New Line folded into Warner Bros.

The independent entity known as New Line Cinema since the late ’60s is, in a sense, no more. The curtain came down today on the company that Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne built and ran for four decades when Time Warner announced that it will become a unit of Warners, maintaining separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations.

Okay, but hasn’t New Line been operating as an independent unit of WB ever since its owner, Turner Broadcasting System, merged with Time Warner in 1996? What’s going to be different in a specific, physical managerial way?
Shaye and Lynne are out, but will staffers continue to operate out of the New Line offices at 116 No. Robertson? Or will the whole operation move over to the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank? Are there going to be massive staff whackings? Whomever steps into the top position at the “new” New Line is going to hire his/her own people in upper management, and subsequent staff changes will ripple down through. Works this way every time.
Claudia Eller‘s L.A. Times story about the announcement (posted at 2:14 pm) said “it is unclear how many people will lose their jobs as a result of the consolidation…New Line Cinema employs more than 600 people in Los Angeles and New York.”
A guy who knows things and knows people says this: (1) The only truly important property that New Line has that Warner Bros. truly values is The Hobbit, a two-picture ranchise that Guillermo del Toro will direct — everything else is secondary; (2) Warner Bros. is going to look to cut down on overhead as much as possible, which probably means eventually closing the 116 No. Robertson office and sending a pared-down New Line staff over to offices on the Warner Bros. lot; (3) Warner Bros. honcho Jeff Robinov is going to decide what’s really valuable about New Line (its employees and properties) and toss the rest; (4) “People don’t go to the movies to see New Line product…they go to movies because of the marketing or the story or the stars…the company name means nothing.”
I called every New Line publicist I know and no one (not even their assistants) would pick up. They must be having a big company-wide meeting or something. The official announcement broke about 90 minutes ago.

27 thoughts on “New Line folded into Warner Bros.

  1. Well, even though they made plenty of lousy movies, I am sorry to see their streak end. When I was doing college film showings, New Line was a weird little arthouse distributor offering minor Herzog films (Even Dwarfs Started Small) and things like the Cockettes’ Luminous Procuress and the silent Japanese film Page of Madness. It was truly bizarre to me that from there they became a successful horror movie studio, even more bizarre that ultimately they produced three of the most successful films of all time and took home some Oscars. Sad if The Golden Compass did them in, but surely selling to the Warner behemoth was a foreordained end, delayed only by the huge success of Lord of the Rings.

  2. Ooh! I left out John Waters. That was really the heart of the company then, renting Pink Flamingos to the college market. Funny to think that from there they went to the Oscars. What next, a Broadway musical based on one of Waters’ movies?

  3. If you get anybody on the phone, ask them why New Line’s 1989 masterpiece No Holds Barred – starring Hulk Hogan – isn’t on DVD yet.
    (I was an extra in it. The highlight of my then-12-year-old life).

  4. As a film lover, what concerns me most about this turn of events will be the effective loss of autonomy. Yes, they were both owned by Time Warner, but they were standalone companies that often competed for projects and had their own sets of rules. For example, in the field of home video, Warner Bros. has been staunch about resisting sub-licensing, while New Line has collaborated with Criterion on excellent DVD releases of SHORT CUTS, NAKED, and AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE. My likely prediction is that this arrangement will sadly end.

    One can hardly call New Line’s release slate of the last few years “edgy” with a straight face, but there has been that mindset that they were the company that would put their money into more oddball fare: take a gamble on somebody like Paul Thomas Anderson or Tarsem Singh or Michel Gondry. It dates back to when New Line was a counterculture studio, releasing John Waters and Lina Wertmuller films along with the exploitationers like XTRO or ALONE IN THE DARK. They tried to tap that root again by forming Fine Line in the ’90′s, and when that died off, Picturehouse. Flawed as Shaye was, I don’t think he ever forgot about releasing REEFER MADNESS out of his tiny office over 40 years ago.

    I suppose a day like this has always been inevitable, and a move like this is really just a formality. But honestly, I’m a little sad about this, because it’s another part of my childhood swallowed up whole to be later forgotten.

  5. New Line gave me some of my best film moments from the 70′s and 80′s. Where would John Waters and Wes Craven be without their support? Another end of an era. Make way for the conglomerates!

  6. Josh Massey asked:
    If you get anybody on the phone, ask them why New Line’s 1989 masterpiece No Holds Barred – starring Hulk Hogan – isn’t on DVD yet.
    (I was an extra in it. The highlight of my then-12-year-old life).
    Maybe TimeWarner will put it out as a twofer DVD with SUBURBAN COMMANDO.

  7. Seriously… what the hell has DeLuca done since leaving New Line? A short stint at DreamWorks and then attaching himself to a bunch of GFB-centric movies? Even Don Murphy has a better track record than DeLuca.
    DeLuca might have helped New Line become the company it became, but he clearly needed Shaye as much as Shaye needed DeLuca. Maybe the two of them can kiss and make up and work again together. I can’t think of two people who deserve each other more.

  8. i was sorry to hear this….a sense of loss not unlike when orion bit the dust….. wonder how much more this will gum up ‘the hobbit’…..

  9. New Line seems to have the opposite problem the old Miramax and TWC did. That is, they have great(or at least profitable) tentpoles, but the content meant to pad the rest of the year out tends to be awful or too niche.

  10. Well, even though they made plenty of lousy movies, I am sorry to see their streak end. When I was doing college film showings, New Line was a weird little arthouse distributor offering minor Herzog films (Even Dwarfs Started Small) and things like the Cockettes’ Luminous Procuress and the silent Japanese film Page of Madness. It was truly bizarre to me that from there they became a successful horror movie studio, even more bizarre that ultimately they produced three of the most successful films of all time and took home some Oscars. Sad if The Golden Compass did them in, but surely selling to the Warner behemoth was a foreordained end, delayed only by the huge success of Lord of the Rings.

  11. Ooh! I left out John Waters. That was really the heart of the company then, renting Pink Flamingos to the college market. Funny to think that from there they went to the Oscars. What next, a Broadway musical based on one of Waters’ movies?

  12. When I was involved with non-theatrical film screenings in the late 70s, I did a lot of business with New Line, and one of their sales reps told me this stoy, which I’ve never been able to confirm. He said that Shaye started the company as a college film programmer sometime around 1969. he’s rent a film for a screening somewhere and then taxi the print around to other schools to get multiple screenings for a single rental. From this, he made enough money to buy the rights to Godard’s “Sympathy for the Devil”. If that’s really how they started, I’d say they had a pretty good run…

  13. Part of their start was the introduction of martial arts / “chop-socky” films to big cities across America.
    Jackie Chan and Sonny Chiba got their American fanbases started thanks to distribution and dubbing done by New Line.
    I know their “independent” days were gone a long time ago, but it’s going to be sad not seeing that logo every now and then.

  14. R. Hunt:
    I’d say that story’s accurate. The company’s various mutations were part of what made it so fascinating to watch. I’m experienceing something of a Proustian rush thinking about all this…

  15. The story I’d always heard was that Shaye was a student of copyright law, realized that REEFER MADNESS was in the public domain and distributed that film to college campuses, running the company out of the kitchen of his apartment. Built it up from there.

  16. “The story I’d always heard was that Shaye was a student of copyright law, realized that REEFER MADNESS was in the public domain and distributed that film to college campuses, running the company out of the kitchen of his apartment. Built it up from there.” — Armin, I think this has the makings of a pitch!

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