Week in Review: New Line cuts jobs

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Black Monday: New Line Cinema might be continuing as a label, but it disappeared as a studio Monday. That's the day parent Time Warner laid off about 450 New York- and L.A.-based employees (a figure that is expected to grow), trimming the staff at Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne's former baby to a slim 40 or 50 who will operate under new boss Toby Emmerich. Warners officially begins handling New Line's domestic distribution April 25 with the release of stoner comedy "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."

Blake Wednesday:
Sony Pictures locked up another executive this week, extending vice chairman Jeff Blake "right through the Apocalypse," as he put it. And if you believe the Mayan calendar -- or the Roland Emmerich pic the studio has in preproduction -- he's right. Blake's new deal extends his contract through 2012, just like boss Michael Lynton's. Other team Sony members wrapped up for the foreseeable future include SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal (2011), Columbia co-presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach (2011) and Screen Gems boss Clint Culpepper (2012).

Uphill climb: Don't look now, but Hollywood's got some serious ground to make up this summer if it hopes to equal last year's heady boxoffice numbers. Spring is down 19% thus far, and while 2007 boasted four $100 mil-plus performers at this point, only Fox's "Horton Hears a Who!" can claim it in '08. But don't fret. "Summer will be here very soon, and it's going to be terrific," one top distribution exec told THR. With blockbusters such as "Iron Man" and the new "Indiana Jones" on the horizon, it likely will be. But will it be better than last summer's barrage of money-in-the-bank sequels? Better than last year's record $4.16 billion? It might need to be to keep pace with 2007.

Game on: And so it begins. With its contract set to expire June 30, SAG sat down across from producers Tuesday to begin two weeks of what are expected to be intense talks. The talking points are familiar -- new-media residuals, more money for DVDs -- but the circumstances are not. The talks mark the first time in history that SAG has negotiated without AFTRA at its side. A last-ditch attempt to present a united front at the bargaining table was shot down Monday.

Graduating: "High School Musical" star Ashley Tisdale -- your 12-year-old daughter can bring you up to speed -- took a step toward cottage-industry status this week as she negotiated for a starring role in UA's remake of 1989 feature "Teen Witch" and a first-look producing deal with format king Fremantle. She's also executive producing a Disney Channel series based on her life.

High stakes: Would a vampire analogy be out of line here? Maybe so, but opponents are finding that Silvio Berlusconi simply does not stay dead. The Mediaset mogul, abandoned on the roadside of Italian politics just two years ago, is once again prime minister. That makes four times on top for the billionaire, who beat out RomaCinemaFest founder Walter Veltroni in a showbiz showdown. Hard to say what it means for the Italian media landscape this early, but analysts think we'll at least see government ad buys begin shifting from pubcaster RAI to Berlusconi's private nets.

The bookish types: ABC Studios and Lifetime each got in bed with authors this week, with ABC signing novelist Jennifer Weiner to a two-year overall deal and Lifetime pacting with Patricia Cornwell, who will adapt a pair of her books into telefilms. Weiner's seven-figure deal, a bit of a surprise in the post-strike environment, will see the author create and executive produce series projects. ... Meanwhile, on the feature side, Tucker Max has been tapped to adapt his best-seller, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," for helmer Bob Gosse and Pinkslip Pictures.

Closing thoughts: Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" will have closing-night honors at next month's Festival de Cannes. The comedy, which stars Robert De Niro as an embattled Hollywood producer, features a climactic scene that takes place at the festival.

End credits: Demi Moore is getting her indie on with roles opposite Parker Posey in Mitchell Lichtenstein's "Happy Tears" and Woody Harrelson in Snoot Entertainment's "Buraku." ... Shia LaBeouf is smartening up in Universal thriller "Dark Fields." ... Milla Jovovich is headed to Alaska for Gold Circle Films' "The 4th Kind."
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