I’m told about 10 people were axed this week at The Weinstein Company. Its Hong Kong office is closing. And its UK office will be down to one person. Even though Inglourious Basterds has been doing better than expected at the box office, TWC still has to share the worldwide revenues 50-50 with Universal. At one point, Uni was nervous whether The Weinstein Company even had the $30M necessary to adequately release IB domestically. Because TWC had depleted all its cash reserves, taken out a $75M bridge loan from Ziff Brothers Investment, and put all of its other movie releases on hold. True, Basterds gave Quentin Tarantino his biggest opening ever, thus erasing Harv’s fears this would be a Grindhouse-like flop. But Basterds had a negative cost of $72M and a humongous first-dollar gross participation — as much as 25% — for Tarantino and Brad Pitt.
Then there’s The Weinstein Company’s release of its 100%–owned Halloween II one week later. The first in the Rob Zombie rebooted franchise opened with a solid $26.3M weekend back on August 31, 2007 — promising a newly invigorated franchise. Didn’t happen. Last weekend, Zombie’s fan-repelling Halloween II managed only a $16.3M debut weekend, which was a huge disappointment. Not just to Harv, but to others. Because several TWC filmmakers were told that the Weinsteins have to see how Halloween II opens before they decide how many movies they can open for the rest of 2009. Mind you, not how Basterds does. But the holiday horror flick, which is really where they hoped to make their money. I guess TWC’s recent PR offensive in the pages of both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times didn’t stave off the reality of their situation. It’s no longer a case of what Miller Buckfire & Company, brought in to help TWC restructure, recommended after its review (to release only 10 movies a year, at least four from Bob’s Dimension). But what TWC can afford. I remember how Harvey told me back when Grindhouse tanked that he’d taken his eye off the film ball. He blamed himself again during his recent media circle-jerk to explain why TWC is in dire straits. Oops, I used the “D” word. Any minute now, that’ll be Bert Fields calling from behind the scenes to say TWC is fine. But even though The Weinstein Co kept denying it to me, much of the senior staff departed in the past year, including the head of acquisitions and the head of production, as well as most support staff. Now still more employees are gone.