The question for The Weinstein Co. post-Oscars: how will the company run going forward? Will Harvey Weinstein's restored Oscar mojo with The King's Speech's four Oscar wins unleash his voracious appetites (he has been in buying mode), or will he keep himself in line?
The fact that Weinstein Co. is launching a new TV department (led by ex-Miramax exec Meryl Poster) as well as a games division is reason for concern that yet again, Harvey's eyes are bigger than his stomach.
For starters, TWC will release best-picture Oscar-winner The King's Speech on 1,000 screens with a PG-13 rating on April 1, a smart commercial move. The revised version will be the only one available in theaters. Director Tom Hooper, actor Colin Firth and writer David Seidler also won Oscars. (It's great to see Seidler nabbing some new deals while he remains screenwriter du jour.)
One driver for TWC's recent success is reported in Bryan Burrough's thorough Vanity Fair piece on the Weinsteins. Their turnaround came about because Harvey Weinstein, inspired by Andrew Ross Sorkin's 2009 bestseller Too Big to Fail, looked up H. Rodgin "Rog" Cohen, senior chairman of the Sullivan + Cromwell law firm. Cohen is the man who figured out how to erase the Weinsteins' debt with Goldman Sachs by giving the investment bank 200 films to keep until their rental income paid off the debt; TWC cut their work force by 225 to 209. Starting in 2008, the Weinsteins' return to basics yielded The King's Speech, Blue Valentine and an investment in The Fighter. Along the way they chased but did not land Miramax, which may have been a blessing for all concerned--TWC scored a $75 million settlement from Disney after the sale. Now TWC gets to partner with the new Miramax on projects instead.
The Weinstein brothers have assembled the strongest executive bench that they've had in years under COO David Glasser. Besides TV exec Poster, Erik Lomis recently joined the company as president of theatrical distribution and home entertainment; producer Donna Gigliotti (Shakespeare in Love) is back as president of production; Sarah Greenberg Roberts is their new president of publicity; and Peter Lawson has re-upped as exec v-p of acquisitions & co-productions.
Going forward, the Weinstein's 2011/2012 slate looks stronger than any of the six years since they split from Miramax and parent company Disney. Genre pics and sequels are balanced with more fest pick-ups and fewer fully-financed productions.
Coming March 25 is Pathe co-production Miral, a controversial pro-Palestinian Cannes entry directed by Julian Schnabel that scored tepid reaction on the fest circuit and is unlikely to yield much art-house box office returns. This year's most likely Cannes fest entry--Harvey Weinstein usually slots a film to accompany the annual amfAR benefit--is potential Oscar contender My Week with Marilyn, starring Michelle Williams as Monroe on the set of the 1956 film The Prince and the Showgirl, opposite Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller, as well as Emma Watson and Dame Judi Dench.
Animated sequel Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil is due April 29, followed by four fest acquisitions for summer 2011: rookie Richard Ayoade's Welsh coming-of-age story Submarine (June 3), starring Craig Roberts, Paddy Considine and Sally Hawkins; World War II drama Sarah's Key, which stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Aidan Quinn (July 22); gay dramedy Dirty Girl, with Juno Temple and Jeremy Dozier (August 5), and retitled Sundance pick-up Our Idiot Brother, Jesse Peretz's family comedy starring Paul Rudd as a wide-eyed dimwit who teaches the women in his life about being a decent human being; Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Rashida Jones co-star.
Genre flicks include Dimension titles Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's $40-million Scream 4 (April 15), starring Nev Campbell, Courtney Cox Arquette and Emma Roberts; Robert Rodriguez's $40-million family spy thriller Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World (August 19, 2011), starring Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven and Joel McHale; sequel Piranha 3DD (November 23); and $5-million conspiracy thriller Apollo 18 (January 6, 2012), which tells the story of a 70s NASA secret moon mission via lost video footage. Still to be dated is supernatural horror-thriller Shelter, directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, starring Julianne Moore as a psychiatrist who discovers that the multiple personalities of patient Jonathan Rhys Meyers are murder victims.
Here's the list of pictures likely to release this fall, some of them possible Oscar contenders; weaker entries could be pushed back to 2012:
Pick-up from Exclusive, action comedy So Undercover, starring Miley Cyrus as a girl who goes undercover at a college sorority; Jeremy Piven co-stars (October 2011).
Producer Gigliotti's and director Doug McGrath's I Don't Know How She Does It, adapted by Aline Brosh McKenna from the Allison Pearson novel; Sarah Jessica Parker plays a financial exec who provides for her husband (Greg Kinnear) and two kids; Pierce Brosnan, Christina Hendricks and Olivia Munn co-star. (Sept. 16).
John Logan adapts Shakespeare's Coriolanus for actor-director Ralph Fiennes, who stars opposite Gerald Butler as the banished hero of Rome who allies with a former enemy (Fiennes) to take his revenge on the city (November).
Jim Field Smith's allegorical midwest comedy Butter is about an adopted girl (Yara Hshahidi) with a talent for butter carving who is pitted against established frontrunner Jennifer Garner in the town's annual contest; Hugh Jackman plays Jennifer's used-car salesman/ex-boyfriend. Ty Burrel co-stars as Garner's larger-than-life husband. (They're stand-ins for the Clintons and Hshahidi is you-know-who.)
Sundance pick-up from writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes, dark comedy The Details, stars Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks as a couple battling raccoons in their backyard.
As yet undated are Mikael Håfström's long-on-the-shelf World War II drama Shanghai starring John Cusack, Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat, which has finally opened in China; SXSW pick-up from Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, documentary Undefeated, which follows the underprivileged Manassas Tigers football team; and actor-director Michael Biehn's China-set actioner The Blood Bond.
In the production pipeline are Andrew Dominik's currently filming adaptation of George V. Higgin's crime novel Cogan's Trade, starring Brad Pitt as enforcer Jackie Cogan, who is investigating Sam Rockwell and Ray Liotta; in pre-production is David O. Russell's adaptation of Mathew Quick's comedy novel The Silver Linings Playbook, set to star Bradley Cooper and Anne Hathaway; and John Wells' film adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-prize-winning play August: Osage County with Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep on board to start filming in August. From Dimension, there's Patrick Lussier's planned revamp of John Carpenter's Halloween III, starring Brad Dourif and Scout Taylor-Compton; Bob Weinstein confirms that Rodriguez may finally tackle the sequel to Sin City.
There's been talk of mounting the musical Fraggle Rock (2012), but nothing much is happening; and in-house auteur Quentin Tarantino is working on his next, possibly a spaghetti western, before tackling Kill Bill: Vol. 3, long planned for 2014. A year ago, he told The Daily News that he'd like to do a spaghetti western--or "southern"--set at the time of slavery, "with that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with. Let's shine that light on ourselves." Uma Thurman recently told Hollywood Outbreak that "the southern" is “another new story and a fresh piece of material that he is channeling at the moment. So I think Kill Bill lives down the road.”
All in all, there's plenty that could go right and plenty that could go wrong. Hollywood is rooting for the Weinsteins to keep their eye on the ball and build on their positive momentum.