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Harvey Weinstein says the controversy over The Butler's title is because of The Hobbit

07.09.2013

Harvey Weinstein and Warner Bros. are currently at odds over the title to Lee Daniels' latest movie THE BUTLER. At the heart of the case is an obscure 1916 silent short movie of the same name that WB is claiming THE BUTLER is infringing on. Weinstein recently lost his hearing with the MPAA to retain the title for the Forrest Whitaker movie that hits theaters next month and is vowing to fight to keep the title.

Why such a hubbub over a movie title? Weinstein explained what he believes the reason is on CBS Morning News:

"I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I’m happy 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."

If that stake in THE HOBBIT films is the reason, that is a pretty greedy one if you ask me. Weinstein owns a 2.5% stake in THE HOBBIT films due to optioning the rights years ago. Granted, that percentage is a lot of money when you figure in the billions the three Peter Jackson movies will rake in. Weinstein also made clear this title replication is nothing new in Hollywood:

"...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 DeNiro and Al Pacino made a movie called 'Heat' and ten years before that Burt Reynolds made a movie called 'Heat," Harv pointed out. "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."

I feel bad saying this, but I think Weinstein is right on this one, assuming this is the whole story. There have been similarly titled films for years and more often than not they do cause confusion for the consumer, but I don't see any way that this would impact the silent film since it has not been distributed in decades.

One way or another, Lee Daniels' THE BUTLER will hit screens on August 16th.

Extra Tidbit: Without the ruling being overturned, the film cannot use the word butler anywhere in the title.
Source: IndieWire

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