In memory of New Line Cinema, 1967-2008

Warner Bros. announced today that New Line Cinema, previously an independent subsidiary of Time Warner, has been folded into Warner Bros. proper and will become a specialty label, presumably used like Sony’s Screen Gems and others as names on specific genres or groups of films. New Line Cinema, founded in 1967 and acquired by Turner Entertainment in 1994 (which was itself acquired by Time Warner two years later), was one of the largest independent movie studios, responsible for such successful franchises as Austin Powers, Rush Hour, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and also produced and distributed a number of other successful films including The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Se7en, Boogie Nights, Elf, American History X, The Wedding Singer, Wedding Crashers, and Snakes on a Plane. New Line’s last independent film, opening today, is Semi-Pro starring Will Ferrell- coincidentially about another small group which was overtaken by a large one, the American Basketball Association.

Don’t start crying just yet.
MGM and United Artists have been bought and sold so many times it is hard to keep track.
Generally, when one studio buys another, they sort of keep the studio intact (in house) so that they can sell it off again.
Don’t be surprised if someday in the not too distant future, another company or conglomerate or a few Hollywood stars buy it back and run it independently again.

This isn’t a take-over though. They already own it.

By making it just a product line, they are pretty much specifically saying that they’re getting rid of everyone employed by the studio. That fairly well rules out “keeping the studio intact.” Unless I’m misreading.

No, you are correct and yes, heads will roll and staff will be cut.
What I mean, however, is that not only will there still be films using New Line as the productions name (upcoming film, The Hobbit, for instance) but they will still keep the New Line library and trademarks and copyrights separate, but intact within the larger company.

At some point down the line - when Warner Bros needs some extra cash, they can wrap New Line with a pretty bow, sell the name and the library, and off it goes to another entity.

I could care less about New Line’s- or any other studio’s- future. It just intrigued me that such a small studio could thrive with a number of hit franchises over the years, even after being purchased by a larger company, and then have a string of flops culminating in blowing it all on one hopeful blockbuster that failed to meet expectations. The most fitting comparison would be United Artists- the similarities are shocking, actually. In the future, The Golden Compass will probably be seen as New Line’s Heaven’s Gate. (Of course, United Artists was owned by an insurance company, not another movie studio, but the 1970s were the age of conglomerates buying movie studios: Paramount and Warner Bros. were owned by conglomerates whose first businesses were bumper-stamping and funeral homes, respectively; and as Stephen Colbert can tell you, RKO was owned by a tire company.)

sigh New Line was the only one that would distribute John Waters’ early movies…

Or perhaps more fatal was New Line’s playing fast and loose with its profits from LOTR, causing estrangement with Peter Jackson and also jeopardizing their screen rights to “The Hobbit” by failing to pay JRRT’s estate, when contractually they were to get 7.5% of the gross.

New Line’s logo, and that wonderful period of anticipation when the LOTR movies were in development, will always be linked in my mind. So in that very limited sense, I’m sorry to see it go.

That’s about the worst analogy possible. Heaven’s Gate made $3,484,331 and its budget was $44 million.

The Golden Compass has made $330,975,808 worldwide so far, and it has yet to open in Japan and China, big markets for fantasy films. Its budget was around $180 million. It’s not just a hit movie, it’s a SMASH HIT movie, so if New Line was stupid at selling off their foreign distribution rights, it’s the studio’s fault and not the movie’s. In other words, people should quit acting like The Golden Compass was a flop.

Okay, you’re right. The UA comparison isn’t 100% valid- Compass is by no means as big a failure as Heaven’s Gate was. But if New Line hadn’t sold off the foreign distribution rights, more people would probably consider Compass a hit. (Compass made $70 million domestically.) The blame can probably be put on Compass’s domestic failure combined with the line of failure after failure for New Line before its release. (Of course, the same can also be said for UA circa 1980: Crusing, $19 million, Foxes, $7 million, Windows, $2 million, Stardust Memories, $10 million, The Big Red One, $7 million.)