For the second year in a row, Harvey and Bob Weinstein have come away from the Oscars with a cart full of statues. But this year's movies didn't put as much gold into the independent studio's coffers.
"The Artist," which won five Oscars, including best picture, has grossed $31.9 million in the U.S. and Canada, and "The Iron Lady" and "My Week With Marilyn" collected $25.7 million and $14.1 million, respectively.
Added together, that's less money than the $136 million— $114 million of that before it won its big prize — made by last year's Weinstein Co. best picture winner, "The King's Speech."
In fact, "The Artist's" total is far less than the box office earned by any film for which brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein have ever taken a best picture Oscar — dating back to their days at Miramax Films, for "The English Patient," "Shakespeare in Love" and "Chicago."
Post-Oscar, the veteran independent filmmakers have an interesting year ahead. While a recent financing deal has helped bolster New York-based Weinstein Co.'s bottom line, the company has a 2012 release schedule full of high-stakes releases featuring big-name stars and directors, but without the same wave of post-Oscar profits it enjoyed a year ago.
The Weinstein Co. paid a little less than $3 million for the rights to distribute "The Artist" domestically and in seven foreign markets just before the Cannes Film Festival last spring. Since coming out in November, the movie has been a modest hit, but ticket sales could grow significantly in the coming weeks. Box-office receipts were up 23% this last weekend, a promising sign.
Harvey Weinstein////, whose indie film tastes have been responsible for two decades of critical smashes, went into the Oscars in an upbeat mood.
"If I had told you in April as we were embarking on this journey that all of this was going to happen to this film, you would have had me psychoanalyzed," he said in an interview Friday. He added that "The Artist's" box office run is far from over, claiming it could "double or triple" its current total.
Unfortunately for the Weinstein Co., several of the company's non-Oscar contenders were box-office disappointments. Alongside its Academy Awards films — the company won awards for "The Iron Lady" and the documentary "Undefeated" — the studio had several disappointments, including "Scream 4," "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World" and the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy "I Don't Know How She Does It."
Weinstein Co. executives maintain that the last year fits their model better than the tough-to-replicate success of "The King's Speech."
"You can't build a business around always having a movie that does $100-million-plus," said Chief Operating Officer David Glasser. "We're going back to the singles and doubles business."
The Weinstein Co.'s financial footing is more secure thanks to a recent sale to Netflix of the distribution rights to some of the company's movies, and to a $150-million film finance deal that it recently reached with Union Bank of California. That money has not only helped the studio to finish paying off loans made under onerous terms in 2009 and 2010, when the studio was in dire financial straits, but gives the brothers more wherewithal to make and buy movies.
"We're very confident funding the company's core focus on acquisitions and productions," said Bryan LaCour, Union's senior vice president of entertainment.
Meanwhile, the studio has made some progress toward buying back about 200 titles from its library, titles that were handed over to Goldman Sachs in 2010 as part of the loan deal.
The Weinstein Co.'s year ahead will depend almost exclusively upon Harvey Weinstein's 2012 film choices, which will include some of his biggest bets since he and his brother left Walt Disney Co.-owned Miramax and started a new studio. The Weinstein Co. will later this year roll out new movies directed by Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained"), David O. Russell ("The Silver Linings Playbook") and Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master"), as well as ones starring Brad Pitt ("Cogan's Trade") and Shia LaBeouf ("Wettest County"). But Harvey's high-tone movies will get no help from brother Bob's genre division Dimension Films. Once the reliable generator of Weinstein Co. profits, Dimension has fallen on hard times of late. After unimpressive returns from its "Scream" and "Spy Kids" sequels last year, the unit has no releases scheduled until next January.
Bob Weinstein said he is taking the time to regroup and plan a new strategy that mixes select sequels and remakes such as a new installment in the "Scary Movie" spoof series and a remake of 1986's robot comedy "Short Circuit" with lower-budget horror pictures.
But as Bob steps back, the company is moving ahead on several fronts. The Weinsteins have a small but growing television division that produces the reality shows "Project Runway" and "Mob Wives." And they're moving more aggressively into the burgeoning video-on-demand business with a new division called Radius that will release titles simultaneously on digital platforms and in a limited number of theaters. Radius has already acquired several low-budget pictures, and its first release, the Kirsten Dunst comedy "Bachelorette," will be June 1.
"It's the diversity that helps us play the game," Harvey Weinstein said. "We can do a conservative year like this past one and then the next time, go big."