Editor’s note: Variety reports that Warner Bros. won in arbitration and the Weinstein Company will need to choose a new title for “The Butler.”
It seems once you have a good Butler, you just don’t want to let him go.
The Weinstein Company’s upcoming movie The Butler, which stars Forest Whitaker as the African-American servant who worked in the White House for more than 40 years, has tripped over an industry obstacle on the way to its Aug. 16 release in theaters. As Deadline reported Monday, Warner Bros. is claiming protective rights to the film’s title due to a 1916 silent short film with the same name that resides in its archives, and both sides are heading to arbitration to reach a resolution.
Technically, this isn’t a legal issue, since you can’t typically copyright or trademark a movie title. But the MPAA has a voluntary Title Registration Bureau that the industry uses to self-regulate and avoid title conflicts that might confuse audiences. In this case, it’s unlikely that moviegoers are even aware of the 1916 silent film that Warner Bros. is citing, but TWC apparently never cleared the title.
More than likely, The Butler will be released as The Butler, but there’s a a good chance Warner Bros. will gain something in return via arbitration.
Here’s the trailer for director Lee Daniels’ star-studded movie: