Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Scandal-hit Weinstein Co. files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK: The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday with a buyout offer in hand from a private equity firm, the latest twist in its efforts to survive the sexual misconduct scandal that brought down co-founder Harvey Weinstein, shook Hollywood and triggered a movement that spread out to convulse other industries.
The company also announced that it was releasing any victims of or witnesses to Weinstein’s alleged misconduct from non-disclosure agreements preventing them from speaking out. That step had long been sought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who filed lawsuit against the company last month on behalf of its employees.
“Since October, it has been reported that Harvey Weinstein used non-disclosure agreements as a secret weapon to silence his accusers. Effective immediately, those ‘agreements’ end,” the company said in a statement. “No one should be afraid to speak out or coerced to stay quiet.”
In a statement, Schneiderman praised the decision as “a watershed moment for efforts to address the corrosive effects of sexual misconduct in the workplace.”
The movie and TV studio becomes the first high-profile company to be forced into bankruptcy in the nationwide outcry over workplace sexual misconduct. Dozens of prominent men in entertainment, media, finance, politics and other realms have seen their careers derailed, but no other company has seen its very survival as tightly intertwined with the fate of one man as the Weinstein Co.
Some 80 women, including prominent actresses, have accused Harvey Weinstein of misconduct ranging from rape to harassment. Weinstein, who was fired as his company’s CEO in October, has denied any allegations of non-consensual sex.
The Weinstein Co. said it has entered into a “stalking horse” agreement with an affiliate of Dallas-based Lantern Capital Partners, meaning the equity firm has agreed to buy the company, subject to approval by the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.
Lantern had been among a group of investors that had been in talks for months to buy the company outside of bankruptcy. That deal was complicated when Schneiderman filed his lawsuit, citing concerns that the sale would benefit executives accused of enabling Weinstein’s alleged misconduct and provide insufficient guarantees of compensation for his accusers. Talks to revive the sale finally fell apart two weeks ago when the group of buyers said they had discovered undisclosed liabilities.
The Weinstein Co. said it chose Lantern as a potential buyer because the firm was committed to keeping on the studio’s employees as a going concern.
“While we had hoped to reach a sale out of court, the Board is pleased to have a plan for maximizing the value of its assets, preserving as many jobs as possible and pursuing justice for any victims,” said Bob Weinstein, who co-founded the company with his brother Harvey in 2005 and remains chairman of the board of directors.
Lantern co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic said they were committed to “following through on our promise to reposition the business as a pre-eminent content provider, while cultivating a positive presence in the industry.”
Under bankruptcy protection, civil lawsuits filed by Weinstein’s accusers will be halted and no new legal claims can be brought against the company. Secured creditors would get priority for payment over the women suing the company.
Schneiderman’s lawsuit will not be halted by the bankruptcy filing because it was filed by a law enforcement agency. Schneiderman said his investigation would continue and that his office would engage with the Weinstein Co. and Lantern to ensure “that victims are compensated, employees are protected moving forward, and perpetrators and enablers of abuse are not unjustly enriched.”
Other bidders also could emerge during the bankruptcy process, particularly those interested in the company’s lucrative 277-film library, which includes award-winning films from big-name directors like Quentin Tarantino and horror releases from its Dimension label. Free of liabilities, the company’s assets could increase in value in a bankruptcy.
In more fallout over the scandal, New York’s governor directed the state attorney general to review a decision by the Manhattan district attorney’s office not to prosecute a 2015 case involving an Italian model who said Weinstein groped her.
The bankruptcy process will bring the company’s finances into public view, including the extent of its debt. The buyers who pulled out of the sale earlier this month said they discovered up to $64 million in undisclosed liabilities, including $27 million in residuals and profit participation. Those liabilities came on top of $225 million in debt, which the buyers had said they would be prepared to take on as part of a $500 million acquisition deal.
The Weinstein Co. already had been struggling financially before the scandal erupted in October with a news stories in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Harvey and Bob Weinstein started the company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ‘90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction.” After finding success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech,” the Weinstein Co.’s output and relevance diminished in recent years. The company let go 50 employees in 2016 and continuously shuffled release dates while short of cash.
Last year, the studio sold distribution rights for the movie “Paddington 2” to Warner Bros. for more than $30 million.


