Warners plots New Line 'Escape'

Parent moves quickly on distribution

Two weeks after being absorbed by Warner Bros. Pictures, the new New Line is beginning to take shape.

Warner Bros. is moving in quickly to take over distribution of New Line movies, starting with the April release of "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay." Also, "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D" will keep its July 11 slot, after being temporarily in release-date limbo. After New Line's downsizing, announced Feb. 28, "Journey" moved into purgatory state with talk within corporate circles of it being moved to October or even next year.

New Line president of theatrical distribution David Tuckerman introduced "Journey" on Wednesday during a presentation at ShoWest, saying "Warner Bros. will release it" on its original date.

There was concern that releasing the movie July 11 would conflict with Warner Bros.' July 18 release of "The Dark Knight," though after screenings, it became clear that the high-testing "Journey" skews young and would not cannibalize the same audience.

The news about "Journey" came as speculation continued about the fate of New Line production chief Toby Emmerich.

After a number of days spent weighing his future with the company, Emmerich was said to have concluded that he would like to stay on as head of the newly integrated New Line. The Time Warner division is expected to convert mainly to a production entity, and under one scenario, Emmerich would run the division.

An agreement is far from reached, however, and it's expected that Emmerich and Warner Bros. execs would need to come to terms on issues like the unit's autonomy before Emmerich would assume the top spot. A good number of executives are expected to stay in that scenario. The fate of COO and senior executive vp Richard Brener -- who sources said has been fielding offers from other studios -- remains unclear.

Distribution and marketing operations are expected to be severely curtailed.

Meanwhile, another New Line movie could be moving in the opposite direction of "Journey." The producers behind Gavin O'Connor's police drama "Pride and Glory" were said to be considering their options at other studios as the New Line integration continued. The movie, which stars Ed Norton and Colin Farrell, is on New Line's 2009 slate.

Like "Journey," however, other bigger-budgeted movies are expected to be absorbed by Warners and released through the studio, with the Reese Witherspoon-Vince Vaughn comedy "Four Christmases," the ensemble Western "Appaloosa," and Plan B's time-travel romance "The Time Traveler's Wife" among the potential candidates for a Warners release.

Speculation also continues about the fate of Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse, with many in the industry expecting the two to merge and Picturehouse's Bob Berney to assume an executive role at the combined company.

Borys Kit reported from Los Angeles; Steven Zeitchik reported from New York.
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