Call it The Movie Formerly Known As “The Butler.” With just a few weeks to go before the ensemble, historical drama hits theaters, The Weinstein Company is being forced to toss out their marketing materials, change the name of the movie, and pay some heavy fines after they’ve now (mostly) lost their battle with Warner Bros. over the title.
As you might recall, earlier this month, it emerged that Warner Bros. was pettily defending their claim to the movie name “The Butler,” as it belongs a 1916 short sitting in their vaults that has never been released on home video and that no one really knew existed until this whole thing came up. Harvey Weinstein, publicity machine that he is, immediately went public, denouncing Warner Bros., hitting the interview circuit, and revealing that the real reason the studio was picking on him about the title was that they wanted him to give up his 2.5% stake in “The Hobbit” franchise.
But Harvey enlisted the support of Jesse Jackson, took the issue back to the MPAA (who regulate the use of movie titles for the industry) for an appeal, and essentially lost. They can use the words “The Butler” as part of a longer title, so the movie is now being called “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” And while the studio said they are “thrilled” with the change, they are likely not too thrilled to have to pay Warner Bros.’ legal fees, $100,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation and $25,000/per day dating back to July 2nd for their violation of the title rules. And they could face further fines if their digital promo material isn’t changed by July 26th and print ads aren’t altered by August 2nd.
At the end of the day, Harvey couldn’t have paid for the kind of promo he wound up getting while Warner Bros. still kinda look like dinks for being small-minded about the whole thing. The Weinstein Company may have lost the case, but they’ve won the PR war. [Variety]