Ah, compromise. Both sides agree and everyone's happy … right? Well, maybe.
In the latest — and hopefully final — update of "The Butler" title saga, Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company have settled on an agreement that will make everyone (somewhat) happy.
For those of you who haven't been anxiously awaiting the outcome of this oh-so-exciting dispute, here is little catch-up of what's gone down so far:
Sometime in 2012, back when no one gave two s**ts about the movie's title, Lee Daniels ("Precious") directed a film he called "The Butler", which tells the true story of a White House butler who served eight presidents over the course of thirty years. It is based on Wil Haygood's 2008 Washington Post article, "A Butler Well Served by This Election."
In Sept. 2012, The Weinstein Company acquired the U.S. rights to distribute the film, which features a stellar ensemble cast including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Jane Fonda, among many, many others.
Fast forward to early July 2013, when Warner Bros. first got all huffy and puffy and claimed it had rights to the title because it owns a 1916 silent short film of the same name (yes, really), and brought the case to the MPAA's Title Registration Bureau. TRB ultimately sided with WB, and as a result, TWC was fined $25,000 per day for each day that it didn't remove the title from all marketing and promotional materials, including theatrical trailers and official websites.
…which brings us to today. TWC's appeal finally took off last Friday, and both parties came out, to some extent, on top. In short, the MPAA said its original ruling went too far. While TWC is now allowed use the word "Butler" in its title (give or take a few restrictions), it still has to pay a s**tload of money for violations.
As per the MPAA Appeals Board's decision, if TWC does use the word "Butler," all words have to be the same size and prominence. In addressing rumors that the company has decided to title the film "Lee Daniels' The Butler," the Board also stated that "Lee Daniels" has to be 75% the size of "The Butler" (um, oooookay).
In terms of fines, TWC has to pay $400,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation for initially using the title without authorization, with an additional $50,000 a day if it doesn't issue new digital and print materials by July 26 and Aug. 1, respectively. It also has to pay WB's legal fees, amounting to $150,000. Ouch. But Harvey Weinstein & Co. are probably glad that's finally over and now people can start taking content-related notice of what looks to be a lovely movie ... instead of, ya know, judging a movie by its title wars.
So, kids, what have we learned from this whole shebang? First, Hollywood is a weird place. Second, come Aug. 16, remember that you are not — and we repeat, not — seeing "The Butler", okay? You must call it "Lee Daniels' The Butler" (complete with the 75-25 ratio) ... or else someone's gonna have to pay.