War between The Weinsten Co. and Warner Bros. over the title of Lee Daniels-directed "The Butler" gets more heated up following Harvey Weinstein's statement on the July 9 episode of "CBS This Morning". To the show's hosts, Weinstein revealed that there was an "ulterior motive" behind the title fight, which stemmed from MPAA's decision to give Warner the rights to the title.
"I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I'm happy testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to 'The Hobbit' they would drop the claim," claimed Weinstein, who appeared alongside attorney David Boies and MPAA chairman Chris Dodd on the show. "For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic. I think this is 100 percent. This was the big guy trying to hit the small guy."
Dodd, meanwhile, wanted the two rival studios to end the "silly" war. "[Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Co.] need to sit down and resolve this," he said. "There's an appeals process, go through that. There's no reason why this needs to become as large an issue as it is."
Warner Bros. also released a statement, which was partially excerpted on the show. "The Weinstein Company, as the New York Times has noted, is following an oft-trodden path of creating 'well-publicized controversies' in order to promote their films by disseminating deliberate misinformation about the true nature of this dispute," it read.
"The Weinsteins are sophisticated experts in this arena and three neutral arbitrators have penalized them for blatantly disregarding MPAA rules. It goes without saying that Warner Bros. has no issue with Lee Daniels' film (never has) and fully supports the artistic goals of the filmmakers. The Weinsteins' suggestions to the contrary are deeply offensive and untrue."
A rep to Warner tells Deadline that there is "no correlation" between the battle over "The Butler" title and rights to "The Hobbit".