The challenges became considerably steeper after The New York Times
reported last Thursday that the entertainment company’s most visible figure, Harvey, had been accused over nearly three decades of sexually harassing women, both inside and outside of his company. At least eight of the cases ended in legal settlements with the women, according to the Times report.
The report threw the company into tumult, with Weinstein first announcing he would take a leave of absence, as he alternately appeared to be fighting and contesting the allegations. Before the company board fired the founder on Sunday, three of its directors resigned.
Weinstein and his reputation appeared to still be under siege Tuesday. A television newswoman
told NBC News that the film producer had once cornered her in a closed New York restaurant and masturbated in front of her. And The New Yorker magazine reportedly is on the verge of publishing its own story, with accounts of more sexually charged misbehavior.
The wall of silence that once greeted claims of bad acts by Weinstein appeared to be cracking, at least a little. Meryl Streep deemed herself “appalled” at the “disgraceful” news. Kevin Smith, producer of “Clerks,” tweeted: “He financed the first 14 years of my career — and now I know while I was profiting, others were in terrible pain. It makes me feel ashamed.” Actor-director Seth Rogen praised the bravery of the women who broke the silence surrounding Weinstein’s behavior.
Others close to the company acknowledged its challenges to move beyond the sex scandal, but said its assets should not be underestimated. The Weinstein Co. has six films “in the can” — completed and ready for theatrical distribution this year, including a sequel to its earlier hit, “Paddington,” the 2015 animated take on the beloved stuffed bear, which brought in $268 million worldwide.
There have been internal discussions about how to reorganize the Weinstein Co. “There is still a viable company there, without Harvey,” said one person close to the company, who asked not to be named, discussing information that had been conveyed in confidence.
The Hollywood Reporter
published an article Tuesday saying that as the board moved to fire him, Weinstein pleaded with executives in the industry to rally to his cause. “I am desperate for your help,” Weinstein said in an email, according to the report, as he pleaded for the power brokers to write letters to the Weinstein board.
Even before the earthquake caused by The New York Times report — which detailed harassment targeting actresses Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and others — the Weinstein organization was badly in need of a victory.
In 2016, the company brought in a total box-office amount of just $64 million, dragged down by the poor showing of the western “Jane Got a Gun,” the British musical “Sing Street,” and the fight flick, “Hands of Stone.” Its best hope for a financial win — director Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” — made $155 million worldwide. But that was not enough to realize a significant profit, given the film’s cost of $44 million and a sizable marketing budget.
Unlike the big studios, which rely on steady cash flow from older films that are replayed on television, the internet and via other media, the Weinstein Co. can’t fall back on a film library. It sold those rights, with one chunk ending up with AMC Networks in 2015 and another share held by the insurance company Assured Guaranty Ltd.
In an earlier incarnation, the Weinstein’s Miramax Co. cut a wide enough swath that it was bought out by the Disney Co. in 1993 for $60 million. But Disney sold Miramax in 2010, saying it wanted to focus on its core brand. The brothers began again in 2005 with their eponymous venture, but it has strained to pay off for investors, like the giant British advertising agency WPP, according to Hollywood investment experts.
The company cannot match the financial heft of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or other digital competitors that have been investing heavily in film and other video content for their online services.
The Weinstein Co. moved to slash its slate of films in 2015 and also laid off about 40 of its 200 staffers. And it felt increasingly crowded by director-friendly independent companies that no longer saw Weinstein as the only backer of artistically-minded films. Among the new competitors are A24, maker of acclaimed movies like “Room” and “Ex Machina,” and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, the company behind award films like “Foxcatcher,” “American Hustle” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Jonathan Taplin, a professor emeritus at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School For Communication, has followed Weinstein’s career closely. (Their acquaintance became particularly memorable after Weinstein physically accosted the some-time film producer at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, according to multiple reports.)
“The life of any of the independents today is very tough, given the amount of cash that Amazon and Netflix and the others have to throw around,” said Taplin, author of “Move Fast & Break Things,” about the growing power of the internet giants. “It’s a real tough road, with Harvey or without him.”
James Rainey reported from Los Angeles, and Claire Atkinson from New York.