More than 20 staffers at The Weinstein Company were laid off Wednesday, the same day a U.S. Bankruptcy judge ruled on a final sale price for Lantern Capital to acquire Harvey Weinstein’s former film and TV company. Those laid off will be paid through Friday.
The layoffs came in the PR, marketing and mainly distribution, representing about a third of the remaining staff. The last of the TV creative execs is among those exiting. All this came after Lantern met with all the employees. Technically, everyone was terminated by TWC, but two-thirds of the staff is being rehired by Lantern and will remain in place. Such are the technicalities of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
As high profile creditors from Quentin Tarantino to Meryl Streep and George Clooney continue to make noise about getting paid for past work, there are many questions of exactly what the new company is going to be when Lantern takes possession. They start off with a library, a bunch of finished films that have been frozen in limbo, and development projects in film and TV. What Lantern does to mend fences with the stars and filmmakers and talent agencies in line to get paid will be important: the new company will need to be given a chance by those powerhouse agencies if there is to be any chance of turning things around.
Sources said that TWC has been screening for potential buyers all of its finished films. That includes The Current War, Mary Magdalene with Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix, and The Upside, the remake of The Intouchables that stars Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. Sources said that several distributors liked some of the films, but not the initial ask for a deal to acquire the entire finished film slate instead of piecemeal titles. It will remain to be seen if anybody bites. Hotel Mumbai is also being screened for distributors, but that picture broke free of TWC/Lantern: its original distribution deal came with a zero minimum guarantee, so TWC had no investment in the film unlike most of the rest of the pictures, and that was a factor in the picture going back to its financiers.
Time is a factor: The Upside in particular has potential to be a hit fall film with awards potential, but Hart has another movie coming this fall, the Universal pic Night School. When does this film get released and will he be available to promote it? Netflix would seem to be an obvious landing place because the release date and P&A stigma would be avoided, but sources indicate Netflix has been trying to remove itself from its lucrative deal and future slots with TWC, same as it did when Relativity Media went Chapter 11.
TWC was rocked into bankruptcy last fall following a series of exposes against Weinstein alleging decades of sexual assault and harassment. Outside of those working to exploit the library titles, there hasn’t been much for the rest of the staff to do for the past six months, and most of those who could find jobs elsewhere have done so.
The sale is now expected to close Friday giving Dallas-based Lantern the company at a final price of $289 million. The company will then figure out the pieces. It will be able to realize revenue with the library titles — Miramax has always been a strong entity because of that library left behind when the Weinsteins left Disney — but relaunching production divisions in film and television will be a challenge. Lantern announced Tuesday that industry veterans Steve Beeks, Lauren Zalaznick and Alexa Platt have joined as strategic advisors. No word yet who will be running the new company, though Lantern toppers Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic told TWC staffers in a June town hall that they plan to run the newly formed studio on an interim basis until they hire a CEO. Some believe that Beeks could potentially fit that bill nicely.
Our sister publication Variety was first up with the layoffs.