Levy’s Anatomy: Rules Don’t Apply–Warren Beatty’s Disastrous Fiasco–Who’s Suing Whom and for What?

Variety Reports:

With Rules Don’t Apply, Oscar winner Warren Beatty fulfilled his ambition of making a biopic about Howard Hughes.

Beatty wrote the screenplay, directed the film, and starred as Hughes. Now it was up to the distributors, Arnon Milchan’s Regency Entertainment and Fox, to figure out how to sell it. Should it open wide, with a costly advertising campaign befitting its star’s pedigree? Or should it be treated like a niche indie, with a limited release that could expand based on positive buzz?

Regency ordered two test screenings at the Arclight in Pasadena, the results of which were poor, to say the least.  Moviegoers complained that the film dragged in the middle, and most of those under 40 had no idea who Hughes was. According to a report from the testing company, viewers described Hughes’ eccentric behavior as “frustrating,” “disturbing,” “distracting”, “repetitive,” “annoying” and “boring.”

According to Yariv Milchan, Arnon’s son and a top Regency exec, Beatty argued that the test audience — which was 25% Latino and 19% Asian — was “too ethnic.”

“Mr. Beatty was wrong about this, at least in my view and based on my experience, because the ethnic makeup of the test screening audience was entirely proper and standard,” Milchan said in a court declaration. Beatty’s attorney, Bert Fields, disputed Milchan’s account. “That’s certainly not a quote from Warren,” Fields said. “Warren certainly wanted diversity from the audience.”

According to Milchan, Beatty insisted on a wide release, ultimately prevailing on Regency and Fox to open the film on almost 2,400 screens. The prints and advertising budget ballooned from $12-14 million to more than $20 million. Milchan said that Beatty also insisted on opening on Thanksgiving weekend, against significant competition including “Moana” and “Allied.”

The result was a huge flop: The film cost $31.1 million, and earned only $3.9 million worldwide.

It was also one of the most complex single-picture financing arrangements in recent Hollywood history. The investors, who committed to the project at a dinner at Nobu in Malibu in 2013, included Steve Bing, Ron Burkle, and Brett Ratner.  The players are now embroiled in litigation over the film’s commercial failure. Arnon Milchan sued the investors to recoup more than $15 million of marketing costs, and the investors sued Milchan, claiming that he abdicated his responsibility to market the film.

Milchan’s attorneys then filed hundreds of pages of documents in the case, including excerpts from the investors’ depositions and emails from Beatty, in which he laments the film’s “disastrous” performance. In a March 2017 email to Fox studio boss Stacey Snider, he urged a new approach to marketing the video release, to make up for the poor theatrical campaign.

For the rest of the story, please read:

Inside the Fight Over Warren Beatty’s ‘Rules Don’t Apply’ Fiasco (EXCLUSIVE)

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