Question time: If you have a movie that came out in 19-0-splash, with a particular title, and then almost 100 years later another movie studio releases a new, different movie, with the same name as the old one, is it fair game to do so? Or do you need to/should you be expected to get hold of the rights?
You'd be forgiven for assuming the former, what with a century of time in the difference, but unfortunately for Harvey Weinstein (though it's doubtful that many of you would side with him, knowing what a filthy-rich ball-buster he's rumoured to be), it's much more of a struggle than that.
The Weinstein company are set to release Lee Daniel's new flick, The Butler on August 16th (starring Forest Whitaker). However Warner Bros apparently won't allow it to be released under that name, as it's already been taken by one of their own films, the 1916 silent movie, The Butler.
Weinstein is of the opinion that WB are rejecting the title because he won't allow them the rights to The Hobbit franchise, which Weinstein now owns 2.5% of. Sounds paltry but in movie terms (especially on the scale of The Hobbit) that's a shit-load of money.
Discussing the ongoing issue, experienced by many a film producer since the inception of movies, Weinstein said on CBS This Morning:
"We did try to settle it, I went through this with Bully, and I've gone through this all my life. My dad taught me to fight injustice. This is unjust... This movie is coming out August 16. I was asked by two execs at Warner Bros, which I'm happy to testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to The Hobbit they would drop the claim. For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic... 122 times in the history of movies, titles have been used and repeated, and our understanding with them was that this was just going to be the simple process that it always is..."
"Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have a movie out called [The] Heat. Jason Statham is shooting a movie called Heat. Bob De Niro and Al Pacino made a movie called Heat, and ten years before that Burt Reynolds made a movie called Heat... And Unstoppable has been done 5 times. 122 instances. [Warner Bros] told us they were going to do the normal thing, the normal business they practice, and I think there's an ulterior motive."