A new line of product?

With New Line gone, distribs look for new sources

CANNES -- What will they do in the wake of New Line's disappearance?

The absorption of the high-powered label into the Warner Bros. fold is triggering a radical shake-up among foreign distributors who had output deals with the mini-major.

Down the road, Warners International will take over distribution of major New Line titles, but first existing arrangements -- whether film-by-film pacts or overall output deals -- have to run their course.

"We all want to know what's going to happen," muttered an insider at Italian distributor Medusa, which released the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Those companies most immediately impacted are universally reluctant to talk about how the New Line demise will affect business.

Croisette crawlers are abuzz with what brothers Nigel and Trevor Green, whose Entertainment Films is a top indie distributor in the U.K., will do to replace their New Line deal. The press-averse duo is quietly confident that their buying power, bolstered by a pay TV deal they have in place, means they can usually outbid others in the U.K. for product.

Entertainment may very well be here on the Riviera to ink a replacement studio level output deal here. The pair have strong existing links, for example, with Lakeshore Entertainment, having distributed several of that company's hit titles in the past.

"They'll be fine. They'll just go out there and buy the top product to replace the number of titles they were getting from New Line," said one U.K. buyer.

The duo also has some time before the absence of New Line product starts to bite. Entertainment has product from New Line through 2009.

Meanwhile in France, Metropolitan Filmexport, one of France's most voracious independent distributors, has an output deal for New Line titles that runs until at least "Four Christmases" at the end of this year.

"They had a supply line and built the rest of their slate around that. What happens next is a question for them," said a rival distributor. Metropolitan co-chiefs Victor and Samuel Hadida would not comment.

"Entertainment and Metropolitan both existed before they had New Line output deals, and they'll continue to flourish once those deals have ended," one observer said.

The Spanish were more verbal.

Felipe Ortiz, president of Spain's Tripictures which has New Line titles there through 2008, said: "It doesn't really affect us. Now we have to substitute the six annual titles we got from New Line. The market is down so we only have to take four titles in the same vein of what we were getting from them. We're set for now. We just have to look for films for 2009, 2010."

As for Germany, the end of the New Line pipeline will have little effect on the German market, where the label's titles are already funneled through Warner.

In North America, Canadian distributor Alliance Films is talking to Relativity Media about a deal to distribute Relativity's titles in Canada. Though the talks are still in the very early stages, a new supply of U.S. films would benefit Alliance, which is set to lose its longtime distribution pact with New Line at the end of 2008.

Itr's still unclear what proportion of New Line future output will be channeled through Warner's foreign circuit, and how much will be available to local independents.

"It's a question for Jeff Bewkes, but I think big New Line titles will become Warner films," one insider said.

To maintain continuity between the old New Line and the new New Line, Warners has just retained New Line vet Camela Galano, who has been named president, New Line International Releasing. She reports to Warner International exec vp Richard Fox and will oversee the overseas roll-out of New Line titles.

Pamela Rolfe, Scott Roxborough, Etan Vlessing and Steven Zeitchik contributed to this report
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