Is Downtrodden Weinstein Company Paying to Play at New Showtime?

Disgruntled as its recent self-esteem plunge has made us, no one could realistically suggest that the Weinstein Company is what you'd call "circling the drain." Maybe "studying the drain," or even "pawning the drain," if today's latest Harvey newsflash is to be believed: The Weinsteins have locked up a deal with Showtime as the premium-cable outlet for 95 films over seven years. Starting in 2009, the agreement covers both Weinstein Company and Dimension Films releases, including the so-hot-no-one-will-claim-it Inglorious Bastards and Rob Marshall's musical Nine.

The best part, though? According to reports (excerpted after the jump) the Weinsteins are actually paying Showtime to air their product:

[I]n an unusual twist, the indie distributor apparently will make an advance "bonus" payment of as much as $100 million to the pay cable channel.

As in other pay TV deals, Showtime would parcel out payments to the Weinsteins according to the performance of the various films at the domestic boxoffice — minus the prepayment, which is essentially a discount on the amount Showtime will owe the supplier.

Declining to discuss the financial terms of the deal, the Weinstein Co. co-chief Harvey Weinstein called the suggestion of a prepayment clause "rumor and innuendo" but added that in his opinion, the deal is "a game-changer" for his company.

The only game we see changing is Showtime's, which blew off Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM (the Weinsteins' original cable partner) demands three months ago and which, before yesterday, didn't have a theatrical output deal in place. That it achieved not only that, but got the distributor to pay for it, thus underwriting a good chunk of the original programming it needs to keep its carriers happy? That's awesome.

Granted, it's TWC — the $100 million is widely perceived as insurance against the day when Matt Blank's hotline to Harvey bounces back with an automated disconnection message. And regardless of whether or not Harvey pulls out the big '08-'09 he's planning — Gawker's analysis seems to suggest otherwise — Showtime will need more than Tarantino Oscar bait to fill its slate (its Viacom divorce partner CBS Films is good for roughly 30-40 projects in that time). But as marriages of convenience go, we've seen worse. Anyway, it's hard to resist the idea of the new Showtime as something of a mail-order bride. Best of luck to all!