risky projects such as Amazon's Transparent and taking up the space that the mid-budget indie movie used to occupy.

Behemoths Google and Apple will be next to take a bite out of television, Weinstein predicted. “We’re at the stage where Netflix and Amazon are producing, Google and Apple are not far behind," he said. "They will be in the content business in the next second. They are going to emerge. They are global players and they have the pipeline.

“The model is going through deep, deep changes and, as somebody said yesterday, you used to be able to market yourself out of a movie if it wasn’t perfect. Now within three hours on social networks, if someone is in a matinee, the word is out. You have to make them great or you’re not gonna last,” he said.

When asked what his formula will be to add to his 82 Oscars going forward, Weinstein said his strategy of making a quality film for the theater will not change: “When I see people watching films like Pulp Fiction on their phone, I think, ‘Why did I bother?’”

He added, “I just talked to Bob Iger at Disney recently, who is having one of the greatest streaks ever, and I said the reason you’re having it is because the movies are great. They’re just executed perfectly."

And Weinstein indicated that well-made studio tentpoles have affected the indie film business as well.

“For me it used to be that the studios would make a blockbuster and they were so, so bad that a week later there was space in the marketplace, so that’s changed just on a business level,” he said. 

While TWC will not make films for phones, it is experimenting with short-form series, including a set of 10-minute shorts based on the world of his Oscar-winning movie The Artist.

The next step is also working with a big brand. “We are going to take a piece of IP and create a movie,” Weinstein said, without adding details. He did say that his dream brand to do a deal with would be Coca-Cola, but wouldn’t say if there was a polar bear movie in the future, for instance.

As for using data to decide what properties to make or buy, Weinstein dismissed the notion, joking: “I still use my gut. Why not? It’s big enough.”