In less than a month, one of the true behemoths of Hollywood experienced an extraordinary downfall, as infamous producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of multiple reports of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. For many in the industry and the adjacent film world at large, the rumors of his behavior were extensively documented, but few could imagine that his removal from the business he made his own would be so swift following the revelations in both the New York Times and the New Yorker.
Weinstein is disgraced, fired from the company that bears his name, and possibly facing criminal charges. In light of one of our age’s most upsetting abuse scandals, the question of a few upcoming movie releases seems pathetically trivial. Why worry about such things when the stain surrounding them is so inescapable? Still, The Weinstein Company are hoping to move on, one brother down, and make some lemonade from the rancid lemons left in his place.
Many eyes will remain on the indie studio, one whose fortunes were dwindling long before the revelations broke about Harvey’s alleged abuses. One of the most revered and feared distributors in the indie film world, the pair who brought the world classics like Pulp Fiction and reinvented the Oscar campaign seemed to have lost their golden tough in the years leading up to this month. Reports had been detailing for over a year the apparent problems The Weinstein Company faced in the aftermath of under-performing movies and increased indie competition.
In July of last year, the company was forced to refute claims that they were experiencing financial troubles after much-anticipated films like The Founder, Gold and Tulip Fever saw their release dates repeatedly bumped or rearranged. In the end, each of them failed to meet box office expectations, none became the Oscar darlings they were pitched as, and the company was even sued by the makers of The Founder and Gold over perceived failures regarding their scheduling. This was a far cry from the heady days of ceaseless Oscar gold and bountiful box office revenue.
Aside from a few soft hits like Lion and Carol, The Weinstein Company’s fortunes had run dry. They simply haven’t been able to keep up with smaller distributors like A24 and Annapurna who have emerged in recent years and filled the gap in the market with acclaimed indie hits like Moonlight, which vaulted A24 into the big leagues. Given Harvey’a reputation for wrestling control of films from directors’ hands, editing them to fit his own vision and casually shelving whatever didn’t fit that, it’s understandable why upstart film-makers would want to go to more understanding distributors, even before the awful news broke.
The question remains as to what happens with those unreleased movies The Weinstein Company still has under their belt. After a potential investor pulled out, leaving the company bereft of a much-needed emergency injection of cash, it stands to reason that their tiny slate of upcoming films may not be able to get the audience they want or need. There’s The Current War, a historical drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison that had previously been pushed as an Oscar contender until reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival proved underwhelming; Mary Magdalene, a religious drama starring Rooney Mara in the lead role whose release was pushed to Easter 2018; The Upside, an English language remake of the hit French film The Intouchables, with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in the leads; and Hotel Mumbai, an upcoming thriller centred on the 2008 Mumbai attacks, with Dev Patel topping the bill. It’s an impressive slate but regardless of the quality and potential acclaim they could receive, it will be impossible for them to escape the shadow of Harvey, even if audiences prove willing to separate art from producer.
The further barrier is that the people behind the films themselves have no desire to stay connected to The Weinstein Company in any way. The producer of Paddington 2, which The Weinstein Company is scheduled to distribute in North America, has stated that the company is “nowhere near” the movie, saying:
“It’s very sad and deeply frustrating that Paddington, who’s been around for more than 50 years, and is always looking for the good in people, and has such a generous, warm-hearted spirit could have any association.”
Nothing has been confirmed or denied regarding the status of the aforementioned films and whether the people behind them wish to move forward with that relationship, but it would certainly be awkward at best for the company to try and promote movies the cast and crew want nothing to do with.
TWC’s problems don’t end with the finished projects. Their slate is also drying up quickly, with planned TV projects, an area the company had hoped to expand in, have been canned before filming could even start. A deal with Amazon TV (who are also facing sexual harassment accusations after multiple reports on the behavior of Roy Price) was quickly shelved, with a planned David O. Russell directed drama canceled. The biggest project on their slate is the next Quentin Tarantino film, set to center on the Manson family murders. Nothing has been revealed about the project and Tarantino has been loyal to the Weinsteins his entire career, but after the director went on record admitting he was aware of much of the stories surrounding the producer, the chances are that’s a relationship that’s gone very sour. During the past few years, the Weinsteins needed Tarantino more than Tarantino needed them.
The impressive back-catalogue of the company is also up for debate. Should their financial troubles continue, it’s definitely something that could be up for grabs. For now, it remains with the board, and it’s tough to estimate how much value can be placed on that catalogue, especially in the aftermath of a scandal that will undoubtedly have had a negative effect on much of it.
You may not have noticed, but The Weinstein Company released a movie this week. Amityville: The Awakening, distributed through the company’s genre arm, Dimension Films (run by Bob Weinstein), opened in a tiny number of theatres after close to three years of delayed releases with zero fanfare. It won’t make much money at the box office, and while there’s a myriad of factors beyond Harvey, the handling is very much in his wake.
The legacy of The Weinstein Company has been irrevocably changed after this month’s revelations, and it serves as a stark reminder that art should never be prized above people. The fate of a handful of movies matters little in the face of an industry dealing with its systemic misogyny and rape culture. For now, the films can take a backseat to something far more important.
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