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As ''Grindhouse'' flops, the Weinstein Co. regroups

As ”Grindhouse” falls victim to a box office bloodbath, longtime indie titans Bob and Harvey Weinstein focus on recapturing that old Miramax magic

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Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, ...
Rico Torres

Bold, bloody, and surely the first mainstream flick ever to feature a heroine with a machine-gun prosthetic leg, Grindhouse was supposed to be The Weinstein Co.’s golden goose. The provocative project would announce to the world that, after a messy divorce from Disney in 2005, brothers (and Miramax founders) Bob and Harvey were back — and as badass as ever. The $53 million double feature was directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, whose films — including Pulp Fiction and the Spy Kids franchise, respectively — made Miramax hundreds of millions during the Weinsteins’ tenure. What could go wrong?

A lot, as the brothers found out last weekend. Despite positive reviews and a strong B+ CinemaScore, Grindhouse debuted in fourth place with a whimpering $11.6 million — a far cry from the predicted $20 million. ”There’s no way to disguise it: Everybody’s disappointed,” Harvey tells EW. In a joint interview, the duo attribute Grindhouse‘s DOA opening to a three-hour-plus run time and its edgy concept — it’s an homage to schlocky B movies of the ’60s and ’70s — which perplexed audiences even though TWC ran more than seven months of promotional teasers. ”I don’t know what kind of business model Grindhouse fits into,” notes a source at a rival studio. ”A throwback or homage should cost a couple million bucks. This is an expensive movie.” The Weinsteins are now considering releasing Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof as two separate features, but since some insiders estimate Grindhouse has already cost nearly $100 million including marketing, that would be one dicey gamble.

The poor showing only inflicts more damage on the fledgling Weinstein Co. Since launching in October 2005, the brothers have struggled to achieve their former Miramax glory: Other than Scary Movie 4 and Hoodwinked — which grossed $91 million and $51 million, respectively — TWC has churned out a string of misfires. The much-touted Factory Girl stalled at $1.7 million, Hannibal Rising peaked with $28 million, and last fall’s Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up and Sing topped out at a slim $1.2 million.

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