Weinstein Harassment Allegations Add to His Studio’s Troubles

  • Company’s box-office revenue slumping from 2013 peak
  • Movie mogul denies some details of New York Times report

Harvey Weinstein

Photographer: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images

Snippets of “Tulip Fever,” a historical drama starring Alicia Vikander, screened at the glitzy Cannes Film Festival in May 2015. It looked like the kind of movie Harvey Weinstein had become known for after three decades in Hollywood -- an artsy period piece, a la “The English Patient.”

Then the release date of “Tulip Fever” got delayed for three months, to July 2016. Then again to February 2017. Then again. And again, this time till Sept. 1, when it debuted to poor reviews, mustered a paltry $1.2 million opening weekend and disappeared into obscurity -- joining a series of box office and critical disappointments for Weinstein Co.

Even before a bombshell New York Times story Thursday depicted its co-founder Harvey Weinstein as a serial harasser of women, Weinstein Co. was having a bad run. Now the personal situation of Harvey Weinstein, who is taking a leave of absence and denies some of the allegations, may play a role in the fate of the movie-production company.

Weinstein Co. and representatives for Harvey Weinstein didn’t respond to requests for comment.

This year the company has grossed $122.6 million in North America from seven films, led by this year’s Oscar nominee “Lion.” The wide releases have also included long-delayed movies such as Ray Kroc biopic “The Founder” and transgender drama “Three Generations” that made little noise at the box office. The studio peaked in 2013, when it had 18 movies in theaters and grossed $463 million, including “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” in the first nine months of the year, according to Box Office Mojo.

“They had a lot of these passion projects or Oscar-caliber films, that they hoped were Oscar caliber films, but a lot of them they turned out to be box-office busts,” said Jeff Bock, senior analyst at researcher Exhibitor Relations. “Whereas they used to scoop up all the great indie films, they don’t do that anymore.”

Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob created the independent studio in 2005 after parting ways with their earlier venture, Miramax. They’ve produced well-received films such as “Django Unchained” and Oscar winner “The King’s Speech,” and the television division has hits such as “Project Runway,” the fashion competition on the Lifetime network.

Even before the creation of Weinstein Co., Harvey Weinstein was among the most successful and powerful moguls in Hollywood, known for his aggressive campaigns for Academy Awards. At Miramax, founded in 1979 and sold to Walt Disney Co. in 1993, he helped bring classics including “Pulp Fiction” and “Good Will Hunting” to the screen.

He rubbed elbows not only with Hollywood elite but with the titans of finance and politics. He’s a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation, the anti-poverty charity championed by hedge-fund managers such as Paul Tudor Jones II and David Einhorn. He threw a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton last year in Manhattan during her presidential run, with guests including Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker.

But in the last few years the big-screen successes have been fewer, and his influence in Hollywood has waned. The Weinsteins tried to sell a stake in the TV unit in 2014, and outlets including Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter have speculated that the entire company was for sale.

Now the board, which includes film producer Tarak Ben Ammar and WPP Plc executive Lance Maerov, must decide whether to distance Weinstein Co. from the co-founder whose connections and reputation built the company. Deadline reported Thursday that the directors met late in the evening to discuss Weinstein’s fate, though the outcome was unclear.

“Folks realize what a tidal wave this is,” said C. Robert Cargill, a co-writer for films including Walt Disney Co.’s “Doctor Strange,” who hasn’t worked directly with Weinstein. “In 2017, almost no one is too powerful to be brought low by these sorts of allegations.”

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