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Talking pictures: Weinstein films dumped on market

Laura Linney in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."
Laura Linney in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

The Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob, have had a storied and successful 12-year history with Disney. The films they've released under the umbrella of the Mouse House — through their Miramax and Dimension Films divisions — include the Oscar-winners "Chicago," "The English Patient" and "Shakespeare in Love," as well as such successful independent productions as "Clerks" and "Pulp Fiction."

So it's sad to see their tenure with Disney end with such critically reviled fare as "Underclassman" and "Venom." Those two films are among a half-dozen "fire-sale" releases we've seen lately, as the studios purge everything in their vaults before Sept. 30, which is the Weinsteins' last day with Disney.

Others include "The Brothers Grimm," "An Unfinished Life" and "The Great Raid," all of which could have used full studio backing and aggressive marketing campaigns. Instead, they're pretty much being dumped into the market at one of the worst times of the year. (Although Miramax did send the long-delayed "Prozac Nation" straight to video and pay-cable.)

The squabbles between the Weinsteins and Disney have been well-publicized over the years. The brothers butted heads with Disney execs over such controversial films as "Priest," "Kids" and "Dogma."

But the final straw came when Disney refused to release Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11," which the Weinsteins helped bankroll. At that point, they said enough is enough and severed the relationship.

Under terms of their severance contract, Disney will get to keep Miramax, and the Weinsteins retain the smaller Dimension Films company (which released the "Scream" trilogy). They've also lined up backers, including former MGM chief Chris McGurk, to start a new production-and-distribution house, which, at the moment, is simply being referred to as the New Company.

The Weinsteins already have good working relationships with Kevin Smith, Anthony Minghella, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, so they already have some new projects lined up for next year.

The big question is, what will Disney do with Miramax now? Industry watchers are expecting to see fireworks at next year's Sundance Film Festival, when the two former business partners both show up to aggressively pursue new film acquisitions.

OH, THE HORRORS! There have been worse movies than "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" to open at No. 1 at the box office, but the film's huge opening weekend — it grossed $30 million, nearly four times as much as the second film on the list, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" — seemed to surprise some people in the industry.

It shouldn't have. After all, horror has been shown to sell well during the months leading up to Halloween.

Still, give credit to some smart marketing. The ads are pitching the movie as a horror flick when it's really a courtroom drama with horror overtones. (Here's a heads-up for those who are still trying to decide whether they want to see it: Virtually all of the scenes that could possibly deemed scary or at least creepy are shown in the trailers and TV ads.)

IT'S NOT TRUE! The scariest thing about "Emily Rose" is that there are some moviegoers out there who believe it's a true story.

The film is allegedly based on the case of a young German woman named Anneliese Michel, as well as two priests who were prosecuted for negligent homicide after performing an exorcism on her. But there is still no evidence that the girl was "possessed," and the Catholic Church has recanted its claims.

BUT IT'S FUNNY! There is a line in "Emily Rose" that should go down in movie history as one of the great all-time howlers, when someone says, "There are no injections against the Devil."