Is Harvey Weinstein Broke?

The Weinstein Company keeps throwing out signs of having absolutely no money. The latest is a report that the company may have lost the rights to produce a sequel to Sin City.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, representatives of Sin City creator Frank Miller are shopping the sequel rights around to various producers in Hollywood. The Weinstein Company produced the original film, which grossed $159 million worldwide. A Weinstein rep insisted to THR that the company still owns the rights to a follow-up, but if that's true why would Miller be offering them to someone else?

THR speculates that the Weinsteins either couldn't afford to pay a contractually obligated re-up fee, or simply doesn't have the resources to get the movie off the ground. Traditionally, contracts for sequel rights include a requirement that the option holder—in this case, the Weinsteins—keep the film in active development. If it sits on a shelf because, say, the company can't pony up the cash to hire an A-list screenwriter, then the rights can revert to the original owner.

Asked for comment, a Weinstein Company rep forwarded Gawker the same statement from lawyer Bert Fields that the company issued to THR:

TWC's rights to produce sequels to Sin City remain intact as they always have been. Any suggestion to the contrary is complete hogwash.

A close reading of that statement would allow for it to be narrowly true even if the Weinsteins have lost exclusivity over the film. They may have the right to produce the sequel contingent upon meeting certain development goals, like hiring a writer within a certain timeframe. If they haven't met those goals yet, the rights could still be said to be "intact."

If true, the loss of the Sin City rights would be just the latest sign that the Weinsteins are barely keeping their heads above water. Earlier this month, they settled a lawsuit by paying an "undisclosed sum" to NBC Universal over their attempt to move Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime. Who knows what that sum was, but NBC had the Weinsteins over a barrel after having successfully won an injunction to stop Runway from airing, so it was likely more than a token fee.

In December, Fidelity Investments marked down its shares in the Weinstein Co. by 25%; a month before that, the company laid of 24 people, or 11% of its staff. The company has quietly laid off other staff since then.

While the Weinsteins have shown some signs of business life recently, such as buying John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, they're said to be out of the market for new material such as scripts and book rights. And despite the Weinstein reputation for letting movies sit on the shelf for years, there's even been stories circulating of them offering producers their movies back if they can find someone to pay them whatever TWC has spent so far.

Still, Harvey has his glittery future projects to hold out as argument that turnaround is just up ahead. There's this summer's Inglorious Basterds, whose Cannes premiere was just announced today, and of course, Rob Marshall's musical Nine which Harvey is already positioning for next year's Oscars.

But this is an old trick. The Weinstein Company's CFO crowed in a letter to the New York Times two years ago that the company's 70 percent investment in the home video firm Genius Products was worth $400 million. Last quarter, Genius Products recorded an operating loss of $29 million, and the company that owns the other 30 percent wrote down the value of its share by $35 million, citing an "other than temporary decline" in its worth. In January, the British company Entertainment Rights, which had a contract with Genius Products as a home-video distributor of its films, announced that it wasn't confident that Genius could pay its debts.