In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits ‘Schindler’s List’

Updated 27 April 2018
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In emotional reunion, Spielberg revisits ‘Schindler’s List’

  • It was the first time Steven Spielberg had watched “Schindler’s List” with an audience since it was released in 1993
  • Spielberg initially shied away from “Schindler’s List,” scripted by Steven Zaillian and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s Arkansas”

NEW YORK: Steven Spielberg says no film has affected him the way “Schindler’s List” did.
Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and others reunited for a 25th anniversary screening of “Schindler’s List” at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, in an evening that had obvious meaning to Spielberg and the hushed, awed crowd that packed New York’s Beacon Theater. In a Q&A following the film, Spielberg said it was the first time he had watched “Schindler’s List” with an audience since it was released in 1993.
“I have never felt since ‘Schindler’s List’ the kind of pride and satisfaction and sense of real, meaningful accomplishment — I haven’t felt that in any film post-’Schindler’s List,’” Spielberg said.
The reunion was a chance for Spielberg and the cast to reflect on the singular experience of making an acknowledged masterwork that time has done little to dull the horror of, nor its necessity. “It feels like five years ago,” Spielberg said of making the film.
Spielberg shot the film in Krakow, Poland, in black-and-white and without storyboards, instead often using hand-held cameras to create a more documentary-like realism. Neeson remembered Spielberg running with a camera and, on the fly, directing him and Kingsley down Krakow streets. “It was exciting. It was dangerous and unforgettable,” Neeson said.
“Schindler’s List,” made for just $22 million (Spielberg declined a pay check), grossed $321 million worldwide and won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. It also did much to educate the American public on the Holocaust. After the film, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation, which took the testimony of 52,000 Holocaust survivors.
More needs to be done for Holocaust education, Spielberg said: “It’s not a pre-requisite to graduate high school, as it should be. It should be part of the social science, social studies curriculum in every public high school in this country.”
Making “Schindler’s List” was a profound, emotional and fraught experience for many of those involved. Kingsley recalled confronting a man for anti-Semitism during production. Spielberg said swastikas were sometimes painted overnight. Recreating scenes like those in the Krakow ghetto and at Auschwitz were, Spielberg said, very difficult for most of those involved. Two young Israeli actors, he said, had breakdowns after shooting a shower scene at the concentration camp.
“That aesthetic distance we always talk about between audience and experience? That was gone. And that was trauma,” said Spielberg. “There was trauma everywhere. And we captured the trauma. You can’t fake that. (The scene) where everyone takes off their clothes was probably the most traumatic day of my entire career — having to see what it meant to strip down to nothing and then completely imagine this could be your last day on earth.
“There were whole sections that go beyond anything I’ve ever experienced or seen people in front of the camera experience,” the 71-year-old filmmaker added.
Spielberg actually released two movies in 1993. “Jurassic Park” came out in June, and “Schindler’s List” followed in November. While he was shooting in Poland, Spielberg made several weekly satellite phone calls with the special effects house Industrial Light & Magic to go over Tyrannosaurus Rex shots — a distraction he abhorred.
“It built a tremendous amount of anger and resentment that I had to do this, that I actually had to go from what you experienced to dinosaurs chasing jeeps,” Spielberg told the audience. “I was very grateful later in June, though. But until then, it was a burden. This was all I cared about.”
“Schindler’s List” was a redefining film for Spielberg, who up until then was mostly considered an “entertainer,” associated with fantasy and escapism. Since, he has largely gravitated toward more dramatic and historical material like “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Munich,” “Lincoln” and last year’s “The Post.”
But Spielberg initially shied away from “Schindler’s List,” scripted by Steven Zaillian and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s Arkansas”. He urged Roman Polanski, whose mother was killed at Auschwitz, to make it. Martin Scorsese was once attached to direct.
Yet the making of “Schindler’s List” prompted an awakening for Spielberg, who has said his “Jewish life came pouring back into my heart.” On Thursday, the director said he wanted to make the film about “the banality of the deepest evil” and “stay on the march to murder, itself.”
To keep his sanity while shooting in Poland, he watched “Saturday Night Live” on Betamax and relied on weekly calls from Robin Williams.
“He would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” said Spielberg. “I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much. But the way Robin is on the telephone, he would always hang up on you on the loudest, best laugh you’d give him.”