WTF? Warner Bros Claims Lee Daniels' The Butler Can't Have The Same Title As A 1916 Silent Short

By Nick Venable 2013-07-02 01:40:59discussion comments
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WTF? Warner Bros Claims Lee Daniels' The Butler Can't Have The Same Title As A 1916 Silent Short image
Cinema has been around for over 100 years, and when youíre dealing with that kind of timeframe, thereís no doubt that certain film titles are going to overlap, assuming the title isnít something completely out there, like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. There was drama when Paul Haggis called his Oscar-winning film Crash>, since David Cronenberg had already used that title for his car accident fetish drama. The producers behind Neil Burgerís 2006 ghostly drama The Illusionist got prickly when it became clear French director Sylvain Chometís Líillusionniste would be plainly translated for its release in the U.S. Both of these film pairs couldnít feature movies more disparate in subject matter, so anyone who mistakes them just isnít paying enough attention.

But if you manage to mix up Lee Danielsí upcoming politically-centered biopic The Butler and Warner Brosí 1916 silent short film of the same name, then maybe you should stop reading this story and call your doctor.

But wait! Deadline reports that may never be an issue for you, as Warner is attempting to stop The Weinstein Company from releasing Danielsí film by that name, claiming title rights. Are you kidding me? 1916ís The Butler was produced by Lubin Manufacturing Company and distributed by General Film Company, and didnít even end up in the Warner library until years later. (Incidentally, IMDB lists an Edison Filmsí produced short also called The Butler that came out the year before, so if anybody was guilty of title infringementÖ)

Itís definitely a dick move on Warnerís part, especially since TWC so graciously allowed Warner to keep the title of their film The Good Lie despite it sounding like the TWC film The Good Life. In this case, Warner insiders, while assumedly sticking their noses in the air, say TWC should have tried to clear the title earlier, and that theyíre protecting their rights because they can. Ugh.

Deadline says TWC appealed to Warner on behalf of the late film producer Laura Ziskin, whose last film was The Butler, and Daniels also gave a personal appeal, but neither one was successful.

Daniels co-wrote the screenplay with Danny Strong, adapting the Washington Post article ďA Butler Well Served By This Election,Ē which chronicled part of the life of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen, who was invited back to D.C. to take part in Obamaís first inauguration. Granted, The Butler is a plain Jane title that doesnít really do much for the imagination, but thatís how award-buzzed prestige films work. Got a noun? Slap a ďtheĒ on it and dust off your trophy shelf.

An arbitration will be scheduled soon, but it doesnít appear that Warner will be backing down, which is unfortunate, since Danielsís film is set to release on August 16. If you havenít seen the star-studded trailer yet, take a look below, and let us know what you think about this story in the poll beneath the trailer.

Is Warner Bros Doing The Right Thing?


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