MPAA relents and allows Weinsteins to use 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' in title dispute (UPDATED)

Posted by · 7:53 pm · July 19th, 2013

Well, this whole silly, overblown, maybe-about-something-else mess has finally seen a solution…and everyone’s going to just keep calling it “The Butler” anyway.

It’s been revealed today that the MPAA has overturned its original ruling in the case of Lee Daniels’ upcoming film “The Butler,” which stated that The Weinstein Company had to change the title due to a nearly 100-year-old short film of the same name in the Warner Bros. archives. It is now accepting, however, something of a compromise, as the title can now be “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” if TWC so chooses — and I imagine they will.

Deadline reports that if Weinstein decides to go this route, the phrase “Lee Daniels'” has to be 75% the size of the phrase “The Butler.” Also, TWC now owes the Entertainment Industry Foundation $400,000 in sanctions for violating the original MPAA order (it kept using “The Butler” to advertise the film and was bleeding money daily as a result), and it will owe $25,000 per day going forward if it continues to just use “The Butler.” That will go up to $50,000 per day if new materials for the film aren’t released by July 26, so expect a new poster and a new trailer any day now. The company also has to pay Warner Bros. $150,000 in legal fees.

This all comes after a drawn-out dispute that had Warner Bros. strangely going to the ends of the earth to force TWC’s hand on an issue that is common and often not overtly disputed, while Weinstein went on a campaign against injustice in print and on television, slinging accusations that WB was even trying to get his rights to “The Hobbit” and yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s over now, though, and we can all move on with our lives.

Forest Whitaker stars in the film as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who becomes an eyewitness to notable events of the 20th century during is tenure as a White House butler. The film is based on the real-life account of Eugene Allen, who served the post during eight presidential administrations from 1952 to 1986.

The film may or may not be an awards contender, though mostly I hear Oprah Winfrey (who plays Gaines’s wife) is the one to watch for. We’ll see about that.

UPDATE (7/22): So Harvey took the weekend to think on a statement. Here it is in full, spun to be a victory, invoking Laura Ziskin’s name, etc.:

“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, Oprah and the incredible cast who spent countless months bringing this story about American history and civil rights to screen.”

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which, again, we’re probably just going to keep calling “The Butler,” opens August 16.

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