The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros. are currently embroiled in a fight for the rights to "The Butler" -- the name of The Weinstein Co.'s upcoming historical epic (due for release August 16), which also happens to be the title of a 1916 short film in the Warner Bros. library.
On July 2, the MPAA ruled against The Weinstein Co., demanding they rename the Lee Daniels movie and revise all promotional material, or else face steep fines. Not willing to back down, Harvey Weinstein hired Prop 8 lawyer David Boies to mount an appeal.
Appearing alongside Boies and MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd on "CBS This Morning" earlier today, Weinstein decried Warner Bros.'s move as unprecedented and "bullying."
"One hundred and twenty-two times in the history of movies, titles have been used and repeated," he said. "And our understanding with Warner Bros. was that this was just going to be the simple process that it always is. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have a movie out called 'Heat.' Jason Statham is shooting a movie called 'Heat,' Bob DeNiro and Al Pacino made a movie called 'Heat,' and 10 years before that Burt Reynolds made a movie called 'Heat.'"
But according to Weinstein, Warner Bros. has an "ulterior motive" -- and it's called "The Hobbit," another movie that has sparked contention between the two studios. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Weinstein brothers own a small piece of "The Hobbit," and they believe they're entitled to profits from the sequels, a claim Warner Bros. allegedly disputes.
Weinstein continued, "I was asked by two execs at Warner Bros., which I'm happy testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to 'The Hobbit' they would drop the claim. For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic. This was the big guy trying to hit the small guy."
A rep for Warner Bros. tells THR that there is "no correlation" between the "Hobbit" dispute and this battle.
Watch an exclusive clip from the movie, in which Forest Whitaker's titular character nearly comes to blows with his Black Panther son over race politics, below. Oprah, who plays Whitaker's wife Gloria Gaines, ends up being the one who gets slap-happy.