Harvey Weinstein's Last Stand
Inglourious Basterds premiered last night in Hollywood, and will open nationwide next weekend. The Weinstein Company is in full PR mode, because August 21 is the weekend that will make or break Harvey Weinstein.
Quentin Tarantino is inescapable, from The Atlantic to Jimmy Kimmel, and Weinstein seems to be leaking gossip items to engineer the appearance that he's blithely spending money in St. Tropez. But if Inglourious Basterds doesn't perform at the box office in ten days, Weinstein's days lounging around the French Riviera will be numbered.
He has leveraged his entire company on the fortunes of Tarantino's movie: According to Nikki Finke, the Weinstein Company has pushed back the remainder of its 2009 slate of films—save Halloween II, which opens a week later—in order to put all available resources into marketing Basterds. The Weinsteins could barely come up with the $30 million marketing budget for Basterds, and if they lose money on it, they won't be able to afford to market the rest of their pipeline—including All Good Things, Youth In Revolt, and Hurricane Season. And given the fact that they hired a bankruptcy consultant to help renegotiate their considerable debt earlier this year, it's unlikely they'll find new avenues of financing to fill the gap.
Harvey Weinstein was once the unchallenged master of buzz generation, but he most recently fell flat on his face with The Reader, which like Basterds, had a Nazi thing going on. While The Reader notched an Academy Award—a game the Weinsteins still know how to rig—it pulled in just $34 million domestically and $100 million or so worldwide. That's $70 million more than the Weinsteins spent to make it, but Basterds needs to make several times that in order to pull the company out of its hole. And the Weinsteins won't get all the money—if there is any—since they sold part of the movie to Universal in order to get it made.
So here's hoping that Harvey's hype machine, which for Basterds has included rafts of ads on TNT's Dark Blue, the BET Awards, and sponsorship of ESPN's Espy Awards, can turn the movie into a phenomenon of Pulp Fiction proportions. Somehow, though, we don't think offering Quentin Tarantino to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg is really going to get it there, but we do like this little anecdote:
Goebbels provides one of the most amusing moments in Inglourious Basterds, crying when Hitler praises his latest film. "If Hitler says that this is the greatest movie you've ever done, I can see Goebbels getting choked up," Tarantino said in explaining the scene. "When Harvey Weinstein does that, I get a tear in my eye."