Emmerich to front reconfigured New Line

( Reuter )- Toby Emmerich has been named president and chief operating officer of New Line and will lead its reorganization as a stand-alone production entity under the Warner Bros. umbrella. The move had been expected.

Wednesday's announcement clarifies what the new, smaller New Line will look like. Since new Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said in February that the unit would be absorbed by Warners, New Line had been operating in a state of limbo, with executives and other employees uncertain about their future.

With Emmerich's appointment, New Line will continue to maintain its own development, creative and production teams, though in a much pared-down incarnation. It will release about six films a year and have a discretionary fund to buy scripts and books, though it will be cut back considerably from the $40 million to $50 million it had under former company heads Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.

Emmerich, who will report to Warner Bros. president and COO Alan Horn, is expected to oversee a slate that will focus more on horror movies and low-budget comedies than the moderate-budgeted fare New Line had been producing in recent years. But it won't be limited to those genres and might, on occasion, be allowed to stretch its budgetary restrictions if A-listers are interested in a particular project that requires a commitment beyond the new spending caps.

The company will continue working with MGM on its two-film adaptation of "The Hobbit."

New Line is expected to further define its executive ranks in the coming weeks, with the roles of such senior execs as COO Mark Ordesky and senior executive vice president Richard Brener hanging in the balance. Rolf Mittweg, president and COO of worldwide marketing and distribution, and domestic distribution president David Tuckerman are expected to leave in the coming months.

New Line 2.0 will keep its own marketing, publicity, distribution, business and legal affairs and physical production divisions; all will report to Emmerich but will closely coordinate their activities with their Warners counterparts in order to keep costs low.

The company will maintain its headquarters on Robertson Boulevard and not move to Warner Bros.' Burbank lot.

Warners opted to turn the reins over to Emmerich partly because of his experience as the company's head of production, a position he has held since 2001, and partly to ensure a sense of continuity.

Though the company will refocus itself on horror and genre fare, Emmerich has in the past publicly stated his dislike for those kinds of movies. During his tenure, New Line produced fewer genre offerings like the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise on which it once relied. Instead, it steered toward mid-range thrillers and comedies with budgets in the $30 million-$70 million range.

A handful of hits resulted, such as "Wedding Crashers," which grossed more than $209 million domestically, as well as "Elf," "The Notebook" and "Hairspray." But Emmerich's strategy of working the middle ground, ceded by bigger studios concentrating on tentpole titles and by smaller outfits making horror and urban comedies, also resulted in long dry spells at the box office.

New Line, perhaps realizing that there is gold in the horror hills, already had begun to return to the genre. In January, it engaged the production company Platinum Dunes to relaunch the "Nightmare" franchise, and last year, it began developing a revamp of "Friday the 13th" with Paramount. It also recently began production on "Final Destination 4."

Emmerich joined the company in 1992 as a dual development and music executive. He oversaw development for such films as "Boogie Nights," "Friday," "Dumb and Dumber" and "I Am Sam," among others.

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