Clarifying the New Line Cinema Situation - Plus What's Next?
We've all read the news by now - New Line Cinema has kicked the bucket and been folded into Warner Brothers. The studio that brought us the Lord of the Rings movies is no longer, but that doesn't mean they're entirely dead. Let's take a moment to get some of the facts straight in addition to looking at the implications and what the future may hold for New Line's films. First off, this isn't a sale - New Line has always been a part of Time Warner, who also owns Warner Brothers, so it was simply a consolidation - the two studios are now one, so to say. New Line now operates under Warner Brothers, which means everything stays intact at the studio, minus CEOs and founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.
While at first glance this sounds like everything New Line Cinema has upcoming is going to be canned, that's not at all true. New Line will still distribute its films as they were already planning. If there is a New Line release in 2008 you were looking forward to, don't worry, nothing is going to happen to it. The studio will maintain separate development, production, marketing, distribution and business affairs operations from Warner Brothers. You'll still see New Line Cinema movies, so in all actuality, they haven't really gone the way of Orion Pictures.
The reason why this was a good decision, in my opinion, is because New Line has been heading down hill in the last two years, putting out flop after flop. Now with Shaye and Lynne gone and with Warner Brothers looming overhead, maybe they'll be whipped back into gear and get back to the days when they put out movies like Lord of the Rings.
This sounds all too much like a case of someone winning the lottery (e.g. making over $3 billion off of the Rings movies) and not knowing how to manage such an overabundance of funds, which over time leads them right back to an even worse off situation than they were in beforehand. However, New Line isn't exactly a bad company - they've had pretty solid hits over the years. Besides the three Lord of the Rings films, the Rush Hour, Austin Powers, and American Pie trilogies have been their most successful franchises to date. They were also the studio that brought us the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Se7en, Blade, Hairspray, The Notebook, and the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, amongst countless other classics.
Looking towards the future, this "combination brings together New Line's 40-year legacy as the world's most successful and innovative independent film studio with Warner Bros.' creative leadership and unparalleled scale and reach in global distribution and marketing." (Reuters) The two will now work together beneficially and still put out as many releases, but cater movies specifically to each studio. "Given the trend toward fewer movie releases, New Line and Warner Bros will now have more complementary release slates, with New Line focusing on genres that have been its strength." Warner Brothers will still continue to distribute the more mainstream and contemporary fare. However, Nikki Finke claims that this is a temporary idea put in place to finish off New Line's films currently in development before rolling the entire thing all into one.
As for the status of projects like The Hobbit, unfortunately nobody knows what will happen. We can expect New Line / Warner to publicly update the project soon, considering they were supposedly on the verge of choosing a director anyway, but until then it's not even worth guessing. All that is known at the moment is New Line is folding into Warner Brothers and that it will take quite a few months for everything to get figured out and smoothed over. This includes the fate of Picturehouse, New Line's indie subsidiary, Warner Independent Pictures, Warner's indie subsidiary, and even HBO, another one of Time Warner's companies that worked closely with New Line. However, most projects currently slated for release in 2008 won't be touched.
Back in my December article titled The Golden Compass Bombs - Is This The Death of New Line Cinema?, I stated that their marketing department is to blame for most of their recent failures, on top of just choosing some poor movies. I have always wanted New Line Cinema to improve for the better in some way, because they're a good studio with some good movies (sometimes), there are just problems that even I can't seem to understand. Shoot 'Em Up should have been a huge hit, but it wasn't, and I can't figure out why. However, on the other hand, Warner Brothers can turn movies like 300 into industry-changing successes, and that's why I'm looking forward to what the future holds for New Line and Warner Brothers.
If you're worried about New Line's movies, don't fear. The studio isn't dead, per se, but it is moving towards a better tomorrow, even if it takes months, or years, to get there. You can be certain that in the many weeks and months to come there will be countless updates regarding changes within the studios and eventually drastic alterations, including possibly taking New Line entirely out of the picture at some point down the road. However, from my viewpoint, this may have been the absolute best thing to happen to New Line Cinema. But being the fanboy that I am, I've got to say… I hope that this doesn't mean The Hobbit is going to be delayed any more.