Weinstein Co. Sells 'Paddington 2' Rights as It Explores Its Options

By Ben Fritz Features Dow Jones Newswires

Weinstein Co. is getting a cash infusion from a furry bear to help it stay afloat while considering options for a sale or shutdown.

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The troubled independent studio and partner Studio Canal, part of Vivendi SA, have sold U.S. and Canadian distribution rights for the animated sequel "Paddington 2" to Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., the companies said Tuesday.

Warner is paying about $32 million for rights to release the film Jan. 12, said people with knowledge of the deal. The proceeds are to be divided between Weinstein Co. and Studio Canal, these people added.

The first "Paddington," in 2015, was the studio's biggest hit of the last two years, grossing $76.3 million in the U.S. and Canada. The sequel appeared to be the most promising movie on the studio's release slate for the next few months.

Studio Canal financed the follow-up, which has already grossed $13.2 million overseas and opened No. 1 at the U.K. box office. But Weinstein Co. had bought U.S. and Canadian distribution rights.

The American indie studio has been racked with problems since co-chairman Harvey Weinstein was fired following allegations of sexual misconduct. It needs cash to continue operations while considering options for its future, which could include a sale or a shutdown in which it sells assets through bankruptcy, said people close to the company.

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Weinstein Co. was previously close to receiving a loan of between $30 million and $50 million from Fortress Investment Group, but that is now unlikely to happen, said one of the people with knowledge of the "Paddington 2" deal.

This person added that the studio isn't now planning to sell distribution rights to other movies on its release slate, including the drama, "The Current War," the comedy "The War with Grandpa" and "The Upside," a remake of a hit French comedy that will star Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston.

"The Current War," which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and once was considered an Academy Awards contender, was originally scheduled to come out Nov. 24 but has been delayed indefinitely. "War with Grandpa" and "The Upside" are scheduled for release Feb. 23 and March 9, respectively.

Write to Ben Fritz at ben.fritz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 15, 2017 16:51 ET (21:51 GMT)