BREAKING The Weinstein boys are back at Miramax. Colony Capital principal Tom Barrack Jr and The Weinstein Company co-chairmen Harvey and Bob Weinstein have set an alliance that will exploit the creative properties in the library that the brothers left behind when they exited Disney. The deal will span 20 years and multiple titles for films, TV series and live stage productions. Qatar Holding and Miramax will finance these, with TWC steering development and distributing domestically while Miramax distributes internationally. Qatar Holding and Colony Capital bought the Miramax library in 2010 for around $660 million.
They’ve been successful librarians, but now Colony Capital needs the talent relationships and development expertise of the Weinsteins to become content generators. “Sure, we own the intellectual property in the library, and most of the intellectual properties in development, but we didn’t have the art form. If I called Quentin Tarantino and said, I have a great idea how to do a Pulp Fiction TV series, chances are it would be a very short conversation,” Barrack told me. “The ability to take all these threads and sew them into a tapestry, is really the magic elixir. We’ve all decided it’s time for a quantum leap and that’s why we’re all together.”
The new venture will get off the ground quickly with sequels to the Best Picture Oscar winner Shakespeare In Love and Rounders, and they will develop series transfers of Good Will Hunting and Flirting With Disaster. They will also shepherd a development library that includes The Alibi, a comedy scripted by Stephen Colbert about a service that cleans up messes and creates cover stories for cheating spouses, and The Ninth Life Of Louis Drax, a script that was being developed by the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack.
“It’s like unlocking a kingdom full of gold, which Tom describes as diamonds,” said Harvey Weinstein, who several years ago competed to acquire Miramax only to watch Barrack purchase the library-rich asset that he and Bob Weinstein founded in 1979. “In an age where there is so much demand for television, we see a lot of TV series. I personally have never made a sequel, but I will make Shakespeare In Love as one. I’ve always wanted to do that and now we have the impetus to. There is so much intellectual property, and we’re in an age where, for however long it lasts, content is king. Working with Qatar and Colony will for us be a great learning experience. Tom is one of the smartest businessmen in the world. We’ll learn by his side and we’re excited to work with Rob Lowe.
“I’ve discussed making Rounders 2 with Matt Damon and I would say that’s going to be instantaneous,” Weinstein continued. “The guys [writers David Levien and Brian Koppelman] have a great idea, a way to make it more international where you start the card game in Paris, that’s all I want to say. There might be a certain beautiful Parisian actress involved in it, and then we’re off to the racetrack and Vegas with Matty and Edward Norton, and a new supervillain to replace John Malkovich.” Weinstein is eyeing Robert De Niro for that role.
The deals makes strong sense for the Weinsteins, who know the library titles and development better than anyone, since they initiated them. TWC has pledged to go hard into TV production, as well. For Qatar and Colony Capital, this finally gives Miramax a way to mine the creative potential of the library, after it has done so well curating the titles in the library, which will be enhanced by new productions. While Miramax has flirted with generating productions before, Barrack said they just weren’t ready. At the same time, TWC was resurrecting itself after forays into ancillary industries that didn’t work out and distracted the Weinsteins from their core business. Both companies are stable, Barrack said, and this seemed the perfect time to make this arrangement and do something with the iconic Miramax titles.
Said Barrack: “From the beginning, Harvey and I were always friends. When we went to acquire this library after Rob Lowe and I had the idea, the first call was to Harvey. When Continental Holdings made its first foray into the business, we weren’t really ready, or knowledgeable enough, to know how important it was to farm the content available in this library. We acquired that unknown, with 250 projects in development. The other surprise to us was the the value of the library and that the unbelievable brand that Bob and Harvey created was itself a gigantic marketing tool. We acquired the library the entire library for about $660 million, and within 16 months, we had doubled the cash flow. We had financed 100% of equity out. The interests rates went down in that era and reduced our overall costs by about 300 basis points. Most importantly, digital had now come into play. So we made deals with Netflix, Hulu and the other digital players, who instantly were ready to buy Miramax. It wasn’t just film, it was the Miramax genre, and we harvested that without a big creative ability at all.”
Miramax made noises about getting into production back at 2011 Cannes, where former chief Mike Lang and Lowe came to the festival to talk up its production plans and film acquisitions, a strategy that was to begin early the following year. Those plans never went anywhere and Lang left the company. Colony Capital then took a run at Summit, but was the bridesmaid in that one as Lionsgate made the deal that would have given Colony a veteran distribution and production team. Miramax’s production efforts have been managed by vet producer/exec Adam Fields and Zanne Devine. Barrack said they’ve helped moving several projects forward, and helping in the education process. He will continue in that role and liason with TWC, Barrack said. Miramax separately made TV series deals including the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez pic From Dusk Till Dawn (now in production), James Mangold’s Copland and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York. Miramax just teamed with Screen Gems on the Jeremy Garelick-directed comedy The Wedding Ringer. Clearly, this alliance will put a lot more Weinstein-generated Miramax-controlled properties in play.
“Fast forward and now we are in a very great place, we tripled cash flow of the company, have such strong revenues that it made us comfortable getting into entertainment, but we were also very comfortable with Harvey and Bob,” Barrack said. “We decided, let’s go back to the simple thing. If you’re going to mine those projects, the best people to do that were the ones who created it. So we went back to Harvey and Bob. They are in a position with TWC where they can take on more things themselves. It was the right time, the right place, the right product and no better filmmaker in the world than Harvey. We’ve got these two entities, with TWC doing domestic distribution and Miramax doing international distribution. Combining this effort, we don’t have the problem of not being able to distribute to everybody as the conglomerates do. Everybody else has their own silos, cable companies, studios, they have their own pay per view and digital. We are really excited. The moment is perfect. It doesn’t matter who’s the winner, Netflix, Hulu, theatrical exhibition, episodic TV which Harvey will be a king at, his portfolio speaks for itself. Whether it’s Facebook or elsewhere, somebody will be telling stories, and somebody has to be able to provide it through movies or TV.”
While it took him three years to really form a plan to beef up library value with new properties, Barrack said he was pleased to have moved at a deliberate pace.
“Toughest thing always has been finding somebody who takes responsibility for the whole,” Barrack said. “Rob Lowe has been tremendously helpful and the biggest backer of what we are doing with Harvey and Bob. We looked at it hard and found, this is hard to understand when we don’t have in-house creative ability and a real defined program of what this means for the rest of the library. Are we in the business to just make great films, to make singular hits, or are we in the business to spice our library? It took us awhile to figure that out. We had some deals before, with Copland, and with Martin Scorsese. We had deals at the edges. What we needed was a quantum leap, and we had to educate ourselves for that quantum leap. In the mean time, we didn’t have any pressure because we were bettering our cash flow at the time. As the big studios cut back, and we saw the market change, we said we need to start at the beginning, with the best resources to develop what we have. In the meantime, Harvey was building a big company on his own. So we were dialing on the edges, but we never really had conviction on which was the proper way to go. Harvey has another business, Miramax has another business, but this is a tremendous first step and kind of a no-brainer.”
One ancillary benefit to the deal, said Weinstein, is that it has gotten his mother excited now that he’s back with the company the sibling named by pressing together the names of their parents, Miriam and Max Weinstein. “It’s the first time that mom is speaking to both brothers and if you think we’ve been trying hard to get back into this library, you don’t know the tenacity of my 86-year old mom. It was nice of Qatar and Colony to let her be quoted in the press release. We feared the consequences if she wasn’t invited to.”