As Warner Bros. embarks on its strategy to make more tentpoles but fewer movies, New Line is on the chopping block to become an even slimmer version of its already much-reduced self.
The independent film unit of Warner, now busy shooting “The Hobbit” in New Zealand, is likely to shrink from its current staff of about 50 to about 35, according to an individual familiar with the studio’s plans.
The move is in keeping with the strategy of Warner’s incoming studio chief Jeff Robinov, who formally takes the reigns from Alan Horn in April.
He plans to sit with New Line president Toby Emmerich in the next few weeks to set the stage for the cuts, which flow from a reduced need for staff because they will be making fewer pictures.
New Line is expected to produce about four movies per year, while Big Warner will aim to release between 18 to 20, down from the current average of 24. In either case the aim is to make more tentpoles.
The hope is that Emmerich (pictured) will stay on, despite the shrinking of his empire. The executive, former deputy to founder Bob Shaye, has done a strong job transitioning the label in the post-Shaye era and managing the shepherding-cats situation with “The Hobbit.”
One executive close to the situation said they would be “shocked” if Emmerich chose to leave because of the cuts. Robinov is known to want Emmerich to stay.
New Line is already a much different place than when Emmerich's office was next to Shaye's.
Then New Line was a full-fledged studio with upwards of 600 employees; now it is mainly a production company, with marketing and distribution handled by Big Warner.
New Line is currently releasing about four to five pictures a year. This year that will include “The Rite,” “Hall Pass” (which opens this weekend), “Horrible Bosses, “Final Destination 5” and New Year’s Eve.”
Last year New Line released four movies.
But 2012 should bring double “Hobbit” action. And the studio is moving forward with another big-budget project, “Jack and the Giant Killer” and an adaptation of the successful Broadway musical "Rock of Ages"
In any event, there are no plans to move the reduced division out of its Robertson Blvd. headquarters.