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Weinstein Co. forms label for simultaneous multiplatform releases

September 7, 2011 |  7:44 am

Harvey and Bob Weinstein are delving into the world of simultaneous releases of movies in theaters and on digital platforms.

The brothers' independent studio, Weinstein Co., has formed a division to acquire and produce films that will be released via video on demand and other platforms at the same time they're playing in theaters. The unit is being run by two executives from Magnolia Pictures, the mini-studio owned by Mark Cuban that pioneered the still controversial distribution model.

Such "day and date" releases are typically deemed unacceptable by the nation's large theater chains, which won't show movies if they are also available via video-on-demand. The chains fear the practice undermines theater attendance.

A spokesman for the National Assn. of Theater Owners declined to comment on Weinstein Co.'s announcement, noting the studio did not announce day-and-date plans for specific films.

David Glasser, Weinstein Co.'s chief operating officer, said starting the new division would allow his company to explore new business models without undermining the parent studio, which in the last year has released hits such as "The King's Speech" and flops like "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World."

"There are certain pictures this type of release works better for, and those are movies we might have passed on previously," he said. "But we do see this as a bigger part of the future and we will be able to study and learn with this division."

The new unit, which will begin shopping for movies at the Toronto Film Festival this week, is being run by Tom Quinn and Jason Janego, who were senior vice president and head of legal and business affairs, respectively, at Magnolia. Though no Magnolia movie ever grossed more than $7 million domestically, the company became well known for making movies available via video-on-demand while they were in theaters, most prominently with Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble" in 2006.

That movie played in only 32 independent theaters because of its simultaneous VOD release. Glasser admitted a similar fate may await some movies from Weinstein Co.'s new division. But the company predicts it will benefit more by attempting to embrace the evolving business of releasing motion pictures.

"It's foolhardy these days for anyone to say they know what model works and what doesn't for every movie," said Quinn.

-- Ben Fritz


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Photo: A scene from Steven Soderbergh's "Bubble." Credit: Magnolia Pictures