New Line Film Productions Inc.
wikipedia | 2013-01-15 14:53

New Line Film Productions Inc., often simply referred to as New Line Cinema, is an American film studio. It was founded in 1967 by Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne as a film distributor, later becoming an independent film studio. It became a subsidiary of Time Warner in 1996 and was merged with larger sister studio Warner Bros. in 2008.
New Line Cinema was established in 1967 by the then 27-year-old Robert Shaye as a film distribution company, supplying foreign and art films for college campuses in the United States. Shaye operated New Line's offices out of his apartment at 14th Street and Second Avenue in New York City. One of the company's early successes was its distribution of the 1936 anti-cannabis propaganda film Reefer Madness, which became a cult hit on American college campuses in the early 1970s. New Line also released many classic foreign-language films, like Stay As You Are, Immoral Tales and Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (which became the first New Line film to win an Oscar). The studio has also released many of the films of John Waters.
In 1976, New Line secured funding to produce its first full-length feature, Stunts, an action thriller about murders of a number of stuntmen in Hollywood. The film was directed by Mark Lester and released in 1977. Although not considered a critical success, the film performed well commercially on the international market and on television.
New Line produced or co-produced three more films in 1981 and 1983: Alone in the Dark, a horror film about escapees from a lunatic asylum; Xtro, a science fiction fantasy; and Polyester, directed by John Waters. Polyester was one of the first films to introduce a novelty cinema experience, Odorama, where members of the audience were provided with a set of "scratch and sniff" cards, to be scratched and sniffed during appropriate times during the film, which provided an additional sensory connection to the viewed image.
A Nightmare on Elm Street was produced and released by New Line in 1984. The franchise was New Line's first commercially successful series after a devastating financial slump, leading the company to be nicknamed "The House that Freddy Built". The low-budget flick had a production cost of $1.8M and grossed over $25.5M at the US box office. It was the first film to feature actor Johnny Depp. A year later, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was released. It grossed $3.3M in the first three days and over $30M at the domestic box office. Nightmare 3 was released in 1987. In its first weekend it grossed more than any previously released independent film and went on to make almost $45M at the US box office.
On January 28, 1994, New Line Cinema was acquired by Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting System, which then merged with Time Warner in 1996. While fellow Turner-owned studios Hanna-Barbera Productions and Castle Rock Entertainment eventually became absorbed into Warner Bros., New Line was kept as its own entity until February 28, 2008 when Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes announced that New Line would shut down as a separately operated studio.
Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne said that they would step down with a letter to their employees. They promised, however, along with Time Warner and Jeffery Bewkes that the company would continue to operate its financing, producing, marketing and distributing operations of its own films with the New Line logo, but would do so now as a part of Warner Bros. and be a smaller studio, releasing a smaller number of films than in past years.
As to the company's future, according to Warner Bros. president Alan Horn, "There's no budget number required. They'll be doing about six per year, though the number may go from four to seven; it's not going to be 10." As to content, "New Line will not just be doing genre [...] There's no mandate to make a particular kind of movie."
In 2007, New Line Cinema and Castle Rock Entertainment collaborated on Fracture, their first joint venture since the mid-1990s before both companies were bought by Turner.
In the coming years, New Line will release several films based on properties originated at WB. These include a remake of the 1958 musical film Damn Yankees, a film with George Lopez playing Looney Tunes character Speedy Gonzales, and another film in the National Lampoon's Vacation series.
Merger with Warner Bros.
New Line Cinema was merged with its parent company Warner Bros in 2008. The disappointment of The Golden Compass was largely blamed for the decision, in which New Line spent more than $200 million on the promotion of the film, yet only grossed $70 million in the US market.
Divisions of New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema operated several divisions, including theatrical distribution, marketing, home video, and was a partner in a new (and relatively short-lived) distribution company called Picturehouse.
Specializing in independent film, Picturehouse was formed by Bob Berney (who left distributor Newmarket Films), New Line (who folded their division Fine Line into this), and HBO Films (a division of HBO and subsidiary of Time Warner), who was interested in getting into the theatrical movie business.
On May 8, 2008 it was announced that Picturehouse would shut down in the fall.
Accounting practices
South Canterbury Finance invested $30 million in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, only to have New Line produce accounts showing that the movies did not make a profit, but made "horrendous losses". According to SCF CEO Allan Hubbard: "We found it surprising because it was one of the biggest box office success of all time." (The three films rank 5th, 18th and 25th on the list of Highest Grossing Movies.)
Fifteen actors are suing New Line Cinema claiming that they have never received their 5% of revenue from merchandise sold in relation to the movie, which contains their likeness. Similarly, the Tolkien estate sued New Line, claiming that their contract entitled them to 7.5% of the gross receipts of the $6 billion hit.
Peter Jackson's production company Wingnut Films questioned New Line Cinema's accounting methods, bringing in an outside auditor as allowed by the contract, and eventually sued New Line.New Line executive Robert Shaye took great offense, declared that they would never work with Jackson again.
Saul Zaentz also has an ongoing dispute with New Line Cinema over profits from The Lord of the Rings films. The dispute began shortly after the release of the films. In December 2007 Variety reported that Zaentz was also suing New Line Cinema, alleging that the studio has refused to make records available so that he can confirm his profit-participation statements are accurate.
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