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Weinstein Co. is hoping to avoid bankruptcy with its 'Paddington 2' sale

Weinstein Co. is hoping to avoid bankruptcy with its 'Paddington 2' sale
Weinstein Co. and StudioCanal have sold the North American distribution rights for "Paddington 2" to Warner Bros. (Weinstein Co. / TNS)

The studio co-founded by embattled movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is hoping a cuddly bear in a blue coat will save it from bankruptcy — for now.

Weinstein Co. and French-owned production company StudioCanal have sold the North American distribution rights for the kids' movie "Paddington 2" to Warner Bros. The Time Warner Inc.-owned studio will release the sequel in the U.S. and Canada on Jan. 12, Warner Bros. said Wednesday.

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The purchase price was more than $30 million, and may buy the New York-based Weinstein Co. time to explore a sale, said people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to comment. However, most of the money from the sale of rights goes to StudioCanal, owned by French conglomerate Vivendi, one person familiar with the matter said.

Weinstein Co., founded in 2005, has been reeling from dozens of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein. The scandal has widened in recent weeks to include criminal investigations in several cities and multiple civil lawsuits against the company.

Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex. Weinstein Co. did not respond to a request for comment.

Warner Bros.' purchase of the domestic film rights follows speculation that Weinstein Co. would have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after attempts to secure emergency loans from outside financiers fell through.

Thomas Barrack's Colony Capital dropped its bid to buy the struggling mini-studio after pulling out of a preliminary agreement to provide a much-needed cash infusion. An effort to secure $35 million in financing from New York fund manager Fortress Investment Group, seen by some analysts as a Hail Mary play, also collapsed.

It's still unclear who would ultimately be willing to step in to buy all or part of Weinstein Co., even with the expected cash infusion from the "Paddington" sale.

StudioCanal financed the film, produced by "Harry Potter's" David Heyman. It was originally set to be released in the U.S. and Canada by Weinstein Co.'s TWC/Dimension label, but Heyman has publicly tried to distance the family movie from the company.

The original "Paddington," released in 2015, grossed $268 million in worldwide ticket sales. The sequel opened in Britain last weekend, with a solid $10.9 million from that country.

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