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Warner Bros. moves to shrink New Line

The studio names Toby Emmerich to run the unit, which it says will remain distinct.

March 19, 2008|Claudia Eller | Times Staff Writer

Moving to reorganize New Line Cinema into a smaller, stand-alone production company, Warner Bros. has named Toby Emmerich president and chief operating officer of the entity.

Emmerich, who had been New Line's production president since 2001, is now the company's top executive after the recent resignations of founder Bob Shaye and co-Chairman Michael Lynne.

"We are going to rebuild it from the ground up," said Warner Bros. President Alan Horn, "designing the appropriate size of the company to ensure there are no redundancies."

Warner Bros. and New Line are owned by Time Warner Inc.

Emmerich, 45, will report directly to Horn, who will have final authority on the six or so movies New Line will produce annually. However, Emmerich will have at his discretion a fund of about $25 million to buy scripts, option books and hire writers. He will also work closely with Warner's motion picture group President Jeff Robinov.

Last month Time Warner announced that the movie studio behind the "Lord of the Rings" franchise would focus mostly on developing and producing smaller-budget and genre movies and rely on Warner Bros. to market and distribute them worldwide. The company will realize some immediate cost savings by combining the two units' advertising buys and print costs.

In an interview Tuesday, Emmerich, Horn, Robinov and Warner Bros. Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer outlined plans for New Line's makeover, which is expected to save Time Warner tens of millions of dollars a year in overhead and operating costs. New Line currently employs 600 people in Los Angeles and New York.

"The assimilation of New Line under Warner's umbrella isn't happening in a cliff-like way," Horn said. "There will be a period of transition." Nonetheless, Horn noted, "it's fair to say the reduction will number in the hundreds."

Meyer expects the initial layoffs to begin over the next couple of weeks.

What's certain is that the realigned New Line will concentrate its core business and staff in L.A., maintaining a smaller presence in New York, where it has 200 employees including its chief financial officer, general counsel and heads of business affairs, television, home entertainment, music and licensing divisions.

"Most will help with the transition and move on," said Meyer, acknowledging that New Line probably would not continue leasing expensive office space at 7th Avenue and 57th Street. The company's two L.A. offices will be consolidated at its headquarters on Robertson Boulevard.

Meyer said there were no plans to move New Line onto Warner's Burbank lot. Aside from the fact that there's no room and New Line still has time on its lease, he said it was important for New Line to maintain its "own separate identity."

Emmerich said New Line's continued existence as a distinct operation was crucial in his decision to stay on.

"One of the things we talked about a lot was that for the filmmakers who make movies at New Line, it should feel like New Line," he said. "We are incubating these films so when Warner takes them over, it will be a seamless process."

Emmerich will continue to maintain his own development and production teams and have a small staff of marketing, publicity, distribution, business and legal affairs and physical production executives who will coordinate closely with their counterparts at Warner.

Although a number of New Line marketing and distribution executives will stay on to oversee the release of upcoming movies such as "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," "Sex and the City: The Movie" and "Journey 3-D," Warner will take over the physical distribution of those and future films.

Rolf Mittweg, president and COO of worldwide marketing and distribution, and David Tuckerman, distribution president, are expected to leave in coming months.

claudia.eller@latimes.com

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