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Strange war over 'The Butler' title intensifies

Both Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company won’t let the title go without a fight

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In a drama packed with all the big names and absurd plot twists of a summer tentpole, Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company are at war over TWC’s The Butler, the Lee Daniels-directed biopic produced by Oprah Winfrey (who also stars) about a longtime White House staffer (Forest Whitaker). The problem? Warner Bros. says that the title still belongs to one of its own movies. A silent comedy short. From 1916. Last week both sides entered into voluntary arbitration with the MPAA — which sided with Warner Bros. and levied a $25,000-a-day fine on TWC. That set off a string of legal letters (published on Deadline .com) in which TWC threatened a restraining order. Warner Bros. then cited TWC’s ”rules violations,” and TWC accused Warner Bros. of holding ”a major civil rights film hostage.” On CBS This Morning July 9, Harvey Weinstein said Warner Bros. is using the dispute to force him to give up his stake in the Hobbit franchise. ”It’s absolutely crazy,” says TWC COO David Glasser. ”This has nothing to do with a title registration.” A Warner Bros. spokesman says there is ”no correlation” between the Butler dispute and The Hobbit.

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