The New York Times has an article here that looks at the shaky start of the Weinstein Company, which was most recently evidenced in the disappointing box office debut of GRINDHOUSE.
The Weinstein company came into being a couple years ago when Bob and Harvey Weinstein split from their old company, Miramax, over a dispute with their financial overlords at Disney. At Miramax, the Weinstein had earned a reputation as geniuses who bought the right independent films and turned them into art house hits (like SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE), while simultaneously their genre sub-division, Dimension, churned out popular (if less artistically respectable) horror flicks.
The new company was supposed to chart a similar trajectory, but it has suffered a series of setbacks at the box office, climaxing with the release of the heavily-hyped GRINDHOUSE. In the Times article, Bob Weinstein says things “could be better, obviously,” but he insists that the company is on firm ground because it is branching out into other areas (including a deal to make a series of low-budget direct-to-video films to keep the cash flowing).
Over at Cinematical, Chris Ullrich, apparently eager to defend his heroes, dismisses the article as an example of sharks “smell(ing) blood in the water” and moving in for the kill. He winds up by saying of the Weinstein Brothers, “They’re smart guys and I’m sure they’ll be okay in spite of their critics and these setbacks.”
Well, maybe so. But I do feel compelled to point out that, even during their glory days at Mirimax, the Weinsteins were a bit over-rated. Sure, they found some great little movies and promoted them cleverly, but they also bought up just about everything in sight; there were bound to be a few hits in there somewhere, and as for the many flops – well, those are quickly eclipsed by the successes.
Yeah, they made interesting genre films like THE CROW, but then they gave us two sequels with steeply diminishing returns, and they bought up fatigued franchises like HELLRAISER and HALLOWEEN and churned out even more unmemorable sequels. And let’s not forget: when it came to the biggest independent horror hit of the last ten years, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – a film that had Miramax/Dimension written all over it – the film ended up distributed by rival boutique distributor Artisan.
In short, the Weinsteins have always depended on one or two big hits each year to rescue them from their flops – not much different from many major studios, when you think about it. No doubt, they were hoping that GRINDHOUSE would be the box office supernova that would dwarf any other financial failings. Alas, it was not to be.
I suspect they’re good enough businessmen to ride this out. It’s just worth noting that the real difference between their success at Miramax and their perceived failure as the Weinstein Company is they didn’t get the one big blockbuster to bail them out. Luckily, they have had a couple other low-profile success that quietly amassed cash worldwide (e.g., SCARY MOVIE 4) so the lights won’t be going out anytime soon.