The Weinstein Company's new civil-rights drama set in the White House, formerly entitled, The Butler, has Warner Bros. in arms over the use of that title, which they hold the copyrights to. In the Warner Bros. archive, is a 1916 silent short going by the title, The Butler, a title which the company has registered with the Motion Picture Association of America. Warner Bros. sued TWC to prevent them from using the word 'butler' in any capacity for their title. However, the lawsuit has been settled. Although Warner Bros. won, it's a small victory at best. Deadline Hollywood reports that the MPAA has allowed TWC to call their movie Lee Daniels' The Butler. Lee Daniels (Precious) is the director of the film.
It seems petty on the behalf of Warner Bros. to prevent a smaller studio from using a title that couldn't possibly be confused with a 1916 short film that practically no one's ever seen, nor heard of. Studio president Harvey Weinstein believes their actions are a bullying tactic. Ironically, Weinstein has been infamously rumored to be one of the biggest bullies in Hollywood, so speculation is, that this is some sort of vengeance on the part of Warner Bros., who may have had an unpleasant run in with Weinstein in the past.
Lawsuits have been going back and forth for weeks. A July 2nd ruling went in favor of Warner Bros., but the TWC has since appealed that decision. Though their appeal went through, and has allowed TWC use of the word 'butler', it cost them a pretty penny. For violating the July 2nd ruling, TWC has to pay $400,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation, as well as pay the charity $25,000 per day, which increases to $50,000 a day if they don’t produce new trailers, TV ads, and posters without the original title by July 26. TWC also has to pay Warner Bros. $150,000 in legal fees.
The fines are considered peanuts to a movie studio which has garnered hundreds of millions of dollars in profits over the years, Harvey Weinstein is still pleased with the ultimate outcome. He released a statement saying:
"We are thrilled this has all come to an end and has been resolved, the MPAA’s overturning of their original decision to now allow the use of ‘butler’ in the title is a victory for Lee Daniels, the film’s 28 investors who believed in it, America’s greatest attorney David Boies, and especially in the memory of my friend and the film’s producer Laura Ziskin. Now we can focus on the importance of Lee Daniels’ film, the amazing performances by Forest [Whitaker], Oprah [Winfrey] and the incredible cast who spent countless months bringing this story about American history and civil rights to screen."
The film takes look at the life of Cecil Gaines (Whitaker) who served eight presidents as the White House's head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made.
Lee Daniels' The Butler boasts an all-star cast of Academy Award Winners appearing as historical figures. In addition to Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, the film also stars John Cusack (Richard Nixon), Robin Williams (Dwight Eisenhower), James Marsden (John F. Kennedy), Jane Fonda (Nancy Reagan), Liev Schreiber (Lyndon B. Johnson), Minka Kelly (Jackie Kennedy), Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan), Mariah Carey (Hattie Pearl), and Lenny Kravitz (James Holloway), among others. The film will be released under its new title on August 16th.
Watch Harvey Weinstein on CBS This Morning discussing the lawsuit:
Here's the new trailer for the film: