New movie ‘The Butler’ loses its title in arbitration case

July 2, 2013

As a title, “The Butler” has been shown the door.

Warner Bros. won an arbitration case Tuesday that forces the Weinstein Co. to change the title of the film, which is due to be released next month, reports Variety.

The Lee Daniels-directed film is based on the 2008 Washington Post article by reporter Wil Haygood that — in the immediate wake of President Obama’s historic election — profiled an African American butler who served eight presidents. Eugene Allen began working in the White House during segregation and lived long enough to vote for the first black president.

The film stars Forest Whitaker as a character based on Allen and Oprah Winfrey as the butler’s wife, as well as four noted actors portraying presidents: Robin Williams (as Dwight Eisenhower), Liev Schreiber (Lyndon B. Johnson), James Marsden (John F. Kennedy) and Alan Rickman (Ronald Reagan).

Haygood is an associate producer on the film.

Warner Bros.’s claim on the title is due to “The Butler,” a comedy short from 1916. The arbitration, according to Variety, was conducted through the Motion Picture Academy’s Title Registration Bureau.

— From wire reports

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